top of page


The staff of Spirits Institute Puget Sound are veteran presenters who are among the most talented educators in the world of craft-distilled spirits.

All of the SIPS staff come together up to four times per year to welcome you warmly into this new industry and to truly inspire you to go forth with great spirit, the workshop’s Day 5 mantra.

It is an extreme pleasure to put the extensive experience of SIPS staff to work for you.

Rusty Figgins, Lead Lecturer

Rusty Figgins, a highly accomplished viticulturist, winemaker and master distiller, was educated at home and abroad. After receiving an honours degree in Viticulture and Oenology from the Charles Sturt University in Australia, Mr Figgins served a successful career in the wine business in his native Washington, and is noted for being the first to introduce Syrah to the Walla Walla Valley appellation and make wine from it at a commercial winery. Upon earning his Graduate Diploma in Distilling (with Distinction) from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling in London, he used his knowledge to establish licensed distilleries in Mattawa and Ellensburg. He co-founded The Ellensburg Distillery which produced brandy made from Grant County-grown grapes and also, Washington's first single-malt whisky. Known by many as The Proof Prof, he has mentored on several new start-up distillery projects and has been central in elevating crafted-distilled spirits as the most exciting new enterprise within the field of beverage alcohol production. A consummate artisan, Figgins is a passionate lecturer on the subject of craft-distilled spirits and has three times won the Best Spirit trophy from a leading competition, the NorthWest Wine & Spirits Summit. He was the founding master distiller of the multiple award-winning Batch 206 Distillery in Seattle, Washington. Mr Figgins is presently Master Distiller at XO Alambic near Walla Walla, Washington, which hosts the upcoming week-long SIPS workshop.

Amber Engle, Program Asst. & Presenter

Amber Engle was trained in molecular biology and behavioral ecology before becoming a bartender. She considers the creation of spirits and cocktails to be the mad science that modern laboratory science is not, bringing a measure of art into that more rigid domain. She enjoys testing her creations against other bartenders in competitions and, of course, winning. As current secretary for the Washington chapter of the United States Bartender’s Guild, Ms Engle is well versed in what bartenders and restaurant managers look for in a spirit. She currently owns and operates Drink Spotting, a cocktail catering company. She is an indispensable resource to SIPS, and as Program Assistant, she is at your service during the week of instruction.

Sean de Han, Presenter

Sean de Han joins the presenting faculty of SIPS to carry on the great work of his predecessors, Stacey Moskwa and Jay Skovbjerg.

Todd Buckley, Presenter

Todd Buckley enjoys balancing on the fence line of right brain and left brain activity. His experience ranges from Intel to Microsoft to many entrepreneurial endeavours. He considers himself to be a marketing technopologist (one who brings together strengths in marketing, technology and social interaction), epicure (one who is an aficionado of food and drink) and musicologist (one who discovers, listens and refers to an eclectic range of music). He is ecstatic to be contributing his knowledge of social media for the craft distilling industry with the Spirits Institute Puget Sound series of workshops.  

David Dunbar, Presenter

Dave Dunbar has over forty years of “hands-on” experience with the federal laws and regulations that govern beverage alcohol of all types. He has stood atop a tank car of distilled spirits trying to gauge proof in the dead of a Montana winter as well as negotiating with the counsels of some of the industry’s major producers. Always interested in the “other side” of the story, he made an effort to learn the business side of their industries from the people with whom he dealt, His career revolved around what the government identified as the most sensitive and significant matters, often dealing with the grey areas that fall between black and white. He has helped to develop and present industry seminars for breweries and wineries (the TTB still does not conduct seminars for DSPs), made presentations at state wholesaler conventions, served as liaison with the liquor boards in several states, addressed groups with special interests, such as cider makers, organic brewers, and Canadian wineries seeking a market here. Early in his career, Mr Dunbar was selected as “Inspector of the Year” for ATF’s Western Region and late in his career, he received the Distinguished Service Medal in recognition of his career accomplishments. Since retiring, he has on occasion consulted for companies that wrestle with the complexities of contract production, alternating premises, control-group rules, and the various licensing requirements amongst the fifty states. From his home in Ellensburg, Washington, he operates David Dunbar Compliance Services for members of the alcohol beverage industry. Inspector Emeritus Dunbar continued to serve under contract to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and TTB as a special hearing officer to adjudicate issues concerning licensing matters, but in his retirement, he is now in the service of the craft distillation industry excusively.

Randy Kirlin, Presenter

Randy Kirlin ~ Filtration Expert

1984 - 1996

Account Manager/Pacific Northwest, Gelman Sciences; responsible for sales of filtration products sold to the microelectronics industry, bio-pharmaceutical industry, laboratory testing and research & development and medical device industry.

1996 - 2000

Sales Manager/Asian Pacific, Pall Corporation; responsible for creation and maintenance of a filtration distribution network throughout Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

2001 - present

Account Manager/BioProcess Division, Millipore Corporation; responsible for sales of separation technologies including micro-filtration, molecular weight cutoff filters and chromatography resins. 

Teri Fahrendorf, Presenter

Teri Fahrendorf is a 25-year craft brewing veteran: 19 years as an award-winning brewmaster, a half-year as a travelling brewer, a year as a beer store clerk and three and a half years in ingredient sales to breweries and distilleries. She has ridden the wave of the craft beer revolution since she studied at the Siebel Institute for Brewing Technology in 1988. Her current duties in outside sales have allowed her to visit hundreds of craft breweries and distilleries all over the Pacific Northwest. A leading expert in malted barley and other brewing grains, she learns as much from her customers as she teaches them, and is excited to observe and encourage the craft distilling revolution. Ms Fahrendorf is married to brewmaster Jon Graber, and they reside in Portland, Oregon, colloquially known as Beervana.

Howard Levens, Presenter

As one of the nation's leading authorities on steam generation and boilers, Howard Levens participates in SIPS Class on Day 5. He owns and operates Northwest Industrial Equipment, which is a North American distributor of steam boilers and burners, essential to providing steam heat to distillation equipment. Mr Levens continually imparts his vast knowledge as a service to the craft brewing and distilling industries.

bottom of page