Updated 10.18.12 – New Distillery added, hours and info updated. [FD]
Portland is a mecca for microbrews, artisan espresso and local coffee roasters, chocolatiers, pizza, breads, pastries etc. Oregon also has an established wine industry and an agrarian economy for ingredients just meant to be distilled – local fresh fruits for brandies, grains for whiskey and vodkas, and nuts and herbs for seasonings. Along with a booming restaurant and bar scene, including several nationally leading bartenders committed to crafting quality cocktails, it makes sense that Portland has a growing small batch distillery scene as well. Oregon boasts over a dozen distilleries, with at least eight in Portland. The city even has its own “distillery row”, a small area of Southeast Portland near downtown. Some are new and tiny, only producing a few cases of any spirit at a time, while others are internationally known and distributed
Hunting these small batch beverages by the glass or bottle can be a chore. Most provide “where to find” sections on their websites, while the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) does have a handy search feature on their website: OregonLiquorSearch.com
Artisan is one of the newest of the Portland distilleries. They currently offer just two varieties which they make in their garage-sized space, but these are unique vodkas: a Martin Ryan Handmade Vodka and Apian Artisan Vodka. The Martin Ryan is crafted from local Portland Syrah grapes and is distilled and filtered carefully to give it a slightly flowery scent and a taste of citrus. The Apian vodka is made from local honey wine, and, as their website states, “is inspired by a long family history of distilling vodka from Mead (honey wine) in the upper Volga Basin of West-Central Russia.” It’s a rich, old world-style vodka, heavier than some might be used to, but with wonderful full mouth feel and hint of honey sweetness. Dave Knows Portland, a Portland blogger, says “These are very small batch liquors, but Artisan is available at a few selected Portland liquor stores and restaurants including Wildwood Restaurant and Pearl Specialty Market and Liquors”.
- 1227 SE Stark St., Portland, OR. 97214 Map
- Call ahead to arrange a visit: 503-957-0404
Bull Run Distilling Company was founded by acclaimed Portland distiller, Lee Medoff, and business partner Patrick Bernards in the spring of 2010. What began as a “what if” conversation over cocktails a few years ago evolved into a full-on crusade in late 2009. Bull Run’s “Temperance Trader Bourbon” is now available from Oregon liquor stores.
So what’s next? “It’s time for us to roll up our sleeves a little higher and get to work making distinctive provenance-based rums and whiskey – and a lot of it,” says Co-founder and Head Distiller Lee Medoff, referring to the goal of producing 3,000 bottles a week of high quality, craft spirits. And Mr. Medoff has wasted no time as Bull Run’s first batch of Pacific Rum is already fermenting away – and will very soon be distilled – and their Oregon whiskey will follow in a few short weeks.
In addition to the start of onsite production, Bull Run will officially be opening its “vintage” Tasting Room on Monday, December 5th, 2011, which is not so coincidentally the 78th Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition. Customers will not only be able to taste the spirits Bull Run produces, they’ll be able to purchase them – along with antique barware and Bull Run branded merchandise. All these ingredients will make for a spirited customer experience.
- 2259 NW Quimby St, Portland OR. 97210 Map
- Check the website for the latest tasting room hours and information.
Clear Creek Distillery
One of the oldest and best known of the Portland artisan distilleries, Clear Creek has a reputation for outstanding, high quality Eau de vies, grappas, brandy, and fruit liquors for the simple reason that they do not compromise on ingredients, production or taste. Founder Steve McCarthy started Clear Creek about 25 years ago as a way to showcase our region’s bounty of fruit. Back in 1991, the New York Times caught on, stating this was the best fruit brandy being produced in the U.S., with the writer Eric Asimov echoing the same sentiments again in 2007. Clear Creek is probably best known for their award-winning Poir Williams pear brandy, including the flashy pear-in-a-bottle. Yet, their other liquors, such as Framboise, “we aren’t allowed to call it Calvados” apple, and Kirschwasser are equally wonderful. Clear Creek’s Blue Plum brandy is really that Eastern-Euro firewater known as Slivovitz, minus the hangover inducing impurities usually found in the cheaper imported stuff (Editor’s note: Food Dude’s first experience with alcohol was Slivovitz – never again). The unusual and unusually complex Douglas Fir Eau de Vie, may sound like a Pacific NW drunken camping trip gone haywire, but it is actually based on an ancient Alsatian liquor named Eau de Vie Bourgeons de Sapin. As of this writing, Clear Creek also offers not one, but six different Grappas, from those found in Italy, to an Alsatian style Marc, and a Oregon Pinot Noir Grappa. Other items include local fruit liquors ranging from Blackberry, to Pear and even Cassis made from black currents grown in nearby Scio. Clear Creek’s newest project isMcCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt Whiskey, described on their website as “very peaty” and “Made from peat-malted barley brought in from Scotland; our whiskey would be a single malt Scotch if Oregon were Scotland”. However, like all fine Scotch, instant gratification does not figure into the equation; you’ll need to wait until 2010 to try it as every other batch is completely sold out. Clear Creek Clear Creek Distillery’s tasting and sales room is open for visitors to drop in Monday through Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., closed Sundays. They have a wide distribution network locally and nationally, as well as online sales to states that allow it.
Eastside Distilling (formerly Deco) was started in Portland, Oregon by Bill Adams and Lenny Gotter, two long-time friends with a passion for distilled spirits. The pair started from the ground-up, developing the recipes and company mission in 2008. Then in November of 2009, their Fine and Flavored Rums finally started to appear on liquor store shelves. Today, Eastside continues its tradition of creating innovative spirits with the addition of their award-winning Burnside Bourbon, crisp Potato Vodka, and Cherry Bomb Whiskey Liqueur, made with real Oregon cherries. Eastside spirits are available for purchase at Eastside Distilling and at a majority of liquor stores in Oregon, and can be found at many bars and restaurants in the Portland area.
They are now open at 1512 SE 7th Ave. off of Hawthorne. Weekdays: Noon-5pm, Fridays: Noon–7:30pm, Saturdays: 11am–6pm, and Sundays: Noon-5pm.
Love ‘em or loathe them, McMennamins is a unique Oregon institution and empire. Most known for their hippie-trippy historic renovations of buildings like music and film theatres, old County Work Houses and Funeral Parlors, hotels, and brew pubs, McMennamins has been distilling whiskey, brandy, and gin since 1998. Their Edgefield Distillery is located just outside of Portland at their sprawling Edgefield Hotel near the airport. It is one of the most accessible of the region’s distilleries for show and tell. From the Edgefield website, “With glass in hand while standing behind a wall of ornate etched glass, visitors can watch our 12-foot-high, gleaming copper-and-stainless-steel still in full swing. It resembles a hybrid of a 19th-century diving suit and oversized coffee urn, a design made famous by Holstein of Germany.” Their Hogshead Whiskey is neither a straight Scotch, Bourbon or Irish Whiskey style, but a signature hybrid of their own. It’s smoky amber whiskey with a fair wallop of barley. Their Penney’s Gin is English style flavors such as juniper berry, citrus and cardamom. Brandies include Pear, an aged oak Edgefield, and their Longshot Brandy made with the estate’s own Syrah grapes. Edgefield is also making a Kalua-type coffee liquor. The distillery is open to the public, and their spirits can be purchased at Edgefield by the bottle or other select McMinnemans locations.
- 2126 S.W. Halsey St., Troutdale, OR 97060 Map
- Local: 503-669-8610
- Elsewhere: (800) 669-8610
Highball Distillery believes in supporting regional and organic farms, investing in sustainable industry, championing independent and creative thinking, and making and drinking quality spirits.They are currently making Organic Elemental Vanilla Espresso Vodka, which is available in liquor stores throughout Oregon, or for purchase at the distillery. The entire process from grain to bottle is performed entirely within the Highball Distillery facility utilizing 100% wind-powered energy. All ingredients and processing is certified organic. The degree of control and attention to detail for every step of the process sets us apart from other vodka distilleries and results in an incredibly smooth, slightly sweet-tasting vodka unique from all others on the market.
At the time of this writing, they do not have a tasting room.
Although less than 7 years old, House Spirits’ ambition in the micro distillery world has launched the company into world-wide fame with several features in magazines like GQ and Bon Appetit. What sets them apart from other manufacturers is their commitment to artisan distilling alongside a jet-set cocktail culture mentality; the cocktails at House Spirits often seem to have equal footing with the other items they are made with. Thus, you’ll find House Spirits hosting special cocktail pairing dinners at some of Portland’s finer restaurants, or you may run into them in places as far-flung as New Orleans, New York, or Australia, spreading the word about their unique Northwest/Old World style spirits. As of this writing, House Spirits makes four different varieties, along with limited release lines. Aviation Gin is probably their best known. Created in the “Dutch Gin” style, they describe it as “a botanical democracy of Juniper, Cardamom, Coriander, Lavender, Anise Seed, Sarsaparilla and dried Sweet Orange Peel”. The company’s Medoyeff Vodka was designed for sipping, and retains that velvety full mouth feel and slightly sweet undertones found in many small batch Russian vodkas. Aquavit is a love-it or hate-it kind of firewater, but the Krogstad Aquavit is more balanced than most, with Star Anise and Caraway. While House Spirits’ releases might be limited to several bottles, it is certainly not limited in variety. Their seasonally released spirits range in production from a few cases to a few pallets. These rare releases are available in Portland, Oregon at the House Spirits Tasting Room. So, the next time you’re on SE 7th Avenue, drop by to see which of these select experiments is on the shelves.
New Deal Distillery Tasting Room & Store is open every Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 to 5:00 PM, and Wednesday – Friday from 1-4. Come in for a tour of the distillery to find out what the Master Distillers have been up to and take a peek (or, sip) of what New Deal has in the works. If you plan on bringing a large group in for a tour and tasting please call the Distillery at 503-234-2513 to schedule your visit.
House Spirits products are available at the distillery, at most Portland bars and liquor stores or through select online outlets.
In 2008 when the U.S. finally relaxed its absinthe laws, Integrity Spirits was ready to pounce, quickly becoming the second company in the U.S. to create and distribute absinthe on a commercial-scale. The company’s Trillium Absinthe is pale green and smooth, but does have a slightly bitter kick to those who are used to Swiss or French absinthes. Since their first batches, Integrity has branched out into Vodkas, including a local Hazelnut flavor. They also produce 12 Bridges Gin, described by them as marrying “two favorite styles of gin. The smart, sophistication of London dry, and the bold flavor of Dutch Genever team up to make 12 Bridges; a gin we think is unlike any other.” It is indeed complex, with ingredients including Hungarian juniper berries, refreshing cucumber and ginger. Hours are 12pm – 5pm on Saturdays. Call 503-729-9794 for a tour.
New Deal Distillery
Another company that launched in 2004, New Deal makes two products: vodkas and their Loft brand liquors. New Deal Vodka is extremely smooth and clean, while their Portland 88 is described as, “like New Deal Vodka’s younger cousin with a moustache and a Camaro. Its 88-proof recipe delivers a swift kick for those who like to taste the drink in their drink. Refreshing and crisp, it holds up to bold mixers, but it’s perfectly at home straight over ice with a twist of lemon – albeit a big, manly, behemoth twist of lemon.” Witty. Other vodkas include the Portland 88, Hot Monkey Mud Puddle and New Deal Vodkas, Gin No. 1, Gin No. 3, and Coffee Liqueur. For Tom and Matthew of New Deal, craft distilling is about creating unique spirits and getting to know their fans one drink at a time. Visit them at the distillery and tasting room to see what’s new.
New Deal Distillery Tasting Room & Store is open every Saturday and Sunday from 12:30 to 5:00 PM. Come in for a tour of the distillery to find out what our Master Distillers have been up to and take a peek (or, sip) of what New Deal has in the works. If you plan on bringing a large group in for a tour and tasting please call the Distillery at 503-234-2513 to schedule your visit.
These microbrew masters might be best known for their Dead Guy Ale and Shakespeare Stout, but they’ve produced spirits since 2003. While their original distillery is on the rocky coast of Newport, Oregon, their Portland micro-micro distillery is the first in the state to produce rums. Varieties include White, Dark and a Hazelnut Spice. Many have won silver and gold awards at world liquor competitions. Their dark rum is a favorite and described accurately by Rogue as a deep amber color with toffee, stemmy oak and nutmeg aromas….Finishes with a nutty, spicy fade and peppery alcohol.” Branching out from rums, the company also produces Dead Guy Whiskey, an Oregon Single Malt Whiskey and two types of gin: Pink Gin is highly flavored. Aging in Oregon Pinot Noir barrels gives it hue and a fruity quality, along with a bounty of flavors including spruce, cucumber, orange peel, angelica, coriander, orris root, juniper berries and several other ingredients. The Spruce Gin contains 14 different ingredients as well, but spruce dominates.
You can sample their products at Rogue Distillery & Public House at 1339 NW Flanders St. It’s open from 11am – 12am Sun – Thurs, and 11am – 1am Fri-Sat. Distillery tours are Mon – Fri at 5pm, or by special request.
Founded by Sebastian and Erika Degens, Stone Barn Brandyworks makes hand-crafted brandies and spirits from Oregon and Pacific Northwest fruits and grains that are both characteristic of their origin and distinctive to their variety, grower or vintner. They are working to produce both traditional and uniquely creative products, with a commitment to excellence and a direct connection to our community of customers & suppliers. The local distiller produces craft distilled, regional fruit brandies and spirits. They have a wide range available, including Pear Brandy, Apple Brandy, Grappa, Eastside Ouzo, Unoaked Rye Whiskey, Cranberry Liqueur, Golden Quince Liqueur, Strawberry Liqueur… the list goes on and on (check current availability on their website).
Their tasting room is open Sat – Sun from 12pm -5:00pm, with evenings and Fridays by appointment. If you have a group of five or more, please call ahead. Note that they do not currently accept credit cards.
A guide to Portland’s distillery row can be found here DistilleryRowPdx.com. If you are bored, you can visit the distillery Row Tours website, which has to be one of the most annoying on the face of the earth.