Updated 11.28.2015 – lots of updates, a few additions and the removal of distilleries which are no longer in business.[FD]
Portland is a mecca for micro-brews, 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 handcrafted, small batch distillery scene as well. Oregon boasts over a dozen distilleries, with at least eight in Portland. Some are new and tiny, only producing a few cases of any spirit at a time, while others are internationally known and distributed.
The city even has its own “Distillery Row“, a small area of Southeast Portland near downtown where many of them are located. This makes it easy to jump from one tasting room to another to compare different products. Just make sure to bring a designated driver.
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
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 2010.
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 distillery is now producing a range of spirits. 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. Other products include Bull Run’s “Temperance Trader Straight Bourbon Whiskeys”, Pacific Rum, Aria Portland Dry Gin, and, arriving in 2015, Bull Run’s Very Own Straight “Oregon” Whiskey, meaning distilled using local water and grains, aged in the unique Oregon climate.
A great destination to taste terrific spirits, Bull Run Distillery is located at 2259 NW Quimby Street adjacent to Portland’s popular Northwest 23rd Avenue, with a plethora of great shopping, restaurants and bars where you can sample Bull Run spirits. They are open Wednesday – Sunday 12 pm – 6 pm (21 and older only).
- 2259 NW Quimby St, Portland OR. 97210 Map
- Wednesday – Sunday: 12pm – 6pm
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 is McCarthy’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”.
Clear Creek Distillery tasting and sales room is open for visitors to drop in Monday through Friday 12 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. They have a wide distribution network locally and nationally, as well as online sales to states that allow it.
Though they do not offer tours, they host an open house twice a year, during which the production area is open to visitors. The distillery staff pours samples next to the stills and gives explanations of the process throughout the day. Check the website for the next open house. The distillery is closed major holidays.
Cornelius Pass Roadhouse
Set in an old granary barn constructed by the pioneer Imbrie family in the mid-1850s, the Cornelius Pass Roadhouse Distillery boasts a century-old, 160-gallon Alambic Charentais pot still. The glimmering copper still sits on a solid brick housing made with bricks recycled from Edgefield, Kennedy School and the Crystal Hotel.
Sourced from an old barn in Cognac, France, the still itself has a definite “steam punk” look to it – in fact, one wonders if this type of old-timey contraption wasn’t the inspiration for the steam punk movement itself? At Cornelius Pass Roadhouse Distillery, it is used to produce a spirit with silky texture and rich aromas and flavors – a direct reflection of the elegant curves and bends of the still itself. Guests are welcome to order drinks in Imbrie Hall and stroll over to the barn-turned-distillery, where head distiller Bart Hance will be working his magic.
McMenamins spirits are available for purchase at the Cornelius Pass Roadhouse, as well as at Edgefield (Troutdale), Old St. Francis School (Bend), Kennedy School (Portland), Crystal Hotel (Portland), Grand Lodge (Forest Grove), Hotel Oregon (McMinnville), Lighthouse Brewpub (Lincoln City), North Bank (Eugene), Old Church Brewery & Pub (Wilsonville), Gearhart Hotel & Sand Trap Pub, and Roseburg Station Pub & Brewery.
Distillery and brewery tours are available – call (503) 640-6174 for times.
Eastside is always creating original spirits and expanding their product line, with their holiday liqueurs currently stocked on the shelves. Eastside Distilling was started in Portland, Oregon by Bill Adams and Lenny Gotter, two long-time friends with a passion for distilled spirits and distinguished flavors. The pair started from the ground-up, developing the recipes and company mission in 2008. In November of 2009 their fine, flavored rums (branded as the Below Deck Rum line) started to appear on liquor store shelves. Today, Eastside continues its tradition of creating unique and innovative spirits with their award-winning Burnside Bourbon, second-to-none Portland Potato Vodka, Cherry Bomb Whiskey and Marionberry Whiskey, made with real Oregon fruits. 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. Tasting rooms have opened at Clackamas Town Center, Washington Square Mall, and Pioneer Square Mall. See website for details.
- 1512 SE 7th Ave (at Hawthorne), Portland OR. 97214 Map
- (503) 926-7060
- Monday – Sunday 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.
- 1805 S.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Portland OR 97214
- Sunday – Thursday 12 p.m. – 6 p.m., Friday – Saturday: 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Love ’em or loathe them, McMenamins is a unique Oregon institution and empire. Most known for their hippie-trippy historic renovations of buildings like music and film theaters, old County Work Houses and Funeral Parlors, hotels, and brew pubs, McMenamins 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 over-sized 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, while Professor’s Gin is more spicy and herbal in nature. Brandies include Pear, an aged oak Edgefield, and their Longshot Brandy made with the estate’s own Syrah grapes. Edgefield is also making Three Rocks Rum from a molasses rich sugar, fermented and double-distilled before being aged for two years in used Hogshead Whiskey and port barrels. Even a coffee Liqueur is in the lineup, made from house-roasted beans.
The distillery is open to the public, and their spirits can be purchased at Edgefield by the bottle or other select McMenamins locations. Tours Monday – Sunday at 2 p.m.
- 2126 S.W. Halsey St., Troutdale, OR 97060 Map
- Local: 503-669-8610
Although less than 8 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”. 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.
The House Spirits Tasting Room offers a chance to sample all our spirits and browse our barware, books and apparel and ask all sorts of questions relating to the vast world of distilled spirits. Our Tasting Room partners are very knowledgeable and enjoy talking about our history, philosophy, products, cocktails and Portland!
For both out-of-town visitors and Portland locals, a House Spirits Tasting Room visit will give a unique opportunity to experience part of Oregon’s dynamic artisan community. All spirits are available for purchase at the Tasting Room.
Open daily from 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. Tours run daily at 3 PM. An additional tour runs at 1 PM on Saturdays only. The cost of a tour is $10 per head, which includes a full tasting of our award-winning spirits. Please email email@example.com if you plan to have more than five people in your group for the 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 mustache 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, Mudpuddle Vodka, Gin No. 1, Portland Dry Gin, Recipe 33, Ginger Liqueur 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. To top it all off, New Deal offers a “Distiller’s Workshop Series”, a small-batch, limited release line where you’ll find small-batch rums, white dogs, moonshines and other specialty craft spirits. All New Deal spirits, including seasonal and limited-run products are available for tastings and purchase at the tasting room.
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 to schedule your visit.
New Deal Distillery Tasting Room & Store is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Check the website for holiday hours.
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.
The Portland Distillery, located inside their Portland Flanders St. Pub, was where they first started tinkering with spirits in 2003. It is also the first rum distillery in the State of Oregon. The distillery produces: Dark and Hazelnut Spice rums from 100% Hawaiian Cane Sugar. Tours are given daily at 5:00pm.
The Rogue House of Spirits in Newport, Oregon opened for business on June 10th, 2006. Additionally, House of Spirits on the Oregon coast is one of the first distillery pubs in America producing award winning Rums, Gin, Vodka and Whiskey. Spectacular views of the Yaquina Bay marina, bridge and Pacific Ocean are showcased from our Newport distillery. A full selection of Rogue’s award winning spirits are available in cocktails and bottles to go. House of spirits has a limited food menu , as well as wine, ales, porters, stouts and lagers. Tours are available daily at 4:00 pm.
Rolling River Spirits
“Rolling River Spirits is a Portland, Oregon based family-owned and operated business producing handcrafted organic spirits from still to bottle. We use the freshest organic ingredients such as wheat in our vodka and will do the same when crafting our future production of whiskey. We are currently working on our organic certification.” Rolling River is quickly making a name for themselves with three flavors of Aquavit: Ole Bjørkevoll with fresh dill, dill seed, fennel, caraway and juniper, the second Bjørkevoll’s Holiday featuring caraway, fennel, cardamom, allspice and cinnamon, and Stilar Limited Series Aquavit #1 Caraway. In addition, master distiller Tim Rickard has worked with Portland Coava Coffee Roasters to create a coffee distilled spirit. Of course Rolling River also has a pure grain Vodka and a Gin.
Tasting Room Hours: Friday – Sunday 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. Weekdays by appointment
Stone Barn Brandy Works
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 Northwest Cherry Brandy, Quince Liquor (my favorite), Oregon Blush Rhubarb Liqueur, Oaked Apple Brandy, Pear Brandy – Comice from EZ Orchards, Biggs Junction Apricot Liqueur, Quince Liqueur, Red Wing Coffee Liqueur, Cranberry Liqueur, Unoaked Rye Whiskey, Unoaked Oat Whiskey, and Hoppin’ Eights aged Whiskey Barrel #10.
Their tasting room is currently open Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. with evenings and Fridays by appointment 503-341-2227. If you have a group of five or more, please call ahead.
Thomas & Sons Distillery
Thomas & Sons is the distilled spirits project from Townshend’s Tea Company. Everything is distilled from tea and sugar – nothing artificial. Their offerings include Sweet Tea Liquor, Smoke Tea, Spice Tea, Bitter Tea, and other botanical spirits. Crafting everything in-house from scratch ingredients, Thomas & Sons offers inventive additions to the worlds of both tea and craft spirits.
The Thomas & Sons tasting room is located inside their main distillery operation. Come enjoy their full line of spirits, including limited releases and seasonal offerings.
The Thomas & Sons tasting room is located inside the main distillery operation, and is open Thursday – Friday 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday – Sunday 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
- 4211 SE Milwaukie Ave Portland, OR 97202 Map
- Park at 4245 SE Milwaukie Ave. (Brew Dr. Kombucha) and follow signs for Thomas & Sons.
Vinn Distillery is a family-owned company located just south of Portland in Wilsonville, with their new Tasting Room now opened in Distillery Row. Vinn Distillery exclusively produces and bottles rice-based spirits from recipes that have been passed down for over seven generations.
All of their spirits are handcrafted in small batches – the way their ancestors taught them. The meaning of Vinn is “infinite” and is the shared middle name of the five Ly children. Since they products are made entirely from rice, they have the added benefit of being gluten-free. They are currently producing Baijiu Vodka, Mijiu Fire, and Mijiu Ice.
The tasting room is open Thursday and Friday 1 p.m. – 4 p.m., Saturday 12 p.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Wild Roots Vodka
Wild Roots Vodka uses all natural ingredients. No artificial fruit flavors, no artificial colors. Instead, everything is naturally infused. Each bottle starts with a five-time distilled and five-time filtered grain-based vodka, infused with over a pound of natural locally grown fruit. Try the Washington apple & cinnamon, or the Oregon Marionberry.
The Wild Roots tasting room is open Thursday-Sunday 12-5pm.