Oregon distilleries had been paving the way for possibilities in the 1930’s when Hood River Distillers became the first licensed spirits house. Pioneering craft distilleries have come on the scene since then. More than half of Oregon’s 20 craft distillers are located in Portland Metro. By now, Portlanders are familiar with craft distilleries that specialize in small-batch, handcrafted spirits, ranging from fruit brandies, flavored liqueurs and infused vodkas to still spirits such as whiskey and gin.
Here are three Portland distilleries, pioneers in their own right, each with a story worth the read.
Women-owned and operated Freeland Spirits, named after owner Jill Kuehler’s “Meemaw” (grandmother in Texas-speak) Freeland, is located in Northwest Portland and their portfolio is distinctly Pacific Northwest. The distillery is not only a brand that produces a line of small batch, beautifully bottled spirits from grain to glass but one that celebrates women of the craft. A recent collaboration with women distillers and winemakers led to the launch of their fizzy French 75, a marriage of Freeland Gin and Chehalem Chardonnay, animated with bubbles and lemon.
A unique dual distillation process allows up to 19 macerated botanicals to merge with neutral, high proof alcohol and helps define them as a craft spirits producer. The resulting spirits range from a genever-inspired Gin from Oregon grown rye to a caramel and berry leaning Bourbon, and a spice and citrus present, juniper forward Dry Gin.
Where: 2671 Northwest Vaughn Street, Portland
Shine Distillery and Grill
Located in the heart of the historic Williams district, Shine Distillery & Grill is the purveyor of handcrafted, small-batch spirits like Pink Hibiscus Gin, Cascadian Blue Agave Spirit, Minty Vodka and their Batch One Gin, the latter a distillation with citrus, cinnamon, and rose petals on the palate and nose.
Distillery visitors will be wowed by the rooftop patio and Shine’s out-of-the box decision to design their own distilling equipment….a soaring 20 ft. high, 130-gallon micro-still. Early in the 2020 pandemic, the distillery team created the first craft distilled hand sanitizer and shared the recipe process with distilleries around the world. So yes, they can do it all…and still shine.
The pub menu leans heavy on burgers, sammies, happy hour nosh and craft cocktails, all with an eye on seasonal ingredients. The menu doubles down on local ingredients and purveyors so diners can know where their food comes from.
Dessert lovers will be treated to the ever-changing artistic cheesecakes by Muse Cheesecakes, owned by Kiana Lee and co-located at the grill.
Where: 4232 N Williams Ave, NE Portland
New Deal Distillery
In 2001, three years before New Deal Distillery was founded, Tom Burkleaux was making his own Vodka. Those early years of experimentation provided a foundation for the official launch of the distillery with co-founder Matthew VanWinkle, at time when few craft distilleries existed in the United States.
At New Deal Distillery, spirits are made locally in small batches with Bull Run water and locally sourced natural and organic ingredients whenever possible. Having remained independent with their methods, ingredients, and styles, they are well positioned as a locally owned distillery with a high degree of seasonality and innovation. It remains evident with a portfolio of small-batch liqueur, gin, vodka, brandy and their latest offer, tart cranberry cocktail syrups, a collaboration with Public Provisions.
Where: 900 SE Salmon Street, Portland
For a summer walkabout, consider Southeast Portland’s renowned “Distillery Row”, a collection of distilleries with a shared focus: provide customers with a high level of craftsmanship, quality, and creativity. Their “think global, drink local”mantra tips the hat to Portland’s pioneering distillers.
Top featured image: Courtesy Freeland Spirits
The Local Dish Contributors: Kendra Ackerman, Barb Magee, Julie Blakely
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