Inspired by Portland’s lively craft beer scene and the quality of Willamette Valley wines, a batch of craft distillers has uncorked a new recipe for success with Oregon-made spirits.
In a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) stretch of Portland’s Central Eastside known as Distillery Row, you can tour production facilities, taste various spirits and buy bottles to stock your home bar. And with the Proof Inc. pass as a guide, you’ll skip tasting fees, catch nuances through tasting notes and score cocktail recipes from each location.
Though micro-distillers aren’t necessarily new to town — Northwest Portland’s Clear Creek Distillery has been concocting elixirs like its Pear-in-the-Bottle brandy here since 1985 — upstarts like Eastside Distilling have been turning heads with bottles like the spicy, bold, award-winning Burnside Bourbon. Try it yourself at Eastside Distilling’s 40,000-square-foot (3,716 sq m) tasting room — the largest distillery in the Pacific Northwest.
Over at New Deal Distillery, original recipes like their spicy Hot Monkey Vodka and Ginger Liqueur will have you rethinking your favorite cocktails. House Spirits, which mixes juniper, cardamom, orange peel and other botanicals into its Aviation Gin, pours everything from a Scandinavian aquavit to Stumptown Coffee liqueur at its 14,000-square-foot (1,301 sq m) tasting room, opened in late 2015 and boasting six times the capacity of its former location.
When not making seasonal, fruit-based liqueurs in their urban distillery, Stone Barn Brandyworks makes whiskey and dreams up some incredible recipes, like the October Dapple Apple, which features their Stone Barn Apple Brandy. Meanwhile, the rice-based spirits of Vinn Distillery stand on their own; their Mijiu Fire and Mijiu Ice are rice wines with delicious but contrasting flavors.
Savor the fruity flavors of fresh berries from Oregon’s Willamette Valley with a bottle of Wild Roots Vodka. These all-natural infused spirits are available in flavors such as red raspberry, Oregon Marionberry and Washington apple and cinnamon. Joining Distillery Row in 2015, Thomas & Sons Distillery, distills Townshend’s Tea Company blends into tea liqueurs and other botanical spirits.
NW Distiller’s District
Across the river, Northwest Portland now houses its own version of Distillery Row. The NW Distiller’s District (as it’s known) is currently composed of Clear Creek Distillery, Bull Run Distillery and Aria Gin.
Created by acclaimed Portland distiller Lee Medoff, the co-founder of House Spirits, Bull Run looks for raw ingredients with a focused flavor. Their two 800-gallon (3 cbm) stills are the largest in the state, in keeping with Medoff’s dream of putting Oregon on the distilling map with an Oregon whiskey.
Founded in 1985, Clear Creek concocts Eaux de Vie brandies from Northwest-grown ingredients like Hood River Valley pears, Mirabelle plums and even Douglas fir buds. In contrast, experts at Aria use traditional British ingredients and the London Dry style to create classic English-inspired gin, perfect for any martini.
Ready to get started? Pick up your Portland Distillery Passport to bypass tasting fees and receive $5 off your first bottle purchase.