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A Guide to Portland’s Outstanding Craft Distillery Scene

A Guide to Portland’s Outstanding Craft Distillery Scene: Courtesy of New Deal Distillery

Courtesy of New Deal Distillery

As America’s undisputed hipster capital (sorry, Williamsburg), Portland, Ore., is of course full of mustachioed, tattooed and sleeve-gartered bartenders. But it also happens to be a hotbed of craft distilling, with at least 10 booze-makers now in operation in the city. (Heck, the state of Oregon even offers a guide to starting your own!) Here are five to go check out next time you visit PDX.


House Spirits Distillery
2025 SE 7th Ave.
Probably the best-known Portland distillery outside of Portland, House Spirits is famous for its bartender-favorite Aviation Gin, a less-juniper-heavy, cardamom- and lavender-spiked spirit. But the distillery’s smaller-production spirits are gems themselves, too: carraway- and anise-flavored Krogstad Aquavit is excellent in a Bloody Mary; Westward Oregon Straight Malt Whiskey is Scotch-like but brighter and more youthful; and House Spirits Coffee Liqueur is a java-head’s dream, infusing rum with locally roasted Stumptown beans. The current space is pretty no-frills, with a small tasting room/shop next to a small warehouse so packed with equipment, barrels and bottles that there’s not much room for tours, but the company is relocating and tripling its space in the spring of 2015—look out for a more extensive bar for visitors and a wider range of products.

house-spirits

courtesy of House Spirits Distillery


Clear Creek Distillery
2389 NW Wilson St.
One of the great American pioneers in craft distilling, Clear Creek has been making European-style eaux-de-vie, brandies and grappas from locally grown fruits for nearly 30 years. The pear eau-de-vie and liqueur are especially delicious, but all the products capture the essence of the fruits they’re made from beautifully. For a taste of something truly unique, try the Douglas fir eau-de-vie, especially if you’re a gin fan. If you can, come by during one of the occasional open houses, when you can actually tour the distillery. (Otherwise, the tasting room is open six days a week, but you don’t get to see the stills.)

clear-creek

courtesy of Clear Creek Distillery


New Deal Distillery
900 NE Salmon St.
This place is truly a local secret: It’s been in business for a decade, but its spirits are only available in Oregon and Washington. (It also has the prettiest still of the bunch, a gleaming hybrid of pot and column still right in the middle the building.) New Deal makes two vodkas and two juniper-heavy gins, as well as some more unique stuff. The Hot Monkey chile pepper vodka is seriously spicy, way too hot to drink alone, but it’s tasty in the house cocktail with pineapple juice. And the Mud Puddle Bitter Chocolate Vodka does what it says on the tin—it’s nice and chocolatey, but not at all sweet. Make sure to try the ginger liqueur as well, with its perfect balance of spice and sugar.

new-deal

courtesy of New Deal Distillery


Rogue Spirits
1339 NW Flanders St.
Rogue is widely regarded as one of the top craft breweries in the country, but fewer fans know that the brand went in the distilling business in recent years. There’s a vodka and a single malt, as well as two rums, though Rogue’s more unique spirits are more noteworthy. Spruce Gin adds Oregon spruce and cucumber to a set of traditional gin botanicals, making a distinctively Pacific Northwest-flavored booze (Pink Spruce Gin is the same thing aged in pinot noir barrels), and two spirits are distilled directly from Rogue Beers, Dead Guy Whiskey from Dead Guy Ale and Chipotle Spirit from Chipotle Ale. Rogue actually has two distilleries: one in the heart of Portland and a second down the coast in Newport, near its original brewery.

Rogue Spirits

courtesy of Rogue Spirits


Bull Run Distilling
2259 NW Quimby St.
The biggest endorsement of Bull Run comes from the back bars of many fancy-cocktail joints all around Portland: Alongside Hendrick’s and Tanqueray, you’ll more often than not find a bottle of its Aria Gin. It’s a well-balanced, cocktail-friendly spirit. The distillery also makes a complex, Russian-style vodka; a bourbon (which, it should be noted, is distilled in Kentucky but aged in Portland); and a rich rum distilled from Hawaiian sugar cane.

Bull-Run-Distillery-Building-Photo

courtesy of Bull Run Distillery


Jason Horn is Playboy.com’s spirits columnist. He lives in Los Angeles and you can follow him on Twitter @messyepicure.


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