While Oregon is best known for its top tier breweries and wineries, a craft distilling renaissance is underway without proper recognition. In Oregon, it really is craft distilling: at least 75% of the distilleries in this rainy state employ ten or fewer people. This craft distilling renaissance echoes the craft brewing boom of the 80’s (finally!). Oregon has always valued individuality, so it’s about time Oregonians develop unique, experimental spirits to fuel the hipster spirit within them. Here are the top 6 craft distilleries in Oregon.
Crater Lake Spirits
Crater Lake Spirits has been one of the pioneers of the craft distilling revolution since its birth in 1996. This distillery strikes a good balance between adventurous and refined, receiving a wealth of accolades for spirits as tame as juniper-forward gin to an experimental concoction of vodka infused with sweet and hot peppers.
A distilling powerhouse, Indio Spirits has won more awards than any competitor in Oregon. While their most celebrated spirit is an 100 proof American whiskey, James Oliver Rye, the company offers great rum and flavored vodkas as well. Go to Indio if you want well-rounded, tried-and-true spirits that aren’t too experimental.
Hood River Distillers
The oldest on the list, Hood River Distillers was established in 1934 in the town of Hood River, using locally-sourced fruits to produce brandy and wine. Since, the company has expanded to become one of the largest craft distilleries in the country, exporting their spirits across the country. Hood River is best known for its whiskeys, with seven amber options to choose from, but if you want to walk on the wild side, check out their floral, award-winning absinthe.
Elixir Craft Spirits
This distillery was founded by two brothers, Andrea and Mario Loreto in central Oregon for the purpose of bringing Italian spirits to the American market. Drawing water from the McKenzie River, one of the cleanest in the country, Elixir focuses on using natural ingredients to develop an organic purity in its booze. An exemplar of Elixir’s offerings is Iris, a spirit made with Iris flowers from Tuscany, along with other botanicals. Unique and blossoming with floral sweetness and citrus bite, this spirit is a two-time gold medalist.
Clear Creek Distillery
Advertising itself as “orchard to glass,” Clear Creek specializes in authentic, fruit-based spirits. Sourcing their produce from the Mount Hood countryside and the broader Pacific Northwest, this distillery has brought European-style brandy and liqueur to the opposite side of the globe. From Pear Brandy to Loganberry Liqueur, Clear Creek has European staples alongside American inventions. If you like fruit and you like liquor, check out Clear Creek.
Aria specializes in London Dry Gin, but is based in Portland. That sentence may seem an oxymoron, but in fact a London Dry Gin doesn’t need to be distilled in London. Instead this gin category must meet certain parameters that result in a natural, unsweetened gin. Within this framework, Aria still manages to distill a novel gin that’s layered with botanical complexity, but still places juniper at the forefront.