The Willamette Valley is making quite a name for itself in terms of alcohol ingenuity, and we’re not just referring to the creative ways college kids find to drink. Wineries and breweries have long been a vibrant part of the community, but craft distilleries are becoming just as important in the quest to create the perfect drink. To make your journey easier, and our job more fun, we did the footwork for you. Here are a few outstanding local distilleries, each with its own unique blend of talent and flavor. We highly recommend trying them all…
720 NE Granger Ave.
When Vivacity Spirits released their first vodka in 2011, it was a labor of love for owners Caitlin Prueitt and Chris Neumann. Prueitt is the primary owner of the company, making Vivacity one of just a few microdistilleries nationwide owned by a woman. Vivacity’s product line of four outstanding spirits is distinctive and unique, and they pride themselves on using organic and GMO-free ingredients in their products. Vivacity Fine Vodka is a sipping vodka, with smooth taste and sweet aroma that quite honestly can compete with anything from the top-shelf – at a very reasonable price. Their Banker’s Gin is a classic six-ingredient spirit that is dedicated to the president of Willamette Valley Community Bank, who gave them the loan that allowed Vivacity to become a reality. They also have an experimental botanical gin with 17 ingredients, primarily sourced natively, including Oregon grapes and juniper which are handpicked by Prueitt and Neumann. This is an award-winning gin that pleases both connoisseurs and newbies. Their Turkish Coffee Liqueur, which uses coffee from the Oregon Coffee and Tea Company, is a unique twist on a classic coffee flavor, and can be paired with 4 Spirits’ Bourbon for a signature cocktail, “The Corvallis Blunderbuss.”
The Corvallis tasting room features community artists in a tribute to the community that has supported them in getting up and running. A true Oregon microdistillery, Vivacity lives up to its name and is a gem that cannot be missed.
4 Spirits Distillery
6040 NE Marcus Harris Ave.
Adair Village, Oregon
Upon returning from an 18-month deployment to the Middle East, Dawson Officer, owner of 4 Spirits Distillery, wanted to honor his fallen comrades. 4 Spirits Distillery accomplishes that admirable mission. Strategically located in the vicinity of historical WWII military base Camp Adair, the 4 Spirits tasting room is decorated with nostalgic photos and memories from Officer’s deployment.
The first product came out in 2011, a year after starting the process to open the distillery. 4 Spirits serves an incredibly smooth bourbon whiskey and two excellent vodkas, the Web Foot and Slap Tail. The whiskey received Platinum in the Spirits International Prestige Competition and the vodka got Silver in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Officer also has three distinct rums in the works: a spiced rum, a light rum, and a dark rum. There was also mention of a top secret whiskey being developed long term which, according to Officer, “will be tailored to the Pacific Northwest.”
What makes 4 Spirits unique is its strong dedication to American military veterans. Officer says that his focus group was the men he served with, and his company stays true to his mission: 10% of all the profit from the bourbon whiskey goes directly to non-profits supporting veterans in the states where it is sold (currently Oregon, Idaho, and Washington). The company also has an endowment scholarship at the OSU Foundation: The 4 Spirits Veterans Scholarship; all the more reason to raise a toast to American freedom.
A short 45-minute drive up 99 will lead you to the farms at Rogue Hopyard. While their distilling doesn’t happen at this location, the tasting room and cool atmosphere of this Oregon-based brewing and distilling operation offer a great place to visit.
The farms offer several acres of fielded areas perfect for yard games (they have corn hole, croquet, and lawn darts). Seasonal garage sales and the Hop-in-Bed bed & breakfast make this a fun place to taste Rogue’s spirits. Rogue produces two whiskeys, a single malt vodka, two gins, two rums (including a hazelnut rum that is to die for), and a chipotle spirit that makes for amazing cocktails.
Hard Times Distillery
175 S 5th ST.
Located right in the middle of the small community of Monroe, Hard Times Distillery is a family owned distillery that produces three exclusive spirits, including the Sweet Baby Moonshine, which is a traditional non-aged moonshine made from oats and barley. Their Blue Collar Vodka, which is a proudly outsourced product (distilled elsewhere, but processed in house) that they sell at a low cost for the “working man” is true to their Hard Times name. But the star of their line up is the Green Geisha Wasabi Vodka, which is made from true Japanese wasabi and locally sourced grains. It has a signature flavor that is worth the risk; a salty sweet taste that even anti-wasabi folks will enjoy.
Tasting Room Hours: Saturday noon-5 p.m.
Sinister Distillery & Deluxe Brewing
635 NE Water Ave. Suites B & D
Owned by Eric and Jamie Howard, this up and coming “brewstillery” is located on Water Street in downtown Albany, only a few miles down the road from Vivacity and 4 Spirits. The business is primarily brewing beer right now, however, they are planning on having whiskey available for sale by Summer 2014.
Established in 2011 and currently located in a large warehouse, they have a lot of room to expand and grow into a wide range of possibilities. One nice benefit, unlike other tasting rooms, is the bar atmosphere, complete with a locally-constructed bar and stools. While Sinister Distillery and Deluxe Brewery are still in early stages of development, the location and atmosphere promise a good place for some Friday night fun.