Just three hours from Portland (some may argue about that estimate, but I drive fast) are several distilleries making a plethora of spirits. On Tuesday, I took two friends for a tour of the four distilleries featured in High-Proof PDX. Our plan was Cascade Alchemy, BackDrop Distilling, Bendistillery, and Oregon Spirits. However, for several reasons we only made it to two stops.

Bendistillery (Crater Lake Spirits)

Crater Lake Spirits have been around since 1996 and over the years I’ve had several of their spirits and spent many a celebration at the Bendistillery Martini bar (no longer open). For tastings, they have two options: Downtown Bend and their distillery in Tumalo. We decided to visit the Downtown location. Want to avoid the crowds? Go on a weekday afternoon.

Tasting info: $5 for 6 samples or $1 each.

We all tried the Sweet Ginger Vodka. It was wonderful and I can’t wait to try it in a Moscow Mule. We also tried the Hatch Green Chile Vodka and although I’m not usually a fan of bloody marys, I could see this one making a great one--especially for a fiesta-themed brunch. Lastly, we really enjoyed the Hazelnut Espresso Vodka and the Northwest Berry Vodka. In my opinion, the Hazelnut Espresso Vodka keeps getting better and I am definitely adding it to my home bar set-up.

BackDrop Distilling

Mark Plants started BackDrop in 2014, utilizing a space and connection with Good Life Brewing. This one-man, one-still operation is fascinating. Mark showed us a table of extracts he’s experimenting with for his next batch of gin and explained the steps to making four different spirits with one still.

Tasting info: Email Mark for tasting options

We sampled the signature vodka, a wheat-based spirit that is very clean and would make a great base to any cocktail.

Overall tips: Call or email smaller distilleries to confirm hours and availability of spirits and prices for tastings. Be aware of your limits and don’t worry if you can’t fit all the planned stops into one day. Savor the experience and spirits.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on Friday! Pick up a copy of High-Proof PDX today and plan your distillery tour!

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