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the Greater Northwest American Distillers’ Festival

This weekend I (and Misuba and Xen) attended the Great American Distillery Festival at the Armory Theater in Portland. This was an event co-sponsored by Rogue Spirits and Imbibe Magazine. Someday they’ll grow into the name, but in this, their fourth year, the majority of distilleries that attended were from the Northwest region. That said, tables were extremely approachable, and it was easy to open conversation with pourers and other attendees.

We chatted a little with Phil from Lamb Martini, “an unholy marriage of food and drink”. A really nice guy, who prepared a cheatsheet on all of the offerings, with pricings. I’m sure he is planning a blogpost on the event, so I won’t crib from his homework [much]. [UPDATE: here is a link to Phil’s blogpost on the GADF]

Tasting notes follow, after the jump.


Indio Spirits Snake River Stampede Whiskey
This is a blend of 6-7yo Canadian whiskeys. It was very smooth, would make a fine sipping whiskey.

McMenamins Edgefield Hogshead Whiskey
This was a good whiskey, but didn’t reach out and grab me. I didn’t get a chance to talk to the distiller about the grain selection or the aging.

Clear Creek Distillery McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt Whiskey
This is a great single malt whiskey, if you find a bottle, buy one for me. Clear Creek notes “our whiskey would be a single malt Scotch if Oregon were Scotland”.


Indio Spirits Cricket Club Gin
This was a very citrus-inflected gin. I sensed lemongrass, lime, other tart flavors on it but almost no other botanical notes.

Philadephia Distilling Blue-Coat Gin
A nice gin that balanced a wide array of spices with juniper, pitched towards the bright side.

Rogue Spirits Spruce Gin
The spruce flavor was completely missed by me. I could detect other flavors, though: a little cucumber, some grains of paradise, tangerine. This was a widely spiced gin, just not terribly assertive. Maybe it was yesterday’s bottle


Modern Spirits Oregon Black Truffle infused vodka
This was incredible. The black truffle contributed forest floor and cocoa mushroom flavors. The vodk was extremely smooth. I’ll take a shot of this (chilled, but not iced) after the appetizers at any multi-course banquet (thyme garnish, please), and a demitasse of lobster bisque as a chaser.

Modern Spirits Candied Ginger infused vodka
The clear taste of ginger asserted itself over the alcohol of the vodka. This is not a sweet liqueur, at least not so much as the Hood River Distillery’s Yazu (which I find way too syrupy). Xen seemed to think it was fantastic (note that her birthday is Halloween). Misuba thought it might prompt a reconsideration of one of his signature drinks, the Asian Girlfriend.

Modern Spirits Celery Peppercorn infused vodka
This was interesting. I was expecting a little more peppercorn on the palate. The celery notes came through nicely, with that suggestion of saltiness that celery seed contributes. I’ll have to taste this again before revisiting my celery bitters project.

Shakers Distillery Rose Vodka
This flavored vodka carried the unmistakable scent of rosewater. It is built for a sweet taste, even berry-like notes. I have got to do some research on a good rosewater for mixing, when that happens, this will be a contender.

Dolmen Distillery’s Worker Bee
This is a distillation of mead. Misuba tasted it, which is about all I know.


A few distilleries’ tables I skipped, because I was already familiar with their products.

New Deal offered their eponyous vodka, their Portland 88 Vodka (higher proof, which I find preferable for use in making bitters), and Hot Monkey Vodka (which I can’t find a Scoville rating for).

House Spirits brought their Aviation Gin and Krogstad Aquavit. Both are fine spirits. I love the Aviation Gin in the Aviation(cocktail) where its corriander notes give fine support to the maraschino. The distiller recommends it in a gimlet, but I don’t make time for gimlets. The Krogstad is a fine aquavit, balance of caraway and anise. I had tasted both of these at an open house at their distillery and tax room in SE Portland last August.

Hangar One was represented by their Kaffir Lime Vodka and Mandarin Blossom Vodka. Both are favorites at the Prince of Cups and provide the second shot at our Horace Phair celebration. When I lived in Oakland, every once in a while I’d get the chance to go taste at their distillery in the former naval base on Alameda Island.

Clear Creak Distillery also brought their Eau de Vie of Douglas Fir. I really like this liqueur, as I stated in a previous post.

Ransom Spirits brought their Gewurtztraminer Grappa. I’d tasted this at the House Spirits and Ransom Spirits open house last winter. Misuba tasted it and really liked it. It would be nice to have a bottle of good grappa around for the post-prandial dram.