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December 11th, 2013 MATTHEW KORFHAGE | Drank
 

Drank: Vinn Whiskey (Vinn Distillery)

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The founders of Vinn Distillery were once stuck alone at sea on a raft for 47 days while searching for a good place to land. They’d been deported from Vietnam for being ethnically Chinese, but didn’t want to live in China. Now, over 30 years after Kim Trinh and Phan Ly emigrated to Oregon, the family-run distillery they began is still on a solitary path: Wilsonville’s Vinn is the only maker of baijiu rice spirit in North America. Baijiu is the national quaff of China—cheap, industrial and often brewed at a lobotomizing 130 proof. It is a marriage-ender and a sweet-hot sword through the brain, typically drunk neat and at room temperature. Vinn makes a light, balanced 80-proof artisanal version with a pleasant, ricey sweetness—the recipe has been in the family for generations. Still, to a North American palate, it’s more of a mixer than a shot. Not so the brand-new Vinn whiskey, a barrel-aged version of its baijiu. Essentially already a white whiskey made with rice, the baijiu takes on a satisfying complexity when aged in oak for two years, deepening the rice’s one-note sugars into malty tones that lightly tickle the top of the palate. It’s a bit like a crisp, mild version of rye without that crackle of belching heat characteristic of the spirit. Vinn whiskey is not in stores yet—it’s available only at the Portland tasting room (833 SE Main St., Suite 125, 807-3826, vinndistillery.com)—but it’s worth seeking out as a novel winter sipper. Recommended.
 
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