Five Bottles to Try: Whiskey | Rum | Gin | Vodka | Fruit Liquors


19330 Pinehurst Road, Bend, 541-318-0200,

Bendistillery is known for their clean, midpriced Crater Lake spirits, especially their smooth lava rock-distilled vodka and gin made with juniper picked nearby. Indeed, they claim to grow every ingredient in their gin on their 24-acre farm. But the distillery is also the Prince figure behind many Oregon liquor companies' Sheila E: They privately distill for 40 other liquor marks in Oregon, from Distillery Row's new Wild Roots—which infuses Bendistillery vodka with marionberries and raspberries—to Fuzzy's Ultra-Premium Vodka and Uncle Val's Botanical Gin.

Brandy Peak

18526 Tetley Road, Brookings, 541-469-0194,

One of Oregon's oldest craft distillers, Brandy Peak makes a wide host of brandies, muscats and grappas—including a pear brandy aged in French and Oregon oak barrels that picked up a double gold medal from the American Distillers Institute. Each is made with what they say is the country's only legal wood-fired pot still, and is available at precious few Portland liquor stores. 

Cannon Beach Distillery

255 N Hemlock St., Suite C, Cannon Beach, 436-0301.

Mike Selberg is changing things in Cannon Beach. Not only is the boyish distillery owner making his own spirits on the sleepy village's main drag, he's organizing the occasional concert, too. Selberg makes two types of rum, two gins and—lately—a whiskey. The excellent Donlon Shanks amber rum was named the best rum in America by the American Distillers Institute in just the second year of its existence, while the distillery's Dorymen's had to settle for third-best among the silver rums. Selberg's more traditional gin, Lost Buoy, is quite nice, but we prefer the intensely herbal Peter's Family. Thick with the flavors of cilantro, basil, licorice and even a little olive, it's a spirit that drinks like a dirtied martini right out of the bottle. 

North Coast Distilling

1270 Duane St., Astoria,

North Coast's Painted Lady gin is named after some garishly painted Victorian homes in Astoria, where it's made. It's 90 proof and deeply floral, with a rose and lavender that opens beautifully as part of a gin and tonic, and a well-rounded sweetness across the palate. Consider it for breezy summers on the patio, with the salt air on your cheeks. From Thursday to Sunday, they open their tasting room for samples of their white whiskey, vodka and molasses rum.

Oregon Spirit Distillers

490 NE Butler Market Road, Suite 120, Bend, 541-382-0002,

Oregon Spirit Distillers started in 2010, but in the hearts and minds of drinkers they came out of nowhere in late 2012 with three of Oregon's best spirits. The double gold-winning Merrylegs Genever is a juniper-forward, malty Dutch-style gin; the C.W. Irwin Straight Bourbon is one of the only actual bourbons wholly distilled in Oregon; and the absinthe is considered one of the best in the country. Not only that, they came out with a three-year wheat whiskey this year that just edged McMenamins' two-year Billy as the state's first. Tasting hours are noon to 5 pm Monday through Saturday.

Ransom Spirits

23101 Houser Road, Sheridan, 876-5022, (Not currently open to public.)

Tad Seestedt's Ransom Wines and Spirits started in 1997 with brandies and other grape-based spirits in an old alembic still, which they still use for all their spirits. They now make the best dry vermouths around, as well as a tremendous Gewürztraminer grappa that reveals the flavor of the grape more intensely than most wines. But with their grain spirits they've evolved into one of the most impressive all-around distilleries in the country, let alone in Oregon, with a Straight Emerald whiskey mixing Irish and American styles (made with grain from their own 40-acre farm), a solid bourbon and a malty Old Tom gin that's nothing short of brilliant.

Five Bottles to Try: Whiskey | Rum | Gin | Vodka | Fruit Liquors