Triathlon junkie Jim Bendis was running through the juniper forest in Central Oregon, notably the largest of its kind in the world yielding more than 6 million acres of juniper, and an epiphany dawned on him. “I thought, ‘this only makes sense that I’m in the center of the world’s largest juniper forest and here I am with Oregon water, the best in the world,’” he says. “It seemed like a good idea to make some gin.” Bendis established Bendistillery in 1996 — the name is a mashup of his last name, his location in Bend, OR, and the word “distillery.” His first spirit was Crater Lake Gin, named after the crystal clear caldera lake in south-central Oregon that formed when the volcano Mount Mazama collapsed about 150 years ago. Oregon’s water is famous for its purity because a great deal of it flows over volcanic rock formations like Mazama. To mimic this process and create the purest spirit possible, Bendis developed a filtration system that uses crushed volcanic rock. “We have a spirit filtered...
Featured Gin and Genever Distilleries
“New Western” style gin. These are not the gins of Winston Churchill or Sir Lawrence Olivier. These are not gins that smack you in the face with a big branch of prickly juniper.
These are gins that seduce you with orange and lemon peel, coriander and cucumber, rose petals and lavender. Nonetheless, New Western gins are not familiar gins. They have names like CapRock Organic, and Roundhouse, and Perry’s Tot Navy Strength. They come from Boulder and Brooklyn, Wisconsin and Oregon.
Rarely do people pursue careers in the specific subject matter that they studied in college, especially when they major in niche subjects, like fruit for example. Jason Grizzanti is the exception. “I went to Cornell as a fruit science major because I was really into apples growing up,” he says. His family owned a small “hobby winery” that he decided to transform into a production winery when he graduated college. At 23, Grizzanti applied for a $50,000 grant to start New York State’s first fruit micro-distillery. The state obliged, and with the help of his childhood friend Jeremy Kidde, Grizzanti began making fruit brandies professionally. At that point he was producing 1,000 gallons annually. When New York laws changed to accommodate craft distillers, Grizzanti and Co. changed their license and began making whiskey, among other products. Today his company, the Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery yields 70,000 gallons of hard apple cider, 18,000 gallons of wine and about 5,000 gallons of distilled spirits each year. His facility is also the distilling site for Brooklyn Gin...
Jackrabbit Hill Farm is know both for being the first certified organic vineyard in the United States and for their ultra-local distillery, Peak Spirits. Owner Lance Hanson and his family were inspired by what he calls the “farm distillery model.” It was well-established in Europe, he says, but it was fairly new to the United States in 2005 when he started distilling. “We live in the North Fork Valley where we have some wonderful peach, cherry, [and] apple orchards that are our neighbors. In Europe they do phenomenal brandies from this type of fruit, [and we said] we should be doing it here. It was an easy jump to make becauase we already knew how to ferment, and we had a lot of equipment from the winery that we needed.” Hanson’s farm, Jackrabbit Hill Farm, is a 22-acre vineyard. They grow grapes onsite for their wine, and they use apples from two local orchards to make the base spirit for their gin. “We believe that we can produce the best quality fruit through those growing...
You’ll find barrel-aged cocktails, specifically those made with gin, in hip cocktail bars around the country these days. But Roundhouse Spirits’ owner and distiller Ted Palmer was making barrel-aged gin long before it was trendy. The ex-brewer was inspired to make Imperial Barrel Aged Gin in 2008 when he first opened the distillery in Boulder, Colorado. “Most people have never heard of such an animal. I like to describe it as ‘Ginskey’, laughs Palmer. “It’s my regular Roundhouse Gin, and I took that and put it into barrels and aged it. A lot of my partners said, ‘No no don’t do that. Nobody’s ever heard of such a thing. Who’s gonna buy it?’ Well it’s pretty popular, let me tell ya.” Palmer always wanted to be a distiller. “I got started distilling when I was 10 years old with my grandfather. It was about science and not booze because I wasn’t drinking back then. Chemistry and science — I got hooked. I’ve wanted to be a distiller ever since,” he says. Legality prevented him from...
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