Portland’s TOAST lets you discover the Oregon micro-distilleries you don't know but should

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Having been bombarded by the slick marketing of Fireball, Jack Daniels, and Captain Morgan, it is understandable why we so easily fall into the trap of picking up the bottle that we know, and the liquor we’re accustomed to. Every person’s tastes are their own, so imbibing with the spirited big brands isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. It just tends to throw us off the trail of finding something new, local, and exciting.

I recently had the opportunity to dive into the blossoming Pacific Northwest spirits scene at the 9th Annual TOAST craft spirits tasting in Portland, Oregon. This gathering of passionate producers and small batch distillers pushed the larger market drinks to the side and allowed the nano and boutique distilleries of Cascadia the opportunity to play center stage for an evening. I had the chance to stand face to face and shake hands with the artists and producers who are embracing the craft, using premium local ingredients, and showcasing their truly unique Pacific Northwest lifestyle.

Some of these producers are relative new kids on the block in the distilling game, while others have carved out a distinct niche to distill how and what they want.

Stillweather Spirits

Born of a friendship built across fences (think Home Improvement; the owners are literally neighbors in Portland), Stillweather Spirits is a community-focused brand, dedicated to embodying the craft spirits culture. Led by Ben Jeans and the husband and wife duo of Jeff and Erin D’Achino, Stillweather recently threw their hat into the high-proof ring with a delicious American-style gin.

Our mission is to live and work in our community utilizing our local resources to become a part of the early adopter phase of American craft spirits and grow to be a key player in the successful modernization of American craft distilleries.

~ The Stillweather Team

Their gin is bright and floral with notes of spring botanicals and coriander. This lighter, more approachable style perfectly showcases the Pacific Northwest spirit culture by infusing the moss covered slopes, wildflowers, and rustic herbs of our temperate rainforest in a bottle. It begs to be enjoyed down by the river with your toes dangling in cool water watching the sun reflect off the rambling ripples.

Trail Distilling

Certified by the American Distillery Institute as a true Farm Distillery, Trail Distilling is hands-on and fueled by cutting-edge technology. If you like smooth vanilla-forward rum, nuanced whiskey, and barrel-aged gin, then Trail Distilling’s style and offerings should be in your cabinet.

Awarded “Oregon Gin Distillery of the Year” by the New York International Spirits Competition, our award-winning premium spirits are handcrafted, beginning with clear Cascadian glacial water from Mt. Hood and naturally-harvested grains and botanicals. Our distillery, located at the end of the Oregon Trail, is a certified farm distillery and home of the First Distillery in the First City West of the Mississippi Since Prohibition.

~ The Trail Distilling Team

Straightaway Cocktails

One of the spirits industry’s hottest trends currently is pre-made cocktails. They’re convenient, easy to carry, and taste somewhat similar to the classic concoctions for which they are named. The problem with the concept has long been too much sugar and not enough booze, but at Straightaway Cocktails, the vibe is definitely different. Just enough sweetness balances out their alcohol-forward ready-to-drink offerings, creating the perfect potent portable.

We live to host, first and foremost. We are heartily of the opinion that a good cocktail should never be out of reach. What began as a bootlegging hobby years back has become what is know today as Straightaway.

~ The Straightaway Team

Finally someone is doing pre-made cocktails right. Their Old Fashioned drinks like a $12 pour at a trendy cocktail bar but is ready for road. The Cosmo has Carrie Bradshaw ordering cases. But the real star is the gin-infused, lemon delight called Lintik. This Filipino cousin of Limoncello is sunshine in a glass and just as dangerous as falling asleep naked in its warm rays. Proceed with caution (and much delight and/or nakedness)!

After shaking hands, sampling through dozens of drinks, and making a few friends along the way, Portland’s 9th Annual TOAST is the at the epicenter of the craft spirits world. It’s these local events that enable smaller producers to seize their moment, exchange business cards, and pour their story into a souvenir glass.

Ryan Stevens