Highball Distillery

The distillers Cofounders Michael Heavener and Michael Klinglesmith met as members of a Reed College juggling club and bonded over a shared interest in vodka and local organics. They came up with the idea to become distillers in 2005, and last July, after two and a half years dedicated to research, development, and acquiring organic certification, the Michaels opened Highball and began producing Elemental, their organic, handcrafted vodka.
The place Like most distilleries, Highball has a warehouse feel. The main room houses a three-hundred-gallon kettle; a tiny tasting room and retail area anchor the production space.

The philosophy? Highball uses only organic Pacific Northwest light wheat in its distillation process. The company’s goal is to create a product that reflects local resources without pillaging them. Leftover wheat goes back to farms for livestock grazing. Even the distillery’s equipment, which the founders built by hand, runs fully on sustainable energy via PGE’s Clean Air program.

The future “We just want to see what else we can create,” Heavener says. He’s currently experimenting with flavored vodka for the summer sipping season. 610 SE 10th Ave; call for tours and hours, or e-mail highballdistillery@gmail.com; 503-803-3989;
—Kaitlin Johnson

House Spirits Distillery and Apothecary

The distillers Founders Lee Medoff and Christian Krogstad met as brewmasters at McMenamins, but their love of booze went beyond barley and hops. In 2002, the pair founded House Spirits. Medoyeff Vodka was their first creation; two years later, the duo paired with Seattle mixology guru Ryan Margarian to create the wildly popular Aviation gin.

The place House maintains a cocktail boutique adjacent to its distillery. Lined with bottles and beakers of the newest concoctions, the “apothecary” offers samples of everything from grappa to ouzo to absinthe, as well as House’s regular vodka, gin, and aquavit. In the “Whisk(e)y Your Way” program, customers can make their own whiskey, working with a distiller to choose everything from the grains to the barrel. Of course, they have to wait at least two years (and pay $5,000) to enjoy their personalized sauce. And House’s “recession-proof mixology program” runs every Wednesday night, when the House guys guest-bartend at local restaurants and bars—Biwa, Carlyle, and Bar Avignon so far, with Gold Dust Meridian, Silverado, and Sassy’s to come.

The philosophy House uses local ingredients whenever possible—Northwest malt for their whiskey, for instance. Medoff and Krogstad experienced the microbrewery explosion of the 1990s and founded House as a way to foster a similar attitude toward producing well-crafted, small-batch liquor. “It’s
like cooking,” Krogstad says. “But with a little more science.”

The future This June, House will partner with one local microbrewery per month to make beer schnapps, which will then be sold at that brewpub alongside the beers that inspired the spirits. But their secret? “We started House because we wanted to make whiskey,” says Krogstad. This spring, House will introduce bottlings of the whiskey Medoff and Krogstad have kept in barrels for one to four years. The line forms here. 2025 SE Seventh Ave; Sat 1–5, free walking tours Saturdays at noon and 4 p.m., or by appointment; 503-235-3174; housespirits.com —Kasey Cordell