Artisan Spirits

The distillers Shane Thatcher, Ryan Csanky, and Erik Martin own Oregon’s newest homegrown spirit-maker, though Csanky and Martin do most of the distilling. Martin is also president of the Oregon Distillers Guild.

The place With infused vodkas, distillers typically add flavors to the alcohol after distillation, but Artisan tosses in its inventive tongue-pleasers during the process. Based on an old Russian recipe, Apia is distilled from honey, giving it a hint of clover and thick, golden sweetness. For Martin Ryan, the distillers incorporated some of the Northwest’s best wines to yield a slightly fruity, floral taste.

The philosophy Vodka is a bit like soccer: widespread and beloved throughout the world, downtrodden and ignored in the States. Artisan’s goal is to rescue the clear liquor from a glut of powerful mixers and raise it to the level of a fashionable, sip-worthy beverage you can enjoy all by its lonesome.
The future Artisan is gearing up to try a couple of gin and absinthe recipes, with an eye toward brown liquors. 1227 SE Stark St; for tours, e-mail; 503-957-0404; —Bart W. Blasengame

Clear Creek Distillery

The distillers Known as the grandfather of Portland’s craft-distillery movement, Stephen McCarthy started Clear Creek in 1985, and started making eau-de-vie (fruit brandy) from the fruit of his parents’ Hood River Valley farm. His pear brandy is now famous and still features Bartlett pears. McCarthy was the first American distiller to make grappa, and in 1987 he persuaded the Oregon legislature to allow small-batch distillers to sell their own products and host tastings on-site.

The place The distillery itself operates out of a large warehouse on the edge of the Northwest industrial district. The space contains four gleaming copper stills imported from Germany and a temperature-controlled room stacked with Oregon white oak, old cognac, and French oak barrels filled with single-malt whiskey, apple brandy, and Oregon pot-distilled brandy, respectively. It’s especially nice to drop by Clear Creek’s tasting room in the fall, when the sweet scent of five hundred thousand pounds of fermenting Bartlett pears wafts for several blocks. The tasting room is almost always open to visitors, except on major holidays and “occasionally when we go to the pear orchard or are picking Douglas fir buds,” as the website puts it. The distillery recommends scheduling tastings by appointment, especially for groups of five or more.

The philosophy “It’s a matter of less is more,” McCarthy says. “This is not a manufactured product. This is something that we very gently take from what we were given to work with.”

The future This August, Clear Creek plans to release its biggest batch of whiskey to date—five hundred cases. 2389 NW Wilson St; tasting room open Mon–Fri 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; free walking tours Saturdays at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., and 1 p.m. (reservations required); 503-248-9470; —Brian M. Barker