Portland's Newest Craft Distillery: Freeland Spirits
Their distillery and tasting room isn't even operational yet but Freeland Spirits is already kicking butt.
They're the new kids on the block, jumping into Portland's growing craft distilling scene with their delicious gin, which they are producing at another local distillery while their space is under construction.
Freeland Spirits is a bit of a unicorn in the distilling world, as they are completely women-owned and operated. I recently connected with Jill Kuehler (founder) and Molly Troupe (distiller) for a little tour of what will soon be their distillery in mid-2018. Despite being super busy with construction, liquor store tastings, and cranking out more gin, they agreed to answer a few questions...
Could you each tell me a bit about your backgrounds and what led up to starting Freeland Spirits?
JILL: My background is in nonprofit management and agriculture... which may not seem like a normal segue to spirits. While I was the director of Zenger Farm we taught kids and families where good food comes from. As a lover of spirits, I thought, why aren't more people teaching where good spirits come from? You think of terroir with wine but I didn't hear enough where the ingredients in my favorite gin and whiskey were coming from.
Every time my friend Cory Carman of Carman Ranch comes to town we drink whiskey together. She was the first person I told, "I think I want to make this." She said she'd grow the grain. Then I found Molly... and here we are!
MOLLY: After deciding that forensics was not for me, I decided to put my chemistry degree to good use and make spirits. Before I started in the field, I decided to earn a Masters of Brewing and Distilling from Heriot–Watt University to further my education. From there, I started working in Oregon for different distilleries, first for Hood River Distillers and then for Oregon Spirits Distillers. Jill approached me more than two years ago with the idea of starting Freeland Spirits and after meeting her there was no way I could turn down this project.
The distillery world is definitely male-dominated. What has your experience been like being one of the few female owned/operated distilleries in existence?
JILL: The Portland distilling community has welcomed us with open arms. Aria, Bull Run, House, Thomas and Sons, New Deal– they've all been incredibly supportive. But we certainly get the raised eyebrows when we're telling people about the distillery. "You're the owner?" or "You're the distiller?"
MOLLY: Generally, everyone is very encouraging and excited for us and we have had great receptions. In the past, I have experienced people’s pointed disbelief directed at my age and gender’s inability to do this job. Thankfully, that seems to happen less and less these days.
Why did you decide to start with gin?
JILL: It all began with a walk in Forest Park... Molly asked with a hushed excitement, "Have you heard of the rotovap?" She'd been dreaming of her ideal gin recipe for years and wanted it to be exceptional, unique and delicious all on its own.
We both love gin. And since it doesn't require aging, it allows us to have a product for sale while we let our whiskey age until it's damn well ready.
Can you share some future “hopes and dreams” about the company? Are you planning to focus mainly on a few spirits (like gin & whiskey) or will you expand your product offerings in the future?
MOLLY: Future plans? World Domination.
JILL: Gin and whiskey will be our signatures. But we'll also have special release products available only in the tasting room.
What is your favorite cocktail (or 2 or 3) to make with Freeland gin?
JILL: I love a French 75 with Cointreau instead of simple syrup. But I really like it best with just a cube of ice.
MOLLY: It is great all by itself but one of my favorite cocktails is a take on a classic Greyhound. You may want to adjust the portions though, I usually just free-pour and go for what tastes best.
2 oz Freeland Spirits Gin
1 oz grapefruit juice
1 oz club soda
Served in a Collins glass with a rosemary sprig and lemon wedge.
Where can people purchase Freeland Spirits? Will their be online buying options at some point?
JILL: Online at some point, yes. Local Portland liquor stores: Uptown Liquor, Cedar Mill Liquor, Hollywood Beverage, Rose City Liquor, 11th Ave Liquor and Milwaukie Liquor. And we're adding more every week!
We're also planning a blow-out party to celebrate the opening of the tasting room in July... so stay tuned.