Interview: Chris from Wild Roots Vodka

All photos by High-Proof Preacher

All photos by High-Proof Preacher

Wild Roots is no ordinary vodka company.

No artificial flavoring, weird dyes or coloring here. This Portland-local distillery uses real fruit from the Pacific Northwest and infuses it with their five-time distilled and five-time filtered vodka. It's delicious stuff and honestly, it's really hard to make a bad drink with it!

Wild Roots founder, Chris Joseph, was gracious enough to agree to an interview despite being in the middle of an incredibly busy season. His passion for what he does definitely shows in his answers!

What inspired you to start Wild Roots?

I started Wild Roots for several reasons.

I knew I wanted to create a brand and company that tied back to my roots. I grew up in the Northwest and have been in love with it the whole time. I wanted to create something that gave me the ability to reinvest into the Northwest. I wanted a product that gave consumers the ability to experience the Northwest no matter where they were at or from. Wild Roots allowed me to do so. By using our one of a kind fruit and pristine water I was able to create that product and have the ability to invest in our local communities and businesses. 

I also started Wild Roots because I noticed a hole in the market.

There was a need that was not being fulfilled in one of the most over saturated markets in the world, which is an all natural, fruit infused vodka. Everything I could find at the time was full of artificial and chemically enhanced flavoring. I saw something consumers were being deprived of so I created a product to solve that issue, while staying true to my roots. 

As the founder, what does a typical day look like for you?

As a founder my day is full of putting out fires. I would say the number one thing I do is resolve issues and wear multiple hats. There are days where I play janitor, some days I bottle and package, other days I meet with grocery chain decision makers and our distributors. I do whatever needs to be done. That is what I signed up for. 

Along with putting out fires I spend a good amount of time planning. The world is always changing, so we need to adapt and stay fresh. I work with our production team to continuously improve our products and work on new recipes. I spend a good amount of time with our design and marketing team to see what we can do better. I also spend a lot of time in the market, visiting accounts.

For those who may not be familiar with Portland's “Distillery Row,” how would you describe your relationship with other local distilleries?

I view Distillery Row as a small community that is dedicated to bettering one another, and also the communities in which we work within.

Everyone has each others best interests. I feel like we all believe that the community grows together. We meet frequently and plan events and cocktail themes together. It makes being in the local craft industry much more enjoyable and fun.

Is there something about Wild Roots Spirits that you feel really sets you apart from other brands or distilleries?

I believe all brands and distilleries are unique in their own way. I feel like Wild Roots has done a great job separating from other distilleries by sticking to the basics.

A lot of products that are on the commercial market are full of artificial and chemically enhanced flavoring. They were designed strictly off of margins first, rather than taste and quality. At Wild Roots we use only real, natural ingredients. We use no artificial flavoring or chemicals to create our products.

I look at it in a simple way - if I am going to make a raspberry vodka, I am going to use raspberries. Why recreate a “raspberry” flavor when the real berry itself is perfect? I don’t see it any other way. Yes, the margins take a hit because real fruit is much more expensive than flavoring, but the consumers appreciate a real product.

Our products - with the real fruit, color, smell and taste is what separates us from other brands. 

Is there a particular Wild Roots product that you are especially proud of?

I am proud of all of the products we have made at Wild Roots, but the one that does stick out to me the most is our Cranberry Vodka.

One of the reasons why I started Wild Roots was to create a company that tied in with my roots, and to give me the ability to reinvest into the Northwest. A lot of farmers are stuck in a difficult situation, where it can cost more to grow their crops than what they can sell it for. They are forced to work multiple jobs and try to find time to run their farm. It makes it very difficult for farmers to live, and also be motivated to keep their farm.

One of the greatest things about the Northwest is all of our farms, and our exceptional fruit. We have some of the best fruit in the World in our backyard. In order to protect the farming industry and reinvest into the Northwest I began to start working with farmers to ensure they are receiving fair margins.

A lot of time big companies will force farmers to sell for margins that are unlivable. We do our best to ensure they have high enough margins where they can focus on what they do best - farming, which allows us to do what we do best - make fruit infused spirits.

Wild Roots would not be around if the farming industry disappeared. When they hurt, we hurt as well.

In making our Cranberry Vodka we partnered with a specific farm, Johnson Creek Farms out of Bandon, Oregon. We have established a great relationship with the family and agreed on pricing that works for both parties.

The end result has been fantastic too. Our Cranberry Vodka is unlike any on the market. The real secret behind it is quite simple, we use real cranberries, and a lot of them. All of our products have over a pound of real fruit in every bottle. The combination of real cranberries from Bandon, Oregon, mixed with our Organic, Gluten Free Northwest Vodka creates the perfect combination of tart and refreshing. It is a true cranberry smell and taste.

What’s your favorite cocktail?

My favorite cocktail with Wild Roots is a Marionberry Moscow Mule. We call it the Oregon Mule.  It is quite refreshing and a great Northwest take on the Moscow Mule.

To make this, all you need is Wild Roots Marionberry Vodka, Ginger Beer and a slice of Lime. 

Where can people find Wild Roots products?

Consumers can find Wild Roots in most liquor stores in Oregon and Washington. Wild Roots can also be found in Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Our products can also be ordered online. We are hoping to expand our distribution reach in the neat future!

Be sure to drop by Wild Roots Spirits' tasting room if you are in the Portland area.

Also, check out the recipes I developed using each of their delicious fruit-infused vodkas!