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Beginnings

Tualatin Valley Distilling’s founders, Jason O'Donnell and Corey Bowers, met at camp during the early 1990’s in Southern California, after which they remained distant friends through the years. Unknowingly, the two separately found their way to Portland, Oregon and in 2007 discovered they’d both moved to within 5 miles of each other, over a 1000 miles away from where they’d first met. They rekindled their friendship through a mutual love for whiskeys of all kinds and became involved in the local Portland whiskey scene. They soon started dreaming of initially creating their own personal expressions in an American Single Malt Whiskey format. When an opportunity arose in 2012, they decided to set off on an adventure to bring their dreams to a reality; an adventure now known as Tualatin Valley Distilling (www.tvdistilling.com).

Scotch Influences

There is a strong Scotch influence TVD’s products which stems directly from both the founders' love of the dram (Jason is one of the founders of a whisky tasting group that started in 1999 and boasts worldwide membership with attendance around 250 for every year's grand tasting). They were disappointed, however, to find that the flavor profiles they so loved in their Scotches were no where to be found in American whiskeys at the time, so they decided to make their own and begin building a regional flavor profile for the Pacific Northwest in much the same way Scotland has its own regional distinctions. They took to using a traditional copper pot still, and twice distilling every batch to maintain the inherent character of the barley much in the way proper Scotch is made. And, of course, with their love of history, we were drawn to Scotch and Irish whiskies as the birthplace of the dram and continue to draw inspiration from the region while we build our own.

CHAT WITH

Jason O'Donnell & Corey Bowers
Founders

Tualatin Valley Distilling formed in 2012, start production in 2013 and made its first sale in 2014. We are Oregon's smallest legal micro-distillery and are co-located with Big Bottom Distilling. As a low-volume producer, we are focused on building quality over quantity, with an eye to American craft whiskeys for a Scotch palate and the historically minded. We build our whiskeys from grain to the glass. We do our own milling of grain sourced from the Pacific Northwest, brew our own distiller's beer, pitch our proprietary blend of yeast strains for fermentation, and do all of our own distilling on-site in Hillsboro, Oregon. We strive to source ingredients as locally as possible, and have begun to utilize a single estate malted barley from Mecca Grade Estate Growers in Madras, Oregon as our primary barley supplier to ensure we remain locally sourced.

We maintain an historic view of our spirits and strive to replicate recipe and style while imprinting our own artistic marks into the spirits we produce.  

We also have an evolving barrel reuse program to more accurately reproduce the profiles we look for in our whiskeys. We mainly utilize charred American oak barrels in a 5 gallon size, but we have also begun experimenting with toasted Hungarian oak barrels in 6 gallon sizes, and released a first use single barrel bottling of our Oregon Single Malt from that experiment in early March. We find the combination of charred American oak with toasted Hungarian oak produces a very unique flavor profile that balances sweet and spice notes. Because we utilize smaller barrels, we are also able to release younger spirits with more mature profiles than most people would expect, allowing for more experimentation at a quicker rate to discover what works, and what doesn't while we continually ride the edge of whiskey production.

Morewood's Usquebaugh is our historic revival spirit is a recreation of the common farmhouse spirit found across the British Isles in the 16th and 17th centuries. A grain neutral spirit with spices and botanicals with saffron added post distillation for a wild color and extraordinary flavor, this spirit is as complex as it is vibrant. 

The product started out as an intellectual pursuit (prior to the inception of the distillery) to document some historic recipes for whiskey quite a few years back with a dear friend, Randy Ullon. Over the course of his research, Randy found a recipe documented by Samuel Morewood which spoke to the methods and ingredients for a farmhouse spirit that was produced in the late 16th century. Usquebaugh is the Gaelic word for "water of life" and is the word that Mr. Morewood used to describe the spirit and also tells us that it was a categorical term used to discuss all compounded spirits of the time. It was a year into our distillery production when we realized we had the opportunity and ability to bring this unique historic spirit back to life in the modern age and that it fit perfectly with our distillery's focus on historic liquors. So we took the intellectual pursuit and began even more research and development to make it a commercially viable product, which finally saw release in June of 2015. 

It is a complex arrangement of crisp and warm spice notes with a full mouthfeel and can be consumed straight or even louched as you would an absinthe. But don’t let that confine you to only two methods, as it is a very versatile drink and can be used as a base or spice accent for designing your own cocktails.

Our company logo is indeed a design inspired by both Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. We both have a predilection towards these architects/designers and their distinct panoply of work. We wanted to replicate the craftsman ethos within our design as a touchstone for our own company’s guiding principles. Also taking inspiration from Compass Box Whisky’s capability for what we call neo-vintage and classically timeless design, we gave that guidance to our brilliant designer, Gary Chelak, who came up with what you see today. On the surface, the logo is a stylized stained glass version of a stalk of barley in the craftsman genre. However, a deeper look shows additional elements nodding to even more significance. The idea behind the specific elements from top to bottom show the beginnings of the process in which we use barley as the main ingredient of our flagship whiskey, with the color differentiations denoting the grain’s growth, malting, and drying/smoking process. Moving down, we see the two green-blue-ish diamonds signifying the stalk of the barley as well as the water (greener was our design choice over blue) and process used to brew the barley and release the sugars necessary for the next two diamonds to do their job: the yeast. This is the yellow diamonds of yeast which eat the sugars during the fermentation process and in turn produce the alcohol in the mash we then run through the distillation process to the final element of the design; the rosette as the final product.

We've been working with Estansilado Orona of Raven & Rose PDX to build a fun cocktail with Morewood's Usquebaugh. He came up with an amazing drink called "The Alchemist": 
- 2oz Tualatin Valley Distilling's Usquebaugh,
- .50oz Saffron Syrup (liquid gold, really!),
- .25oz Lemon Juice,
- Ground Cinnamon dusting,
- Crushed Ice &
- Lemon Peel.

We have a few projects underway, one of which is an Absinthe based on historically documented recipes, of course. We are also getting ready to release our Oregon Single Estate Single Malt sometime around December, which will highlight the barley grown and mechanically floor malted by Mecca Grade Estate Growers. We're very excited for that release as it will put our single malt as a fully Oregon product  as a wonderful collaboration between two companies with very similar principles and desires.

Jason: Westland and Corsair. Westland because they are producing some excellent American single malts. I'm excited to watch them because we're doing similar things but with very different levels of resources behind us. I continue to be excited for Corsair since they have been an inspiration for us from the start based on their experimentation and ability to push whiskeys in such new and amazing directions. The innovation is awesome to watch, and inspires our own innovation as well. 
Corey: I'm watching Westland as well. I like their complete focus on single malts, and their use of local ingredients.

Jason: I'm taking a bottle of The Balvenie's 21yr Portwood with me. It is my go-to dram that showed me very early on what a top-notch Scotch could be and how you can play with cask finishes to really bring out some spectacular flavors. It has stood as my favourite dram across a decade and a half now, and I expect it will continue to do so as long as I can obtain it.  
Corey: Whatever I have on hand. Right now I have a bottle of last year's release of The Dissident from Deschutes Brewery that's almost ready to drink, it would be a shame to let that go to waste.

Jason: First and foremost, Ernest Hemingway. For all of his faults, you can't deny that he is at his peak game when it comes to drinking buddies. Just imagine the kind of trouble we could find! Secondly, Edgar Allen Poe, since he definitely knew something about fun, interesting drinks of historic nature. Lastly, I'm going to cheat: Any one of my 3 Drunken Celts whiskey group. When any of us get together, there are always amazing whiskies and nothing we can't accomplish. Truly they are the best drinking buddies anyone could ask for.
Corey: I'm the stereotypical introvert, so I prefer a small, familiar group. My favorite drinking buddies are the few high school friends I talk to regularly(they know who they are).