Distiller for a Day

July 14, 2014 (Updated August 18, 2015)

Ready to drink in one of Oregon’s newest culinary trends, Portland Chef Gabriel Rucker travels to Central Oregon to pay a visit to Bendistillery. Equal parts farming, production facility and tasting room, Bendistillery offers Rucker a lesson in another blossoming Oregon tradition.

Here on a 24-acre organic farm under the snowy gaze of the Cascade Mountains, Rucker learns from Bendistillery owner Jim Bendis about the grains, juniper and other key ingredients used to produce Crater Lake Vodka, Crater Lake Gin, Crater Lake Rye and other specialty spirits.

“This is totally farm-to-market. Everything is grown here, produced here, distilled here, bottled here,” Bendis says.

Oregon’s fledgling craft distillery business is tracking for the same kind of success that wine and craft beer movements have enjoyed. Less than 15 years old, the craft spirits industry now has more than three-dozen members.

In Central Oregon, Bendis can thank 300-plus days of sunshine and great water for his success. “The water in Oregon is the best water in the world. It goes through lava rock, which gives it a sweet flavor,” he says. “We’re taking what Mother Nature does with water and we simulate that with our spirit.”

Visit the Bendistillery tasting room to sample cocktails made from their signature spirits. For more information about Oregon spirits, check out the Oregon Distillery Trail. Visit Portland’s Distillery Row to find six innovative distilleries making more than 20 unique liquors. Don’t miss annual events like Toast: The Original Artisan Spirits Tasting, held each April and Portland Cocktail Week in October.

Explore Central Oregon: Stick around the Bend area to explore the natural beauty of the Deschutes River, Mt. Bachelor and Smith Rock — one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon. Book a room at the festive McMenamins Old St. Francis School in downtown Bend. For more ideas about exploring Bend, check out The Tale of the Ale Trail.

About The

Eileen Garvin
Eileen Garvin lives and writes in Hood River. When she’s not hunched over her keyboard or digging in the garden, you can find her mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, skiing or camping somewhere in Oregon.