Great American Distillers Festival

Posted by TraderTiki on August 27th, 2007 — Posted in Brandy, Events, Gin, Rum, Tasting

This past weekend was Rogue’s Great American Distillers Festival. There were over 40 local distillers on site, sampling their wares. A lot of the distillers were part of the Oregon Distiller’s Guild, a guild supporting and promoting local Oregon distillers. There was also a mixology competition put on by Imbibe Magazine. Bartenders from a few of the finer restaurants and lounges were there competing for a cash prize, trophy, and a subscription to Imbibe magazine. The mixology competition was separated into several liquor categories. Unfortunately, I was only able to stay for the first day, but, most importantly, I was there for the Rum competition.

My initial impression was enthusiastic. The event ranged over 4 stories of the Gerding Theater (an old National Guard Armory from 1891). The ground and top floor had the distillers, and the bottom most floor contained the mixology competition. I was really impressed when the first thing on the menu was the Aviation, followed by Satan’s Whiskers, La Floridita, and other classic favorites.

There was a great mixture of various liquors available. Most notably were the number of vodka options, but there was a surprising (and surprisingly good) number of Gins available. I was able to sample about half of the variety that was there, and I wrote down a few quick notes to share.


  • Prichard’s Fine Rum: non fragrant but needs to sit for a small time to open up. Hints of butterscotch, oak, caramel and vanilla. Made in Tennessee, and tasted like it. A lot of strong Bourbon notes. This was the only rum used in the Mixology competition. It mixed well with other strong flavors.
  • Rogue Dark Rum: A lot of strong hazelnut flavor in this, which is probably why they now make a hazelnut spiced rum.
  • Triple Eight Hurricane Rum: Pear and vanilla front taste, slightly bourbon middle with a light vanilla scent.
  • Cockspur 12 year old: The classic, from Barbados, and so much of what a rum should be. Sweet, savory, slightly smoky, just fantastic stuff.

Other news is that House Spirits will be offering up a Rum next year, and given their talent with their Aviation Gin, I look forward to it.


  • Philadelphia Distilling Bluecoat Gin: The Sweetest Dry gin I’ve ever tried, with a lot of berry to it. Very tasty, very sweet.
  • House Spirits Aviation Gin: Notes of citrus, spice, and strong juniper. I need a bottle of this.
  • BenDistillery Desert Juniper: Lightly alcoholic (very low proof), with a nice juniper flavor.
  • Rogue Spruce Gin: Another conifer-based liquor, the spruce tips mixed very well with the Gin, giving a lot of sharp bold notes and spiciness to it.

I really, really need to get a few more bottles of Gin around the house. Ever since my first experiments with Tanqueray as a teenager, this is a liquor I truly love and need to know more about.


  • Clear Creek Distillery Douglas Fir Eau de Vie: Like drinking a Tree. I can understand why the distiller doesn’t want this being mixed with (and at its pricepoint, I understand from my own perspective). It’s a wonderful and surprising flavor that I could see pairing amazingly wel with Pimento Liqueur.


  • House Spirits Krogstad: Fairly light caraway flavor, would mix really well in a drink that called for Aquavit.

The Mixology competition, hosted by Imbibe magazine, featured a number of talented and experienced bartenders from the Portland. The restaurants represented included SauceBox, Teardrop Lounge, and a few other local imbiberies. Rules involved 15 minutes to mix 4 drinks, and a liquor from one of the distillers at the event had to be used as the base liquor. The concoctions brought for the event were a pretty strong mix of the classic and the nouveau movement. David from Teardrop, who I had the pleasure to mix words with over the inclusion of Falernum in their Mai Tai, even represented Teardrop with a Gin and Tonic. The Gin was Aviation, and the Tonic a homemade blend made specifically to pair with the Aviation. Having had a sample of both, I must say they would indeed blend well, with lots of spice and citrus notes. I will definitely be dropping by Teardrop in the near future. There is a passion to the drink there, and that is definitely after my own heart.

There were quite a few drinks using Rosemary. Something I would never think to use, and something I don’t see looking for in the flavor profile of a drink, but on trying the “Portland Streetcar”, I found the mix of Rosemary and Lemon Verbena really interesting and complex, almost like Chartreuse in character. I could really see using these savory herb in a nice bitters.

Sadly, no Tiki bars were represented. The two in town being Thatch and The Alibi. Thatch is still up and coming, and needs a few original drinks, but the Alibi has given way to the Rum and Coke wants of a Karaoke bar. Sad but true about the old Tiki haunts of times past, but it never was famous for its original drinks, as far as I know. Maybe someday I’ll step behind the bar, but meanwhile I’m pretty happy down in the Galley.

The GADF was a very nice event, where I got to meet a number of fantastic people, the owner of my favorite liquor store, the fine people at Imbibe, and a few more of the local bartenders and mixologists. I very much look forward to next years event.

 Update, more writeups on the event.  Thanks to Phil from Lamb Martini.

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Pingback by GADF Post #1 » Lamb Martini

[...] Trader Tiki   « Dandoodle |   [...]

Posted on August 27, 2007 at 8:53 pm

Pingback by Jeffrey Morgenthaler » The Great American Distillers Festival

[...] great write-up here (I can’t believe I didn’t get to catch up with him) and Trader Tiki went all out. There’s also a pretty in-depth product review at [...]

Posted on August 28, 2007 at 12:45 am

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