I recently met up with 2/3 of the ladies from Freeland Spirits, an up and coming craft distillery in Portland, on a sunny Saturday afternoon. I got to check out their brand new space, sip their beautiful gin, and to get the dirt on their up and coming all lady run distillery.
Right now, Freeland consists of a unique trio of women. Jill Kuehler is the founder, and the distillery is named after her tough Texas grandma. Molly Troupe is the Master distiller, with a Scottish masters in distilling and solid background in biochemistry. Cory Carman is growing the grains on her land in Wallowa County, starting with a crop of rye this spring. They plan to launch the gin in December…but the whiskey will take a bit more time, as it’s not done til Molly decides it’s done.
I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Cory, but Jill and Molly had plenty to say.
Jill’s background is working in non-profits that work to empower women and girls, and when she was developing her plan for launching Freeland she knew she wanted a female distiller on board. Jill was introduced to Molly while she was the lead distiller at Oregon Spirits Distillers in Bend, OR. Jill also knew she wanted to use local Oregon grown grains and that led her to find Cory and her farm in Wallowa County. The trifecta was in place!
Woman distillers are still far too rare in the liquor industry, and I was really curious to learn what Molly’s experience has been. She told me that she occasionally has to work harder to be taken seriously due to her youthful looks (“are you even old enough to drink?”) and her gender (“Can I see the distiller?” “Sir, I am the distiller.” Blank stare.) However, once Molly starts talking about the art and science of creating whiskey, the boys club really has no option but to shut up and listen.
Like I mentioned, we are going to have to wait a while for the whiskey. However, the GIN. Oh, the gin. Molly has been hard at work making samples and experimenting with different botanicals and flavors, and I’m going to have to take a moment to gush. Now, I have always been fairly indifferent to gin. I love a good Negroni before a fancy meal, or a Hendricks and soda on a hot summer day. But I NEVER though there could be a gin that I’d want to just sip. Well ladies, this gin changed my mind. It is so perfectly balanced and smooth that it needs nothing other than an ice cube (not even that, tbh). The best way I can describe it is like you’re laying in the sun next to a patch of cucumbers in the middle of a juniper forest. It’s glorious. As part of the distilling process, Molly has been using a rotovap to vacuum distill perfectly preserved fresh ingredients that are then combined with the gin that is already being distilled with 14 botanicals. The delicate flavors shine. They are still waiting for the arrival of their 500 gallon copper pot still from Germany that Jill has been on a two year waiting list to receive! I also sampled a habanero version, and it tasted like the fresh pepper without any harshness or much heat. I began imagining a perfect gin Bloody Mary…
I thought it would also be wise to find out what these two ladies like to drink, and where.
Jill’s favorite drink at the moment is a bourbon Old Fashioned made with ponderosa pine bitters, honey and Woodford Reserve. She mentioned Tannery Bar and Teardrop Lounge as two of her favorite Portland cocktail bars.
Molly mainly prefers her whiskey neat, but occasionally enjoys the classic whiskey based cocktails like a Sazerac, Old Fashioned or Manhattan. She likes the Pope House Bourbon Lounge for their amazing selection and the Bible Club, with the latter getting special mention for the great treatment of its employees. Something near and dear to how they plan to run Freeland.
I am so excited to watch Freeland develop. To get my hands on a bottle of that ethereal gin. To sample cocktails in their tasting room when they open the doors. And most of all, to finally get a taste of that whiskey!
Most importantly, on November 7th, they are launching an Indiegogo campaign to secure the rest of their funding to get their distillery and tasting room up and running. Check it out here and become a backer!