First Organic Micro Distillery

What is the difference between organic an non organic alcohol and why is organic better?

The difference is that organic spirits are made from raw materials (i.e. grains, potatoes, grapes etc.) that are certified organic. Obviously, non-organic is using raw materials that are not grown organically; possibly with the use of chemicals, herbicides, pesticides, etc. Organic refers not only to the raw products themselves, but also to how they are produced and processed. Organic agricultural production is based on a system of farming that mimics natural ecosystems and maintains and replenishes the fertility and nutrients of the soil. Certification means that our products have been grown and handled according to strict organic standards that include inspection farm fields, process facilities, detailed record keeping and periodic testing soils and water to ensure that we, as organic processors, are meeting or exceeding the standards of the USDA National Organic Program. The pre-eminent organic certifier Oregon Tilth certifies us. We believe that organic is better because organic certification makes a statement that we are committed to supporting our natural environment. We believe that it is smoother, based on many, many tastings by hundreds of individuals because there are no chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, etc. present in any amount– minute or trace amounts do not exist! We have one customer that swears by our Organic Nation vodka. She believes that there is a connection between the organic ingredients and her not having any negative physical side effects!

Why did you decide to start an Organic Micro Distillery?

We decided to start an organic distillery because it is a reflection of our own lifestyles. We eat organic foods, support CSA’s, don’t use any chemical fertilizers, donate to the environment, and so on, as a way to show our commitment to living lives that reflect a respect for Mother Nature. We are constantly working on reducing our “Carbon Footprint”. By having a business that practices sustainability, this is one direct way we are accomplishing that. We created the brand name of ORGANIC NATION for our spirits as a way to depict that our organic spirits are more of a movement: Something you are a part of and a way you are taking a stand. We also trademarked “OREGON’S ORGANIC SPIRIT” to illustrate that buying organic embodies a Sense of Spirit as well as being a distilled Spirit. So, when we say, “Join the ORGANIC NATION”, we mean for you to make a statement with your purchase. I look forward to the day when we no longer have to use the word ‘ORGANIC’ before ‘food’. Everything will eventually be grown organically!

How long from start to finish does it take to make a batch of Vodka?

Two to four days for O-N vodka. Our O-N gin takes longer because we have to steep the organic botanicals overnight and then redistill it.

How did you go about learning to make vodka etc?

We paid a Master Distiller, Thomas McKenzie, from Alabama to come out and teach us the ins and outs of distilling. We spent every day for three weeks with him learning how to create a whiskey mash, perfect a Gin recipe, train our noses for determining the cuts for heads, hearts and tails of the spirit and much, much more! He is especially good with the nuances and more intuitive feel for the distillation process. And he has a dynamite whiskey recipe that we now have aging in barrels. Thomas is third generation family of “Moonshiners” from the days of Prohibition. He learned distillation at his granddaddy’s knee as a young boy!

Is it unusual for a distillery to be woman owned and operated?

6. Historically, the Distilling industry since the repeal of Prohibition has been male-dominated. The Brewery and Wine industry are as well. It is a recent phenomenon that women are taking these lead positions. I am the CEO and my partner, David, is a co-owner/Vice Pres. with Cascade Peak Spirits, Inc. Mary Toney, our Productions Manager, and I do just about everything from bottling, labeling, designing, marketing and working with the OLCC and TTB (federal). The team is really a bunch of friends who believe in our idea and come and help us label, pack, move, ship, build, organize, party and support us emotionally as well as financially.
Congrats on  being the first organic micro distillery. Why do you think there aren’t more of this type of distillery in Oregon/US?

Thank you! We are very excited to be the First Organic Distillery in Oregon! We assume more distilleries are not organic because it is more time consuming, more expensive by far and has far more involvement with bureaucracies (?) Most likely, it is probably a statement about their beliefs and lifestyle. Just like many, many people who do not eat organic foods because they don’t think that it matters, or possibly they don’t even think about it. It is not a part of what is important to them? It is very important to us. We believe it matters.

What is your favorite way to enjoy O-N Vodka?

O-N vodka Gimlet, O-N martini up with three olives (tradition says the three olives represent love, health and wealth), Breeze O-N (grapefruit, cranberry, splash of Triple Sec), Lemon Drops, Cosmopolitans, and a lovely drink that Sarah Powell of Sloe’s Bar & Grill in Medford created with O-N vodka: St. Germaine, and Pernod. Also, a tasty Pineapple, and Basil Martini created by Melody at Standing Stone.

I heard you had to get your equipment overseas.  Why did you have to go so far?

After completing a thorough research, we decided to purchase a Still from Bavarian-Holstein in Germany. The renown of German made machinery as well as having a satellite office in Culver City, CA lead us to choose their company. B-H gives assurance of high quality machinery and is one of the largest Distillery equipment companies in the world. After floating across the oceans for 4 months, our still arrived in a large heavy crate. We were stunned when we cracked open the crate. It is an absolutely gorgeous piece of machinery. We have had more than a few people comment on its beauty. One person stated, “I could have that in my living room!” Because of the expert help we received from Langdon Guenther of the TTB (federal distillery licensing bureau), we fondly named our still ‘Lil Guenther’.

What else would you like to say to the community about your new business?

Come and help us grow! We are the first Organic Distillery in Oregon, probably the West Coast, and we are here in your back yard! We are a Green business dedicated to implementing Sustainable business practices, recycling, solar and wind power and providing ‘Living Wage’ jobs once we a large enough to hire some help. We offer consumers a socially responsible alternative to mass-produced corporate spirits. We handcraft everything and we are doing every piece of the work from being the CEO, to marketing, to distilling to bottle washing. And we want to thank Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Corp. for believing in us and loaning us money to get us up and running. Help us spread the word; ask for O-N vodka, soon O-N gin when you are out dining or at the Liquor Store.

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