Traveling sucks. Frantic people, crowds, delays, turbulence … it’s undeniably stressful. Luckily if you’re flying in or out of the Portland International Airport, you have the unique opportunity to take the edge off at one of the country’s top distilleries before you continue on to your final destination. Known for an exceptional variety of food and drink options, the Portland International Airport is now home to House Spirits Distillery, the world’s first-ever airport distillery tasting room.
Founded in 2004, Portland-based House Spirits Distillery is on a mission to re-invigorate America’s craft distilling industry by producing an innovation line of craft liquors, alongside limited release small-batch products.
Fun fact: Joe Montana of San Francisco 49ers fame is one of the owners.
Thanks to its airport outpost, this award-winning distillery is spreading the taste of authentic Portland to the airport’s 18 million annual visitors, 365 days a year. The House Spirits Distillery PDX Tasting Room offers worn out travelers cocktail flights; artisanal, handmade spirit tastings; and a curated selection of items for sale, including full-size spirit bottles and collaborations with iconic Portland brands Stumptown Coffee, Pok Pok and Moonstruck Chocolate Co., among others.
House Spirits Distillery’s entire portfolio of spirits — which includes Westward American Single Malt Whiskey, Krogstad Aquavit, Volstead Vodka and a variety of limited-edition spirits that serve as Tasting Room exclusives — can be found there as well.
Paste chatted with Thomas Mooney, CEO and Co-Owner of House Spirits Distillery, to see what next for this already much-loved brand.
Photo courtesy of House Spirits Distillery
Paste: What exactly is the America craft distilling resurgence?
Thomas Mooney: In the last decade, the number of craft distilleries in the U.S. has grown significantly, up from just a few dozen to nearly 1800 as of November, 2016. In terms of number, this is the most craft distilleries we’ve seen since pre-Prohibition. Founded in 2004, House Spirits Distillery is a leader of America’s craft distilling resurgence and the anchor of Portland’s famous distillery row.
Paste: Where did the idea to create the world’s first airport distillery tasting room come from?
TM: PDX, our home since 2004, is located in one of the most craft-driven and artisan cities in the country. As such, that culture is truly part of the House Spirits identity. Since the opening of our new, much expanded distillery in November 2015, and even before then at our original distillery location, we’ve enjoyed welcoming PDX residents and visitors to the city to teach them about our spirits and ethos. We already had our own award-winning retail kiosk in the airport for a few years, so when the city of Portland approached us about the potential to work together for another brick-and-mortar experience at the airport — which is one of the most food- and drink-driven airports in the country, we jumped on the idea.
Paste: Tell us some facts about your spirits lineup. Which are most popular or unique?
Volstead Vodka: Created to pay homage to Andrew Volstead, the father of Prohibition, who drove America’s bartenders to Europe where they discovered vodka cocktails and later brought home what became our most popular spirit. Volstead Vodka is filtered through coconut husks. It is finished with Cascade mountain water to deliver a smooth, creamy mouth feel and clean finish.
Krogstad Aquavit: This best-selling aquavit in the U.S. pays homage to our founder’s heritage, Christian Krogstad. Krogstad Aquavit contains aromas and flavors of anise seed, faint dill cornichon, caraway rye bread, blossoms, fennel and allspice, and a soft, crisp medium body.
Westward American Single Malt: A truly farm-to-glass American Single Malt made with local grains, aged in new American Oak barrels. It matures for at least two years, allowing Oregon’s dry, hot summers and wet, cold winters to perfect its rich, smooth flavor.
Our forthcoming Casa Magdalena rum release: This is the first new rum to come out of Guatemala in a generation.
Paste: What’s next for House Spirits Distillery? What is the inspiration for new limited release small-batch products?
TM: Our ethos remains the same for all of our products — our commitment to quality ingredients and rigorous production standards. For the soon-to-be-released Casa Magdalena rum, we parented with the largest sugar cane producing family in Guatemala to produce an authentic cane-to-glass spirit. I am from Guatemala and my best friend from childhood is part of the family producing the sugar cane.
Paste: What has the reception been like at PDX? Do you think other distilleries will follow suit?
TM: It’s been awesome. We actually started with a kiosk, and were invited to a larger space by the port authority. It’s hard to say what other distilleries will do, but we are proud to be the first and currently only distillery with a tasting room at PDX.
Hailing from California, Chelsea is an inquisitive dessert enthusiast and Golden State Warriors fan. Since graduating from Columbia University, she has amassed a colorful professional background, with experiences in industries that include news production, radio, public relations & media communications. Upon realizing that her true passion revolves around traveling the world, immersing herself in new cultures and eating, she is now a full-time freelance journalist, based in New York City. Chelsea’s work has been featured on Thrillist, The Daily Meal, Yahoo! and MSN, among other nationally recognized outlets. Follow her on Instagram and her blog .