Forty six distillers in Oregon generated $53.3 million in annual liquor sales in the state, according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. That is almost 12 percent of Oregon's total liquor sales for 2011. This trend echoes Oregon's DIY spirit seen in the past with Oregon wineries in the '70's and Oregon micro-brews in the '90's. Now Oregon Distilleries are on the rise.
Oregon's unique marketplace promotes a positive environment for local distilleries. To help improve selection to customers, the OLCC can ship a partial case or just a few bottles to retail liquor stores across the state. This encourages the liquor store owners to feature new and local products because they can order just one or two bottles at a time to monitor how well it sells.
"We provide a level playing field for small manufacturers, which helps them compete with the big national brands," says Steve Pharo, OLCC Executive Director. "Distillers do not have to 'buy shelf space' to get their product into stores. Because the markup is uniform on all products, Oregon distillers don't have to worry their spirits will have a different margin than the big producers."
OLCC carries over 1,800 different distilled spirits products daily. Approximately 336 products are from local Oregon distillers. All Oregon liquor stores carry a selection of Oregon distillery products.
Oregon spirits play a role in Oregon's emerging 'mixology' culture. "Local products are weaving their way into the creations of mixologists who are looking for new and unique flavors for their cocktails," says Pharo. "We've also seen sales trends that show local products are popular among Oregon's tourists. Travelers enjoy taking Oregon-made products back with them."
"What is very exciting about Oregon & the local distilling movement is that Oregon distillers are producing every spirit category from vodka and gin to whiskey, rum and liqueurs," says Patrick Bernards, Oregon Distillers Guild/Bull Run Distillery.
In recent years, OLCC has made several improvements to benefit local Oregon distillers. Oregon distillers can offer tastings, or sell their products by the glass at a restaurant in their distillery or another location. Oregon Distillers can also now apply to be "distillery agents" so that they can sell unopened bottles of their product from their distillery or tasting room. Another benefit is that distilled spirits tastings at liquor stores can now include mixers - which helps the customer get a better idea of how the product would be used at home.
"As our industry grows, we are able to reinvest in our businesses and hire additional staff," Bernards adds. "Our industry's growth also helps promote and support many other local businesses from the companies we hire to deliver our supplies and create our web infrastructure to those who build our distilling equipment."