Hood River Distillers (HRD) in Oregon has long held the record for being the oldest of its kind in this state, having been established in 1934. Aside from the Pendleton Whisky bottlings, however, it was hardly on the minds of most local whiskey drinkers as a brand name, even after its acquisition of McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt Whiskey maker Clear Creek Distillery back in early 2014. HRD is now looking to up its game, however, unveiling in downtown Hood River a stunning tasting room I stumbled upon shortly after it had opened a few weeks back.
I vaguely had heard about the new HRD tasting room before going out to Hood River for some summer fun, but I mostly expected it to be not that impressive, especially in comparison to HRD neighbor Camp 1805 Distillery’s tasting room near the town’s waterfront. I was thus blown away when I walked into the new space, decked out with exposed brick walls, well designed displays of the various HRD products, a former bank vault converted into a historical archive of the company and a fully stocked bar serving tasting samples and selling bottles of the various spirits.
After a good long conversation with HRD people on site about their new tasting room, the folks from the distillery’s PR team reached out to me a little later on with more official information about this space. It specifically is a historic bank building constructed back in 1910, and thus has already seen a lot of life as other businesses. I have to imagine though this is likely one of the most tourist friendly uses this structure has ever seen.
HRD said of its tasting room that its
interior decor highlights natural materials, such as a curved edge walnut bar, cork plank flooring and original brick walls, with contemporary steel finishes. The original bank vault remains and now houses company artifacts, documents, photographs and a video describing the 81-year history of Hood River Distillers, which got its start making fruit wines and brandies from Hood River valley apples and pears.
“As a fifth-generation local with family ties to Hood River Distillers,” said Erin Campbell, the HRD tasting room manager, in a statement, “I am excited to share the company’s rich past and premium, authentic spirits with our visitors and help them get the most out of the tasting experience. Our history is steeped in Oregon’s history and natural beauty with ties to the Pendleton Round-Up with our Pendleton Whisky brand and the iconic image of Mt. Hood on our ULLR Nordic Libation label. We also use pure, glacier-fed spring water from Mt. Hood in our Pendleton Midnight Whisky.”
Nino Kilgore-Marchetti is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Whiskey Wash, an award winning whiskey lifestyle website dedicated to informing and entertaining consumers about whisk(e)y on a global level. As a whisk(e)y journalist, expert and judge he has written about the subject extensively, been interviewed in various media outlets and...