Oregon Whiskey Festival

Celebrating Oregon’s Whiskey Culture

by | Sep 16, 2023

Starting with Lewis and Clark’s 1804 expedition where they carried six barrels of whiskey as part of their provisions, whiskey has embodied Oregon’s pioneering spirit.

“Oregon has the grain and water, along with ideal seasonality for aging whiskey in barrels,” says Hannah Gill, director of sales and marketing for Oregon Spirit Distillers.

To celebrate Oregon whiskey, Brad Irwin, owner of Oregon Spirit Distillers, and his team founded the Oregon Whiskey Festival in 2021. Now in its third year, the festival is set to take place Sept. 22-23, 2023, at Oregon Spirit Distillers in Bend, Oregon.

For a whiskey to be considered for this festival, it must meet the following criteria:

  • Mashed, fermented, distilled, and aged in Oregon
  • Whiskey distilled from grain
  • Aged in a barrel for more than two years
  • 80 proof minimum

In Gill’s estimation, this festival is great for whiskey drinkers with any experience level. The festival encourages the participating distilleries to send distillers rather than sales representatives, so they have experts in production working the event. This allows whiskey experts to dive deep into the topic, and allows guests to ask hard questions of the distillers. Beyond the experts available for questions, it is an opportunity for advanced whiskey drinkers to try a great number of whiskeys side-by-side from a range of categories such as bourbon, wheat, malt, rye and non-traditional grains.

For novice whiskey drinkers, Gill recommends signing up for a free tour offered during the festival to experience an operating distillery floor. It is a great way to get an understanding of how whiskey is made. “Each element of the whiskey-making process plays a role in the final flavor profile, and having an understanding of those elements can elevate their tasting experience,” Gill says.

Photo Courtesy Oregon Distillers

This year’s festival takes place Sept. 22-23, 2023 at Oregon Spirit Distillers (740 NE 1st Street, Bend, Oregon) with VIP and general admission tickets available. The festival kicks off Friday, Sept. 22, at 5 p.m. for a VIP experience featuring a catered dinner and three cocktails, along with the opportunity to mingle with distillers and distillery representatives.

On Saturday, Sept. 23, VIP guests are treated to an educational session in the early afternoon along with an added hour of tasting before general admission guests arrive at 2 p.m. The tasting runs from 2-7 p.m. along with live music, food from The Pizza Cart & The Corndog Co., tours, craft vendors The Bitter Housewife and Forever Femme Fatale Designs, craft cocktails, free sparkling waters from Topo Chico, and more.

This year’s participating distilleries include a number of winners of Sip Magazine’s Best of the Northwest Spirit Awards. Winners include Aimsir Distilling (Judge’s Pick, Cold Brew Bourbon) , Crater Lake Spirits (Platinum, Crater Lake Estate Rye Whiskey), Pilot House Distilling (Double Gold, A-O Come Hell or High Water Single Malt) and Ransom Spirits (Gold, Bourbon).

Photo Courtesy Oregon Distillers

Other participating Oregon distilleries are as follows:

4 Spirits Distillery
Bird Creek Distillery
Branch Point Distillery
Bull Run Distillery
Dilley Rae
Double Circle Spirits
New Basin Distilling Company
New Deal Distillery
Oregon Spirit Distillers
Rogue Spirits
Stein Distillery
Stone Barn Brandyworks
Westward Whiskey

Continue Your Whiskey Explorations in Bend

After the festival, stop by the Stihl Whiskey Bar (550 NW Franklin Ave., #118) for a whiskey-infused dinner. This bar features over 400 whiskies and a curated selection of cocktails along with a menu ranging from appetizers and sandwiches to fuller fare. Among their global selection of whiskies include local spirits such as McCarthy’s Single Malt, Oregon Spirit Bourbon, Bull Run Bourbon and Stein Small Batch Rye.

Also, be sure to stop by Crux Fermentation Project to sample their latest project, their limited release Straight Bourbon made in collaboration with Pursuit Distilling Co. in Enumclaw, Washington. Their mash is 53% corn with the rest malted rye, wheat and barley with the wash brewed at Crux and then shipped to Pursuit, where it is aged in original American Oak barrels.

Oregon Whiskey Festival Lodging Discounts

Festival goers have three discounted lodging options. Campfire Hotel, a 100-room boutique hotel motor lodge with a pool, hot tub, fire pits and a bar is well suited for those looking for a fun communal vibe. Use code “Whiskey23” when booking your reservation. For another boutique hotel option, check out Waypoint Hotel and mention Oregon Spirit for a room discount. Larger groups can check out Central Oregon Vacation Homes.

For more information and to purchase tickets, log on to the Oregon Whiskey Festival’s website.


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