For the family behind Skunk Brothers Spirits in Stevenson, Washington, it’s all about moonshining and the military. The distillery — which is run by three generations of military veterans — touts a heritage of making hooch in the hills of the Columbia Gorge.
Outside of that ol’ illegal distilling, “Skunk brother” Scott Donoho and team also represent a serious patriotic commitment that was started by his retired marine father, who was better known as Skunk, thanks to a childhood incident in which he had a run in with the woodland creature. Donoho has been active in the USAF, U.S. Air National Guard and a State of Oregon Fire Fighter for a combined 23 years. His brother, sister and son are all military veterans, and his wife is a veteran and cancer survivor.
While production leaned toward hand sanitizer for first responders at the start of the pandemic, normal — and legal — distilling life has come back in, with the team producing a bourbon, apple brandy, cinnamon whiskey, moonshine and number of fruit cordials.
“Our family is Scots-Irish and originally from the southern U.S. where bourbon and moonshine made from corn and apple is still a big deal and they still prefer those,” Donoho says. “I personally prefer heavily peated single malt Scotch, and I have always wanted to make a nice sweet bourbon with a smoky finish. Everyone talks about the ‘old days’ of moonshining where they used wood fires to cook the mash, and how the woodsmoke would infuse the mash and give it a smoky finish — that sounded amazing to me.”
With that, Skunk Brothers distilled and bottled its latest spirit, the SmokeJumper bourbon, a uniquely sweet and smoky bourbon with a unique grain bill of Washington-grown corn, malted barley, white wheat and rye, finally topped off with some peated malt.
“Our SmokeJumper has been selling out almost as fast as we can produce it,” Donoho says. “We think that it will be our best seller by far as our production levels increase to meet demand. I can only imagine how busy we are going to be once bars and restaurants begin to [fully] open back up.”
In the meantime, Donoho has created a cocktail that not only features the fan-favorite bourbon but the cinnamon corn whiskey as well.
“I worked with a dry pungent herb, sage, in my syrup to tie together the smokiness of the bourbon and the bright sweetness of the cinnamon whiskey,” he says. “With the lemon and apple juice, we are mellowing and balancing out this slew of flavors. And finally I utilized Elemental Spirits Sun Kissed Cocktail bitters, with the light viscosity and warmth, finishing off the cocktail.”
Makes 1 cocktail
1 ounce SmokeJumper Bourbon
1 ounce Cinnamon Corn Whiskey
1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed apple juice
3/4 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce sage cane syrup
1 dropper cocktail bitters
Add all ingredients into a shaker tin. Ice, shake, and double strain into a martini glass. Garnish with an apple peel.