Ransom Distillery Cuts Camp

This experience is a two part equation: Ransom Spirits and Ransom Wines. Both of which are notably delicious and if you haven't put any down your gullet yet, you are missing out. Ransom distillery is located in Sheridan, Oregon. Also located in Sheridan is a Federal Prison and Church of Scientology's Delphian School. That's a lot going on for 2 square miles of city limits.

Back to the booze- I first heard about Ransom because of their Old Tom Gin. Not many Gins are made in the style, and I think this one is causing a revival.

What makes Old Tom Gin special?

1. It can be aged in barrels (or not)
2. It can be made from malted grain, or neutral spirit
3. It can have sugar added (or not)
4. Must contain Juniper (like all gins)

What do you mean, or not? Well, the facts are muddled since there are no clear rules for the category. There are no age statements on bottles, nor is there a legal requirement to age gin to be called "Old Tom". It is a rather forgiving labeling compared to other spirits. Some Old Tom Gins are distilled from honey base, or stevia is added... but I digress.

Back to Cuts Camp!

Cuts Camp was an incredible opportunity for industry professionals to attend an overnight outing at Ransom Distillery. We spent the day milling grain, making wash, and cleaning and transferring product to different tanks. After a hard day of work we enjoyed an amazing meal among the wine barrels and continued imbibing on Ransom's delights. We even had the pleasure to taste some Italian olive oil while we dined with its maker.

Day 2 we awoke, nestled between a barley field and rows of Albariño grapes. We watched the Old Tom flow from the stills and experienced the minute changes from the phenol plasticky heads to the sweet lemony and herbaceous hearts. 

Bridging that gap between product and producer is what it's all about.

Special Thanks to Tad Seestedt, Art Tierce, and the entire Ransom Spirits team for making this event so educational, and fun! Thanks to Oregon Bartenders Guild for providing the opportunity to attend. I can't wait until the next Cuts Camp! For the latest from OBG check out their Facebook

According to the Ransom Spirits Website:

"Ransom Spirits was started by Tad Seestedt in 1997 with a small life savings and a fistful of credit cards. The name was chosen to represent the debt incurred to start the business - Tad was paying his own ransom to realize his dream. Initially, the distillery made small amounts of grappa, eau de vie and brandy. Ransom began the production of a number of small-batch fine wines in 1999. In 2007, we took up the craft of grain-based spirits, adding gin, whiskey and vodka to the lineup. In 2010, we combined our crafts of winemaking and distilling to create our first Dry Vermouth." 

Eau de Vie - "Water of Life" and the Trou Normond

Eau de Vie literally translates in French to "Water of Life". Despite being derived from fruit, this subtly flavored brandy is very alcohol forward. Typically clear, and not aged in casks, some common flavors include: apple, pear, peach, fig, and yellow plum.  When I lived in Toulouse, the cutest little old man living next to us had an annual release of his home made Figue Eau de Vie with figs straight out of his yard. It had an almost lavender-esque nose, strong burn in your chest, and left you with a warm tingling sensation on your scalp afterwards. My host family kept a bottle on hand for every special occasion.

You may be familiar with its aged counterpart, Calvados, which you can have a shot of with your morning coffee along "The Cider Route" in Normandy, France. Funnily enough, ordering a side of calvados with your coffee is cheaper than ordering a calvados by itself. This is because only the locals know about this, and keeping the prices down help to continue the rich cultural tradition.

During French meals, which have a considerable number of courses, if you are starting to feel full you have a digestif, or "Trou Normond".

Learn more about the "Trou Normond" in my interview with Joshua Caine Media here

In the US, this spirit is considerably less popular. However, there is one distillery here in Portland keeping the tradition alive and well. They even produce the rare "Pear grown in the bottle" variety, of which I got to taste from an ICE LUGE. Fan-fuckin-tastic. Now I just need to figure out how to put this on tap in my house.

Meet Clear Creek Distillery, who celebrated their 30th Anniversary Party in May 2016. According to their website: 

"Clear Creek Distillery was founded in 1985 with a vision to use the bountiful fruits of the Pacific Northwest to create fruit-based spirits that rivaled the best of their European counterparts. Using old-world techniques and sourcing ingredients from the local orchards and fresh water springs of Mount Hood in the Oregon countryside, Clear Creek became one of the first craft distilleries in the United States."

Here are some photos from the 30th Anniversary event, where guests enjoyed craft cocktails with this tantalizing spirit. Enjoy!