Thursday, November 6, 2014

Brandy Peak Distillery: Southern Oregon’s Oldest Craft Distillery

Brandy Peak Distillery Brookings Oregon

A tasty stop on an Oregon coast vacation is at Brandy Peak Distillery, a micro-distillery just north of Brookings.  Brandy Peak Distillery is southern Oregon’s oldest craft distillery and is family owned.  When we drove up the dirt road owners David and Georgia Nowlin almost seemed surprised to be getting visitors, as Brandy Peak Distillery is a bit off the beaten track.

R.L. Nowlin founded Brandy Peak Distillery in 1993 and the distillery is now run by his son David Nowlin.  David gave us a short brandy lesson and tour of the distillery before we got down to the business of tasting.

David Nowlin of Brandy Peaks Distillery

Did you know there is a difference between Brandy and brandy?  Brandy can only be spelled with a capital “B” if it is distilled from grapes.  Brandy with a lowercase “b” can be distilled from any kind of fruit and doesn’t have to be aged.

Brandy Peak Distillery’s most unusual feature is two wood-fueled distillers.  These wood-fired pot stills were designed by R.L. Nowlin and are still running today.  At the time they were installed they were the only two legal wood-fueled distillers in the country.  Using these special pot stills allows for a very carefully crafted product.

Brandy Peak Distillery Wood-Fueled Distillers

After viewing the distillers we headed back inside where bottling happens.  Brandy Peak Distillery’s craft spirits are hand-bottled and labeled.  Because the alcohol percentages vary amongst batches, the alcohol content is handwritten on every bottle.

After our short tour we moved on to tasting.  Brandy Peak Distillery produces five categories of spirits: pear brandies, marc brandies, grappa, single-barrel brandy, and blackberry liqueur. 

Brandy Peak Distillery

We tried the natural pear brandy, which I loved.  Brandy Peak Distillery’s natural pear brandy and aged pear brandy are made with ripe Bartlett pears and are both award-winning.  

Marc brandies are distilled from varietal grapes and we tasted the aged Pinot Noir brandy.  This had a more traditional taste that was a bit strong for me but was Rome’s favorite, as he is a brandy and whiskey drinker. 

Brandy Peak Distillery Award-Winning Brandies

Our final taste was the blackberry liqueur.  David explained that the blackberries come from the overgrown field next door to the property.  There are so many blackberries it seemed natural to turn them into a liqueur.  Oregon is known for its blackberries and I remember picking blackberries as a young child in my great-grandmother’s yard in Portland.  The wild sun-ripened taste of the local blackberries shines through in this liqueur.

Oregon is well-known for its quality beers, wines, and spirits, and it was fun to find this small, family-owned, off the beaten path micro-distillery crafting excellent brandies.

Katherine Belarmino has been traveling for over ten years on a quest to see as much of the world as possible, experience new cultures, and sample other cuisines and libations. She also writes the travel blog Travel the World, which journals her world travels with her husband Romeo and seeks to encourage others to take the time to travel.