TAKE TWO…since the first blog I wrote today, after three hours of making it perfect, was accidentally deleted by my lack of mouse use and fat fingers!
It is a four-day weekend for President’s Day and as educators, we rarely let an extended weekend pass by without going on some sort of adventure!
You also know, if you are a regular reader, that The Whiskey Lover and I typically take our two sons with us on these types of adventures. However, it was also just Valentine’s Day this last week, so we felt this was a great opportunity to have a mommy/daddy get-a-way. So, after dropping the dog off at the kennel and the boys at Grammie and Grandpa’s house, we were on our way to Portland, Oregon for a Distillery Row adventure!
I first decided to plan a trip for Josh to the Portland Distillery Row when I happened upon ProofPDX, which is a Portland Distillery Passport!
And again, if you’re a regular reading this, you know that I am married to The Whiskey Lover (check out his blog here!) and this blog serves as my take on the Wonderful World of Whiskey, such as the travels and experiences that come with this passion for the art of tasting!
Today’s blog will be a long one…not as long as the original post that I ACCIDENTALLY STUPIDLY DELETED, but still, it will be a longer one because I am going to tell you about the FIVE distilleries we tasted at, the TWO donut shop comparisons we did, and about our hotel and dining experience. Keep in mind I am not receiving any compensation for any of the reviews or recommendations I post, I am just giving you reasons to perhaps get out there and have your own adventure! So hold onto your glencairn glass, because HERE WE GO!
WHISKEY TASTING- Day One
One thing I will be doing in today’s blog is adding more pictures. I have always felt I add quite a few pictures, however, my mom says there are usually not enough! Of course, I wonder if she actually reads my blogs! But I think today, having already had practice writing this blog once, I will add more than enough pictures!
Our first stop in Portland was the Vinn Distillery. We entered the tasting room and was quickly welcomed by one of the family members who is part of the Vinn Distillery. The products made a Vinn are all made from rice. We learned that since technically rice is a grain, therefore their product can be made into whiskey! Their flagship product is their BAIJIU. The what? Yeah, we hadn’t heard of Baijiu either! It is the most popular alcohol in China and Vietnam, therefore, highest selling spirit in the world (due to largest population!) It is a white alcohol, and one may think it is like vodka, or even moonshine! However, tasting it, it was sweet, and I felt it had a cleansing aspect (not like medicinal, but just an almost refreshing feel.) I really liked learning about the product and the story as to WHY the family started distilling Baijiu.
Then one day, one of the sisters took some of the Baijiu and placed it in a virgin oak barrel, just to see what would happen! Turns out, some really great whiskey was made! Josh really enjoyed the Vinn Whiskey. And since it’s made with the rice, it has a sweet taste to it, and he said, a really great profile. (You can read more about it on his blog, The Whiskey Lover.)
Josh’s favorite part of the tasting was when our lovely tasting guide asked Josh if he wanted to help her make a Manhattan using the whiskey! (She claimed she wasn’t too sure how to make one, but I think she sensed that Josh really was passionate and allowed him to do something special!) Josh was super excited because it’s not everyday you get to create a cocktail in someones distillery!
Josh’s version of the Manhattan using Vinn Rice
Our next stop was a few blocks down to the Eastside Distilling. We walked into a very organized showroom where you could make your purchases, then down a couple steps was a tasting bar, then back a bit further was a tasting room, complete with tables and chairs and couches to enjoy your tasting or cocktails!
What I really liked about Eastside Distilling was the story as to the WHY. First of all, how fascinating that the Master Distiller and brains behind this operation is a woman, named Mel. Which totally rocks because I think there should be more women empowered to distill! Go Girl Power! So, the story goes that Mel went on a vacation to the Caribbean and fell in love with the rum there. When she returned home, she could not find the same flavor she fell in love with, and because it was too expensive ship it here, she made her own! That’s awesome!
Also at the Eastside Distillery, whiskey created by Big Bottom Distillery is marketed and sold. So, we tasted a wide variety of whiskey’s at Eastside and then enjoyed a cocktail each.
My cocktail was a Rita, using the rum and Cherry Bomb Whiskey and pineapple juice. Josh chose, can you guess, the Eastside version of the Manhattan! I can tell you, my cocktail was SOOO delicious and I probably could have drank several of them! But since we obviously needed to pace ourselves, we drank the one, walked around for a bit, then intended to head to the next distillery.
I bought a brand new Jeep in October and I love love love EVERYTHING about it. The one and only drawback is that it does not have a built-in GPS like my old rig or like Josh’s Prius. And I don’t know what was up with Siri on my phone, she must have thought it was April Fool’s already, because we intended to go to House Spirits Distillery next, which was less than a mile on the map. As it turns out, Siri, Google Maps, and whatever Josh’s phone uses all sent us to the PDX airport area. And here is where we ended up:
Okay, okay, I am TOTALLY bedazzling the story right now, because we didn’t EXACTLY end up on the Tarmac, but Siri kept trying to make us drive down a driveway that was clearly taking us towards the tarmac! Stupid Siri! It got to the point where I couldn’t stop laughing and all of a sudden, Siri had no problem finding our hotel, so to the Paramount Hotel we went!
THE PORTLAND PARAMOUNT HOTEL
So, again, I do NOT receive any compensation for the reviews or recommendations I post, HOWEVER, I book 99% of all our hotel stays through Booking.com and IF you decide to ever book a stay through them, use my reference code to enjoy $25 off (and you’ll give me $25 off my next stay too! Win, Win!) https://www.booking.com/s/35_6/fdff9b7a
When looking for a hotel in downtown Portland, I knew I wanted to be near the center of it all. The Paramount Hotel was perfect! The staff was incredibly kind and helpful, the room was clean and nice, and the biggest plus was the Swine and Swank located off the lobby! The Swine is a moonshine and whiskey bar while the Swank is a nice restaurant on the opposite of the lobby. Can you guess where we chose to go?
The Swine Bar was a happening place! It was also Happy Hour, so we waited around a few minutes until some nice ladies saw us standing and offered us their seats at the bar since they were finished. We got seated and right away the bartender answered questions and was very attentive. Josh, with, let’s see, I think he switched over to an Old Fashioned, and me with a Winter Whiskey Sangria. In a mason jar! So naturally I loved this place since it decorated in my type of style! We also ate a little because we realized we hadn’t eaten anything and needed to have a snack prior to dinner. Fries and Chicken Sliders were shared. And then I noticed Prosecco on the menu and well, if you know me, you know I’ll have a glass of Prosecco! Everything was delicious!
After we were finished and noticed a couple waiting for seats, we gave up our seats at the bar and went up to the room to decide on dinner plans. We decided on Thai food. Once upon a time, a decade ago, Josh took me to a Thai food place and I think I might have liked it then (I was also about 7 months pregnant with Lane at that time), so I agreed to try this Thai restaurant. Long story short, I do not like Thai food. And that is all I have to say about that!
DOUGHNUT vs. DONUT
The hotel was located almost perfectly between Voodoo Doughnuts and Blue Star Donuts. And when Josh suggests we do a side by side comparison of the two donut places, um, like I need an excuse to eat donuts??!!! At 7:30am (because yes, we are THOSE early bird people) we stepped out of the Paramount Hotel, ready to head to VooDoo Doughnuts. Only we were met with wind and rain, so the sweet doorman encouraged us to borrow an umbrella! So, at 7:35am, we head out, with umbrella in hand, and head to the seemingly famous VooDoo Doughnuts.
To be absolutely honest here, Josh and I were shocked and saddened to see the amount of homelessness and mental illness on the streets of downtown Portland. Everywhere you looked, you saw a homeless person. We were followed to VooDoo Doughnuts by a man who clearly had mental health issues and was quite aggressive in his talk and walk behind us. Neither of us felt too safe, and I was so happy we didn’t have the boys with us. So when we got to VooDoo Doughnuts, we were relieved to walk in and the gentleman turned around and left.
VooDoo Doughnuts is iconic. I feel like everyone who’s anyone (in the PNW) has heard of, or been to, VooDoo Doughnuts. They have quite a large assortment of flavors and types to choose from. I finally decided on a Chocolate topped Portland Cream filled doughnut while Josh went for an Apple Fritter. (It was huge!)
We left there and headed for Blue Star Donuts.
To be fair, I have to admit to you that while we had never been to VooDoo doughnuts until this day, several years ago we happened upon BlueStar donuts and Josh still talks about how great they were. But do-nut worry (see what I did there!?), I am keeping this a fair competition!
I can tell you, the staff at the Blue Star struck me as way more helpful and friendlier. And offered suggestions. Which was good, because they had a lot of different, very gourmet type of donuts! I seem to remember hearing the man behind the counter explain to Josh that they make their special dough and once it’s gone for the day, that’s it! They close and wait for the next day! But I was only half-paying attention because I was drawn to all the fancy donuts. I finally settled on Valrhona Chocolate Crunch AND a PBJ filled donut. Josh got the Carrot Zaa-tar Fritter and the Meyer Lemon and Key Lime filled donut.
Upon leaving Blue Star, the same homeless man we saw there several years ago was standing outside (last time we bought him a donut and a coffee) and this time we gave him a dollar. Now, regardless of what his story is, both times he has been kind, opening the door for us and offering a good day. But again, it is sad to see so many people out on the streets.
LET THE COMPETITION BEGIN!
Armed with our VooDoo Doughut Bag and our Blue Star Donut Box (by the way, Blue Star gave us an extra donut for free, just because “they fit better in the box that way”!) We head back up to our room and begin our research! (You can really see the rain on the box!)
At the top of the picture, you can see the Portland Cream filled and Apple Fritter from VooDoo. In the Box, you see the Carrot Zaa-Tar, the Valrhona Chocolate and the PBJ and Keylime filled, and the extra donut (which was a lemon powered cake donut.)
I tried the VooDoo Portland Cream. I literally ate half before I reached any cream. BOO! Then, I tried the Blue Star Valrhona Chocolate Crunch. O.M.G!!! Cream in the first bite! Hands down, BEST tasting donut I have EVERY tasted! (I take that back, Josh’s Carrot Zaa-Tar Fritter is the BEST! Tasted like gourmet carrot cake! Oh wow!!!)
BlueStar’s Valrhona Chocolate Crunch- WINNER!!!
VooDoo’s Portland Cream
At this point, I’m already stuffed, but I suck it up, and taste the PBJ filled donut! Oh, Lane would be loving it! So, my honest opinion of who the clear winner is, MOST DEFINITELY BLUE STAR DONUTS! They have several locations, however we have only been to the downtown location. I will choose them over VooDoo doughnuts, any day!
No trip to downtown Portland would be complete without going to Powell’s bookstore! And since we consumed way too many calories in donuts, and still had over an hour to wait until the distilleries opened, we walked to Powell’s (0.8 mile away from our hotel!)
Powell’s is the largest bookstore I’ve ever seen or been to, and their selection of new and used books is crazy huge! So after roaming around for a good hour, we found a couple books for Luke (one on the American Spirit and one on Bass Guitar playing) and a couple books for Lane (both history chapter books, as he’s quite the historian at the moment) and got in line. We just chuckled. It was a LONG line! More time to spend together (and continue picking up books to look at!) We finally left Powell’s and got ready to go to the distillery Josh was most looking forward to going to, The Bull Run Distilling Co.
Josh has wanted to go to Bull Run Distilling Co. for quite some time. I will tell you, out of all the distilleries, it was the easiest for us to find! (Plus Siri must have been in a good mood Saturday afternoon!) We enter and are immediately welcomed by the Ambassador of Great Taste(s), Jennifer! She was beyond knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and we thoroughly enjoyed visiting with her.
Both Josh and I really enjoyed the Bull Run Single Malt Whiskey. I’m sure he will tell you all about it in his blog on The Whiskey Lover. But let me tell you why I liked it. I don’t normally like the Single Malts. But last July when we were in Scotland (yeah yeah, I know, I STILL haven’t finished the blog posts in that series!) we went to the Glenkinchie Distillery and it was my absolute favorite. They listened to Lane, who explained how he wants to be a brewer when he grows up and they told Lane that good brewers make great distillers, so they let Lane do special things throughout the tour, like ring the Scotch bell, and they really took interest in both our boys. And to me, that’s what this is all about. The relationship building, the memory making. I know it is what makes me taste something different in the whiskies, as so often your taste will mingle with a memory. ANYWAY, Glenkinchie had a single malt that to me, was the best I’ve ever tasted because it was something I could actually drink neat, and enjoy. However, they didn’t actually SELL that product, it is only available in their tasting room, as it is used for their blended Scotch.
But then here is this Bull Run Single Malt Whiskey, and although not totally the same, has so many of the same tasting notes and danced on my tongue! I enjoyed it so much, I gave Josh the go ahead to buy the bigger bottle (like I really ever give or deny permission!) AND this will be the whiskey I feature in this months Wine, Whiskey, and Prosecco tasting event at my house! (Want to learn more about these tasting events, check it out here!)
We also learned about, and picked up some bitters made by The Bitter Housewife (all organic and uses REAL ingredients that I actually knew!) and Josh really really liked the Straight Bourbon Whiskey, finished in a Chinato barrel. So we left there with some GREAT stuff! And we can’t wait for our next visit to Bull Run, where we will take the boys to tour the distillery!
HOUSE SPIRITS DISTILLERY
We FINALLY made it over to House Distilling! Siri certianly had been in bad mood the day before because it was actually very easy to find! House Distillery has a very nice tasting room, with big windows so you can look into the distillery and see their cooper stills. While Josh first did a tasting, I enjoyed a MagdaRita cocktail, which was the special drink as proceeds were going to the Pixie Project.
This little cocktail showcased their Rum, and had a champagne float, so, right, of course I’d get it! While Josh was doing his tasting, I was busy looking around, learning more about the Pixie Project which is an animal adoption initiative, and checking out all they had for merchandise.
I also noticed they had liqueurs, so I ended up doing a small tasting of three of the liqueurs. I absolutely loved the coffee liqueur and convinced Josh we needed it! I can not honestly tell you what he thought of the whiskey, but I thought the rum was great, the Liqueur was awesome, and i really enjoyed talked to the tasting room guide, because he was of Scottish heritage! And you know already, I love to talk to people!
We finally decide to head back to the car, figure out where to go for lunch, and head home to pick up the boys and our dog! Our time in Portland was memorable, informational, and just plain old super duper!
After all the whiskey, cocktails, and donuts though, I think I’ll be back to my morning runs (well, except we came home to snow the next day!) and kicking booty teaching my Zumba class!
If you are interested in learning more about our adventures, whiskey, or finding great deals on travels, please follow me, contact me, or hey, let’s just chat! I would also LOVE to hear about your experiences in Portland, your favorite distilleries, what you think about donuts, and where you like to travel!
Thanks for reading this LONG post today!
***THE WHISKEY LOVERS WIFE DOES NOT RECEIVE ANY CONTRIBUTIONS OR COMMISSIONS FOR ANY OF THE PRODUCTS OR PLACES SHE REVIEWS. IN FACT, SHE IS PRETTY SURE THEY ARE PRETTY UNAWARE OF THE BLOGS THAT ARE WRITTEN! BUT IF ANY OF THE REVIEWS, STORIES, OR WORDS THAT ARE WRITTEN HELPS ANY OTHER FAMILIES OUT THERE, BECAUSE YOU REALLY CAN FIND A LOT OF FUN ADVENTURES WITH YOUR FAMILY WHILE STILL ALLOWING YOUR HUSBANDS PASSION FOR WHISKEY TO BE PURSUED, WELL THEN, SHE IS ONE HAPPY WHISKEY LOVERS WIFE! SLÁINTE!***