Hitting the high points in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver—all in one weekend

written by Karen Locke

Vinn Distillery in Portland, Oregon.

Distillery vacations are the new wine-tasting getaway—or at least that is what I set out to prove. The goal: prove a three-city distillery tasting adventure on Amtrak Cascades could be done in one extended weekend.

We started out from our home in Portland on Friday. First, we headed to New Deal Distillery for all the basics plus its small-batch, limited release Distiller’s Workshop Series of bourbon, brandy, rye and rum. Next, we couldn’t miss Vinn Distillery for rice-based spirits derived from recipes passed down more than seven generations. Lesser-known Baijiu (pronounced “bye-joe”) is one, and tops the list of most-consumed spirits in the world. Finally we made House Spirits Distillery our last stop for cocktails on tap, tasting flights and local products for sale in a striking and sleek tasting room.

My travel companion and I boarded the late Friday night train bound for Seattle. Hotel Max would be our resting place that night, chosen for its array of local spirits available at Miller’s Guild, the hotel bar and restaurant, and its central downtown location.

Dinner at Hotel Max in Seattle, Washington.

We started Saturday morning by bodysurfing our way through the crowd at Pike Place Market for Russian bread from Piroshky Piroshky. We knew we’d need a good base for a full day of tasting.

We arrived at the modest and inviting tasting room of OOLA Distillery in Capitol Hill. An unexpected and satisfying portfolio of vodka greeted us: citrus vodka, rosemary vodka, chili pepper vodka. We were equally impressed by the barrel-aged gin and a novel whiskey made from OOLA’s own sweet American Whiskey, a Canadian Whiskey and Highland Scotch.

From Westland’s stunning Cantilever Room with high-beamed ceilings, light-filled windows and sharp branding, we sipped whiskey flights and rotating cocktails using the distillery’s three core single-malt whiskeys: American Single Malt Whiskey, Peated and Sherry Wood.

Whiskey at Copperworks Distilling Co.

Cooperworks Distilling offered plenty of face time with the copper stills rising behind a glass wall (tours available too), while we put back three base spirits of whiskey, gin and vodka. After a view of Seattle’s Great Wheel from a friend’s rooftop patio, we’d had as much of Seattle as the clock at King Street Station would allow. It was time to board a train headed to Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, BC.

Arriving late to Vancouver, we checked into The Burrard, a downtown 1950s motor motel transformed into a bright, modern boutique hotel. Yaletown Distilling, located walking distance or a free bike rental away from The Burrard, turns into a nightclub atmosphere after sundown, just in case you’re recently single. Its signature spirits were still available but we elected to retire early with a promise to return midday if time allowed.

Garnishes at Odd Society in Vancouver, BC.
Photo by Karen Locke

Sunday afternoon, Odd Society’s East Vancouver tasting lounge was bright, light and fresh. From the bar, we observed the ornate glassware and neatly arranged garnishes. Flights of barrel-aged gin, “moonshine” and Crème de Cassis in dainty vintage glassware huddled alongside cocktails. Slightly buzzed, we headed to Granville Island and the intimate den-like tasting room of Liberty Distilling, where we sampled pink gin and pre-dinner cocktails.

Without an appointment on a weekend trip, you’ll miss Vancouver’s first microdistillery, Long Table Distillery. But there’s always Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, serving up Liberty’s spirits in cocktails like the well-dressed Local Gin and Tonic made with Long Table’s gin, craft tonic, basil, grapefruit and spice. The elegant lobby bar seemed just the place to close out an expeditious weekend getaway.

Heading home Monday morning, I reveled in our ability to make an entire weekend of distillery tasting—imagining the day when it catches up with the propensity of wine tasting.