Tasting Room Convo with Jonny Sanchez of Stein Distillery

Stein Distillery may be located far northeast on the Oregon map, but Portlanders who want to try the “farm-to-table” spirits only have to go as far as Beaverton to the distillery’s tasting room. Most all of the ingredients needed for distilling their spirits are grown on the family farm near Joseph, Oregon. Stein Distillery’s portfolio includes spirits include a rye vodka, three rums, four cordials (rhubarb, raspberry, blackberry and huckleberry), and of course whiskey (eight straight whiskeys!).

In a new High-Proof PDX blog series, we get to know distilleries through chatting with tasting room employees. Here are five questions with Jonny Sanchez of Stein Distillery.

Tell us about the moment when you knew that you wanted to start working in a distillery. 

Well, personally I have been with Stein Distillery for two years now. I was fortunate enough to work with the master distiller and also the farmer (Dan Stein) in Joseph for a month. I was able to learn firsthand, what the brand was all about. Mr. Dan Stein grew up on his farm with a little history of dabbling in moonshine. So, the passion for distill spirits had always been with him growing up.

The grain that Dan had always grown wasn’t turning as much of a profit as it had in previous decades. Dan also owned his own construction company for a number of years and was looking for something that wasn’t so taxing on his body. Austin, son, and Heather Austin’s wife wanted to figure out a way to leave corporate America for small business.

They decided to go for it, everyone had a skill to contribute. All the pieces came together in 2006. Dan, Austin and Brother built the warehouse and the still. In 2009 Stein Distillery became the first micro-distillery from Eastern-Oregon.

Stein Distillery released the first “made-in-Oregon bourbon.” Tell us how your bourbon differs from other bourbon produced in the U.S. 

Whiskey in general is a tough distill spirit to work with. Newer distilleries, like us, have to be very patient because whiskey requires an aging process. Bourbon, of course is a whiskey, with lots of regulations and restrictions making it even harder to make. Stein Distillery happens to make a “straight bourbon” which requires a minimum of 2 years in a barrel.

So, now think about it, if you are a new distillery trying to make it, it be really tough to get any cash flow with a whiskey that has to sit in a barrel for at least two years. So unfortunately, many Oregon distilleries take shortcuts with their whiskeys by purchasing already made whiskey from industrial distilleries in the Midwest. Cutting time from the process.

We happen to do the bourbon without any shortcuts. Our bourbon differs from others, most of them are from Kentucky, because of the eastern Oregon ingredients, our glacier water source and our overall craftmanship.

What made you decide to start producing cordials?

We work with the cordials in order to have a well rounded product line. In other words, we offer products that can be liked by mostly everyone. If you aren’t into whiskey, we offer vodka, if you want something sweeter we have cordials, so on and so on.

Also, Dan Stein dabbling into moonshine, would infuse fruit into the shine. Which is what a cordial is.

Is Stein Distillery working on anything new and exciting?

Yes, we have a whiskey aging program set up. So we are constantly coming out with new and older whiskeys. Thanks to that, in 2018 we have new whiskey releases in mind.

Do you have a favorite cocktail recipe using your bourbon?

One of my favorite cocktails to make with the Stein Bourbon is a Wallowa Ginger Ale, which is 1 part bourbon, 3 parts ginger ale, lemon squeeze, Slap of a basil leaf placed in drink and a dash of bitters.