Bendistillery brewing up new craft collaboration

Working with Bend brewery to make a whiskey

Bendistillery working on whiskey with brewery

BEND, Ore. - Right off Highway 20 between Bend and Sisters sits Bendistillery. The Cascades provide more than just a special sight for tourists visiting the tasting room.

"Other than the fact that Bend is just a great place to live, the real reason we're here is the water," said CEO Alan Dietrich.

Central Oregon water is the base of Bendistillery's spirits. The other main ingredient, juniper, gets a bad rap from many of us at the height of allergy season.

"The amount of Juniper we use and where we harvest it is one of the only trade secrets we have," Dietrich said.

The company started in 1996, and awards for Crater Lake Gin and Vodka have been pouring in ever since.

Orders have grown tremendously. A decade ago, they were putting out 600 cases a year.

"We just finished off this year, 2012 at 60,000 cases for the year," Dietrich said.

Dietrich credits the surge in sales to a developing palate among craft drinkers.

"Like beer and coffee, it's really a Northwest phenomenon," he said. "And it's something we're extremely proud to be able to have helped launch."

Bendistillery is taking a new direction in the new year.

"We just entered a partnership with one of the local breweries to do a whiskey, so you'll see that coming out in a couple of years," Dietrich said.

Another new addition, a variation of Crater Lake Vodka infused with real crystallized ginger.

The company also has an estate line in the works.

"We have 24 acres here on our farm and everything we do in our estate line will be done 100 percent on the property," Dietrich said.

Before each bottle is shipped off to somewhere in the world, it's topped off with a hand touch -- "signed and numbered with a batch number and the initials of the person who bottled it," Dietrich said.

That's something staff says will never change, no matter how big Bendistillery gets.

Dietrich says out of 400 craft distilleries in the US, 60 are in Oregon. He says right now, there are only two here in Central Oregon, but he believes two more are in the works.

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