How this Portland distillery puts the authentic flavors of the PNW in their award-winning spirits.
Ali Joseph has long had a passion for spirits and cocktail creation. But she’s quick to admit that much of her experience with the two was simply enjoying them.
Finding herself as the Chief Marketing Officer of Wild Roots Spirits was a bit of a whirlwind for the former pre-k teacher. “My husband started making infused spirits at home,” and before Ali knew it, the project turned into a business.
The independent Portland distillery was established in 2012, opening their doors to the public in the summer of 2013. And Ali has been there since the very beginning.
Ali recalls the early days of Wild Roots Spirits, noting that they launched at an optimal time: “During farmers market season.” She looks back at those days fondly, “Wild Roots’ first bottle sale ever was at a local berry fest.”
And that’s appropriate. Because as Ali describes it, “The Pacific Northwest is our inspiration for Wild Roots.” More specifically, she explains, “We draw inspiration from hyper local fruits that the region is known for. Like marionberries and huckleberries.”
Peach, pear, cranberry vodka and more from the Portland distillery
“Wild Roots is named for our roots in the Pacific Northwest and the fruit that grows there.”
The Pacific Northwest bounty finds its way into every infused vodka from Wild Roots Spirits. Of all the fresh fruits, berries, and spices that infuse their small batch spirits, Ali points to one special ingredient, marionberries.
“A true Oregon favorite.”
Their Marionberry Vodka is truly a product of pure Oregonian descent. Tart and sweet, marionberries are a blackberry-hybrid that were developed at Oregon State University. The infusion of local berries creates a spirit with black licorice aromas and a rich port wine finish.
With seven more fruit infusions, Marionberry is only the beginning. More accurately, their Northwest Vodka is the beginning. Clean, crisp, and stunning, this craft vodka evokes the clean air, crystal-clear water, and awe-inspiring mountains of the region.
Marionberry is only the beginning. Wild Roots Spirits has seven more infusions. More than a pound of fresh, local pears make Pear Vodka taste like a stroll through a breezy orchard. Or sip summertime with a pound of juicy peaches inside Peach Vodka.
Crisp Northwestern apples shine alongside a complementary kiss of cinnamon in the warming Apple and Cinnamon Vodka. Local red raspberries are famous for their radiant color and powerful punch of flavor. Opening a bottle of Red Raspberry Vodka is like popping the top off a jar of raspberry jam.
Luscious local dark cherries create the Dark Sweet Cherry Vodka and its smooth dark chocolate notes. A pound of wild huckleberries results in a cornucopia of berry flavor in Wild Roots Huckleberry Vodka.
Looking at the Wild Roots Spirits range of fruity spirits, Ali points at two as personal favorites, “Wild Roots Cranberry Vodka and our London Dry Gin.” She suggests having the Cranberry Vodka in a Vodka Soda with a splash of lime.
Enticing citrus aromas emanate from their juniper-dominate London Dry Gin. The addition of cucumber and grapefruit turn the award-winning gin to a bright, light new expression, the Cucumber and Grapefruit Infused Gin.
From the farmers’ market to tasting room
Just like their earliest days, farmers’ markets continue to play a big role for Ali and the Wild Roots Spirits team. “We continue to be a market vendor every summer.”
It affords Ali and the Oregon distillery a level of community engagement like no other. “We love being able to interact with our community members there and at other events year-round.”
It’s those interactions she craves.
“I love being able to watch people try Wild Roots for the first time. Have them say, ‘It actually tastes like real fruit!’” Ali says with a well-earned sense of pride.
“It is such a unique product. Unlike anything else on the market,” Ali explains. “Our use of real fruit sets us apart from other distilleries.” Sure, it can complicate the process, but the use of fresh fruit is the Portland distillery’s signature.
And that won’t change for one simple reason.
Ali states it succinctly. “Customers can really taste the difference.”
Wild Roots Spirits: Innovative Community Trailblazers
Running an independent distillery is no simple feat. Nor is it a one-woman show. Ali’s biggest piece of advice is to compile a team with a diverse skill set, otherwise, the regular challenges could prove insurmountable.
“At the end of the day, any distillery is a manufacturer. Sales, operations, and compliance will always bring daily challenges. Managing inventory levels, raw materials, sales and distribution are all difficult in the highly competitive industry.”
She adds that it’s important to remember “there’s nothing wrong with starting small and being different.” In fact, it’s what makes the craft spirits industry so incredible.
“Being independent allows craft distilleries to remain unique,” she says with enthusiasm. “Distilleries that are independent lead the charge in creation and innovation.”
That’s how Ali wants her Portland distillery to be remembered. As trail-blazing, innovative, and community-focused.
With luxurious fruit infusions and swatches of fans will tell you, Wild Roots Spirits are well on their way to exceeding Ali’s aspirations.