How a veteran owned business is using craft spirits to create lasting change in Corvallis, Oregon
“The Willamette Valley in Oregon is a unique place for sure.”
Dawson Officer holds a sweet spot for Central Oregon. It’s where he grew up, where he went to college, where he worked. It’s also where he enlisted.
Oregon National Guard. E Troop, 82nd Cavalry.
Starting in 2003, Dawson served an 18-month tour in Iraq with Delta Co., 2-162 Infantry Regiment.
These days, you can find him full-time behind the still at 4 Spirits Distillery. Where he is the distiller and owner. As he explains it, his job description is the “handling all aspects of production.”
Dawson has no shortage of reasons he got into distilling.
But first and foremost he says, “I love whiskey.” He smiles and adds, “I love a good challenge, and the ability to learn through trial and error”
“The opportunity to create spirits on my own was such an adventure.” Dawson guided himself on that adventure too.
“I am self-taught through many years of study and experimentation.” The experience and knowledge accumulated along the way are a great source of pride for Dawson.
But the pride pales in comparison to inspiration behind the veteran owned business.
“4 Spirits is named in honor and memory of four of my former comrades, and pays tribute to the lives of these men and service members both past and present.”
4 Spirits Distillery, a special and personal memorial
4 Spirits is more than a distillery. It’s a veteran owned business with a mission.
“As a part of the company mission,” Dawson tells us, “We provide support to local veteran reintegration programs throughout the states where products are sold.”
“Our biggest goals are to help returning combat veterans lead fulfilling and productive lives through higher education, mental health care support, and socializing with other veterans.”
“We live our name and mission each and every day.” Expounding, Dawson says, “We use both our products and our location here in Oregon to help engage the public with the importance to honor, remember, and support our service members.”
He points specifically to 4 Spirits Bourbon Whiskey.
“In 2012, we released 4 Spirits Bourbon Whiskey which serves as a symbol and tribute to the fallen, and also as the main platform for the 4 Spirits giving program.”
Put simply, “It’s a very special and personal memorial.”
A veteran owned business with a mission, 4 Spirits Distillery started a scholarship program for veterans.
In 2019, the 4 Spirits giving program paid the first of many scholarships, helping combat veterans cover the cost of tuition. The scholarship was the first of its kind at Oregon State University.
Meet the 4 Spirits Squadron
Not only does 4 Spirits Bourbon promote an empowering message, it’s packed with robust flavors. It’s why Dawson picks “a good Old Fashioned” as his favorite cocktail.
But truthfully, he explains, “I like anything that highlights our whiskeys in their purest form.”
4 Spirits Distillery’s impactful line of whiskeys are shaped by Oregon’s mild climate.
Considering the complexities in their robust whiskeys, that’s reasonable. 4 Spirits Bourbon, American Whiskey, and Single Malt Whiskey are shaped by the Oregon climate.
“We experience our fair share of damp weather, but also a pretty mild climate that lacks extremes.”
“This definitely affects our products, especially the barrels,” Dawson explains, “It creates a very specific pattern of fluctuation throughout the year.” That yields a consistently delicious product.
Even though 4 Spirits is in Corvallis, with their Single Malt Whiskey, you couldn’t be closer to Scotland without getting on a plane. An added bonus, Dawson says the Single Malt Whiskey is “definitely” his favorite.
He doesn’t have the same definitive answer for the most unique ingredient used by 4 Spirits Distillery.
“It’s hard to narrow it down to just one. We do use some very unique and fun ingredients such as fresh cucumber, raw pepper, and an interesting blend of botanicals in our gin.”
The gin in question is 4 Spirits Cucumber Gin, and some of the cucumber and pepper for the gin are grown in a small garden space at the distillery.
4 Spirits Cucumber Gin and Vodka, the perfect start to any pair of craft cocktails.
In addition to their Cucumber Gin, 4 Spirits Bourbon, and whiskeys, the veteran owned business also makes the 100% corn 4 Spirits Vodka, a Dark Rum aged in new American Oak barrels, and a slew of different rums.
“One of our most interesting spirits that has really unique ingredients is our Habanero Spiced Rum,” Dawson says with enthusiasm. “It definitely has one of the most unexpected flavor combinations.”
4 Spirits Distillery’s line of rums build on one another with stunning, unique flavor combinations.
But first, to get to 4 Spirits Habanero Spiced Rum, the journey begins as their Silver Rum, distilled from high-grade molasses and sugar cane. After being steeped with a variety of organic spices including “vanilla, nutmeg, orange peel, cinnamon, clove” and then some it becomes their Spiced Rum.
“We knew originally that we had a winning combination of flavors in our 4 Spirits Spiced Rum.”
That’s when the experimenting began.
Dawson tells the story, “We knew that flavorful and spicy spirits could be really fun to work with, but at the same time we wanted to stray away from anything that had so much heat it would overpower the flavor of the peppers and spices.”
“We found the perfect balance between spices and pepper flavor using Habanero, Jalapeño, and Serrano peppers.”
“It is always so much fun to introduce customers to this product.”
Right at home in Corvallis, Oregon
“Our focus on community has become so much greater because of the people that we serve every day.”
“Our distillery was such a different business in the beginning years versus what it has become today.”
Dawson continues to reflect on the influence of the Corvallis community on 4 Spirits, “We did have a tasting room that was open on weekends, but we lacked the central location. In 2017, all of this changed when we finalized the construction of our new building in south Corvallis.”
The veteran owned business quickly became a community gathering spot for Corvallis.
Life in south Corvallis has been great for 4 Spirits Distillery.
Dawson’s happy with their position in the community, and the tremendous support system surrounding them.
“We have become a unique community gathering spot, and are lucky to be able to truly partner with many business, nonprofits, and organizations throughout our city so that we can help each other throughout the year.”
But more than anything else, Dawson admits, “It is especially rewarding to know that people in the community look to our distillery as a special place to gather with friends.”
The long-lasting legacy of a veteran owned business
“I can’t imagine our communities without the great variety of craft distilleries across the U.S.,” Dawson emotes, “Each small business has their own story, their own creative spin, their own struggles, and unique individuals who are able to express themselves artistically through their spirits.”
Dawson doesn’t dwell on what sets his distiller apart from the rest. Rather, he celebrates those differences.
“We love that this industry has so much variety, from the spirits created at each distillery, to the people and locations behind each story. Our differences are what make this industry so special.”
“The culture alone is very inspiring.”
Dawson should know. The story of his community staple, veteran owned small business is inspiring too.
4 Spirits Distillery is doing the work and creating awareness about the importance of supporting veteran, both in our own communities and across the country.
The legacy 4 Spirits is creating proves to be just as inspirational.
“We hope to create a long-term, positive impact that unites us in support of those who need it the most.”
Dawson hopes “that a legacy of giving will live on through our scholarship programs and through the support that we have provided to other veteran reintegration programs.”
Dawson considers it an honor and privilege to make craft spirits at 4 Spirits Distillery.
It’s hard work that Dawson will never stop chasing. But for now, he only has one more thing to say.
“To have the opportunity to grow a business like this is such an honor.”
No, Dawson. The honor is all ours.