Behind the still of Portland’s women-owned Freeland Spirits stands one of the world’s youngest female Master Distillers.
“You can find me most summers on a lake paddle-boarding with my partner and dog.”
When she’s without an oar in her hands, you can find Molly Troupe behind the still at Portland, Oregon’s Freeland Spirits. Molly is the Master Distiller, and a partner, at the Portland distillery.
She also holds the distinction of being one of the youngest female Master Distillers in the world.
How did she get to that exalted position?
“I really loved chemistry. My favorite part of any chemistry course I took was always the lab. Distilling is very similar to those chem labs I was educated in,” Molly explains.
With a smile and a laugh, she says there’s one giant difference between her chemistry labs and distilling.
“With distilling you’re allowed to drink your products.”
“Distilling is the perfect combination of scientific and creative processes that balances mastery in both skill sets.” She’s been working on those skills since before Freeland Spirits opened their doors in 2017.
Prior to her days at Freeland Spirits, Molly was mastering her craft at a different Portland distillery.
But now, as one of the world’s youngest female master distillers, her proficiency is on full-display in the bottles of craft gin and whiskey from Freeland Spirits.
A women owned and operated Portland distillery
There’s a lot that makes Freeland Spirits special. But Molly points to one aspect of their distillery in particular.
With a well-earned sense of pride, she tells us, “Freeland Spirits is special as one of the few women owned and operated distilleries in the world.”
Freeland Spirits has a special designation as one of the few female owned and operated distilleries in the world.
Not only is Freeland Spirits run by women, it’s named for one inspirational woman as well.
“Freeland’s namesake is our founder, Jill Kuehler’s, maiden name. Meemaw Freeland inspired Jill’s journey in agriculture, ultimately leading to Freeland’s creation.”
Molly explained that their method of distillation is also unique to the Portland distillery.
“We use a Kothe pot column still to produce the bulk of our spirits in conjunction with small batches using our vacuum or cold distillation apparatus,” she explains.
We’ll put it in layman’s terms. Freeland Spirits makes their craft spirits using a combination of age-old and modern techniques.
All that means is a more delicious craft spirit to fill your glass.
Freeland Spirits’ personal touch
“Tasting products you’ve created is so personal, and sharing that with people is so special.” Molly’s personal touch runs deep through each of Freeland’s award-winning craft spirits.
You’re not supposed to play favorites, but Molly can’t help herself, “Freeland Gin is my favorite spirit.”
She has good reason for Freeland Gin being her favorite too. “It’s our original and signifies all the struggles to get our foot in the industry door.”
Be glad Freeland Spirits got their foot in the door. Because their Freeland Gin, made with a flavorful blend of 13 different botanicals including pink peppercorn and star anise, is a dazzling craft gin that brightens up every glass it touches.
Once they got their feet in, they weren’t stopping with just Freeland Gin. They had more in store. Like their Freeland Geneva Gin.
The craft spirits from Freeland Spirits are as delicious as their bottles are beautiful.
Seeing as Freeland Spirit was named after their founder’s grandmother, it’s only appropriate that they distill a craft gin inspired by the Dutch grandmother of gin, the Genever.
Freeland Geneva Gin is made from locally grown rye and a collection of savory botanicals. The end result is a warming sip that tastes like freshly baked bread.
But Freeland Spirits has more than craft gin.
Made from a blend of three-year-old and twelve-year-old bourbon, Freeland Bourbon Whiskey is a masterclass in blending bourbon.
Even after Molly Troupe’s precision blending, Freeland Bourbon Whiskey undergoes further aging. But this time, the standard new charred oak barrels are traded for Pinot Noir barrels from Oregon’s Elk Cove.
The unique barrels and extra aging period imparts the local terroir for one unforgettably velvety finish that rings with flavors of the Pacific Northwest.
It takes a village
“Independent distilleries face many daily challenges that are very similar to most small businesses.”
In addition to the expected growing pains, Molly explains that there are some challenges exclusive to the world of independent distilleries.
“One challenge that is unique is whiskey forecasting.” She elaborates saying, “Making whiskey requires a lot of up front costs, like grain, yeast, and barrels, and with the amount of time whiskey needs to sit, it is a large investment that just sits for years.”
Freeland Bourbon is a robust blend of aged bourbons finished beautiful in wine casks.
Regardless of the wait for whiskey, Molly can’t help but beam when she thinks about the community surrounding her Portland distillery.
“Our local community embraced us from the moment we launched Freeland Spirits,” Molly says with a smile.
“From our first bottle sale, to launching our tasting room, to events like Gin and Juice or our Rum Cask Bourbon Release, our community shows up for us.”
She knows the reason why too.
“Portland, Oregon is a vibrant makers’ community and is very accepting of creative projects.”
The glass-shattering legacy of Freeland Spirits
“When I first started in the industry, I struggled to find mentorship.”
That’s a piece of what Molly Troupe wants to change.
“Mentorship is a very rewarding part of what I get to do,” she says with passion. “Now that I am more established, it is a duty I cherish.”
Here’s to many more years of remarkable craft spirits from Molly Troupe and Freeland Spirits.
It’s also one of the three branches Molly hopes will comprise Freeland Spirits’ legacy: great products, glass-ceiling shattering, and educating the next generation of distillers.
You’re in luck.
The Molly Troupe class on independent distilling starts now. Lesson number one is all about the importance of independent distillers.
“Independent distilleries are important because they diversify the industry. With the rise of craft distilling, options for different spirits have also risen.” She continues saying, “This ultimately benefits the consumer who can find a plethora of products they enjoy.”
Molly also has advice for anyone and everyone thinking about starting their own independent distillery.
“My best advice for something looking to open a distillery is to have a specific strategic plan.”
That means going into the business with more than the idea to make something delicious.
Molly stresses the importance of asking yourself questions.
“What products do you want to make, and what equipment does that require?”
She’s quick to add, “And always plan for growth! Do not buy equipment too small!”