From Oregon with Love

"My family is Russian, so the logical thing for me was to make vodka," explains Lee Medoff of his drive to distill Medoyeff vodka in Oregon. Logical or not, Medoff's vodka, distilled in Oregon from rye, has been on the market for a year, but only hit the Seattle market in the last few weeks at select on- and off-premise accounts. (Individual consumers can special order it from any Washington state liquor store.) Packaged in a snazzy sleek bottle with a military-inspired capital "M" on the bottle with a star over it, Medoyeff's is "my vodka of choice," says Greg Lundgren, an owner of the Hideout, a lounge on First Hill. "It's one of the few you can put in a glass and drink by itself. It's a very clean, high-end vodka that needs nothing to mask it." Lundgren, who has carried it for a month and a half, says Medoyeff is ideal for martinis on the rocks. Assistant manager Michael Kelly at McMenamins Queen Anne, agrees saying that Medoyeff has "a really good, nice, smooth flavor." The vodka is part of a planned lineup that also includes winter and summer gins, and much farther down the road (five or six years), whiskey as well. The gin, intense and spicy in its winter version, is slated to arrive at earliest in December. "We wanted winter [gin] to have a richer, heavier flavor," says Medoff. He expects the winter version to have more play in cocktails, while the summer interpretation is "going to be much more of a [straight] 'up' thing," with "brighter, lighter, cooler flavors." Medoff is the first distiller to my knowledge to have had the creativity to envision summer and winter versions of any spirit. Most large marketers are too concerned with brand support of a specific flavor profile to go out on a limb with such a new concept. While I am pleased that we Seattleites will soon be able to enjoy such an innovative, locally distilled product, I continue to wonder why so much more innovation seems to come from over the state border in Oregon. "The interest and desire to consume craft products exists in both states, but Oregon actively promotes homegrown industries," notes Medoff, whose distillery will shortly be moving from Corvallis to Portland. From Clear Creek brandies to Crater Lake Vodka, Oregonians have been busy creating original distilled products. Why haven't we done the same?

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