In the spring of 2010, acclaimed Portland distiller, Lee Medoff, and business partner and chief enthusiast, Patrick Bernards, founded Bull Run Distilling Company along with a few trustworthy friends. What began as a “what if ” conversation between gentlemen one evening over cocktails evolved into a full-on crusade (as things sometimes do when spirits are involved). A couple aspirin, hundreds of hours and an emptied bank account later, Bull Run Distilling Company turned from a whiskey-infused dream into a reality.** Fast forward to today, and Bull Run is part of a new group of artisans helping put Oregon craft spirits on the map with a line of spirits that stand as well neat as they do in your favorite cocktail.
The name “Bull Run” dates back to the days of the first settlers on the Oregon Trail. As the story goes, back in the 1850’s, cattle belonging to pioneers crossing the Cascade mountain range broke loose in the area now known as Bull Run. The untamed livestock escaped into the dense forests to live, and local inhabitants would catch a glimpse of them every now and again, running along the grassy shorelines of the river and lake to graze and drink. Locals thus began referring to the watering holes as Bull Run River and Bull Run Lake. One hundred and fifty years later in a charming 1950’s warehouse in Northwest Portland, distillation begins with this immaculately clean water. The water is what makes Bull Run’s spirits so special — arguably the purest water source in the country, it imparts a soft, rich mouthfeel that’s impossible to duplicate outside of Oregon.
Today the warehouse at 2259 NW Quimby that serves as Bull Run’s distillery, barrel house and tasting room is open for tours and tastings, and visitors can enjoy themselves in the charming interior and bustling neighborhood. But in the early days, this Northwest neighborhood was much rougher. The area was known as “Slabtown” due to the legend that if you dared to visit, you were likely to leave on a slab. This was the underbelly of Portland — littered with boarding houses, saloons, brothels and their devoted clientele of sailors and delinquents.***
Everything about Bull Run is steeped in history and tradition — from the name and the building, to the custom designed stills. To sip the spirits is to taste a bit of Oregon — from the original pioneers of the Lewis and Clark trail and the hard-living “ladies” and gents of Slabtown, to Portland’s latest renaissance of cocktail culture and enthusiasm for everything handcrafted.