When we first purchased the Farm, we knew it was special, but the vision for Wanderback didn’t come until much later. What we did realize immediately, however, was the natural beauty of the place. Rolling hills tucked between Cascade mountains, an abundance of fresh, clean water and fertile soil added to the allure. We’ve only become more in-tune with these elements over the years. And now, as our distillery is growing, we feel even more fortunate for this unique environment.
The Columbia River Gorge, and Hood River in particular, is home to an abundance of makers. The unique combination of climate, geography, and passion has created fantastic wineries, incredible micro breweries, and now some great craft distilleries. We’re honored to be a part of this talented community, with our gold medal winning Batch No. 1 and Batch No. 2 whiskeys adding to the acclaim.
As our fervor and knowledge about American single malt whiskey grew, we began to realize that the climate in Hood River, more specifically at the Farm, was truly in our favor.
Hood River enjoys large swings in temperature during the year, optimal for whiskey aging. The temperature never really gets too hot, average high is 82F. Plus, the humidity is just right hovering around 72%, minimizing evaporation from the barrel – much to the chagrin of our local whiskey angels.
Our distillery sits five miles south of town on the foothills of Mount Hood and enjoys a microclimate that adds to the benefits of the Hood River climate in general. We get cooler summer nights and hotter days, so our daily temperature swings during optimal aging season are greater. This is exactly what aging whiskey loves and it has a major influence on the final taste.
We had owned the Farm for many years before deciding to start a whiskey distillery. For decades prior, it had been a cherry farm. When we bought the property, we tried cherry farming for a good few seasons (man those blossoms were a sight!) but couldn’t make it pencil out (fruit farming is not for the faint-hearted or those with less than 100 acres!).
However the idea of not using this incredibly lush and fertile land just didn’t sit right, so you can imagine the added excitement when we realized that not only did we have the perfect weather but we could also grow estate barley easily with the dream of putting it in our whiskey one day! Fast forward to this spring; our dream is becoming a reality as we’re planting our first crop in May.
Now let’s talk about our water! Frankly, it’s the best water we’ve ever tasted. Not surprising when you learn it comes from three pristine groundwater springs located close to Lost Lake on the slopes of Mount Hood.
We don’t do anything to our water, there’s no need to rebalance it or filter it. We use this spring water to dilute our spirits at every stage and we are sure it’s part of the reason Wanderback Whiskey tastes so good.
Passion is second nature to us. We put it into everything we do, both in and out of the whiskey world. To have a great distillery, we needed to rebuild the 3 story, 1920s red barn… and it was a labor of love to say the least! The foundation was totally eroded from an underground stream, floors were rotten and unsafe, and she leaned forward about to fall over. But – she was still an absolute knockout beauty.
The Barn is now fully restored. We age our whiskey on 2 of the 3 stories [we are now working on shoring up the top floor], each with differing temperatures throughout the year. We move the barrels up and down according to what they need at any particular time.
While the Barn protects the whiskey form the elements, it is not climate controlled, so the casks really feel all the temperature swings and sit in the ideal humidity. We didn’t necessarily plan it, but where our casks lie and our whiskey ages, happens to be perfect for bringing out those great whiskey tastes. To see what we’re talking about, read through the tasting notes for Batch No. 1 and Batch. No. 2.
Climate. Geography. Passion. Turns out Hood River is an amazing place in Oregon to make whiskey. At Wanderback, we endeavor to make unique, great tasting American single malt that really is the best sipping whiskey in the Pacific Northwest. We hope you get to try some soon and let us know what you think.