Our love for adventure inspires the places we go and the company we keep. Rather than building a traditional distillery that aims to create the same thing over and over again, we prefer to explore what the world out there has to offer us.
Chasing life and opportunity wherever it takes us, the people we meet along the way are the most rewarding part of our adventures. Every Wanderback American malt whiskey release is as much an expression of the friendships we forge as it is of the raw materials that go into it.
Our distillery, located at the family farm in Hood River, Oregon has a unique mission and production process that combines the experience of top distilleries around the country with the mastery and vision of Wanderback’s founder, Phil Downer.
To create excellent small batches, of limited release whiskeys that are bold and unique, drawing on the bounty of the Pacific Northwest and the expertise of American whiskey industry leaders.
What does this mean? Rather than creating a particular whiskey over and over like most distilleries, we prefer to produce small batches of limited releases. When it’s gone, it’s gone. While every batch will be unique, all have one thing in common: top quality American single malt that will surprise and delight.
Wanderback’s production is a unique hybrid of an independent bottler and traditional distillery. Instead of searching for whiskey casks post-production, like traditional independent bottlers, Wanderback founder, Phil Downer, works with the head distiller of the chosen partner distillery to create an exciting whiskey that has never been made before.
The resulting whiskey is a shared vision of “what could be”. It draws on Wanderback’s vision and desired grain bill combined with the strengths and unique attributes of the partner distilleries processes and equipment.
We venture out into the single malt community to collaborate with other distillers. After distillation, our whiskey is then transferred to the family farm in Hood River, Oregon where it is barrel-aged, finished, blended, and bottled.
This process creates our series of “Batches”. This unique methodology combines the mastery of head distillers from around the country with the skill and passion of Wanderback, to create unique whiskeys that explore interesting and new angles on American single malts.
To have a great distillery, we needed to rebuild the three 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 rotted 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 two of the three 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 from 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.
As our fervor and knowledge about American single malt whiskey grew, we began to realize that the climate in Hood River, and 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.
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.
We are currently aging whiskeys from collaborations with other world-class distilleries for future releases. While every batch will be unique, all have one thing in common: top quality American single malt that will surprise and delight.
We had owned the Farm for many years before deciding to start a whiskey distillery. For decades prior, it had been a cherry farm. 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! We are now growing Full Pint barley slated for an estate-grown Wanderback whiskey down the road.