WHEN YOU’VE GOT a deep fryer simmering all day, anything edible in the vicinity is bound to get the hot-oil treatment. Likewise, as Sebastian and Erika Degens can attest, when you have a still, you can’t help but wonder what grains and fruit might be transformed into booze.
Since opening Stone Barn Brandyworks in Southeast Portland in 2009, the couple has been busily experimenting in a collection of truly novel brandies and spirits: a whiskey made from Bob’s Red Mill rye flour, another teased out of spelt, ouzo from pinot gris pomace, and liqueur infused with locally roasted coffee. If future tests pan out, whet your appetite for whiskey from oats and buckwheat (Sebastian likens it to “soba whiskey”) and walnut eau de vie. In other words, these two are not afraid to follow their curiosity.
Lucky for us, the experiments have proven successful. Our favorite is the quince liqueur (pictured): Sebastian gathered quinces from a tree in his yard and an orchard in Salem, hacked up the firm fruits by hand, ground them, cooked them down, soaked the pulp in his house-made pear-and-apple alcohol, distilled the product into a high-proof spirit, and then mixed in a quince syrup made from the juice. The result has the layered depth and complexity of a fine aged spirit, with a touch of sweetness and an aroma that can only come from fresh fruit. As soon as the taste fades, you’ll be eager to try whatever Stone Barn sends through its still next.
Visit stonebarnbrandyworks.com for more information on Stone Barn’s spirits.