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Spirits distillery in the works at waterfront business park

If the valley’s myriad gem-tone wines and amber-colored brew selections are not to your liking, another adult beverage producer is about to remedy that for visitors and locals alike – and no, that wouldn’t be another hard cider operation.

Camp 1805, a new distillery slated to produce a variety of spirits, is now under construction in the Port’s Waterfront Business Park.

Planning to occupy a 2,000 square foot space at 501 Portway Drive with their production and tasting room business, company founders and Gorge residents Chris Taylor and Roy Slayton are now jumping through the licensing hoops that will ensure their early fall opening.

“This is a huge opportunity,” said Slayton. “All over the West Coast these are popping up. We already have a great craft brewery business in the Gorge but we didn’t have craft distilleries.”

The duo, who were later joined by investor Jaime Athos, brainstormed the whiskey, vodka, rum and bourbon making idea while on a mountain bike ride in the hills of White Salmon.

“That was in 2007 and then the recession hit,” said Taylor. Awaiting the upswing in the economy, the duo began gaining the needed training to undertake their future roles as master distillers. Both have worked primarily in sales and marketing.

“We went through training at distilleries in Colorado, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Washington,” said Taylor. “The distilling community is very helpful when you are getting started, especially when you are not planning to open competition nearby,” said Taylor.

The pair plans to produce small batch clear malt whiskey, vodka and rum – both flavored and not. They also hope to add a blended bourbon and specialty spirits like coffee liqueur and cordials using local fruits.

“That is the creativity that a small craft distillery business can offer. This is the fun part,” said Taylor.

The facility will house their soon to arrive “Hoga” hand-wrought copper pot still, shipping in from Spain in May. An additional 400 square foot space will house their American Oak barrels, which will be used to age whiskey, bourbon and rum.

With the near simultaneous opening of a new Solstice Wood Fire Cafe in the space next door – slated for November 2013 – Camp 1805 hopes to work out some shared tasting and dining experiences.

The Hood River City Council approved the team’s application for a liquor license, which returns back to the OLCC at the state level for final approval. The federal license is still in process.

Taylor and Slayton and their investor acknowledge another “partner” of sorts in their road to opening.

“We received help from the Oregon Investment Board and Mid-Columbia Economic Development with new business loans,” said Taylor. They also received hands-on guidance from Columbia Gorge Community College’s Small Business Development Center.

“Our advisor Mary Merrill was phenomenal,” said Taylor. “She coached us through the process and without her, I don’t know where we’d be right now.”

The business plan for Camp 1805 includes the production area, which will be open for tours, a bar and a seating area, open at least five days a week. Retail bottle sales will be available.

As a tasting room, Camp 1805 will be allowed under Oregon law, to serve up to five half-ounce-size samples of their spirits per customer, per day, or five mini-cocktails containing the same total amount of alcohol. During planned special food-added events, full-sized cocktails will be available.

“We will only serve our own spirits,” confirmed Taylor.

When asked about the origin of the distillery’s name, Taylor said it references “the year Lewis and Clark camped on the shores of the Hood River” during their travels across the country. According to Taylor, the Corps of Discovery had already run out of whiskey by the time they hit the Hood.

“If we had been around, they wouldn’t have run out,” laughed Taylor.

On the more serious side, Slayton expressed his and his partners’ shared enthusiasm about the product they hope to produce.

“I want to make something people enjoy and appreciate, and I want to make it myself. Hood River is the perfect spot to do it. We hope the community will embrace this.”

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