A Look at Aviation American Gin, Part of the Vibrant Distilling Community in Portland

Aviation American Gin opened its distillery and visitor center in its hometown of Portland, Oregon last month.

Co-Owner Ryan Reynolds released a video of the distillery saying, “...other distillery tours keep their visitors behind glass, but at Aviation, we know that people truly learn by doing,” as he hands guests various safety apparel and puts them to work.In the video, Reynolds admits that he’s counting on his guests being more knowledgeable than his employees by the end of the tour.“

About three years ago, we set out to create a one-of-a-kind distillery and tasting experience to give people the opportunity to get a look at how we make the world's greatest spirit – Aviation American Gin, that is,” said Reynolds. “We're thrilled to announce that the Aviation American Gin Distillery is officially open for business in Portland, Oregon and everyone [21 years and older] is welcome. If a grown-up theme park and a bartender fell in love and produced offspring, it would be this gin factory.”

Aviation American Gin
(Photo: Courtesy of Aviation American Gin)

Overseen by industry veteran and Distillery Director Hollie Stephenson, the distillery offers educational tours of the distillation process and bottling line, as well as tasting flights and seasonal cocktails. Stephenson oversees the distilling and bottling operations, as well as the newly constructed visitor center and tasting room.

Prior to her role at Aviation Gin, Stephenson was named Imbibe Magazine's “2019 Beer Person of the Year,” as she served as head brewer of Guinness to help build the company's only North American site. She focused on the production of Guinness Blonde, the company's experimental brewery, as well as research and development for large scale new-to-world Guinness beers.

“We have our tasting room up front [at Aviation Gin] where people can come have cocktails, take a tour and end up here in this escape room that's also ‘Ryan’s office’ and it's just a fun really cheeky experience that really fits the brand,” Stephenson told KGW8.

Aviation American Gin Distillery
(Photo: Courtesy of Aviation American Gin)

In northwest Portland, the people behind the Aviation American Gin distillery said they plan to fit in.

“There are so many great brands here, makers here; and just to get to be a part of that and let Aviation continue to live its life here is just an awesome opportunity,” Stephenson told NBC5.

Cocktail Trends

Stephenson thinks people are going to continue to be drawn to iterations of classic cocktails that focus on quality of ingredients. She said they're also seeing the low- and no-ABV category of cocktails continuing to grow.

How can mixologists best use gin in cocktails? Aside from the classic gin and tonic or gin martini, Stephenson loves Aviation Gin in a Bee’s Knees, the Aviation cocktail, a Negroni, or a Singapore Sling. “Because of Aviation’s taste profile, which balances juniper with floral and citrus flavors, it is an incredibly versatile spirit that can be swapped in many vodka cocktails as well,” she said.

Outside of Aviation Gin, Stephenson said if you’re looking to try a classic London Dry, she would recommend Gordon’s or Tanqueray, both which work great in a dry martini. 

Aviation American Gin Distillery Director Hollie Stephenson
Hollie Stephenson
  (Photo: Courtesy of Aviation American Gin)

What Makes Aviation Gin Unique

“Aviation Gin is crafted with a unique blend of botanicals, including orange, lavender and sarsaparilla, which are a few of my favorites, that complement the juniper notes to deliver a balanced, approachable flavor profile when compared to a traditional London dry gin,” said Stephenson. It's created using a botanical bill that includes juniper, cardamom, coriander, French lavender, anise, sarsaparilla and two types of orange peel.

“We soak the botanicals in neutral grain spirit to extract the botanical oil profile that gives Aviation its unique aroma and flavor, then we distill the macerate, creating Aviation American Gin,” Stephenson added.

What’s her approach or playbook for brand success? “My immediate sights are set on filling the capacity of our bottling line and optimizing our process as we grow Aviation American Gin distribution,” shared Stephenson. “Also, as we gear up to open our new distillery, we want to be good neighbors as part of the vibrant distilling community in Portland. I think we are creating a space that will appeal to visitors to Portland and to locals and will hopefully add to the overall traffic to other brewery and distillery tasting rooms nearby.”

To learn more about Aviation American Gin, visit AviationGin.com.

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