Oregon distilleries bounce back after pandemic-related disruptions
Oregon’s craft distilleries are bouncing back from the pandemic’s disruptions. Oregon now has the highest per capita number of craft distilleries in the U.S.
Heritage Distilling’s CEO, Justin Stiefel, says their Eugene store just reached pre-COVID levels of foot traffic. Keeping the business afloat over the past two years took some quick learning.
"Distilleries are one the few entities that the FDA allowed on emergency basis to start producing hand sanitizer," Stiefel said. "We decided we need to shift gears, and we stopped producing spirits. And we started using the base for the spirits in the sanitizer."
Stiefel says Heritage and many other distilleries offered curbside pickups and deliveries. The Oregon Distillers Guild has pointed out that only two craft distilleries closed in Oregon during the pandemic, due to emergency rules approved by the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission.
Jayme McVicker, the Events Manager at Heritage Distilling, says that the recent foot traffic gives her hope.
"Yes, I feel hopeful. I'm excited. I obviously love events," McVicker said. "I think it's good for the community. I think it's good for us."
Heritage Distilling hosted the Home Show last weekend, which was their first big event since the pandemic started.
Meanwhile, the Oregon Distillers Guild says there are now 78 craft distilleries in the state, compared to 71 in Kentucky, renowned for its bourbon. Annual sales for Oregon craft spirits also increased from 63 million dollars in 2020, to 67 million in 2021.
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