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Oregon Distillers Can Now Deliver Spirits to Local Residents

The OLCC relaxed delivery rules on Friday

Freeland Spirits back-lit bottles
Bottles at Freeland Spirits
Freeland Spirits/Official

Portlanders can finally order cocktails for delivery — a handful of pre-packaged ones, anyway: The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has relaxed the rules on spirit distribution in Portland, allowing local distillers to deliver hard alcohol directly to residences.

Up until last Friday, Oregonians were only allowed to purchase spirits directly from distilleries or from state-run liquor stores, and alcohol shipments were banned by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. However, late last week, the OLCC eased regulations, allowing Oregon distilleries to directly ship to state residents.

This comes as a relief to local distillery operators, who, according to the Oregonian, have seen dwindling sales during the COVID-19 pandemic: Despite alcohol sales going up overall, many shoppers are looking for familiar, cheaper big-brand labels. Plus, the governor’s stay-at-home order in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic means fewer visits to tasting rooms, though many remain open for retail.

Northwest Portland distillery Freeland Spirits has already started a delivery service as of Sunday. “First we launched a whole new business with hand sanitizer,” says co-founder Jill Kuehler. “Now, it’s a whole new business of delivery. It’s very exciting; I think it will be a big game changer. I did deliveries on Sunday and it was like being Santa Claus.”

The new allowance has some distillers breathing a bit easier. “A lot of us were having a pretty bleak view of the future. Craft distilleries were being left behind,” says Jordan Felix, distillery ambassador for Portland’s Westward Whiskey. “[Now] we’re cautiously optimistic; this is a massive win for craft distilleries in general.”

Both Felix and Kuehler say that sales have already risen, as those who were looking for local spirits but unable or hesitant to leave their homes are now able to order delivery. “This allows people to help out the community without going outside. I’ve been helping people through online orders and it’s felt great,” he says.

Notably, this new law allows Oregonians to directly order cocktail delivery from distilleries, with some restrictions on how they’re packaged. Freeland has its canned gin and tonics, while Straightaway is now taking phone and email orders for its bottled cocktails, while also continuing to deliver its spritzers.

Other distilleries haven’t been quite as quick to implement delivery, but many are planning to. Ryan Csanky, co-owner of Aria Gin, says that the prospect is both exciting and daunting due to its sudden arrival. “We’ve never been allowed to do it, so it wasn’t coming down the pipeline and we weren’t able to prepare for it,” he says. Still, the team is hard at work figuring out the minutiae of delivery service, and plans to have cocktail kits like martinis, gin and tonics, and pomegranate gimlets as delivery options. Each will come with a bottle of gin, and whatever else is needed for the recipe like vermouth, tonic water, garnishes, or syrups, as well as recipe cards.

Tom Burkleaux, founder of New Deal Distillery, says that they’re not quite sure how to manage delivery yet, but might be rolling out a local test this week. Sebastian Degens, co-owner of Stone Barn Brandyworks, says customers will be able to order their fruit brandy online by the end of the week, and the state’s other big brandy producer, Clear Creek Distillery, says its team is still working on logistics.

It’s unclear how permanent the change to delivery laws will be, or if the OLCC will continue to allow delivery once tasting rooms and bars fully reopen. Many distillers hope it continues to remain an option: “If it’s something that works out well... it’s one less regulatory hurdle. That’s what’s exciting about it,” says Csanky.

The OLCC has yet to respond to requests for comment.