As a fan of craft spirits, I’m always looking for exciting new offerings and experiences. For me, it’s never been about the price tag or a name brand; it’s about savoring an artist’s creation. So, I’ve always found myself gravitating toward small-batch offerings from unique distilleries scattered throughout the nooks and crannies of our nation. So, I was intrigued when I stumbled upon Ransom Spirits, an alembic distillery, artisan wine company, and vermouth house.
Located in Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley in the foothills of the Coastal Mountain Range, Ransom prides itself on blending the finest old-world craft beverage traditions with creative innovation. Hard at work since 1997, their impressive setup consists of a forty-acre Organic Farm, vineyard, and distillery, where they source many of their key ingredients. The farm has been certified Organic since 2011, and the distillery received organic certification in 2021 and remains committed to sustainability and stewardship.
The story of Ransom begins with the hard work and determination of founder Tad Seestedt. In the late 90s, this young entrepreneur made his way West, laying the foundation for what would become one of the region’s true gems. As the story goes, Tad started distilling shortly after touching down in Pacific Northwest. It didn’t take long before he found himself fully immersed in the creative process and would single-handedly revive the 19th-century era ‘Old Tom’ Gin (aged in barrel). In the process, this budding entrepreneur maxed out his credit cards to fund the endeavor. With the bank holding him “Ransom” to pay back his debt, he thought the name appropriate for his continued pursuit. A fitting title, indeed!
What sets Ransom’s offerings apart is the attention to detail and focus on high-quality, small-batch production. This painstaking process begins with the selection of ingredients. Since traditional distillation methods result in the end product retaining greater aromatic intensity and body, each cut is made selectively by taste and smell. Ransom’s base wort is mashed and fermented on-site weekly in small batches and sourced from local and organic grains where possible, incorporating barley grown on their farm. The spirits are then distilled in a hand-hammered, direct-fired French alembic pot still, which sits over direct fire. The process is labor-intensive, but the results are undeniable as each sip dances across the palette. Trust me, this is a ride worth taking!
Here’s a quick breakdown of a few of the exciting offerings from Ransom Spirits:
Here’s where it all began! Old Tom Gin is one of the spirits that put Ransom on the map, so I was excited to dive in for a taste. Old Tom Gin is a historically accurate revival of the predominant Gin in fashion during the mid-1800s and the golden age of American cocktails. Interestingly, Ransom is the first U.S. distiller to release an Old Tom gin since Prohibition.
The bottle retails for around $37.99 and is a bargain at that price. The precious liquid is amber in color, which I would liken to a young whiskey. Wonderfully complex with an undeniably smooth finish, Ransom Old Tom Gin is best enjoyed neat. Each sip delivers incredible flavor as the juniper and citrus floral notes dance across the palette. If this is what pre-prohibition life was like, sign me up!
If Old Tom Gin speaks to you, as it did to me, don’t hesitate to seek out their limited barrel-aged version, “The Geezer.”
Proof: 88 Proof (44% ABV)
Ransom Dry Gin is one of the most exciting spirits I’ve sampled in quite some time. Seconds after pouring a glass, I knew I was in for a treat. This unique spirit features attributes of both genever and dry gin styles and couldn’t be more lively and aromatic. While I expected the juniper, lemon, coriander, angelica, caraway, anise, orris, cardamon, and orange to be in play, it’s the non-traditional botanicals of hops and Oregon marionberry that genuinely take this creation to the next level. With this many elements at play, you can tell the distiller took great care in capturing the perfect balance. That attention to detail keeps me coming back, pour after pour. Retailing around $29.99 a bottle, Ransom Dry Gin is ideal for the seasoned mixologist in your life.
Proof: 88 Proof (44% ABV)
Ransom’s Rye, Barley, Wheat Whiskey is your ticket to ride if you’re in the market for a whiskey with depth, complexity, and rich aromatics. While there are three grains in the name, six are in this whiskey — unmalted rye, malted rye, malted two-row barley, unmalted barley, crystal malted barley, and malted wheat. After being pot-distilled in Ransom’s alembic copper stills, the spirit is then aged in 60-gallon toasted French oak barrels (most of which once held Pinot Noir) and then aged for a minimum of five years.
During your tasting journey, you’ll encounter earthy notes from the rye that mingle wonderfully with the sweetness of the wheat and are all tied together with a hint of Grandma’s baking spices. The herbal notes in the blend are what truly set it off — an absolute delight card that Ransom Spirits plays so well. The finish is sweet and inviting. Ransom Rye, Barley, Wheat Whiskey is a rock-solid foundation for a Manhattan, Old Fashioned, or Whiskey Sour and retails for around $56.99.
Proof: 88 Proof (44% ABV)
Last but certainly not least in our exploration of Ransom Spirits portfolio is Ransom Bourbon. Distilled in Oregon and Indiana, this lively four-mash grain build (including 66% Corn, 23% Rye, 6% Wheat, and 4% Malted Barley) from Ransom’s organic farm. It is then aged a minimum of 2 years in charred American oak, including 12-year-old barrels from their French alembic pot stills.
Right out of the gate, this intensely flavorful spirit with a gentle warmth. Upon your first sip, the toffee flavor rises ever so gently from a soft, oaky base and is soon followed by additional hints of cocoa powder, honey, and a touch of orange zest.
A bottle retails for around $37.99 and offers a rich, full-bodied flavor with the complexities that you’d find in bottles at twice the price.
Proof: 93.4 (46.7% ABV)
It’s also important to note that Ransom Spirits has also gone to great lengths to create some amazing packaging for its products. The eye-catching designs not only reflect elements of old-school currencies but further showcase the brand’s attention to detail. These handsome bottles make for the perfect gift or conversation starter.
THE VERDICT: My biggest takeaway from this tasting experience is that the good folks at Ransom Wines & Spirits have carved out their own slice of heaven in Sheridan, Oregon. Thankfully, they can bottle that magic and share a glass with the rest of us!
Be sure to check out their entire product line and an array of suggestions for the perfect cocktail at www.ransomspirits.com.
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.