2 Surprising Summertime Whiskey Cocktails

2 Surprising Summertime Whiskey Cocktails

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: we believe whiskey is best enjoyed neat. Simple. Elegant. No fuss.

But! That doesn’t mean that good whiskey cocktails are banned from our list. A classic Old Fashioned is never a bad place to start, as this is often our go-to. In taking a departure from the classic though, we’ve been indulging in two craft cocktails, masterminded by the skilled mixologists at Loyal Legion in Portland, Oregon. Featuring unexpected ingredients, they’re a great way to enjoy the essence of both Batch No. 1 and Batch No. 2 in a new light.

First up:

The Wanderer

Its adventurous naming and dual whiskey + double bitters ingredients suit us perfectly. The mouth is warm and smokey, which really compliments Batch No. 1.


Wanderback Batch No. 1

Suntory Toki

Hopped Grapefruit bitters

Emakule TIki bitters

Garnish: demerara sugar

Next: Ain’t No Wanderback Girl

Channel your inner pop band tunes and you’ll likely conjure up this Gwen Stephani classic. The strong lyrics suit this cocktail perfectly. Are you ready? This one is a bit sassy.


Wanderback Batch No. 2

Strawberry-infused Dimmi


Garnish: sugar with picked strawberry

You can make either of these at home, although the ingredients are a bit obscure or, stop into Loyal Legion and order one by name.

Now, sit back, enjoy your cocktail and peruse our latest whiskey releases, happenings at the Farm and events on Instagram and Facebook. Cheers!

Today's ASM Debate: The Single Malt Alliance

Today's ASM Debate: The Single Malt Alliance

American single malt is a hot topic in the world of spirits. While a firm definition of what constitutes a whiskey in this category is still fluid, there are some emerging standards.

American Single Malt Standard of Identity







These are being advocated on the industry’s behalf by the American Single Malt Whiskey Commission and we hope that they will be recognized nationally soon.

Our process of making American single malts is unique in that we create a custom grain bill and distill our whiskey at a partner distillery. Our whiskey is then aged, finished, blended and bottled at our Farm in Hood River.

We create different Batches by aging and finishing in different casks; from new American oak - used exclusively for Batch No. 1 - to ex rum - for finishing Batch No.2 - and now port barrels which currently house Batch No. 3.

Once you understand this process, and how Wanderback’s is different than a traditional distillery, you can begin to realize why each of our whiskeys are so unique.

The Single Malt Alliance recently posted about American single malts, and specifically Wanderback. We think it’s an interesting conversation starter if you’re someone like us, who loves to talk about whiskey. Here’s what they had to say:

Historically, my experience with American single malts been “ok that’s promising”. Wanderback Batch No. 1, however, is the first American single malt I’ve sat down and enjoyed without spending the entire time thinking about how it would taste if it were left in the cask for another 3-5 years. That’s because it’s perfectly good as it is!
— Single Malt Alliance

“We seem to have entered an exciting time for American single malt producers. In the past few years alone distillers such as Westland WhiskeyBalcones Distilling and Stranahans have certainly stepped up their game. Be it more experience, greater access to matured stock or simply my own awareness of their work, one cannot deny the positive direction that American single malt is heading.
The unique bottle of 
Wanderback Batch No. 1 was a gift from Drinking Caveman and the inspiration behind this thought. It’s produced using a complex mash bill (they call it grain bill) before being aged in new American oak barrels.

This particular release was distilled at Westland and I have to say, I am rather impressed. It’s bold, rich and spicy yet far more developed than I expected for a single malt aged for just a few years.

Historically, my experience with American single malts been “ok that’s promising”. Youth and optimism has been the name of the game. This Wanderback Batch No. 1, however, is the first American single malt I’ve sat down and enjoyed without spending the entire time thinking about how it would taste if it were left in the cask for another 3-5 years. That’s because it’s perfectly good as it is!”

Do you have an opinion about American single malts? Which ones have you tried? Let’s get a conversation started. For us, there’s nothing better than whiskey banter. Join on on the conversation on Insta or Facebook.

Whiskey Proofing Strategies: Slowing Things Down For Batch No. 3

Whiskey Proofing Strategies: Slowing Things Down For Batch No. 3

In 2019 for Batch No. 3, we are switching to SLOW DILUTION. Instead of diluting the cask proof whiskey just prior to blending, we will be diluting it down in the barrel 1-2 proof a month. It will be fully diluted, from 120 proof to bottle proof, right on time for bottling this Fall and and are excited to note its impact in the final taste.

Diluting (aka proofing) is an important step in distillation. Our whiskey is proofed twice; first at our partner distillery when our new make spirit comes off the still, and then again at the Farm before we bottle a Batch.

By law, American whiskey can be distilled to 160 proof but must enter the barrel at or below 125 proof. This first proofing ensures that it is below the legal threshold for cask proof strength.

When our whiskey is nearing maturity, we make the decision on the final proof of the Batch. For distillers, there are always two important factors that come into play; the water source and the proofing strategy.

Our water at the Farm comes from Mount Hood, it is pristine and requires no filtering or rebalancing. There are two strategy options for the second proofing.  (1) Add water all at once in the blending tank or (2) add water very gradually (we call this SLOW DILUTION), giving the spirit time to rest between additions.

Listen to Wanderback Whiskey Co.s founder, Phil Downer, describe the benefits of Slow Dilution.

It’s not scientifically proven, but it is widely believed that to prevent saponification, where the water brings out fats or oils from suspension in the distillate, which can give the whiskey a soapy taste.

Another reason to go slow,  is that added water creates or destroys  new esters. By adding water gradually, some distillers think a more integrated, harmonious flavor can be achieved.

The buzz about Batch No. 3, our port-finished limited release American single malt whiskey, is growing. Don’t miss the release and your opportunity to grab one of the first bottles. Sign up here.

Guide to Wanderback Single Malt: Which to Try First.

Guide to Wanderback Single Malt: Which to Try First.

wanderback distillery american single malt whiskey

Newcomers to our whiskey, and American single malt in general, often ask: Which Batch of Wanderback should I try first?

American Single Malt (or ASM) is a relatively new category in the world of spirits and the Pacific Northwest is just beginning to scratch the surface on the abundance it holds. At the forefront of that movement are single malt whiskey producers like Wanderback.

Getting back to the question at hand. The simplified answer is,

If you’re a bourbon drinker, we recommend Batch No. 2.

If you prefer to sip scotch, we recommend Batch No. 1.


Even though the two batches have been distilled using the same speciality PNW barley malts, they taste very different because of the finishing casks. We used new American oak only for Batch No.1 and new American oak followed by ex-Nicaraguan rum casks for Batch No.2.

Batch No.1 (great ASM gateway for scotch drinkers)

Wanderback Batch No. 1 American Single Malt Whiskey

Wanderback Batch No. 1 American Single Malt Whiskey


Batch No. 1 spent three years in new American oak barrels

Key attributes: deep, rich, malty, campfire smoke finish

Awards: Double Gold from American Distilling Institute

Grain bill: Washington pale, crystal, munich and chocolate (note: no peated malt)

Proof: 90

Released: September 2017

Batch No. 1 is a delightful sipping whiskey. The nose has a light pleasant aroma of campfire smoke and the palate is stone fruit, anise, with a gentle finish of both dark chocolate and very light smoke.
— Steven Shomler: The Whiskey Wash

Batch No.2 (great ASM gateway for bourbon drinkers)

Wanderback Batch No. 2 American Single Malt Whiskey

Wanderback Batch No. 2 American Single Malt Whiskey


Batch No.2 had an additional six months in ex-Nicaraguan rum casks

Key attributes: smooth, tropical, elegant, complex

Awards: Gold Medal from GQ’s Fifty Best

Grain Bill: Washington pale, crystal, munich and chocolate

Proof: 100

Released: October 2018

Batch No. 2’s palate is dry and oaky, with hints of spice, oranges and a long finish ending with a delicious sweet and salty sensation
— Blake Reiber: The Bourbonr

We produce single malts that not only showcase the full potential of our environment at our Farm in Hood River, Oregon but we also partner with other rising stars distilleries to create a truly unique lineup of whiskeys. This concept is unchartered ground, and the results so far have been unparalleled, exceeding the industry’s expectations.

Ready to purchase online? Our online distribution partner ships direct to 34 US states. If you live in Oregon, you can purchase our whiskey at your local liquor store, click here for a current list.

Want to hear about our new releases, making American single malt, the Farm, and all our adventures in between? Come hang with us on Instagram and Facebook.


The Whiskey Wash: Batch No. 1 Review

The Whiskey Wash: Batch No. 1 Review

If you know whiskey and follow its culture, you're likely a fan of The Whiskey Wash. Writer Steven Shomler published this review of Wanderback Whiskey Batch No. 1 on March 12, 2019.

I first sampled this whiskey earlier in 2018, and I liked it so much that I bought a bottle of my own to take home with me. I then enjoyed it throughout the fall; this is a perfect whiskey for cool fall evenings. In fact, I can’t think of a season that this whiskey would not go well with.
— Steven Shomler, The Whiskey Wash

Being on the humbler side, we’d rather have someone other than us toot our horn, so here’s Steven’s full review….

Wanderback Whiskey Batch No. 1 is the very first whiskey from Wanderback Whiskey Co., located in Hood River, Oregon. This American single malt won 2018 Double Gold Medal from American Distilling Institute in the American Single Malt Whiskey category.

Wanderback Batch No. 1 was crafted by Wanderback Whiskey founder Phil Downer in collaboration with Westland Distillery in Seattle, Washington. This whiskey went into barrels that were heavily toasted, and lightly charred before coming home to Hood River to be aged for three years, finished, blended and finally bottled.

Bottle w Double gold.jpg

It is Downer’s intention that Wanderback only come out with single malt whiskeys and here is why – a few years ago Downer took a fateful a motorcycle trip across Oregon with a couple of friends, and it was on this trip that he fell in love with American single malt whiskeys such as Stranahan’s. When it came time to decide what style of whiskey Wanderback would produce, American single malt was the whiskey that most resonated with Downer’s heart.

Batch No. 1 is a delightful sipping whiskey, and in my opinion – best enjoyed neat. I look forward to Wanderback Batch #2, which has spent time in both Nicaraguan rum barrels and Heaven Hill bourbon barrels. Lastly, Downer plans to release Wanderback Batch #3 late 2019.

The Take Away: I first sampled this whiskey earlier in 2018, and I like it so much that I bought a bottle of my own to take home with me. I then enjoyed it throughout the fall; this is a perfect whiskey for cool fall evenings. In fact, I can’t think of a season that this whiskey would not go well with.

Batch No. 1 is a delightful sipping whiskey, and in my opinion – best enjoyed neat.
— Steven Shomler, The Whiskey Wash

Batch No. 1 is available for sale online nationally and in stores in across Oregon and Seattle, Washington.

And finally, here are The Whiskey Wash Tasting Notes for Wanderback Batch No. 1…

Vital Stats: An American single malt whiskey; 90 proof; mash bill: 88% pale malt, 8% crystal malt, 2% pale chocolate malt, 2% Munich malt;  aged minimum of three years; 90 proof; $64 for a 750ml bottle.

Appearance: This whiskey is a rich amber in color, and has a subtle brightness that is incredibly alluring.

Nose: a light pleasant aroma of campfire smoke.

Palate: stone fruit, anise, with a gentle finish of both dark chocolate, and a very light smoke. With some of my sips I could almost taste a little peat moss smoke, likely come from the mash bill that Phil developed for this whiskey. Please note – No peat malt was used in this whiskey.

Want to share your tasting notes? Please do! While we’ll always celebrate winning professional awards and getting great magazine reviews, the ones that really hit home are from everyday whiskey lovers, like you.


Cocktail Craft: At The Heathman, Portland, OR

Cocktail Craft: At The Heathman, Portland, OR

Any excuse we have to make an overnight trip to Portland is sure to include a stay at the historic Heathman Hotel (and they’ve recently completed a major renovation, which is amazing!). On such occasions, it’s no surprise that our whiskey tags along with us.

Partnering with the best of local is a big theme at the Heathman. They’ve chosen to pair up (or co-conspire if you will) with local Portland purveyors like Jacobson’s Salt Co.  and Steven Smith Tea Company, as well as regional distilleries which they feature and treat their guests to a speciality cocktail featuring the local craft spirit at a happy hour of sorts daily from 5-6pm.

Enter Wanderback Whiskey Co!

Already a local favorite at the bar at  the Headwaters, run by James Beard Award winning chef Vitaly Paley, Wanderback isn’t new to the hotel. Add that to the opportunity to craft a specialty cocktail and we couldn’t be more excited.

Together with Director of Guest Services, Daniel Kahn, we decided that our double gold award winning Batch No. 1 would be an ideal fit for their guests. An aside, we typically sip our whiskey straight, but sometimes a cocktail feels more to the occasion. Such is the case for the Heathman. So, we crafted our favorite version of the classic Old Fashioned whiskey cocktail.

Two requirements: The cocktail needed to be knock-out tasty; any additions need to compliment not overwhelm the complex, yet delicate flavors in our American single malt And it had to be quick to make. Bonus, this makes it an easy go-to to make at home as well. Here’s our recipe for the Heathman and everything you’ll need:

Wanderback Old Fashioned



  • Strainer

  • Standard Peeler

  • Bar Spoon

  • Cocktail Mixing Cup

  • Jigger


  1. Prepare the rocks glass with one large ice cube and set aside

  2. Add all ingredients into mixing cup and top with ice about 3/4 full

  3. After stirring* use your strainer to pour the cocktail into the rocks glass and over the large cube

  4. Then take a nice large orange peel off of your orange with the peeler**

  5. Zest the orange peel over the cocktail with the pith facing away from the cocktail

  6. Twist the orange peel and add to glass

  7. Enjoy!

*Depending on the ice and it’s thickness you will then stir for 20-30 seconds to dilute. If the ice is thin you will need less time to stir as it will dilute faster. Opposite the bigger the cubes get.

**Zest the orange peel over the cocktail with the pith facing away from the cocktail to maximize the oils coming out of the outer skin.  

For just a bit more fancy, add an angostura cherry with your orange twist on a cocktail stick. Twist the orange peel and skewer it onto a garnish pick. Finish by adding 1 cherry to the end of the pick and place on top of large cube.  

Our favorite tools for this cocktail (and others) are from Cocktail Kingdom.

Enjoy the cocktail and next time you’re in Portland, swing into the Heathman Hotel and tell them we sent you. Cheers.

Honoring the Environment: Making Wanderback at The Farm

Honoring the Environment: Making Wanderback at The Farm

When we first purchased the Farm, we knew it was special, but the vision for Wanderback didn’t come until much later. What we did realize immediately, however, was the natural beauty of the place. Rolling hills tucked between Cascade mountains, an abundance of fresh, clean water and fertile soil added to the allure. We’ve only become more in-tune with these elements over the years. And now, as our distillery is growing, we feel even more fortunate for this unique environment.

The Columbia River Gorge, and Hood River in particular, is home to an abundance of makers. The unique combination of climate, geography, and passion has created fantastic wineries,  incredible micro breweries, and now some great craft distilleries. We’re honored to be a part of this talented community, with our gold medal winning Batch No. 1 and Batch No. 2 whiskeys adding to the acclaim.


As our fervor and knowledge about American single malt whiskey grew, we began to realize that the climate in Hood River, more specifically at the Farm, was truly in our favor.

Hood River enjoys large swings in temperature during the year, optimal for whiskey aging. The temperature never really gets too hot, average high is 82F. Plus, the humidity is just right hovering around 72%, minimizing evaporation from the barrel - much to the chagrin of our local whiskey angels.

Our distillery sits five miles south of town on the foothills of Mount Hood and enjoys a microclimate that adds to the benefits of the Hood River climate in general. We get cooler summer nights and hotter days, so our daily temperature swings during optimal aging season are greater. This is exactly what aging whiskey loves and it has a major influence on the final taste.


We had owned the Farm for many years before deciding to start a whiskey distillery. For decades prior, it had been a cherry farm. When we bought the property, we tried cherry farming for a good few seasons (man those blossoms were a sight!) but couldn’t make it pencil out (fruit farming is not for the faint-hearted or those with less than 100 acres!).

However the idea of not using this incredibly lush and fertile land just didn’t sit right, so you can imagine the  added excitement when we realized that not only did we have the perfect weather but we could also grow estate barley easily with the dream of putting it in our whiskey one day! Fast forward to this spring; our dream is becoming a reality as we’re planting our first crop in May.

Now let’s talk about our water! Frankly, it's the best water we've ever tasted. Not surprising when you learn it comes from three pristine groundwater springs located close to Lost Lake on the slopes of Mount Hood.

We don’t do anything to our water, there’s no need to rebalance it or filter it. We use this spring water to dilute our spirits at every stage and we are sure it's part of the reason Wanderback Whiskey tastes so good.


Passion is second nature to us. We put it into everything we do, both in and out of the whiskey world. To have a great distillery, we needed to rebuild the 3 story, 1920s red barn… and it was a labor of love to say the least! The foundation was totally eroded from an underground stream, floors were rotten and unsafe, and she leaned forward about to fall over. But - she was still an absolute knockout beauty.

The Barn is now fully restored. We age our whiskey on 2 of the 3 stories [we are now working on shoring up the top floor], each with differing temperatures throughout the year. We move the barrels up and down according to what they need at any particular time.

While the Barn protects the whiskey form the elements, it is not climate controlled, so the casks really feel all the temperature swings and sit in the ideal humidity.  We didn’t necessarily plan it, but where our casks lie and our whiskey ages, happens to be perfect for bringing out those great whiskey tastes. To see what we’re talking about, read through the tasting notes for Batch No. 1 and Batch. No. 2.

Climate. Geography. Passion. Turns out Hood River is an amazing place in Oregon to make whiskey. At Wanderback, we endeavor to make unique, great tasting American single malt that really is the best sipping whiskey in the Pacific Northwest. We hope you get to try some soon and let us know what you think.



Magical Mash, A Toast, and Now...the Finish

Made from the same mash recipe as Batch No. 1, Batch No. 2 rolled out a completely distinctive flavor profile. It hit the shelves at the end of September, and, wow, has the response been exciting! Check out St Jack bar manager Charlie Dorst’s reaction when he first tasted Batch No. 2:

Batch No. 2’s story reveals history, hard work...and patience.

You could say it all began decades ago in a little fishing town in Newfoundland – Portugal Cove, near St Johns. This is where our Founder, Phil, grew up.

A land filled with fishing stories (including one where Phil’s very own great uncle was lost at sea), Portugal Cove is a small coastal village driven by hardy, Irish/English heritage, where Phil’s family and community shared stories while sipping rum to warm up dark, stormy nights.

(See a cocktail connection here?!)

Rum was pervasive. Hard work was expected.


These traditions carried through to Phil’s vision for Batch No. 2. Phil used the same grain bill (Washington  pale, chocolate, munich and crystal malts) and again partnered with Westland Distillery to mash and distill it. This is where this whiskey’s path diverged. Literally.

For Batch No. 2, Phil aged the whiskey for a total of four years (an additional year of aging). First in new American oak. To finish it, Phil split the Batch into two lots and filled half of his American single malt into Heaven Hill ex-bourbon barrels and half into Nicaraguan ex-rum barrels.

Similar to Newfoundland, rum dominates Nicaragua’s history and palate. Phil believed the flavor from ex-rum barrels would complement the whiskey’s taste profile, bringing vanilla, banana, tropical fruit to the batch’s spice and malt flavors. The ex-bourbon lot was intended to mellow the smoke coming from the chocolate malt that distinguishes Batch No. 1. After an additional six months in these barrels, the two lots were blended at bottling time. See the bottling party in action here.

Barrel Renewal: A Labor of Love

The venerable lot of ex-rum barrels Phil found reflected Nicaragua’s storied history. In other words...they needed some love. True to his hardworking heritage, this was a perfect project for Phil. Believing the rum’s tropical flavors would go well with the whiskey, he devoted painstaking hours to bring the barrels back to life for the finishing process.

Each barrel had to be resurrected to be leak-free. Using filtered Hood River water from the Farm, Phil soaked the tops in a bath for a few hours, followed by filling them on the inside with warm water to rehydrate the staves and seal the joints. Finally, he replaced and tightened every metal hoop until it was as close to perfect as he could get.

Batch No. 2’s Finish

Batch No. 2 produced a distinctly different, yet equally delicious taste that appeals to whiskey enthusiasts seeking a sweeter, savory and less smoky mouth. It’s 100 proof and very, very smooth.

Phil’s formal tasting notes for the batch:

A rich and decadent single malt with notes of fruitcake, gingerbread, Mexican chocolate, sugar cone and orange marmalade.

Like Batch No. 1, this is a limited release. Only 2,500 bottles! Here’s how to get your hands on some!

If you live in one of the states below, you’re in luck! You can buy online and ship at a fat rate of $12.

Live in Oregon? You get to buy it the old fashioned way–in a store.

ONLINE SHIPPING STATES: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington DC, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

High Toast, Low Char: A Fresh Approach to Aging

High Toast, Low Char: A Fresh Approach to Aging

When it comes to aging...it’s what’s on the inside that really counts.

We’re still talking about whiskey barrels, of course. There’s not much time to contemplate that “other” kind of aging–we’re working and playing too hard to notice (more on that another time)! For now, back to the barrels. They are the star of this show and exemplify why our Batch No. 1 and No. 2 are great examples of how whiskey’s flavor is an expression of the nature of the barrel from which it was born.

How the Barrel Burns...The Cask Connection

This is where the barley meets the road. How whiskey tastes certainly comes from the mash recipe, but it also depends on the process used to make the barrel it ages in. Like most whiskeys made in America, our barrels are made of American white oak. The seasoning, toasting and char of that wood determines the whiskey’s flavor profile.

Here’s a quick tutorial on seasoning, toasting and charring:


After the wood is harvested, it must be dried or seasoned. Kilning-drying the wood in a heated chamber is the fastest and easiest way, but truncates the natural processes that lend more personality to the aging process. When the wood ages outdoors, exposure to the elements transforms the wood and frees up tannins and other compounds that enhance flavors.

Charring and Toasting

Much like roasting marshmallows, how much a barrel is burned is the distiller’s choice, ranging from fully charred: barrels are burned to a crisp, much like the remains of a campfire, to the less common toasted: barrels are heated much more gently, resulting in a dark brown toast rather than a blackened char Where a barrel falls on the scale determines the degree of spicy or sweet, smooth or hot.

Charring Before a barrel can hold whiskey, it must be charred. How long the barrel burns, from just a few seconds to a minute or more, determines char depth.

Toasting Toasting usually is a secondary effect from charring, a layer BEHIND the char that burns the sugar in the wood. Expanding this deeper toasted layer is limited during charring process, as the structural integrity of the barrel is compromised with too long of a burning process. A more costly, less common approach, is to toast barrels more deeply BEFORE charring. Doing a pre-char toasting releases more sugars that can be extracted during the aging process.

So, overall, variations in toast time and temperature, as well as in char level, create different flavor profiles.

Wanderback's Approach

Sticking to our adventurous spirit, we wanted to choose barrels that reflect our values; even though the journey is longer, what comes out the other side is always worth it in the end.

First, we selected barrels that were air-dried, casks from Independent Stave Company– made from American white oak and aged in the open air for at least 2 years.

Then, our founder Phil wanted to use casks that were heavy toast, light char (good things come to those who wait...most bourbons are aged in barrels with a light toast, heavy char).  Phil’s hope was that this cask profile would give our whiskey a spiciness and richness that a heavy char/light toast would not. Toasted barrels generally give a sharper tasting spirit and change a whiskey’s composition, incorporating fewer vanillins, and creating a toffee-sweet type taste. Usually, a heavy char barrel is used to enhance sweetness. Phil believed that the malt recipe would deliver just the right amount of sweetness combined with a high-toast barrel, creating a unique sweet and spicy depth.

For Batch No.1, the heavy toast, light char was the only barrel used. We started Batch No. 2 with those same high toast barrels, then transferred to ex-rum and bourbon barrels (which have a high char) to experiment with what those flavors would do to the profile.

The results: two distinct flavor profiles, both with lots of stories to tell.

Find a liquor store near you to try our double-gold award winning Batch No. 1 then sign up to be the first to know when Batch No. 2 is ready to pour!



Video courtesy of @baconandbourbon and cover image courtesy of @65vines.

Spice Up Your Summer Feast Cocktail with Some Mixology History


Spice Up Your Summer Feast Cocktail with Some Mixology History

Blood and Sand Cocktail.jpg

The Blood and Sand: A Liquor-Confused Concoction That Stirs the Senses

With a bit of mystery in its history, this somewhat elusive cocktail on paper could appear a bit conflicted, perhaps confused, when you first glance its ingredients...but we’re here to share that the Blood and Sand is an unexpected delight with its spicy and sweet profile.

Originally published in Harry Craddock’s 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book, this unlikely combination of ingredients serves up a great profile for pairing with a variety of foods and meals.

Its namesake was inspired by silent movie star actor, Rudolph Valentino...aka “The Latin Lover” in the film “Blood and Sand.” The drink was originally made with scotch, but Aaron Howard Bar Manager of Portland’s , and President of the Northwest Bartenders Association, weaves in Wanderback Batch No. 1 using the vintage recipe, and the chemistry is undeniable:

Blood and Sand. circa 1922


In an ice-filled shaker, combine:

3/4 oz Wanderback Batch No. 1 single malt

3/4  cherry heering *

3/4 oz orange juice

3/4 oz sweet vermouth

And, Serve...Shake, double strain and serve up in a coupe

Wanderback founder, Phil Downer, then fell hard for this contemporary version that mysteriously resembles that enigmatic mixology:

(A Blood and Sand by any other name…)

Single Malt Old-Fashioned

2 oz Wanderback Batch No. 1 single malt

3 dashes angostura bitters

3 dashes regans orange bitters

Bar spoon of simple syrup

Serve on a big rock with an orange twist


Clearly, there is a lot of latitude to play around with ingredients and your passions.

No matter how you slice it, with this cocktail, we’re in love! Enjoy!

* Created by Peter Heering and produced in Denmark since 1818, Cherry Heering is a ruby-red liqueur made by soaking lightly crushed Danish cherries and a blend of spices in neutral grain spirits, then cask-maturing the mixture for up to five years, adding sugar during the aging process.


Throw a Perfect Pig Roast Party


Throw a Perfect Pig Roast Party


Throw a Perfect Pig Roast Party

Phil, our Founder, loves to reward friends and family who help him bottle Wanderback Whiskey with his amazing pig roast, which typically feeds 40-50 hungry minds and mouths. We interviewed him as part of our new #MeetTheMaker Instagram series and learned that there’s more than one way to roast a pig...but he’s perfected the process.

First things first: the chef needs a drink! Nothing goes better with preparing feast than a cold whiskey cocktail (we suggest using Wanderback, of course). Phil's favorite for a hot day out cooking is a Blood and Sand. We've got the recipe here and there's more to it than just the ingredients; its teeming with an elusive history and a story that goes way back. Once your cocktail is in hand, sit back, sip some Wanderback, and over to Phil for the details...

“There are lots of ways to roast a pig. After much research, and trial and error, I’ve found success numerous times with this method below. It seems to consistently produce the best results for me. Hopefully, this can help you avoid some “pig roast pitfalls.”


To pull this off, here’s what you’ll need: a whole pig, a roasting container, space to season and prepare the animal, as well as space to place the cooked animal for carving. Crucial to your success is getting the right pig and optimal preparation:


The type of cooking vessel you choose is key. I have cooked the pig a number of ways, and have settled on a container called the Caja China – which is a metal lined box you cook the pig in. If you want a reliable pig roast that cuts down on time and mess, it's a great way to go. Pre-roast preparation for other methods will be similar, but things like the butchering method may differ.

“To market, to market, to buy a fat pig…”


Where to buy yours

Places to buy a whole pig are – believe it or not – prolific. Our current culture steers us toward buying local. I tried that once. Unfortunately, in my case, it didn’t live up to the hype. This particular place was not clean, and the animals clearly were not given enough space to roam. The amount of fat that rendered from this animal was twice what it normally would be. The lesson: always buy your pig from a reputable shop. Choose a local butcher you can meet with, and sample other meats they sell. Cash and Carry, a local wholesale grocer that caters to the restaurant industry, is a great place to buy a quality, whole pig.

Size and Quantity

Depending on the shop, you will likely need to specify a small pig (30-40lbs) or large pig (50-70lbs). The size obviously depends on the number of guests you will need to feed. Buy the small pig if you’re feeding 20-30 people, and large if you’re feeding 50 or more. You will have sides as well, so the pig can be stretched to feed more if needed.


Once you’ve purchased the pig, it will need to be prepared in several ways:

Make sure to ask if the pig will be sold frozen or not. If frozen, it will require a couple of days to thaw. I bought a large hunting cooler that fits the whole pig. If it’s frozen, I place it in the cooler with no ice, and check it over the course of a couple of days. Once thawed, I place ice in the cooler to prevent bacteria growth. If it is already thawed, still be sure to ice it immediately.

The Butcher, The Baker…

PIG IN A BOX Butchering for the Roast

The day of the roast, remove the pig from your cooler.  Place the pig on a large enough clean table. Most often, the pig is sold with the internal organs removed. Occasionally, the kidneys are present, and should be removed, along with any other organs.

Readying the pig for placement in the box is much like butterflying a chicken: the pig will need to be cut to lie flat.

  1. Cut the sternum to open up the chest. This sounds crazy, but really isn’t a big deal.

  2. Next, the hips and shoulders of the animal need to be cut to allow the animal to lie flat. Having another set of hands helps. Move the upper or lower limb to see where the shoulder or hip joint is located. From inside the body cavity, use your knife to cut open the joint. Be careful not to cut yourself! Cut the joint while using the other hand to force the limb flat. You will know you’re cutting the joint because its resistance will decrease, allowing you to place the limb flat. Repeat for all four joints.

  3. Place between the mesh steel racks to sandwich the pig and keep it in an open butterfly.


Seasoning your pig is essential, and simple. I do a dry rub of salt, pepper and garlic the day before roasting. You can also include fresh herbs from your garden or CSA. Combine rub ingredients in a bowl. Generously spread the rub on both the skin and cavity side of the pig and place back in the cooler. Having the pig’s skin fairly dry first will help the seasoning adhere and absorb into the skin and meat.


Now, it’s time for the fun part! The Caja China is a steel lined wooden box, and cooks much like a giant dutch oven. The heat source comes from heated coals on the top. This method cuts time in half (just 4-4 ½ hours) and really retains the moisture. To roast, place the pig with the bone side facing the heat [lid], then finish in the last hour with skin side facing the heat.

You’ll need nine pounds of fir wood briquets for the entire process.

  1. Cover the top with a layer of glowing coals.

  2. Once the coals begin to turn to ash and break down, you’ll begin adding new coals in intervals to keep the cooking process and heat even.

  3. Refresh the briquets for the first three hours, decreasing frequency to every half an hour for the final hour. The weight you add each time will vary depending on the size of the pig. Cooking time varies.

  4. To finish the pig, eliminate the ash at the bottom and return the final, fresh burning coals to the top to get the finishing heat.


What you serve with your pig is personal preference, but here are some of my personal favorites: corn, sweet rolls, any roasted vegetable (leave skins on for best flavor and moisture!), roasted carrots, brussel sprouts, asparagus. TIP: These are best cooked in a cast iron pan placed on the embers of the box!

Wine: I love to pair a local red wine when the roast is served. Some personal favorites are from our neighboring wineries in Hood River, hiyu 2016 Arco Iris and the Blue Chip Pinot Noir from Wy’East.


I recommend serving with sauces that play with spicy and sweet. Tangy sauce, chimichurri, or tomato salsa go great with everything! Click here for my favorite chimichurri recipe from farmer turned foodie Andrea Bemis at Tumbleweed Farms, located just up the road from us in Parkdale, OR.


Of course, nothing goes better with preparing feast than a great cocktail made with Wanderback. My favorite is a Blood and Sand. With a bit of mystery in its history, this somewhat elusive cocktail is an unexpected delight with its spicy and sweet profile. Click here and sign up for my cocktail recipe.

Don’t have your own Wanderback yet? Find a Wanderback store near you.



The Spirit of the Bottle: Capturing the Essence of Batch No. 2

The Spirit of the Bottle: Capturing the Essence of Batch No. 2


The Spirit of the Bottle:

Capturing the Essence of Batch No. 2

Wanderback whiskey recipes start with two things: inspiration and ingredients. How they come together on the tail end is really an adventure in itself– especially at The Farm.

Each time we bottle, it’s the unique mix of family and friends, fun, good food and hard work that make every bottle and box we put on the pallette...a shared experience. There’s a dance that develops as the day and the process evolve: Someone’s a leader. Someone follows. A new idea spurs a new system. Emotions range from laser-focused to spontaneous laughter.

The rewards are plenty, especially as we share our first sips of Batch No. 2 around the table. We’re having a great time chatting about how good it tastes and why. As with all good whiskies, it comes down to the time and energy put into making it just right. And Batch No. 2 is proof of that.

---> Be the first to find out when Batch No. 2 hits the shelves <---

Batch No. 2 Flavor Beta

Starting with the same mash recipe as Batch No. 1, this time around founder Phil Downer decided to finish the whiskey in a combination of ex-rum casks, from a beautiful, old Nicaraguan distillery, and ex-bourbon casks from Heaven Hill Distillery in Kentucky. During the 6-month finishing process, these used barrels added new tastes, an incredible amount of depth, and rounded out the “edges” of the whiskey.

Suffice it to say...wow. Batch No. 2 has delivered a new flavor profile that’s one fun adventure for the palate–a sip-satisfying blend of malty sweetness with a hint of floral and spice thrown in. It’s full and well-rounded in the mouth with a long and satisfying finish.

So when can you grab a bottle, we hear you ask? Remember the saying: All good things come to those who wait? Well, we had to wait to make the labels until we finalized the blend of the two barrel types and really understood the final taste profile. That’s just how we roll–we're perfectionists.

We’re estimating Batch No. 2 will be released into stores in September. Sign up to be the first to know the exact release dates (there are only 2,143 bottles up for grabs) AND for a chance to get your hands on some Wanderback swag to celebrate!

Beyond the Barrel : Batch No. 1’s Magical Mash

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Beyond the Barrel : Batch No. 1’s Magical Mash


Batch No.1's Magical Mash

Creativity and collaboration. Inspiration and expertise. And malted barley. Lots of malted barley.

Turns out, that was a winning combination for our first release, Batch No. 1.

Small batch whiskey is a term that gets thrown around a lot. Add in malt to the moniker, and that's fodder for quite the conversation. (More on that later.)

Beneath these words lies the complexity of what made that whiskey, and how. As lovers of the process, conversation and good whiskey, our goal is threefold:

  • Make great whiskey

  • Share the experience with good people

  • AND demystify how it's done

Join us on the journey!

As our founder, Phil Downer, loves to quote from David Byrne of Talking Heads:

"You might ask yourself. Well, how did I(we) get here?"


Phil Downer, Founder / Collaborator / Maker

Our small batch malt whiskey (It’s made in the U.S. thus, the "e"  vs. "whisky") was inspired by Phil's heritage, when Irish and Canadian Whiskeys were passed among family and friends to warm up cold Newfoundland nights.

Now, decades later, Phil is near completion of his Brewing and Distilling Diploma at the famed Heriot-Watt University in Scotland and exploring a unique twist on the long-standing small batch tradition: Forming distillery partnerships and collaborating through with them on production.

The Wanderback Approach

  • Partner with best-in-class distillers

  • Select barley malts and yeasts through focused trial and error

  • Create a mash recipe

  • Make mash and distill at partner distillery

  • Bring the barrels home to Hood River to age, finish, blend and bottle

Batch No. 1 is Born

With a bit of ingenuity, educated insight and good luck, Phil teamed up with Westland Distillery to bring his first batch of whiskey to fruition.


Here’s what he chose for the Batch #1 grain bill, and why. (More on beer vs whiskey mash process later.)

Batch No. 1’s Magical Mash

88% Pale malt Washington State Select® 2-Row Malt

This is a Washington-grown malt workhorse that provides a great base flavor

8% Crystal 60L

Creates a Red/amber hue, a pronounced malty, toffee, caramel flavor and a clean, smooth finish

2% Pale chocolate from Thomas Fawcett & Sons

Adds a dark brown color and a mild chocolate/coffee flavor

2% Munich from Great Western - Gives it a robust, rich, malt flavor

We were honored to learn that Phil’s very first whiskey earned Double Gold recognition from the American Distillers Institute (ADI). Here’s what ADI had to say about how it tastes:

"Batch No. 1 (which has notes of toffee, hazelnut, all spice, sandalwood and star fruit) has a "very nice balance" with a "long finish".

We felt that was a little bit stiff. Here’s our take on the taste:

Rich with a touch of malty sweetness, Batch No. 1 has a long finish that’s like the glowing coals of a warm campfire.  ROAD TRIP!


And so, now our story begins. We’d love to share the journey with you from here. Join us as we meet new distillery friends, make more whiskey and play everywhere in between.

Wander with us. Sign up to stay connected and be a part of our adventures.

No spam. Just good stories. We promise we won’t share your information or clutter your inbox with anything but fun.  

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Batch No. 1 Wins Double Gold from the American Distillers Institute


Batch No. 1 Wins Double Gold from the American Distillers Institute


Batch No. 1 Wins Double Gold

Thank You American Distillers Institute

The American Distillers Institute has awarded the coveted double gold to Batch No. 1, Wanderback Whiskey Co.'s first release.

Batch No. 1 is an exceptional American Single Malt made from a mix of four flavorful pacific northwest barley malts, distilled using copper pot stills, and aged in new American oak barrels. Judges from the American Distillers Institute noted in particular that Batch No. 1 (which has notes of toffee, hazelnut, all spice, sandalwood and star fruit) has a "very nice balance" with a "long finish".

Unlike many new whiskey makers, Founder Phil Downer celebrates the fact that there are no imminent plans in place to build his own distilling facility. Instead, he partners with some of the most well-respected names in the industry to create a product that is—in true Pacific Northwest stye—centered on collaboration. 

Wanderback’s production method explores a unique twist on the long-standing tradition in the whiskey business of independent bottling. Instead of searching for whiskey casks post-production, Phil runs a kinetic trial-and-error process to create his desired grain bill and mash recipe. The whiskey is then mashed, fermented, and distilled at the partner distillery before being transferred to family farm in Hood River, Oregon where it is barrel-aged, finished, blended, and bottled.

For Batch No. 1, Phil partnered with award winning Master Distiller Matt Hofmann and the team from Westland Distillery in Seattle, WA. “It was a true pleasure to work side by side with Phil,” reflects Hofmann. “I enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with Wanderback, and I’m proud of the unique single-malt that we produced together.”

The horizon is broad for Wanderback as discussions with several other distilleries open new opportunities for collaboration. “The double gold award from ADI validates our unprecedented production model.” says Phil, who is completing his Brewing and Distilling Diploma at the famed Heriot Watt University in Scotland. “We’re excited to carry this momentum and engage with more quality distilleries across the country to add new, bold flavors to the malt whiskey landscape.” 


Wanderback Whiskey Co. is an award-winning craft whiskey distillery with an unprecedented production method that begins with the creative expertise of Founder Phil Downer and engages the mastery of head distillers from around the country to create one-off whiskeys that explore new angles on high-end American malt whiskey. See the latest on Facebook and Instagram

Westland Distillery (founded in 2010 in Seattle, WA)  is leading the emergence of the American Single Malt Whiskey category. Distilled, matured and bottled in the heart of the Pacific Northwest, their whiskies bring a new and distinctly American voice to the world of single malt. 





As 2017 draws to a close, we are preparing for the release of our second American Single Malt Whiskey in 2018.

Having prepared the ex-bourbon and ex-rum casks with water (the wood rehydrates and any leaks are sealed up), Wanderback Founder Phil Downer will now fill them to enrich flavor. 

Phil is aiming for his second release to have more depth of taste than the first, especially with the weather changes expected in the coming months.


Batch No. 1 is released from the barn!

Batch No. 1 is released from the barn!


After nearly three years in the barrel, Batch No. 1, our first American Single Malt Whiskey is off to the OLCC's Portland warehouse. It's been a long road to get to this point and we're excited to get the product into the hands of Oregon whiskey lovers. To find a bottle in the Oregon state liquor nearest you, use the  store finder and enter WANDERBACK.

We believe in working hard and playing hard and our first bottling party was no exception. A glorious sunny day at the Farm in Hood River provided the perfect backdrop for the final stages of getting Wanderback ready for market.

It's alway a collaborative effort with friends and family. Whilst the adults bottled, capped, and boxed the whiskey inside the Red Barn, the kids made up the 6-pack shipping boxes.


The Roots of Wanderback Whiskey Co.


The Roots of Wanderback Whiskey Co.

boulder post.jpg

So how does a Canadian living and working in Seattle decide that he's going to make American Single Malt Whiskey in Hood River, OR? It all started on a family trip to Boulder, CO.

My home was eastern Canada, and there, Canadian Whisky was king.  My father also gave me an appreciation for Scotch.  I can remember visiting my family in Newfoundland sharing a whisky and a good chat.

My Family in Newfoundland Started My Appreciation For Scotch

My Family in Newfoundland Started My Appreciation For Scotch

In America, bourbon was the rage.  I liked bourbon, but didn’t have the same connection that friends here did.  I’d get some ribbing on boys moto trips when I would pull out my flask of Scotch, while everyone else had their favorite bourbon.

moto campfire.jpg

Starting my own company and making a product I was passionate about had been in the back of my mind for some time.  Outside of my work as a surgeon, I’ve had a number of passions, including cooking, making beer, and roasting coffee. As I learned more about each one, I always considered whether this would be one to create a company around.

We went to Boulder, CO to visit our friends who had moved from Seattle, expecting a good time catching up with friends and their kiddies.  On the first night, after a great dinner with our friends, and their neighbors, I was introduced to a whiskey that would change my opinion of American Whiskey entirely. It was Stranahan's, and it was one of the best whiskeys I had ever tasted.

It had some familiar tastes.  The malt was something familiar, but with a different sweetness and richness I had never come across. It was American Malt Whiskey made with malted barley, and it was so good.

The next day, we visited a friend's new brewery, Upslope Brewing Company, in Boulder. It was so cool to see the small operation of a craft brewery. Their beer was really good and our friends were so jazzed to be putting their dreams into reality.


When we got back to our farm in Hood River, walking around the farm, it struck me how this place could be the perfect setting for such a venture.  We had the land to grow barley and an old barn, needing lots of work, to house the distillery.  


The farm was our oasis.  We came here with family and friends to get out, stretch our legs, and really enjoy the North West.  It was where we sat after big days of adventure to share our stories and plan the next.  There were no boundaries here, only the ones we created.

The gears started moving…