Bull Run Distilling Company
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Country of Origin: USA
Location: Portland, Oregon
People: Lee Medoff, Owner & Distiller
OregonBusiness: Portland Craft Distillers Grow Up, Evolve
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Lee Medoff is the mastermind behind Bull Run Distilling Company. He’s also one of the pioneers of craft distilling in the U.S. and Oregon.
In the early 1990s, Lee started his journey into distilling like many, by brewing beer. The Oregon craft brewing movement was just beginning, so it was a very exciting time for Lee. Winemaking was his next step; Lee moved to France to hone in on his skills. Part of his job at the winery was to not only make wine but also to distill marc, which is basically the French version of grappa. Lee continued on the distilling path when he came back to the states and became the distiller for McMenamins new distillery; this was in 1997.
In 2004, Lee could see that craft distillation was emerging just like craft brewing had done. While still a new industry (there were only about 50 distilleries in operation in 2005), Lee and a partner opened House Spirits. During this time, Lee became the Oregon Distiller’s Guild’s first president at its inception in 2007. It is special to note that the ODG is the nation’s very first distiller’s guild!
Lee ended up selling his share of House Spirits to his partner. In 2010, Lee Medoff, and then business partner, Patrick Bernards, founded Bull Run Distilling Company thanks to the backing from long-time friends John Rudi (Bull Run’s President), Mike Maher and Andy Heily. What began as a “what if” conversation between gentlemen over cocktails one evening evolved into a full-on crusade (as things sometimes do when spirits are involved). Fast forward to today, Bull Run is helping put Oregon craft spirits on the map with a line of spirits that stand as well neat as they do in your favorite cocktail.
The name Bull Run dates back to the days of the first settlers on the Oregon Trail. As the story goes, back in the 1850’s, cattle belonging to pioneers crossing the Cascade Range broke loose in the area now known as Bull Run. The untamed livestock escaped into the dense forests to live, and local inhabitants would catch a glimpse of them every now and again, running along the grassy shorelines of the river and lake to graze and drink. Locals thus began referring to the watering holes as Bull Run River and Bull Run Lake. This immaculately clean water is what makes Bull Run’s spirits so special—arguably the purest water source in the country—it imparts a soft, rich mouthfeel that’s impossible to duplicate outside of Oregon.