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Vodka maker comes home

After years away, Indio Spirits moves to Tigard with new distillery and tasting room.


by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Indio Spirits President Bob Turner, left, and founder  John Ufford enjoy a taste of their Snake River Stampede whiskey in the new tasting room in Tigard. The company moved its distillery from Cottage Grove to Tigard earlier this month.The large warehouse on Southwest Durham Road is packed with boxes, each with a dozen bottles of vodka, gin or whiskey.

It’s quiet in the warehouse for now, said John Ufford. The place will soon be buzzing with activity, as production fills a thousand bottles with booze every hour.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - The company has several spirits, including vodkas, gin and whiskey with rum, bourbon and rye coming soon.Indio Spirits, which Ufford opened in 2004, settled in Tigard earlier this month, opening its first tasting room and re-establishing its distillery and bottling line after years of using a small bottling company near Eugene.

It’s a major milestone for the company, which sells its gin, whiskey and many flavored vodkas in 30 states across the country.

For years, the company has relied on a bottling company in Cottage Grove to bottle its spirits. But Ufford, a former Tualatin resident now living in Beaverton, said he knew he wanted to get back to bottling the line himself — like the company used to do when it first started.

“We talked about it for a long time,” Ufford said. “We knew we wanted to do it ourselves again, and this is my area.”

Located less than a mile from Bridgeport Village, the tasting room at Indio — short for Independent Distillery of Oregon — has proven a popular stop for locals looking to unwind after shopping or work.

Check it out

What: Indio Spirits distillery and tasting room

Where:7272 S.W. Durham Road, in Tigard

Hours: Tasting room open Thursday to Saturday, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“We have had quite a few people come in and say they just dropped their wife off at the mall and want to kill time,” Ufford said. “They can meet up here and watch the game.”

The tasting room is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, from 2 to 7 p.m., but they don’t turn anyone away who is looking to taste their wares throughout the week, Ufford said.

“We’ll pour them something and let them taste,” he added.

A tasting room is unique among area distilleries, said Bob Turner, company president.

“Unless it’s a winery, I doubt you’ll find anything like this in any other distillery,” he said.

Plus, it offers interested patrons the chance to try something new, like their wasabi-flavored vodka.

“It’s great for bloody Marys,” Ufford said.

‘Ten times the size’

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - The tasting room was packed with customers Thursday night. The distillery and tasting room are located not far from Bridgeport Village.by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - National Sales Director Mark White unloads boxes of Indio Vodka in the new base of operations in Tigard. Because of the companys small staff, everybody at Indio Spirits wears many different hats, White said.The distillery is a passion of Ufford’s that began when he was a 22-year-old waiter at a local McMenamins restaurant.

Rising through the ranks, Ufford soon found himself ordering stock for the company’s bars.

“I was ordering a lot of vodka every week,” he said. “It’s the No. 1 selling spirit, and I said, ‘Well, let’s make some of our own.’”

The idea didn’t fly with his bosses, but the idea kicked around in Ufford’s mind. “If they had said, ‘Yes,’ I’d probably still be there.”

Starting Indio as a vodka company, the brand was soon selling in states across the country and winning awards in vodka competitions against major labels from around the world.

The company has exploded in size from when it first started in a small Portland warehouse, Ufford said.

“It’s 10 times the size we were (when we first started),” Ufford said.

Ufford, who serves as the company’s CEO and master distiller, said when the bottling line arrives within the next few weeks, Indio will be producing 1,400 bottles an hour.

“That’s a lot of headaches,” Turner said, laughing. “It’s like a gynecologist, we work where most people play.”

At the distillery’s grand opening celebration Jan. 17, about 400 people turned up to socialize, drink and tour the new facility.

The new distillery will allow the company to grow, Ufford said, adding three new spirits in the coming months as well as more size options for customers.

“Everyone asks for half-gallons of vodka,” Turner said.

Indio will soon release rye, spiced rum and an aged rum. It also has plans for a bourbon, Ufford said.

Turner said that while vodka makes up 40 percent of the nation’s spirit sales, it is what he calls “the brown goods,” which are gaining popularity.

“These big distilleries, they make things like smores vodkas, cotton candy vodkas, bacon vodkas. The are throwing this stuff up against the wall and go with what sticks, but people are getting tired of that. The tried and true things — like rum and rye — that will be a real hit,” he said.

That trend is evident in Ufford’s own beverage selections.

When asked which is his favorite of Indio’s Spirits, Ufford is quick with an answer.

“I actually drink the whiskey probably the most,” he said. “But I also like the bloodorange and lemon grass (vodkas) a lot, too.

“Oh, and the rum, actually. Well, and the gin.”

Indio Spirits’ tasting room and distillery are located at 7272 S.W. Durham Road, in Tigard.



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