John Ufford: Distiller

Chairman, CEO and Distiller at Indio Spirits

Chairman, CEO, and distiller at Indio Spirits, John Ufford started the spirits company in 2004, launching Indio’s Silver Edition Vodka, marionberry vodka, and lemongrass- lime vodka later the next year. According to Ufford, Indio Spirits’ focus is not only on producing high quality spirits (its vodka is distilled five times), but also on creating unique flavors not readily available elsewhere. “Nobody makes a lemongrass-lime vodka and there is no other marionberry, they all have a twist” Ufford points out. Indio Spirits was also one of the first distilleries in the world to produce a wasabi vodka. “It was just little twist on a pepper vodka, using wasabi instead of pepper, just like we did a twist on a raspberry with our marionberry,” Ufford explains of his flavor inspiration.

Aside from vodka, Indio’s other spirits also demonstrate Ufford’s knack for adding a little something special. Indio’s Cricket Club Gin is capped with a hint of lemongrass while its Red Island Rum is made with rare finger limes imported from Australia. The Snake River Stampede Whiskey, Ufford’s spirit  of  choice,  is  not  only  aged  for  eight  years  but  is also enhanced with sherry. Ever experimenting with new flavors and spirits, Ufford is currently working on a spiced rum, with a 7-year-old rum in the works as well. And while Ufford is proud to say that he is fairly certain that he has nailed his spiced rum recipe on only his second trial, developing new flavors and spirits is not always so easy. “The marionberry was the hardest to make,” Ufford remembers. “I couldn’t get it to taste like marionberry, but then I started using fresh fruit to make an extract and that seemed to work best. That one probably took me a month.” Ufford has also experimented with some flavors that have not made it past the testing room floor, including a kaffir lime vodka and lime-pineapple vodka.

A testament to the distillery’s commitment to quality, Indio Sprits has continued to grow rapidly since its initial launch, moving from producing 1,000 cases in 2005 to over 9,000 cases in 2013. The distillery also recently moved into a new facility, a 12,000-square-foot property in Southwest Port- land that boasts a high-speed bottling line and a tasting room where patrons can sample Indio’s spirits alone or in a flight of mini cocktails.

Indio’s products are now available in 28 states and can be found at most local liquor stores.

About The Author: Katie Mitchell