Ted Pappas is President of the Oregon Distillers Guild and the Founder and Owner of Big Bottom Distilling (21420 NW Nicholas Ct. Suite D-9, Hillsboro). In both capacities Ted emphasizes a philosophy of keeping it local – using Oregon-made products to showcase the rich natural resources that our state has to offer, as well as utilizing the local workforce.
When Big Bottom Distilling began their operation in 2010 as the premier independent whiskey bottler in Oregon, craft spirits were just beginning to take a foothold as the hottest new item among Oregon’s “liquid assets” (a term coined by Travel Portland). But Ted Pappas points out that the proud tradition of celebrating Oregon’s bounty through small, independently produced beverages began long before with “our brothers and sisters in the wine- making and craft microbrew production worlds”. As he loves to bluntly state it: “If your home bar isn’t all Oregon, you’re doing it wrong!” That’s not intended with any disrespect to those who do otherwise, but to highlight how rich and diverse Oregon’s locally produced alcohol scene really is.
Growing up in North Carolina, Ted learned about the food and beverage industry from his father who owned a restaurant, as well as several aunts and uncles in the restaurant or liquor businesses. Ted graduated in 1991 from The Citadel military college, an experience that greatly influenced his outlook and business practices. After pursuing a career in managed healthcare, Ted returned to his first passion – distilling. Big Bottom is a tightly run ship, with Ted’s wife Taylor serving as the Marketing and Promotions Director. Their happy crew is joined by Lead Distiller and Production Manager Travis Schoney along with Kyle in Production and Monte, Aaron and Cami rounding out sales and promotions. It is a team effort and the process is imbued with enthusiasm, expertise and camaraderie. As Ted puts it: “We only create what we personally love.”
What are some of your favorite products made at Big Bottom Distilling?
Big Bottom started out as an independent bottler of bourbon, but since then we have come to create our own blended whiskey (Barlow Trail) and distill our own gin, rum and brandy as well as soon to be released malt whiskey. I am especially proud of our Warehouse Series whiskeys that can only be purchased on a trip to Big Bottom Distilling. Some of those include finished products – whiskey transferred into a different barrel from the original barrel. In our case, this includes wine barrels such as Port, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. We do extended finishing on our finished products – we want the colors, tannins and flavors to come through. I am going to make sure that I pay respect to that winemaker. We want to put the time and research into the finishing barrel to make sure it will be a quality product. That’s the kind of stuff that we really get into.
What is behind the name Big Bottom and why 91 Proof?
Big Bottom is the name of a swath of old growth wilderness adjacent to Mount Hood – A friend of mine was involved with protesting this land and I really liked the name. So we make 91 proof spirits because that’s what we like, but it also has a special meaning. That is a shout out to my classmates from The Citadel, because I graduated in 1991. Those guys are my brothers. We feel very strongly that it is a part of who we are. If I need anything from my classmates, all I have to do is pick up the phone. That’s how we roll, we will know each other forever. 91 proof also gives a little more oomph than a lot of other distillery products. That is our baseline proof that we judge everything on, and we go up or down from there as we see fit. We like high-proof alcohol! We have a gin that is 114 proof, and a whiskey that is 120 proof.
We also make a product every while called Wild Bill. It is named after a favorite business professor of mine from The Citadel who made a tremendous impact on me. Sometimes I call him out of the blue and ask him for advice, run some stuff by him. He always says: “yeah, bring it on!” I’m going back for my 25th reunion in November and will see him along with all my brothers.
What are some of your duties as President of the Oregon Distillers Guild?
Helping to promote the interests of distillers through outreach, networking and working for legislation for the industry. We have done six annual TOAST events and they are usually in the first part of each year. Keep an eye on oregondistillerytrail.com for details on TOAST 2017. At TOAST attendees have an opportu- nity to actually talk to the makers and learn about the products. People start to understand what it takes to run an independent distillery. These producers really feel for the products they are creating. We have so many fantastic distilleries in Oregon!
We’ve done a lot with Oregon Liquor Control Commission and the State government advocating for independent distilleries. One particular accomplishment was increasing privileges with Special Event Licenses (SED) so we can sell our products at events like TOAST or a Farmers Market. We also negotiated for the privilege to offer sample cocktails at events or at our distillery tasting rooms and to be able to sell cocktails along with an SED. That allows the consumer to connect with the product on a personal basis. In Oregon people care about that personal connection. If they taste or buy their first bottle at a distillery or event, they will be more likely to purchase the local spirit at a retail outlet, and we are all about that.
Do you have a favorite cocktail recipe made with a Big Bottom Distilling product that you would be willing to share?
A lot of people get really intimidated by home mixology, so our mantra is “keep it simple”. When you are hosting a party, make a big batch of the cocktail and put it out in a pitcher. Don’t over- think it or you will spend the whole night behind the bar!
• 1.25 ounce Big Bottom Gin (We like ours Navy Strength) • Juice from 1⁄2 a small lime
• 3⁄4 cup Cheerwine or other black cherry soda (Cheerwine is a cherry soda from NC – it can be found in Oregon but not an easy task. Thomas Kemper Black Cherry Soda works just as well)
• 3 tablespoons club Soda
Fill a tall (14-ounce) cocktail glass two-thirds full with ice. Add gin and lime juice. Pour Cheerwine or cherry soda into the glass, top with club soda and stir.