Thinking Tree Spirits: a name inspired by the multiple tenors of the team behind the Eugene, Oregon, distillery. Combining co-owner and musician Emily Jensen’s love for singing under tall trees at the Oregon Country Fair, the company’s passion for environmental sustainability and the drive often sparked by good cocktails, Thinking Tree strives to bottle up the essence of their community in the form of a bountiful spirit.
The distillery opened the doors to its tasting room and production facility in April 2017 in the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene. Sitting along the railroad tracks, within blocks of Heritage Distilling and Wolf Spirits, this small group adds to Eugene’s craft spirits community and collective of creatives.
Jensen and her husband, Bryan, paired up with distiller Kaylon McAlister to make the dream come to life, founding the company in 2014. Thinking Tree follows a “farm-to-flask” methodology, sourcing locally for the ingredients they distill. The team works with companies like Mountain Rose Herbs, Camas Country Mill and GloryBee for base ingredients and botanicals.
The distillery hugs the side of their tasting room and is home to many big shiny objects that get the process done, and is welcome to tours. Sitting inside is a still made from a salvaged dairy tank and is used for crafting the brown liquor spirits. Next to it is an old kombucha tank modified into a column still used for vodka and gin.
But the shiny objects did not come without complication. When the city of Eugene said Thinking Tree would need a 15,000 dollar chiller, the trio found a way around it. They managed to create a system to recycle all of the waste heat straight back into the process; using less water and gas than the average Eugene household. This allowed for a greener, more efficient and economic way of running the distillery.
Jensen says when she had the opportunity to start a company, she thought why not begin in a way that benefits both the community and the environment. “Quality is central and the intention is absolutely first,” she adds. “People feel that and people support it. And they want to taste it and be part of it. And leading with that concept to me, was… I just can’t imagine trying to do it any other way.”
Thinking Tree aims to become a central part of the Eugene community, and has made efforts to partner with local businesses to boost each other’s clientele and benefit the local economy. “I really, really strongly believe that what’s good for the community is good for all of our businesses,” Jensen says. The distillery holds fundraisers and events for companies that align with their passions, such as Cascadia Wildlands, the Eugene International Film Festival and local refugee organizations. But the team isn’t shy to any new and creative ideas, welcoming events like a screenings with the Lane United Football League, painting classes with local artists, a fundraiser with Clayspace, an improv puppet show and weekly live music.
And the cocktail list is just as fresh and innovative as the business. The menu changes every two months to match the seasonal produce and growings. In the winter Thinking Tree has featured a Spanish Coffee, with locally roasted Pacori Coffee, rum, cinnamon, nutmeg and a glazed brandy. While the springtime menu might tote a brighter strawberry basil vodka smash. Some of their staples include a French 75 and a White Lady.
The bottles, each wrapped in a mystical-appearing dark purple and green label, can be found locally in Eugene, at liquor stores, in restaurants’ cocktails and, of course, at the distillery. Jensen says they hope to soon expand nationwide and share the taste of the lush green Northwest in their craft spirits.