Freeland Spirits’ Master Distiller On the “Two Sides” of Crafting Spirits

Photo courtesy of Freeland Spirits
Freeland Spirits master distiller Molly Troupe (right) raises a glass with founder and CEO Jill Kuehler (left).

Molly Troupe is one of the youngest master distillers in the country — but says her age has mostly been to her advantage.

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Molly Troupe, hailed as one of the youngest master distillers in the industry, is creating masterpiece spirits in her role as master distiller at Freeland Spirits. She joined the craft distillery in Portland six years ago, where she specializes in creating top-notch whiskeys and gins.

Freeland Spirits launched in 2017 with Freeland Gin, a small-batch, artisanal gin made using both a copper pot still and a vacuum distillation machine. The Northwest Portland distillery also produces Freeland Bourbon and Freeland’s Geneva, a genever-inspired gin that showcases Oregon rye and includes notes of local botanicals, including Oregon hazelnuts. Grain for the spirits is supplied by Carman Ranch in Eastern Oregon; the distillery’s spirits are available in Oregon, Washington and California.

Oregon Business spoke with Troupe via email to learn more about her background and approach.

Tell me the story about how you got into distilling. 

I was attending college with the goal of using my degree in chemistry (with an emphasis in forensics) to become a forensic anthropologist. My junior year, I realized that while I loved chemistry, I did not necessarily love how it was applied to forensics. I started looking at different ways in which to apply my degree, and I thankfully stumbled into spirits. I looked into how to gain entry into the industry, and I decided on a master’s program in brewing and distilling at Heriot Watt University. This gave me the opportunity to meet some amazing people and spend a year in Scotland, which is where I learned about all sorts of spirits, as well as beer.

What led you to work with Freeland Spirits? 

Jill [Kuehler], our founder and CEO, and I were connected through mutual friends. Jill was at the early stages of starting a distillery and has always wanted to highlight women in leadership positions. She was on the search for a woman distiller, and her friend happened to know of my work at a different distillery in Oregon. She connected us and as soon as Freeland was ready for me, I joined forces with Jill.

You’ve been named one of the youngest female master distillers. While that’s impressive and amazing, could you speak to any challenges that you’ve had to overcome because of your age or experience in the field? 

Currently I’m 33 years old, entering my 10th year in the industry. Getting started in any industry has its challenges. There were times when I would be giving tours, and attendees didn’t believe I was old enough to be the tour guide. More often than not, however, my youth has been an advantage, offering a different viewpoint — and that has been welcomed.

Do you have a specific process or routine that helps get you in the “zone” when you are working on crafting spirits? 

I find that I have two different sides to my personality: analytical and creative. I like to research, collect data, and let that guide my creative process. The more time I spend exploring flavor composition, botanicals, distillation parameters and more, the better recipe I can create.

Where do you think the distilling industry is heading in the future and how are you poised to be in the midst of any changes that may come? 

Our industry is heading toward more diversity and inclusion. One of the wonderful ways that representation works is that it brings acknowledgement that there are people like you doing the thing that you want to be doing. When I was looking for inspiration in the industry, I had Rachel Barrie. Now, there are even more women who are showing the world that spirits are accessible. Diversity brings more diversity. I hope to be here, participate in the change, and watch how our industry benefits.

What do you most look forward to as you look at the future of your distilling career?

I look forward to continued growth, good spirits, and the people I will meet along the way.