Northwest Eau de Vie

By Jamie Peha | Photo © Clear Creek Distillery

Relaxing after a satisfying meal with an Eau de Vie (aka “water of life”) offers a sensory alternative to a rich dessert, and it speeds up digestion. Fruit-based eau de vie, originally thought to be an elixir for longevity, captures and preserves fresh summer and autumn harvests.

Considered a fruit brandy, this clear spirit is made from fruit other than grapes, such as apples, pears, plums, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, apricots, strawberries and others—all bountiful in Northwest orchards. Grape-distilled beverages along with botanical spirits and grain alcohols are considered to be separate from a true fruit-based Eau de Vie.

How Water of Life is Made

Perfectly ripe fruit that has been crushed and pressed is fermented, distilled, and quickly bottled to capture the freshness and aroma of the fruit. Alembic-style copper stills (a style dating back to 800 A.D.) are used for the best results.

Up to 25 pounds of fruit are used to make a 375ml bottle. The fruit flavor can range from light to intense, and while smooth to sip, it has a heated-kick from the high alcohol content. The Northwest has abundant fruit crops and Eau de Vie production is on the rise. Here are few to put on your must-try list.

Clear Creek Distillery, Portland OR

Touted as the best fruit brandies ever produced in the U.S. and certainly the most well known in the Pacific Northwest, Clear Creek Distillery blends European traditional methods with fresh ripe Northwest fruit. Owner Steve McCarthy started the company in 1985 using fruit from the family pear orchard. Flavors include pear, apple, Kirschwasser (cherry brandy), blue plum, Mirabelle plum and Douglas fir.

Stone Barn Brandy Works, Portland OR

Started in 2009, Stone Barn Brandyworks is part of Distillery Row in Southeast Portland. They have zeroed in on small lot regional fruit brandies along with brandy-based liqueurs and whiskey. Try their award-winning pear brandy (made with Comice and Bartlett pears) or aged-gala apple brandy.

Okanagan Spirits, Vernon B.C.

The freshest ingredients, pure water, expertise and the traditional copper-pot still have brought international acclaim to Okanagan Spirits. Ripe fruit is harvested and then fermented for up to twelve weeks prior to double-distillation. Fruit brandy flavors include standards plus prune, sour cherry, chokecherry and apricot.

Sidetrack Distillery, Kent WA

An estate distillery located south of Seattle on the Green River harvests crops from Lazy River Farms, which benefits from the coastal climate and rich soil. Portuguese copper stills and Italian stainless steel aging tanks paired with estate grown blueberries and plums are picked for signature Eau de Vie flavors. Also check out their fruit-based liqueurs including blackberry, nocino (green walnut) and cassis.

It’s 5 Artisan Distillery, Cashmere, Washington

With a historic link to bootlegging times this acclaimed distillery in North Central Washington only uses fruits and grains from Washington State to handcraft their spirits. Offerings include traditional and specialty spirits and a list of fruit brandies from Apricot to Pluot.