The Thinking Tree: A New Perspective on Distilling | Arts & Culture
Fermenters, distillers and chemists bring an ancient practice to our modern times. Tanks equipped to hold life and enzymes. Part of the magic of Thinking Tree is the mechanical art of boiling and cooling liquids and grains to create spirit. Thinking Tree Spirits brings these beverages to life locally in a venue that values the art of distilling in a locally-sourced, community-conscious way.
With a remarkable name and iconic logo, this distillery has earned a reputation in the Whiteaker area of Eugene. Thinking Tree has been open for five years now and serves a variety of cocktails and spirits. “The fun part is controlling the distillation,” said Kaylon McAlister, Thinking Tree’s master distiller. “Me and another helper hold the fort here.”
Distillation in its basic form involves boiling liquids and then separating those liquids at different boiling points. Because alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water, this means that alcohol is separated from water using evaporation and condensation methods. Distillers evaporate the alcohol, collect the vapors and throw it into a condenser with cooler temperatures, making the vapors liquid again. Thus transforming what has been fermented into a stronger drink by distilling it.
When McAlister and his team first opened, they started with vodka and gin. He said these spirits are faster to make and are done in weeks or months. However, he had already started making a rum, having aged the liquid in charred oak barrels to get the flavor that darker hue you see in alcohol. So the company grew to serve what it has now: craft vodkas, gins and rums.
Thinking Tree serves these spirits with a cocktail menu that you can enjoy in-store or make at home. Drinks like the Bushwick Spice Trade, a refreshing gin drink; Rum Old Fashioned, a classic with a few extra ingredients; and Run for the Roses, a vodka drink made with homemade rose petals.
Visitors are greeted with a detailed art sculpture of a large tree and a metal owl as soon as they enter. Glass windows display barrels and tanks where they craft and store their spirits. The whole distillery creates an artistic and cozy atmosphere.
The Thinking Tree not only makes spirits, but has used some of its recycled cups to make alcohol as a sanitizer. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they made small batches for schools, police departments, and firefighting districts.
“It was received so warmly that we realized there was a need for it,” McAlister said. He and his CEO came up with the idea of trying to provide something for the state during the pandemic.
McAlister and three other distillers were able to work with the Oregon Pharmacy Board, making 100,000 gallons of sanitizers in five weeks.
Come see what the Tree of Thought is and taste what an alchemist has to offer. You would be amazed by the craftsmanship and have a great time tasting their art.