DL Franklin Small-Batch VODKA
Small-craft distillers are a growing segment in the American distilling scene. Unfortunately, just because someone can afford to buy a still and a distillery license doesn’t mean that the product that they are distilling is of good quality.
Some distillers are jumping on the craft-distilling bandwagon hoping to make a quick buck and are passing off inferior products as handcrafted, artisan spirits. This is especially true in the category of vodka, as so many small-batch vodkas are inconsistent, poorly distilled, and of far lesser quality than popular national brands. While this can be both frustrating and confusing for many consumers, there are still some high-quality, small-batch vodkas available. One of the best additions to the craft-distilling scene is D.L. Franklin Vodka, produced in the small Oregon town of Forest Grove.
D.L. Franklin Vodka is an American-style vodka, meaning that the vodka is distilled and filtered to remove more of the base product characteristics than a European-style vodka, which attempts to leave a slight hint of the spirit base behind. Made from 100%, in this case corn, D.L. Franklin Vodka has a smooth, slightly creamy mouthfeel that gently coats the palate. Hints of white pepper, grapefruit, lemon peel, and vanilla provide a subtle but delicious flavor profile. There is a slight bite on the finish of D.L. Franklin, a reminder that in spite of its subtlety this is a serious vodka. The bite is both pleasant and memorable, almost a fingerprint of D.L Franklin that is detectable even in mixed drinks.
Overall, D.L. Franklin is a versatile vodka, one that makes both a decadent vodka martini with its rich mouthfeel as well as a versatile mixer, with its citrus and pepper notes providing a solid foundation of flavors to contrast or complement. In particular, D.L. Franklin mixes well with citrus-based cocktails.
At Portland Oregon’s Lincoln restaurant, the Honeysuckle Cocktail takes full advantage of D.L. Franklin’s versatility by combining the vodka with triple sec (an orange flavored liqueur), grapefruit juice, and honey syrup (1 part honey cut with 1 part hot water) to create one of the best-selling cocktails on the cocktail menu. At $15.95, D.L. Franklin Vodka is an outstanding value and one of the best artisan, small-batch vodkas on the market today. Try D.L. Franklin in a Honeysuckle Cocktail and see for yourself.
Honeysuckle Cocktail Makes 1 cocktail
- 1 ½ oz D.L. Franklin Vodka
- ½ oz triple sec (Lucas Bols recommended)
- ½ oz grapefruit juice
- ½ oz honey syrup
- Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker.
- Add ice.
- Shake vigorously.
- Strain over a double rocks glass (also known as a bucket) filled with fresh ice.
DL Franklin Small-Batch Vodka
Written by Lance J. Mayhew | Apr 6, 2012
After 20 years in bars and wineries, distiller is now making his own booze
By Patricia Sauthhoff
The Forest Grove News-Times, May 3, 2012
Don’t tell James Bond, but not all vodkas are alike.
To make his D.L. Franklin Vodka, Matt Hottenroth of Forest Grove uses a fermented corn base that is distilled to 190 proof and then methodically filters the alcohol to give it flavor (and a little less bite). While vodkas can be made from a variety of sources, most famously potatoes, Hottenroth says corn “ferments best, leaves a little sweetness and has a lot of taste.”
While Dogwood Distilling, which makes D.L. Franklin, might not yet be a household name, it’s one in a growing legion of Oregon-based distilleries that hope to position the state as a leader in the industry. Oregon is, of course, known as the micro-brew capitol of the universe, but with 54 businesses licensed by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to distill, the booze biz appears to be catching on.
Hottenroth says it took approximately 14 months to get the paperwork sorted with the state, but as of last summer he’s been legal and making vodka at his distillery in Forest Grove. The next step is expanding into new products, following the lead of other local distillers by crawling up the shelves from vodka, to gin and finally to the dark stuff.
“The long-term goal for me is whiskey,” he says. But whiskey takes time. It has to age three to five years if not longer, tying up resources – while Hottenroth can put out approximately 100 cases of vodka in two weeks.
Hottenroth will begin his whiskeys this spring, but Dogwood’s Union Gin, expected to hit the shelves in May, will be out first.
If his name seems to ring a bell, it’s because Hottenroth has been a part of the Oregon liquor scene for about 15 years, beginning as a sake maker at Forest Grove’s SakéOne – a period during which he traveled to Japan and learned about filtration – then as the owner of Cornerstone Pub and Grill. Hottenroth sold the pub 10 years ago and moved to Portland, where he started the Concordia Ale House, and helped build the Green Dragon and the recently shuttered Integrity Spirits.
He says the switch to distilling was twofold. After 20 years in the alcohol industry – which began in California where he installed vineyards – the only thing he hadn’t done yet was distill his own product. He also “wanted a job with no employees.” At Dogwood, in addition to making the product, Hottenroth is also the salesperson and billing manager.
It may sound a little lonely, but Hottenroth says he’s found plenty of encouragement inside the world of cocktails.
And that spirit of cooperation, Hottenroth believes, will lead to “more quality products coming out.”
Currently Dogwood is only distributing in Oregon, mostly the Portland area, but also in Bend, Eugene and Lincoln. Rather than focus only on expanding distribution, Hottenroth is focusing on his new products.
Though local small-batch liquors made with domestic ingredients might sound expensive, Dogwood’s aim was for its vodka to hit just below mid-shelf, so that a bar could stock it as its “well,” or default, vodka.
“The initial product released was priced at Monopolova prices,” he says, “because a lot of places use Mono as their well, and I was going after that market.” D.L. Franklin has even made it onto the cocktail list of Portland’s Lincoln restaurant, where it’s mixed with grapefruit juice, triple sec and honey syrup to make the Honey Suckle.
Hottenroth is optimistic about the future.
“The alcohol industry is fabulous in Portland and Oregon. I’ve encountered a lot of people in the bar industry who were more than willing to help,” he said.
Matt Hottenroth came to Forest Grove for its water, but now he's brought the city liquor.
Hottenroth, 42, moved to the area 15 years ago to work at SakeOne, and after a stint as a restaurant owner, he's distilling gin and vodka in Forest Grove with Dogwood Distilling.
SakeOne president Steve Vuylsteke said he has heard the sake brewery first opened in Forest Grove because of the high water quality, and that's why Hottenroth decided on the town as the home for his Dogwood Distilling location. (He had already worked wine, sake and beer jobs.)
Check out the Dogwood Distilling location on the Forest Grove libations map!
There's no storefront yet, but Hottenroth's DL Franklin Vodka and Union Gin are distilled in the green building at the corner of 19th Avenue and A Street. (That's the same building that houses Waltz Brewing's taproom.)
Matt Hottenroth makes a gin and a vodka through Dogwood Distilling, and he plans to introduce an absinthe soon. He wanted to create high-quality local liquors that Forest Grove restaurants could afford to stock. He produces about 100 cases of liquor per month, plans to introduce an absinthe next and is building a new still nearly five times the size of the one he uses now.
But three years into distilling, Hottenroth still wants to keep Dogwood local, no matter what.
"I'm definitely not looking to be the next Absolut," he said.
When Hottenroth owned a restaurant, he wanted to use local liquors at the bar but said he couldn't afford the steep prices. So he prices his 750 mL bottles at $15.95 for vodka and $21.95 for gin. They're sold at most liquor stores in Oregon and stocked at local bars and restaurants.
Someday, Hottenroth said, he'd like to open a tasting room with a pub -- something small, open a few days a week, with a limited menu.
Nothing too big -- just right for Forest Grove.
"I'd like to just take care of a few good locals a few times a week," he said, "and make booze the rest of the time."