From Son (Scott) to Dad (Skunk), to Grandpa (Archie) the moonshiner; Skunk Brothers Spirits is where blood (I mean booze) flows deep in the family veins
By Lori Roach
Skunk Brothers Spirits is a disabled veteran owned business that sits on the banks of the Columbia River and brings the craft of distilling to the Washington side of the Gorge.
“I’ve always wanted to have a business,” said owner, Scott Donoho, who started the business in 2015. “My granddad was a moonshiner and I’ve heard a lot of stories about that. I watched a lot of Dukes of Hazzard when I was young. It [moonshining] always struck me as something fun… it’s in my blood. I guess I’m kind of a modern day hillbilly.”
Spirit makers are known to name their ‘stills’ and it isn’t any different at Skunk Brothers. Stills Archie and Earla are named after Skunk’s parents.
“My dad like to make moonshine and my mom liked to drink it,” Skunk said.
Like the beer brewing industry, craft distilling is highly regulated by each individual state.
“One of the big things I’ve noticed about the industry is how much prohibition laws are still in effect, and how they affect the industry today. It’s been a big eye opener,” said Scott Donoho. “The last 10 years or so the liquor industry has been vastly changing and it has been cool to see. It is like how the craft beer industry has changed brewing.”
With locally sourced ingredients, Skunk Brothers Spirits are distinctly unique. Their products include Moonshine, Cinnamon Whiskey, Gin and Apple Pie Brandy. Seasonally they have Blueberry Cinnamon, Peach and Cherry Cordials. They are currently working on producing another Gin, a Strawberry Liqueur, and Vikings Blood. With all this distilling going on there is something to suit everyone’s taste. They are also barrel-aging their Stumplifter Single Malt.
“To be a craft distiller in Washington, 51% of your product has to come out of Washington,” said Skunk. “Almost every single step is tracked by law. If you say your product is 85 proof then it better be 85 proof. The tracking is pretty extensive.”
“It’s the art of it that I find fascinating,” said Donoho. “It doesn’t seem like there would be, but there is so much to it. You have to pay as much attention to it [distilling] as if you were painting a picture or carving a statue. There is so much to the process and I find that fascinating.”
Like with all small businesses things are evolving as the business grows and becomes better known.
“There are big changes coming,” said Marc Robins CFA, executive advisor to Skunk Brothers. “We are concentrating on growing commercially and we have doubled the size of the staff in the last three months.”
Skunk Brothers Spirits can be found throughout the Gorge and in other places in Oregon and Washington. Total Wine and More and New Seasons both carry their products as well as many of the bars in the region.
“Stop in at the tasting room,” invites Robins. “We are giving away free T-shirts for the next month or so.”
While visiting the tasting room be sure to ask how you can become a member of the Skunk Brothers Spirits Barrell Club. A tasty investment for sure.
“The gorge is just a beautiful place to live and the people here are so welcoming, and so nice, and so supportive,” said Donoho. “When we came here we wanted to have a business where we could live in the area. When we told people we wanted to open a business in the Gorge, doors just opened. Everyone was so supportive and so upbeat.”
Donoho is a firefighter at the Portland Airbase and has been active in the military and Oregon National Guard for a combined 23 years. “Now, the whole Skunk clan is ex-military….Scott, his wife—Jamie, Skunk, even our head of sales—Teresa Johnson”, says Robins. “I guess now it’s more important that we make ‘Shine’ than fight.”