Tom Burkleaux of New Deal Distillery - Biography

Portland, OR

November 2011

“To me its a city that encourages odd paths of creativity, embraces a DIY spirit where we make our own good things,” says Tom Burkleaux, and we couldn’t agree more. He came of age in Portland, Oregon, and the pioneering spirit clearly took effect. In 2001 he had the urge to make his own spirits, inspired by the breweries, wineries, restaurants, coffee roasters and other artisan entrepreneurs of Portland. At the time he recalls only a few pioneers like Clear Creek and St. George existing.

He teamed up with his business partner Matthew VanWinkle, and the pair set out with one goal: to sell one bottle of good spirits to one stranger off a liquor store shelf. Given their lack of professional experience in spirits, it took some hard work, a lot of research, and three years to get a federal license for the distillery. In 2004, license in hand, they possessed little more than a 10' x 12' commercial space, a 25 gallon copper pot still and a dream. Since then, the company has grown to a 5000 square foot distillery running five column stills, and three pot stills, and as the company grew, so did the craft spirits industry. Along the way he’s made vodka, gin, brandy, liqueur, rum, whiskey and moonshine.