Molly Troupe took a very interesting path to becoming the lead distiller at Oregon Spirit Distillers. After studying forensic science and chemistry at Southern Oregon University, she then headed to Scotland for a master's degree in brewing and distilling. Troupe is now blazing a trail through a traditionally male-dominated profession, and her story is a fascinating one.
Source Weekly: Could you talk a bit about your history?
Molly Troupe: "I grew up in Troutdale, Oregon, with my parents and brother. I went to college at SOU in Ashland, Oregon. I graduated in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry, with an emphasis in forensics. After graduating from my undergraduate program, I decided to earn a master's degree in brewing and distilling from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was in Edinburgh that I truly developed my passion for whiskey. From the classroom to the tasting room, I absorbed as much knowledge as I could, before heading back to Oregon to put my new found knowledge to work."
SW: What led you to distilling from forensics?
MT: "Chance and a love of chemistry. I got very lucky. I grew up in a whiskey-drinking household but I didn't know this was what I would end up doing. As a teenager, I had decided I wanted to be a forensic anthropologist. When I got to college, I was advised to major in chemistry en route to my dream. At the time, I didn't know that my love of chemistry would surpass my love of all things forensic, but it did.
"When I was considering my options for a chemistry degree, I was doing what a lot of other college students were doing: drinking. I had little experience home-distilling but the science behind all things whiskey-related intrigued me. The more I looked into it, the more I liked it, until I decided I liked it so much I should look into education programs. I immediately thought of UC Davis and their fantastic program, but there was such a long waiting list. While searching, I stumbled upon Heriott-Watt University and could not pass up the chance to learn more about whiskey in Scotland."
SW: How did you become connected to Oregon Spirit Distillers?
MT: "I started out as a quality control assistant at Hood River Distiller's before heading to beautiful Bend, Oregon, to become a distiller at Oregon Spirit Distillers. At Oregon Spirit Distillers I have merged my formal education with on-the-job experience. One of my favorite aspects of distilling is that your education is continual; I learn something new everyday. I have continued to grow at Oregon Spirit Distillers and have even earned the title of lead distiller."
SW: Tell me a bit about your relationship to Central Oregon?
MT: "Having lived in Oregon most of my life, I have always been familiar with Central Oregon. I grew up taking vacations to Bend back when it was a cowboy town and have some fond memories from those trips. Living here has been a treat; there are just so many things to do and see! From yoga to beer and spirit tastings, scenic sights, dog parks, and so much more. There is never a boring day in Central Oregon. As a distiller, Central Oregon's agriculture is highly attractive as well. Being able to source local grain and use natural water sources is a huge aspect to our success as a business."
SW: Is distilling somewhat of a boy's club? Does being a woman in the industry present any hurdles that you weren't expecting?
MT: "Women have a very rich history in distilling. There are far more men in the distilling industry than women. However, I have always felt very accepted by this community. We are a creative and curious bunch and are fairly accepting of anyone who wants to learn the art of distillation. Gender has never been an issue. If anything, it has been an advantage to have a slightly different perspective than my colleagues.
"Occasionally, I will have a tour of men who assume I don't know anything about whiskey and that is when I start chatting about azeotropes. I have had people ask if I am even old enough to drink. I just jokingly account that to my youthful glow."
SW: Are the people in your life supportive of your career?
MT: "When I said I wanted to be a distiller to my family, they could not have been more supportive. My dad and brother are especially on board the whiskey train. They both enjoy a good dram of whiskey from time to time and couldn't be bigger supporters of Oregon Spirit Distillers or me."