Alumna Becomes the Youngest Master Distiller in the United States
After growing up east of Portland in Troutdale and graduating from Reynolds HS in 2008, Molly Troupe ’12 knew that Southern Oregon University would be in her future after visiting a couple of preview days for schools where she could find a program to become a forensics anthropologist. With the great reputation of SOU’s chemistry program, she knew it would be the perfect fit.
Molly loved SOU’s chemistry program from the onset and secured a student job helping to put together lab equipment in the chemistry storeroom, an important position that professors relied upon but was also crucial to help our students succeed outside of the academic classroom. Her biggest academic challenge was getting though organic chemistry, taught by Dr. Hala Schepmann. “Hala is an incredible teacher with passion and she challenges her students academically to get the absolute best out of themselves, every day in class or lab,” she said. “Her enthusiasm and passion were contagious for me and other students.”
One of the best experiences Molly had at SOU was that she met her two best friends for life on her very first day on campus in the Susanne Homes Residence Hall. “I talk with Maggie Peck ’11 & MS ’14 and Haley Songchild ‘10 on a weekly basis. To have such a meaningful relationship the past 12 years with them is very special and we still lean on each other like we did on campus,” she said. Molly’s sophomore year, she was a resident assistant in Emerald Hall, which helped to offset housing costs and allowed her to meet a greater diversity of students.
After graduating June of 2012 with a bachelor of science in chemistry, she considered UC-Davis’ brewing program but it was a two year wait to get in. Rather than waiting around, Molly applied and was admitted to Hariot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she pursued her master’s degree in brewing and distilling. “It was a one-year program but it was an incredible adventure living and studying there,” she said. After earning her master’s, she returned to Oregon an got a job as a Quality Control Assistant with Hood River Distillers for one year then moved on to Oregon Spirit Distillers in Bend for three years where she started as a Distiller and left as the Production Manager and Lead Distiller.
In 2017, Molly became the original employee and Master Distiller of Freeland Spirits in Portland along with Founder and CEO Jill Kuehler. Molly is a partner in the venture and became the youngest Master Distiller in the United States. She is proud that the management team is 100% female in an industry where less than two-percent are female-owned in the US. “There are very few female-owned distilling companies in the US and we are honored to help set the bar high in the industry,” she said. In 2018, she was honored by Forbes magazine in their 30 Under 30 program in food and spirits, which recognizes young entrepreneurs and managers in the US.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Oregon spring of 2020. Freeland was forced to pivot and adjust. “We stopped making spirits for a time and made hand sanitizer and got contracts with the City of Portland and Providence Hospital. Our own businesses were at risk and we had to change instantly. The distilling community stepped up nationally, delaying many of their own profitable projects to help while the need is here,” said Molly. To cut costs, Freeland shut down their tasting room and had to lay off 60% of their employees. Fortunately, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission recently allowed them to ship within the state, a move that helped Freeland and other distilleries survive.
“SOU gave me the foundation needed to excel professionally. Through my chemistry program, I learned so much valuable information that I use every day to make great spirits, as well as the discipline necessary to make a business operate smoothly. Through my relationships started and nurtured at SOU, I have remained grounded and supported, which allows me to be a better and more capable person,” said Molly.
Learn more: Freeland Spirits