PORTLAND, OR, November 3, 2008 – After taming toddlers and tipplers, Melissa Heim has found her true calling tending the rum stills at the Rogue Distillery & Public House in Portland’s Pearl District.
The 25-year-old Portland native is one of a few female distillers in the burgeoning American craft distilling movement. And, along with Rogue ambassador Sebbie Buhler, is a founding member of the Clear Boots Society, a nascent organization of women in the craft distilling industry patterned after the Pink Boots Society for woman craft brewers.
Heim, known as Mel around the Rogue Nation, is used to breaking stereotypes. As a 9-year-old she became the youngest Tae Kwon Do black belt in Oregon. She added two more black belts, including a teaching belt, by the time she was 18. Then it was off to the University of Oregon, where she studied English.
After returning to Portland, Heim worked in infant care and gymnastics instruction at the Multnomah Athletic Club, then bartended before taking over the Rogue rum distillery this past June. A quick study, she is proving to be as much of a ninja in the stillhouse as she is on the mat. She shadowed former distiller Alex Gund on the job for a week, then apprenticed for five weeks before taking over all production duties for Rogue’s three rums: White Rum, Dark Rum and Hazelnut Spice Rum.