OSU adds distilled spirits teacher and researcher

Paul Hughes, a chemist from Scotland, will teach classes and conduct research on whiskey and other distilled spirits at OSU's fermentation center.

Paul Hughes jokes that he hasn’t caused an accident on the road yet. So far, so good, when you’re accustomed to driving on the left in Great Britain and have to adjust to American traffic patterns.

When it comes to making whiskey, vodka and other distilled spirits, however, Hughes will be happy to share his way of doing things.

Hughes, a chemist who spent the past 10 years teaching at a university in Scotland, has been hired as a researcher and instructor at Oregon State University’s Fermentation Center. The program teaches students how to make wine, beer and cheese, and is branching out into the fast-growing distilled spirits industry.

According to OSU, distilled spirits made in Oregon now account for $69 million in gross annual sales, nearly 13 percent of the state’s liquor revenue. Oregon has close to 80 distilleries, up from 12 eight years ago, said Christie Scott, spokeswoman for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

Hughes said one of his priorities is to meet with distillers and establish good relations with the industry.

Hughes also is setting up the first distilling course, which will be offered in January.

“There’s a lot of commonality around the fermenting techniques used in brewing, wine-making and distilled spirits production,” he said in an OSU news release. “But distilling requires additional steps. So there will be a need for additional courses about those techniques.”

Hughes most recently taught and did research at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland.

At OSU, the fermentation sciences program is part of the Food Science and Technology department.

The state Legislature provided money for the distilled spirits position on campus.

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