PORTLAND'S SEEN a huge advancement in its relationship to whiskey, as more and more local micro distilleries begin making their own. The oldest, Clear Creek Distillery and McMenamins, have been bottling whiskey for nearly a decade. The newest, Rogue and House Spirits, have just recently released their products to the public. It's the beginning of a small-batch whiskey glut that will surely thrill and excite the city's local-booze-loving drunks, or "locasots" if you will.
Recently, resident Portland Mercury whiskey lovers spent some quality time with these locals. Their impressions from that lost weekend have been reconstructed from garbled audio clips and scrawled tasting notes into a highly informative chart.
Ned "Whiskey" Lannamann
Our professed single-malt snob, Ned dutifully sniffed, slurped, and pronounced his opinions with little hesitation. This is a man who is serious about whiskey. If his palate were insurable, it would go for, like, five bucks. Maybe.
Nami is a fanatic with "a long relationship with whiskey." It's been her booze of choice for 10 years, and she knows what she likes. She's not snobbish about it. In fact she'd rather be drinking in a dive bar than in an ivory tower.
Patrick "Three Name" Coleman
Little more than a drunk who's lucky to be employed, Patrick is mostly a barely articulate Neanderthal. After years of drinking like he does, it's surprising he can taste anything. Take what he says with a HUGE grain of salt.
Author of the beloved column Frank Cassano's Imbecile Parade," Frank Cassano insults Mercury writers daily at twitter.com/portlandmercury. He believes that Ned Lannamann, Nami Bigos, and Patrick Alan Coleman are imbeciles.
Rogue Spirits Dead Guy Whiskey
Four Malted grains (based on Rogue's Dead Guy Ale), aged one month in oak, 80 proof, $39.95 retail, available at Rogue pubs
With so much malt and so little age, Rogue's offering has a bit more in common with the moonshines and white dogs of the whiskey world than the amber hooch you're accustomed to finding in your glass at the local watering hole.
House Spirits Whiskey (Batch 12)
Malted barley, aged three years in new American oak, 90 proof, $47.95 retail, available at House Spirits' tasting room
In this first bottling, House Spirits seeks to present a malt-forward whiskey, balanced with a bit of barrel sweetness from new American oak. The key is full flavor, with a malt finish that works well in cocktails, but balanced with slight sweetness that allows sipping.
McMenamins Edgefield Distillery Hogshead Whiskey
Malted barley, aged three years in new American oak, 92 proof, $32.50 retail, available at Edgefield
Based on the McMenamins Hammerhead Ale, what gives Hogshead its unique flavor profile is the house yeast used to ferment the mash, which adds notes of spice and cinnamon that you might otherwise associate with rye.
Clear Creek's McCarthy's Oregon Single Malt Whiskey
Scottish peat-malted barley, aged three years in Oregon oak, 80 proof, $49.95 retail, available at Clear Creek Distillery and select area liquor stores
McCarthy's Oregon Single Malt has won praise from whiskey writers worldwide with its peaty Islay style. Distiller Steve McCarthy seeks a true Scottish single malt quality in this rare product that will be available again for retail after the November 2010 bottling.
Ned "Whiskey" Lannamann
Rogue: Smells Christmas-y, candle-y. Some cinnamon and pinecones. It doesn't smell like whiskey. It has a vanilla thing going on, coriander, and a little bit of orange. It's like a birthday cake with frosting. It's really thin, doesn't stick very much in the mouth.
House Spirits: Smells like a wet forest, it's really un-sticky and burns pretty well. There's some sweetness, but not a ton, and some wood flavors. There's a sweet, meat, tangy taste, like game hen. The finish drops off pretty quickly. It's good.
Edgefield: Smells really good. Not like citrus but a really fresh smell like wildflowers. It has a big presence in your mouth. I like this one. It's like eating pancakes with maple syrup at a table that just had a fresh vase of flowers put on it in the morning, but in booze form, with a moist, wet finish.
McCarthy's: Smells like smoke. Smells good. Smells like Scotch; like plaid, sea air, and saltiness. It's got a nice lingering flavor to it. There's a little butter, some fruit—pear, maybe. The finish is long and good, corny and sweet. It's very good. I like it.
Rogue: There's kind of a sour smell. It definitely has a funk to it. It's smooth, but not as smooth and crappy as Crown Royal. It has some dignity but not a lot. It's not something your younger sister is going to want to drink. Leaves a cinnamon flavor in your mouth like a pleasant memory.
House Spirits: Nice-looking bottle. Classy. Smells like a decent bourbon. It's a little bit syrupy. Thicker. Burns a little—a slow-spreading fire. Really unique earthy and plant-y aftertaste. It's smooth for the punch it has. I'd definitely want it on the rocks.
Edgefield: Smells like potpourri. My mom would think it smells nice. It stings a little but has a good viscosity. The flavor goes pretty fast. It has sweetness on the back end. It's almost honey-ish, which is classy. A little bit of orange. A little buttery. A decent balance.
McCarthy's: Smells like ham. It has a rubbery smell. Very smoky. It's a good balance of being smooth without being thick. It's great for sipping. It mellows out into something really nice. Once the smokiness fades it sweetens up a little bit. That's perfect for just sittin' and drinkin'.
Patrick Alan Coleman
Rogue: Smells of spice cake, with pineapple and orange. A hint of Cinnabon. It's a bit thin on the palate but that cinnamon is there, along with orange peel and a bit of banana. Some breadiness and slight sweetness.
House Spirits: There are hints of caramel on the nose and new wet wood. On the palate it's a bit thick, and there's a good burn. Nice balance between the sweetness, the woody tones, and some chocolaty malt tones. There's just a touch of pine on the finish.
Edgefield: On the nose there's orange, really bright cinnamon, maple, and rosehips. It's bready on the palate and sweet up front. It's spicy, too. There are hints of cinnamon and white pepper but it mellows into floral tones and even ghostly watermelon.
McCarthy's: The smell is all salt, smoke, and peat. On the first sip there's a mouth-filling smoke but a simultaneous sweetness below it that's really pleasant. Nice flavors of wet wood, like sitting in an old tree house during a thunderstorm.
Rogue: This battery acid-like swill reeks like my third wife and tastes like her, too, if you catch my drift. Last time I was at Rogue, I mistook their beer for fermented urine; this isn't much better.
House Spirits: The Mercury's resident village idiot, Patrick Alan Coleman, POURED WATER IN THIS before I could even take a swig. He claimed he was "opening it up." Next time you dilute my sauce, Coleman, I'll use this fucking bottle to open up your fucking head.
McMenamins: I've been "legally forbidden" from visiting the Kennedy School since 2003 due to "inappropriate behavior" in their soaking pool. However, it simply must be said that McMenamins' whiskey has a delectable bouquet and a scrumptious balance! (P.S. Now will you let me back into the hot tub, assholes?)
McCarthy's: I've been informed that this Scotch has a "smoky nose," which perhaps explains why it smells like a goddamn hobo's trashcan fire. Hey, you know who are better drinking buddies than these twee, self-satisfied Mercury morons? Hobos, that's who. I'll be down by the tracks, having some of Soupcan Steve's pruno. Don't wait up, imbeciles.