McCarthy’s is a product of Hood River Distilleries. The spirit itself is distilled by Clear Creek Distillery which has provided since 1985 a source for Oregon-made fruit-based liquors and purchased in 2014 by Hood River Distillers. By any measure, Clear Creek is a ‘craft’ scale operation, and in fact the bottle is hand-lettered for the batch and bottling date, as you can see in the photo (click for a high-res image).
According to the Hood river website, the spirit is “distilled in a Holstein pot still using one pass distillation from a fermented mash of 100% peat malted barley from Scotland.” The Holstein still is made from copper, like a pot still, but is an odd combination of pot still and columnar stills, so that in a single run you can produce a very pure spirit such as vodka and get in essence a dozen or more distillations (hence the reference to ‘one pass’ in the note above). This is is a different approach than in Scotland where a pot still is used for the first distillation (the wash still) and a second pot still (the spirit still) is used for the final distillation. Clearly, Clear Creek is taking the final cut from their Holstein long before they’ve distilled the flavor out (as you would with vodka.) Considering the different distillation approach as well as an aging of only 3 years (the legal minimum for Scotch), and different climate, you would not expect this to taste like a single malt Scotch.
Today’s review continues a story from last week, where the wife and I, while visiting Astoria, Oregon, happened across Pilot House Distillery, a small local producer of spirits and prepared mixed drinks. I reviewed the signature A-O ‘American’ Whisky and was pleasantly surprised at the aromatic, lively and smooth flavor. Today’s selection is Pilot House’s take on a single malt. The prospect of an American single malt was enough to prompt my interest, but then they add an additional hook: extreme maritime aging. Enter the A-O Come Hell or High Water (CHoHW) single malt whisky, distilled from a mash that is 100% malted two-row premium barley.
This is a story of serendipity. The wife and I got a little Air BNB in Astoria, Oregon, as a getaway weekend. We had one good (but chilly) day with sun, and the next was quire rainy, so we just ended up kicking around downtown, enjoying the old architecture, visiting the museums and getting soft-serve frozen custard. On one street we happened across Pilot House Distillery, a small local producer of whisky established in 2013. That’s ‘whisky’ spelled the Scottish way, you’ll note, not like most American ‘whiskeys.’ They also produce gin, rum, vodkas, liqueurs, agave and canned drinks as well as whisky. These folks are not letting any moss grow beneath their feet! Their production and aging is done behind the shop (as you can see on the photo below) right there at 1270 Duane St. in Astoria.
And now I come to the end of my short stint on American Whiskies. I have a backlog of Scotch I’ll get to work on next. But meanwhile, in their American survey, the Whisky Wafflers tried a Hudson single malt (which did not impress but intrigued anyway). This time we’ve got a more typical American-styled spirit from Hudson. I received this ‘Baby Bourbon’ as a gift and thought we’d put it through its paces. Along the way I’ll compare to the other whiskies tried in this series. I don’t have a lot of craft whiskeys to compare yet so we’ll use the Rogue Dead Guy, recently reviewed, as a benchmark as well as the Knob Creek, which has a more traditional mashbill.
The Hudson Baby Bourbon is a product of Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery, which, as they explain on their website, was founded in 2003 by Ralph Erenzo. Ralph is a pioneering distiller (he predated Rogue’s distillation efforts by about a decade) who helped push through legislation to establish craft distilleries as a legal concerns in New York. So you could say he’s an OG craft distiller. The Hudson brand was sold to William Grant and Sons in 2010. Tuthilltown makes the whiskey, Grant distributes it. This is the Grant of Glenfiddich and Balvenie, among other brands, and have proven to be good stewards of their product.
Way back in the long ago (2015), the Whisky Waffle lads down in Tasmania put on cowboy hats took a swing through American whiskies. They did a nice job and gave the US of A a fair shake, tasting a fewold standards (which failed to impress) followed by some truly interesting and innovative whiskies. Along the same vein, I’m going to look at a couple interesting whiskies available now and compare them to the standards. I’m starting with Dead Guy Whiskey, from Oregon’s Rogue Distillery. To show the difference between a craft-distilled whiskey vs. a standard industrial scale dram, I’ve got Jim Beam bourbon lined up. And Beam areindustrial at 52M liters per year! In contrast, Rogue has a single tiny 550 gallon still and probably produces thousands of liters a year.