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.
Here’s a whisky that’s been languishing in a box for months, what was I thinking? Talisker is an excellent warm-you-up whisky for winter and here we have sunshine, daffodils and buds in Portland. However, there is rain coming, so it’s a good time to taste a Talisker. This bottle is only $10 more ($80) than the standard 10-year Talisker, and thus gives the Talisker lover a new twist on their favorite without having to break the bank.
The Distiller’s Edition is a range from Diageo they do yearly. In each case, there’s a core whisky which is aged as per the brand’s standard then aged further in some other cask. The Talisker DE is aged for 10 years in ex-bourbon and then finished in Amoroso (medium-dry sherry) casks. I have the 2018 edition, as you can see from the photo above (click on the photo for a closer look; the date of distillation and bottling is in the lower label). However, they have followed the same pattern since the mid 2000’s and the 2020 release is of the same formula.
You may have seen the range of special-release whiskies following the Game of Thrones TV series. I had a lot of other whiskies to review stacked up so did not catch any of those when they arrived, but recently I stumbled across a discount shelf with this blend from Johnny Walker. I always keep some Johnnie Walker Black around, and I figured, why not give this a comparison to the standard. Also, I have read the SOIAF books and followed (suffered?) through the Game of Thrones series on HBO until the end. I even mused here on the blog about the annoying habit of showrunners sending their characters into danger without proper headgear. So, the buy was a no-brainer.
Glen Garioch (pronounced ‘glen geery’) is an interesting place. The distillery is one of the oldest whisky distilleries in Scotland, dating back to 1797 with just a couple short periods of closure, in 1968 and 1995. The distillery has been part of Morrison Bowmore Distillers (Auchentoshan and Bowmore) since 1970. Morrison Bowmore was acquired by Suntory in 1994. There are some great details about the distillery on Morrison Bowmore’s site. There is a lauter for the mash tun and they use stainless steel washbacks. They have three sizeable stills, of which two are presently used, according to various sources. Their production is small, at about 1M liters per year. That’s one-third the size of Glenfarclas, for example. On the Glen Garioch web site, they state they produce without chill filtration, and play up the small batch aspect of the spirits. Their 3-minute video gives some views of the well-tended distillery.
Glen Garioch have a 12-year (which is on my radar), but this review is for the Founder’s Reserve, a low-priced NAS offering ($47 here in Oregon). That’s even less than Talisker’s Storm or Highland Park’s Magnus.