Whisky and Words Number 94: Freeland Spirits Bourbon Whiskey

Freeland is made with care in Portland, OR

This was from Josh (again), a housewarming gift. Josh knows what warms a home. Like last episode’s Whistle Pig, this whisky is also finished in ex-wine barrels—this time in Pinot Noir barrels. Pinot Noir is the signature wine of Oregon, apropos for an Oregon spirit.

Freeland Spirits is a fairly new distillery in Portland, OR which also produces several varieties of gin (which does not take as much aging). Like my favorite distillery, Talisker, Freeland is run by women. Freeland is also woman-owned, and is named after the tee-totaling ‘Meemaw’ (Grandma) Freeland. Their master distiller, Molly Troupe, has excellent credentials: a Masters Degree in Distillation from Heriot Watt, a major business university in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Odd fact, I have been there and did some work with them long ago.)  The Freeland web site explains the bourbon operation only started in 2018, and that their bourbon was produced in partnership with another distiller. Freeland then finished the spirit.

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Whisky and Words Number 93: Whistle Pig Old World Canadian Rye, Bespoke 12-year Blend

Is that some pig? It’s some whisky….

This was another gift (thank you Josh)! This is an interesting whisky to cover because the name is so long and it all tells a story. Located in the far northeast of the U.S. in Vermont, Whistle Pig is a fairly new entrant (established 2015) in the field, and is a rye whisky specialist. They produce various expressions and have a good reputation. This expression is a Canadian Rye whiskey. The interesting story starts there: Canada has no specific rules about rye whiskey. How much rye you get depends on the producer’s taste. The WP team started as rye aficionados, so we can assume a healthy serving of rye in the mash bill (which they do not post).

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Whisky and Words Number 92: Shibui Pure Malt Whisky

An elegant vatted malt – Shibui.

I don’t have a lot of experience with Japanese whisky, at least that I remember. When I traveled there, my Japanese hosts were always very social and invited me to nights that were longer than I’m used to! I do remember a glass (with too much ice) in a Kabuki-cho club where we all sang karaoke, but  whisky was not the usual tipple. My colleagues were more likely to go to a shōchū bar than a whisky bar. But whisky is very popular in Japan.

In my experience, the Japanese are meticulous in execution when they take on a task. Shibui is a reflection of that. The packaging is elegant: completely original, and conveys a modern Eastern esthetic blended with traditional calligraphy. Their website has just enough information–how they constructed the spirit and tasting notes–and is also well-presented. Note that in Japan, there is no law regarding how much time a whisky has to be in cask to be called whisky, and with no age statement on this whisky we can only guess at its age

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Whisky and Words Number 91: Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon

Blanton’s – a single cask expression from Buffalo Trace.

This was a gift. I’m not a big bourbon drinker but I appreciate thoughtful gifts: I was told Blanton’s is hard to get a hold of. The product certainly looks impressive in its uniquely shaped bottle and hand lettered label (for when it was ‘dumped’ and from which rick, warehouse and cask). Also, the cork has a pewter horse and rider on it – as cool as the Dead Guy bottle! But none of that affects how a whisky tastes, and if you have been to this blog before you know I look askance at heavy blandishments, both verbal and graphical. After 30 years in the tech industry I know that marketing is a fact of life. But one has to look through the smoke and mirrors and see where the rubber hits the road.

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Whisky and Words Number 90: McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt

McCarthy’s – an Oregon Single Malt.

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.

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