As you can see from this picture, my desk is starting to be overrun by whisky bottles and whisky samples destined for review…. and my wife is becoming concerned! So, I need to start working my way through some of these and get some reviews posted, if, for no other reason, than just to clear out space for other bottles and samples also destined for future reviews! Come on, folks, work with me here! 🙂
Anyway, for today, I am going to look at the McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt Whiskey – yes, whiskey spelled with the “e” – produced by the Clear Creek Distillery in Portland, Oregon. It is very nice that the label provides quite a bit of pertinent information about this whiskey:
Pot Distilled Whiskey. Distilled from a fermented mash of peat-malted Scottish barley. Barrel aged 3 years and bottled by Clear Creek Distillery. Bottled at 42.5% abv. Batch W 13-02, bottled September 16, 2013.
Additionally, on the back label the information continues, noting that Widmer Brothers “ferments imported peat-malted barley especially for Clear Creek.” Thanks to the distillery for including all this detail!
About Clear Creek Distillery
Located in Portland, Oregon, Clear Creek Distillery was founded in 1985 by Steve McCarthy and produces a wide range of eaux de vie, including: Pear, Apple, Kirschwasser, Blue Plum, Mirabelle Plum, Framboise and, quite interestingly, one made from Douglas Fir. Clear Creek also produces, grappas, a pot-distilled Brandy, various other liqueurs, and the McCarthy’s Single Malt Whiskey. Their products are distilled from Pacific Northwest fruits and the whiskey from Scottish barley using traditional European pot stills. Clear Creek first began making whiskey in 1996 and the first batches were released three years later. The distillery operates with four stills (two pairs) and has doubled production every year since 2004 to try to keep up with demand. McCarthy’s has a desire to release an 8 year-old version, but simply has not been able to put aside sufficient stock because of current demand. The name Clear Creek comes from the creek that runs through the McCarthy family pear orchard in Parkdale, Oregon.
Review: McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt Whiskey, Batch W 13-02, Aged 3 years, Bottled Sept. 16 2013.
McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt whiskey is made from Scottish malted barley peated to 30-40 ppm, in Scotland, before being shipped to Oregon where it is then fermented, distilled, matured and bottled by Clear Creek Distillery. The whiskey is matured first in ex-sherry butts before a finishing maturation in new Oregon white oak hogsheads. A limited production, McCarthy’s single malt is produced only twice per year.
Color: Golden yellow
Nose: The fact that this is a peated whiskey is immediately evident as it is the first thing you can smell, even before raising the glass. It is a warm, soft, slightly herbal and quite delicate peat, despite its Islay-inspiration. With time, the peat takes on an earthier, slightly oilier profile. There is just a hint of campfire smoke on top of an expanding warm vanilla/honey note, a broad malty element, touches of red apples, some lime, and a touch of black pepper; think Balvenie meets Talisker! With water, the vanilla notes continues to pick up in intensity. Sweetly malty, softly citric, delicately fruity, while the earthy peatiness remains a key element, albeit still “soft” and nicely balanced.
Taste: It is here that the whiskey’s youthfulness shows up. On the palate, this is quite light, softly oily, and perhaps just a tad thin; it is still rather nice, just a bit young. The arrival is full of peat and warm vanilla, honey. In the mid-palate there is a growing sweet malt, red fruits, and the citric notes, before another wave of warm vanilla extract hits the tongue. Adding even just a couple of drops of water doesn’t do the body much good, it becomes even thinner. Now the vanilla and honey lean more toward butter toffee – melted on warm bread. The palate is sweet, but not overdone, the citric notes and fruits work in harmony, and the delicate peatiness adds a complementary depth of flavor that is every enjoyable.
Finish: The finish is smoked vanilla, lemon juice, softly sweet with a hint of tannins and wood spice notes, before evaporating into a dusting of ashy smoke.
Overall: I can see why McCarthy’s is experiencing the demand it is; this is a very well-made and enjoyable whiskey. Also, I think that this would serve as a nice introduction to peated whiskies for novices as the peat is there throughout, but being such a delicate peatiness, I think many people would find that they enjoy it much more than they might have expected. Finally, although it is young, it has a reasonable complexity, at least enough to keep most malt drinkers interested, and with a quite acceptable price tag, certainly a whiskey worth considering for your shelf.
Region: United States
Distillery: Clear Creek Distillery
Type: Oregon Single Malt Whiskey
Age: 3 years
Price: $55.99 (May 2014), Current price is listed at $44.99!
Availability: Yes (different release)
Sample Source: My own bottle
Malt Whisky Yearbook 2014, Ingvar Ronde, MagDig Media, Ltd.