While on the imbibing conquest in Portland there were many things to be aware of. Portland is full of microbreweries, it is home to a great Pinot Noir wine growing region. The thing though that many people may not be aware of is that it is home to some great spirit makers as well.
I set out to hit House Spirits, a distillery in Portland that makes primarily Aviaton Gin. This was actually a surprise to me, since in the DC area I would see that gin occasionally on shelves, and even in bars. It's a very good tasting gin by the way, but I must admit I never tried it until I came here. It has a solid but not overpowering lemon nose to me, and has some distinct anise on the finish, smooth, not overbearing. A good tasting gin, also one that seems would handle cocktails very readily as well.
However, my first pursuit was the whiskey that they make. I was invited to a tasting by two young men, Matt and Colin, who have all the enthusiasm and youth and vigor that is needed to be successful entrepreneurs. Both of them were polite, and willing to answer any questions about their product, and were proud of the work they have done. I inquired about the tasting of the whiskey being very excited to be there, but they began to mention a few things first. First, they only had a white dog available for tasting, 100% malted barley spirit pot distilled, and had just started to bottle their Slab Town whiskey of 40% malted spirits and 60% grain spirits. They also offer Vodka and Aquavit for tasting and Shochu as well. I was very tempted to taste the Shochu, but it would have been a bit much for everything going on today. So my apologies for not discussing it, but more importantly I've never had Shochu yet! (sake and soju and dongdong ju yes), and it would truly be a beginners tasting for me as well so I figured this wasn't the time for it. But there was much to indulge in.
While I have had only a few white dog whiskeys (two to be precise), there's was quite unique, it had the profile of a white whiskey, heat, some sugar taste, but it had a nose that reminded me more of Grappa, than the traditional corn whiskey I've had in the Virginia region. This was quite a surprise and I really enjoyed it. However, their slab town whiskey was even a bigger surprise. As it was described to me at 80 proof it would be light bodied, but also creamy. What? I thought to myself.. no whiskey isn't "creamy", milk is creamy, creme brûlée is creamy, cream ales are "creamy". Creamsicles are kind of "creamy" not whiskey right?? Well this my friends... is a great finishing CREAMY whiskey. It has hints of brown sugar on the nose and while being light bodied at 80 proof is full of flavor. This was a moment of pure enjoyment and made a trip on rickety bicycle all worth it. I started feeling excited for this product and I soon realized talking with the guys over a bigger caramel nose print of uncut whiskey that they might be on to something. Think of.. as described to me by my wonderful host, the concept of a North-West Whiskey. Whiskey is synonymous with a few regions in the US when we might think of whiskey such as Jack Daniels, Makers Mark, etc.. that people are known to want. What if suddenly people wanted North West Whiskey? What if it was different? What if you made a distinct product that put a stamp on the region you lived in? Wouldn't that be exciting to be on the cusp of something that great?
I am not sure where this is going, all I do know is that this was a very enjoyable product to have and if you like whiskey PERIOD you should seek it out. The bottles are designed to mimic the old school apothecary period, where medicinal remedies would sit on shelves to ail all your cures. To me those old bottles looked like serious poison in the wrong hands, something of importance, even the standard Government Warning Label on these bottles sits prominently as to note the "seriousness" of the contents coming forth. For me though, they make a bigger statement than pointing out possible "poison" as old medicine bottles were able to do. As the one bottle sits across from me as I type this it simply states, Warning... hands off... this is mine. Slab Town Whiskey is being released at House of Spirits this Saturday October 9th 2010. Get some before it's gone.