Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Spirits Tasting at OMSI After Dark

The Oregon Museum of Science & Industry here in Portland hosts regular events where adults can come to the museum after hours and enjoy drinks while getting to act like kids. There is usually some kind of theme to the evening and this month they dovetailed with Portland Cocktail Week and the Great American Distillers Festival to provide another opportunity to taste spirits from local distillers. As there were both a number of spirits that I didn't get to try at the GADF represented at this event as well as others that weren't present on Sunday, I decided to go, this time with more food in my belly. Once again, here are some small impressions from what I tried. However it was still hard to get much depth given that I was drinking out of a shot glass most of the time.

Blair Reynolds, the former Trader Tiki, is a fine gentleman. His white dog hot toddy was a little peculiar, but an interesting drink. I also really liked the hazelnut orgeat and will probably pick up a bottle to give my mai tais a twist.

•I finally got to try Clear Creek's 8-Year Old Apple Brandy. It's an interesting contrast to the 2-Year Old version. Whereas the younger brandy is bursting with apple flavor, its older sibling has been significantly tamed by the extra time in the barrel. It's a little less identifiable as an apple brandy, edging towards a nice cognac with a more diffuse fruitiness. While it's a little thin at first, a drop of water opens it up nicely. The taste is berries with a hints of vanilla and wine, balanced by mild oakiness. I'm definitely going to spring for a small bottle of this brandy so I can do a more in-depth review.

Big Bottom Port Cask Finish Whiskey is excellent stuff. Much like the Angel's Envy whiskey I tried on Sunday, the bourbon for this whiskey is sourced from another distiller and then finished in used port casks. I chatted for a bit with Ted Pappas, the founder of Big Bottom, and he mentioned that this whiskey is sourced from Indiana. While Ted would "neither confirm nor deny" his source, the mash bill matches perfectly with the high rye juice from the notoriously guarded Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI). While this is a younger 3-year old whiskey compared to AE's five and six-year old base, it tasted mature beyond its years. The choice of tawny rather than ruby port seems more well suited to bourbon and the two meshed quite well. There was a solid bourbon base of corn, grain, vanilla and a healthy dose of rye spiciness up front. This was followed by the rich flavors of tawny port nearer the finish. The residue of this whiskey was very more-ish and I'm definitely going to buy a bottle.

The Meadow is a store in Portland that sells speciality ingredients like salt, chocolate and bitters. They had quite a spread at this event. Not only were there several dozen commercial bitters, but they also put out nearly as many tinctures that people could use to create their own bitters. I took a whiff of a number of different bitters. The Bitterman's Xocolatl Mole bitters and Elemakule Tiki bitters were probably my favorites, but Elmegirab Aphrodite bitters were also quite intriguing. I need to start playing around with bitters again because they're a relatively cheap way to add more variety to drinks.

•I made the mistake of giving Oregon Spirits another chance. They're releasing a genever-style gin and that was abundantly clear from the first sip. It's full of the peculiar roasted pineapple flavor that I've noticed in other genevers. Unfortunately there really wasn't much else going on and I couldn't even find any juniper among the malt flavors. I'm going to give them a miss for a while until they have some more experience under their belts.

•Thankfully the Rogue Pink Spruce Gin was much better. I'd tried it before, but wasn't much for straight spirits at that point. This time I really liked the gin. There was a solid base of juniper and spruce pine flavor. This was complimented by a very whiskey-ish layer of sweet vanilla, candied fruit and cinnamon spice. This would make a great Old Tom substitution or is perfectly pleasant for sipping neat. Another one that's getting added to my 'to buy' list.

Overall it was a really nice event. I was glad that I showed up not too long after opening because it got much more crowded as the evening went on. However, I got to try everything I wanted to sample and usually didn't have to wait too long. The complimentary shot glasses and hot water to wash them out was a nice touch and probably cut down a lot on the waste the event produced. Finding a few new products that I liked enough to buy was icing on the cake.

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