Portland is known for breweries, but now its distilleries are starting to claim their own place in the national trend of craft whiskies. The delicious Temperance and the smoky McCarthy’s are delightful local brands I’ve tasted from the City of Roses. Add to this list Hogshead from McMenamins’ Edgefield distillery.
McMenamins is widely known in the Portland area for turning former schools, movie theaters, and other historical spaces into pubs. The Edgefield Estate is a former poor farm where people who needed a “leg up” in the first part of the century lived on the farm and worked the land. After the poor farm evolved to other uses, then fell into disrepair, the McMenamin brothers bought it up and established a winery, pub, restaurant, and hotel, among other amusements.
The old vegetable storehouse needed to become something, so that’s where they put the distillery where they make two whiskies – Hogshead and Monkey Puzzle. While the Monkey Puzzle has the more interesting bottle and is infused with honey and the local flavor of blackberries, I actually find Hogshead smoother and tastier.
It’s light with a tinge of vanilla and a touch of sweetness, like honey. It’s also earthy and seems to reflect that Oregon pine air while giving just a bit of a bite.
And you can order it and drink it in a dark, wooden shed-like building with a squat little stove in the corner. The atmosphere is cozy. For a place that rains so much, it’s a place to find refuge from the damp air in the warmth of the whiskey.
Unfortunately for people who live in Brooklyn, the local movement is alive and well in Portland, so their whiskies rarely make it to the East. Rule #2: check a bag on the way home. Rule #1, of course, pick up some local whiskey.