McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt Whiskey



Let me quickly patch together the terminology in the title – McCarthy’s Single Malt Whiskey would be called Single Malt Scotch if Oregon, USA, was somehow magically grafted onto Scotland.  Sounds odd, but let’s dispel your doubts with a couple of quotes:

“Best Small Batch Whisky in the World” – Whisky Bible

“One of the ten best American Whisky”- Michael Jackson, Malt Whisky Companion.

High praise for a small distillery that releases only about 600 bottles a year to

the lucky few.  Here is how it works:

Steve McCarthy, the master distiller at Clear Creek Distillery, purchases malted barley from Port Ellen Maltings in Islay, Scotland, and then imports it into the United States.  This is not unusual at all – Laphroaig, Ardbeg and Lagavulin all buy their malt from Port Ellen. The only difference is the distance: a 30-minute truck ride instead of a 30-day ocean voyage to the respective distilleries.

Once imported, the barley is milled, mashed and fermented in Portland, Oregon, at Widmer Brothers Brewing.  Widmer does the low wine i.e., turns the barley into a beer, the first step in making any Scotch, and then it’s tanked to McCarthy.  There, it’s distilled in a single pass through a Holstein Copper Pot Still.

Because it’s just one pass, and because Steve is a perfectionist, large cuts to the heads and the tails of the distillate are made.  What gets bottled is the heart, the filet, the choice of choice center-cut of the distillate run, drawing out enormous amounts of malty flavor.

Then, McCarthy ages this spirit in sherry casks, giving the spirt a rounder, heavier body showing rich notes of apricots, stone fruits, peaches, and subtle under notes of blackberries.  After the initial maturation in these casks, McCarthy’s double-barrels, or racks, the aged spirit into air-dried Oregon oak casks.  These casks add the hints of baking spices, cinnamon, mace, honey, and roasted nuttiness.

The precision, the malt, and the double aging all add up to one heck of a single Malt.  Back in Scotland, in my tasting experiences, this whisky acts like Lagavulin’s Distillers Edition – the grandad of Islay, richly holding forth in his crushed red velvet chair – doubling down by aging in sherry, and tasting like one of the best Islays that you’ve ever had.

But that comparison doesn’t quite hit the spot – McCarthy’s is not imitating Islay.  What it is doing is making “one of the best small batch whisky in the world” – and you better believe that quote.  This is some serious, awesome hooch. It is an American Legend.

Of course, there is a catch.  The number of bottles mentioned above wasn’t me giving you the run around.  600 bottles are made for the entire world, and I’ve haven’t been able to get my hands on any in five years.  Now I’ve got some, and you need it.  Purchase and enjoy with confidence.

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