Review: Burnside Canned Cocktails

, | July 14, 2022

Editor’s Note: These products were provided to us as review samples by Eastside Distilling. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. 

Eastside Distilling self-describes as “​​A once small, sleepy rum importer founded in 2008” but has expanded their vision since then. Today, Eastside has accumulated a portfolio of craft spirits that includes Burnside Whiskey, a Portland, Oregon, brand. The promotional materials on Burnside’s website hit upon a number of tropes familiar to those denizens of Oregon’s largest city who recall a time before Portlandia–references to the 1990s heyday of Portland “weirdness,” Bud Clark’s immaculate, platonic ideal of a tavern (where they serve the best Rueben on the planet to this day), and a photo of the White Stag sign partially obscured by the towers of the Burnside bridge are all well picked both to create a place-based narrative package for the whiskey and to provoke in me that strange, warm intoxication that I suspect is either civic pride for my home town or toska.

In keeping with their localist aesthetic, Burnside’s signature move is finishing spirits in Quercus garryanna or Oregon White Oak. Apparently, casks derived from Oregon’s native oak trees pack a bit more vanilla flavor than is appropriate for the region’s famous pinot noir wine, but there is almost always a place for vanillin in whiskey and the folks at Burnside have released several blended whiskeys featuring Oregon Oak finishes.

Today, they are putting their Oregon Oak finished whiskeys to use in pre-made cocktails, joining the growing number of canned mixed drinks looking to establish footholds in regional markets.

Burnside Canned Cocktail review

Eastside Distilling Honey Lemonade Canned Cocktail (image via Eastside Distilling)

Tasting Notes: Burnside Honey Lemonade

The acidic citrus flavors compliment the earthy sweetness of honey pretty well on the first sip. This really only hits one note on the palate and it hits it pretty hard. The more I drank, the more it all amounted to a very sweet, ambient floral citrus assault on my palate. It wouldn’t surprise me if folks with a different set of preferences than mine enjoy this on a hot day, but I didn’t finish the can.

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The flavor from the bourbon is hiding waaayyyy in the background of this one, making the 12% ABV a little bit sneaky for a sweet-tasting beverage. 

Burnside Canned Cocktail review

Eastside Distilling Bourbon Cola Canned Cocktail (image via Eastside Distilling)

Tasting Notes: Burnside Bourbon Cola

Before my first sip, I noted the vanilla sweet, earthy-herbal aroma that accompanies a good bourbon and cola. What I tasted was just slightly under-balanced, with the sweet vanillas of the bourbon cutting through relatively unassertive cola to take full control on the palate. There is a hint of bitterness in the middle of the palate transitioning to a finish of more vanillas and spices that add up to the rich custard-y flavors I want from this genre of mixed drink. In general, I prefer my whiskey neat but here I felt that the mixer was not taking up enough space to justify its presence and wanted more of it. Not necessarily more cola by volume, just a stronger flavor.

I wouldn’t send this back at the bar by any means, but wouldn’t order another unless it was happy hour.

Final Thoughts:

These are both totally fine options if you’re after a pre-made cocktail, but I’m beginning to feel like the whole canned cocktail concept is lost on me. At least when it comes to whiskey drinks.

More often than not, I come away with the sense that I could’ve just mixed my own cocktail to better suit my preference. Burnside’s range of bourbons is, in my experience, quite good so I’d suggest that the better move is to just pick up a bottle (I very much enjoyed my last bottle of the Goose Hollow RSV) and do some experiments to find the right proportions with your own favorite cola or lemonade.

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