Whiskey Review: Eastside Small Batch Oak Finished Rye Whiskey

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Eastside Distilling. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

Eastside Distilling is located in Portland, Oregon, and has produced award-winning spirits since 2008. With the help of Neil Powell Design Studios, Eastside Distilling has a new Eastside brand with three limited edition whiskey expressions to be released. As with other craft brands, Eastside is meant to be unique and artisanal with limited availability.

Eastside Small Batch Oak Finished Rye is a sourced rye aged in oak barrels, and finished in oak casks. With that deep oak appreciation comes the brand’s philanthropic venture this year with American Forests to help protect and restore the Willamette Valley’s white oak habitat. With 95% of white oaks gone, Oregon white oak savanna is one of the most imperiled ecosystems in the US.

As Eastside Distilling’s Chief Brand Officer, Janet Oak is passionate about the collaboration to help preserve the remaining oaks. She says of the pursuit, “Oregon white oak trees have been an important part of the sustainability, values, and aesthetics of the state for hundreds of years and we are committed to helping Oregonians protect existing trees while growing the next generation of oaks.” The company will plant 5,000 Oregon white oaks in addition to one tree for every bottle of Burnside whiskey purchased.

According to Jason Ericson, Eastside’s Head Distiller, “Oregon oak imparts a deep vanilla and clove flavor that American white oak can’t match.” Eastside Small Batch Oak Finished Rye is a two- to eight-year-old blend of rye whiskies that are rested in Oregon oak casks. It offers the whiskey connoisseur a real taste of the Oregon wilderness and an opportunity to contribute to the conservation of the endangered Oregon white oak.

The Eastside Distilling brand, Oak has stated, “embodies all the personality and flavor of what it means to be from Portland, Oregon: creative, independent and free-spirited.” As a Portlander, I can appreciate the sentiment. Eastside Distilling will also offer a 14-Year Aged Bourbon and Sherry Cask Single Malt in their limited-edition line, officially launched under the Eastside brand. All expressions will be available only in Oregon for the time being.

Eastside Small Batch Oak Finished Rye Whiskey (image via Jerry Jenae Sampson)

Eastside Small Batch Oak Finished Rye Whiskey (image via Jerry Jenae Sampson)

Tasting Notes: Eastside Small Batch Oak Finished Rye Whiskey 

Vital Stats: My tasting bottle is from Batch no. 1, Bottle no. 55. Aged two years. Mash bill unavailable. 92 proof (46% ABV). Priced at around $45/750mL – Very limited availability.

Appearance: Deep gold hue with low-medium viscosity.

Nose: There is honeycomb and cut sugar cane stem, with the scent of the oak gently settled outside of the bottle.

Palate: While it doesn’t break any barriers, this is a tame whiskey with a balanced heat. The tame flavors of ripe fruit, just on the right side of overripe, rest at the front of the palate. Mid-way through the honey and rye presents, with a short finish of fennel.

The Takeaway

I am happy to have tasted this enjoyable whiskey. With it being released in such a limited batch, Eastside Small Batch Oak Finished Rye might not make it onto many shelves outside of Oregon, which is a shame because it does offer a tasty profile that many will enjoy. The oak cask finish of this rye is delightful, I look forward to experiencing the other expressions in the Eastside Distilling’s small-batch run.

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Jerry Jenae Sampson

Jerry Sampson is a freelance writer, editor and screenwriter. Her creative work is ever improved by her love of whiskey and craft cocktails. She enjoys taking cool fall days to explore the great distilleries around Portland to get a closer look at the inner workings of her favorite spirits.