Whiskey Review: McCarthy's Oregon Single Malt Cognac Cask Finish - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt Cognac Cask Finish

Once in a while, I get a whiskey that makes me a little nervous to review. This special-release McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt expression, limited to a run of 300 bottles and available only in Oregon, is one of those.

Clear Creek Distillery was one of the pioneers in the American craft whiskey movement. Founded in 1985 by Steve McCarthy, the distillery focuses mainly on fruit brandies, both clear and barrel-aged. Their most recognizable expression is their rather amazing pear-in-the-bottle pear brandy, which is made by slipping a bottle onto a tiny, growing pear and tying it to a branch.

The idea for McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt was sparked when McCarthy discovered a taste for peated scotch on a fishing trip in Scotland in the mid-90s. When he got home, he called his friends at Widmer Brothers Brewing and asked them to order some peated malt and ferment it for him. Widmer Brothers continued producing the mash until several years ago, when Double Mountain Brewing took over. All the bottles currently on the market, including this special release, however, come from Widmer Brothers.

Several years ago, Clear Creek was sold to Hood River Distillers, and the distillery will move from Portland to Hood River early next year.

This expression is Clear Creek’s first-ever limited bottling of McCarthy’s single malt, made special for the Multnomah Whiskey Library. McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt is made with malt sourced from Inverness peated to 40+ ppm. It’s aged three years, then finished for two months in Park Cognac 18 yr Borderies barrels and bottled at 42.5% ABV.

McCarthy's Oregon Single Malt Cognac Cask Finish

image via Nino Marchetti/The Whiskey Wash

Tasting Notes: McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt Cognac Cask Finish

Vital stats: American single malt, 3 years old, finished for two months in used cognac barrels. Bottled at 42.5% ABV.

Color: Deep gold

Nose: Smoky but not aggressively so; it’s more barbecue-smoky than seashore-smoky, with black pepper and a noticeable dose of rubber mixed in. Nicely counterweighted by dark fruit notes like blackberry.

Palate: Peat and salt at first, followed by a nice winey fruit character at the back of the tongue. Drying on the palate. Wood smoke and a little oak on the finish.

The Takeaway

This is a well-balanced, complex but still fairly easy-sipping single malt, with plenty of big savory notes, but nothing too challenging. The short stint in Cognac barrels imparts just a dash of fruit to cut through the smoke. If you can get your hands on a bottle, this is a nice treat for fans of the standard McCarthy's expression.

4.0
User Rating 2.33 (3 votes)
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