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Getting To The Bottom Of The Bourbon Bottle With Big Bottom Whiskey

Nestled in the back of a small industrial park in Hillsboro, Oregon, Big Bottom Whiskey was founded by Ted Pappas, who also happens to be the founder and current president of the country’s first statewide distillers guild, located in nearby Portland.  The unassuming warehouse setting Big Bottom is in masks the creativity that Pappas and head distiller Travis Schoney began in 2010.

Currently Big Bottom has several lines of whiskey bottlings being offered to the public, which include their bourbon releases and the more limited edition Warehouse Series, the latter of which is only available at their Hillsboro tasting room.  All of Big Bottom’s offerings are 91 proof, except of course the 111 proof American Straight Bourbon.

Some of Big Bottom's offerings. (image copyright The Whiskey Wash/Tony Mazelin)
Some of Big Bottom’s offerings. (image copyright The Whiskey Wash/Tony Mazelin)

I recently visited Big Bottom’s operation and checked out four of their current offerings with Monte Costa, their Product Aficionado and tasting room guru. You can read more on each and my tasting notes from them below.

  • Barlow Trail – This is a three whiskey blend that’s barreled small batch style.  Barlow Trail took a gold medal at the 2014 Great American Distiller’s Festival and a silver medal at the 2014 Washington Cup Spirits Competition.  The nose is bold vanilla, spice and rye.  The palate is caramel and oak with a bit of a smoke note.  The finish is long and very smooth.
  • Barlow Trail Port Cask Finish – This, like the Barlow Trail, is a three blended whiskey, but it also goes the extra distance of being finished in a Port barrel.  The nose is sweeter than the Barlow Trail, a direct influence of the port, but a little less caramel and smoke.  The palate is direct and has chocolate and complexity of port, which is slightly sweet.  The finish is medium and smooth with heavy influence of port.  This is a recent release and a true testament to ingenuity of the mind set of Big Bottom.
  • 111 Proof American Straight Bourbon – A dark amber whiskey with a pedigree of a gold medal from the 2014 Great American Distiller’s Festival.  This cask strength bourbon has a nose that is caramel, smoke and vanilla.  The palate is bold and direct with cloves, caramel and vanilla.  The result is a long, smooth yet slightly peppery finish.
  • Warehouse Series Red Tape – This straight bourbon was finished in Rhône style wine casks for five months, mainly former Petite Sirah and Mourvèdre barrels.  The nose is lightly fruity and very indicative of Sirah, with a touch of cinnamon.  The palate is caramel, slight oak, cloves and the bourbon bite.   The finish is medium to long, smooth and with an almost velvet feel.

While Big Bottom Whiskey is gathering a strong following they are not complacent, given the current state of whiskey production in the US.  With a 100 gallon still to proof out ideas, and a new larger still on the way, I am excited to see what is in store for them in the coming years.  Big Bottom is looking forward to releasing their own distilled whiskey out in 2017 and, as Pappas stated to me, “give me five years and Oregon will be the epicenter for whiskey and malts.”

Tony Mazelin

I am by no means an expert of whiskey, but I feel I am well versed and definitely well exposed to drinking. I am specializing in bourbon and rye as my taste buds have pulled me that way. I have read a large amount on the subject and exposing myself to try new bourbons and ryes is an enjoyable pass time. I feel that I am like most guys, more than a passing interest and willing to pay to play to learn what I like and dislike.

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