There’s a new whiskey coming to Portland, Oregon (where this blog is based) this weekend you’ll want to get in line for now, because once fans of a nearby cult brewery get wind it was influenced by one of their most favorite beers, you’ll likely miss out. I’m talking about Stone Barn Brandyworks, Hair of the Dog brewery and the just bottled Straight Rye Cherry Adam Whiskey.
The idea for this awesome marriage of Oregon rye whiskey and the flavors from an ex-bourbon barrel once housing a local dark, strong beer aged with locally grown cherries certainly sounds like something out of a Portlandia episode, but the $40 bottling is a real thing. It is set for release this Sunday at Stone Barn’s SE Portland location starting at 3pm, at which time there will be complimentary whiskey tastings.
I ventured down to the distillery a couple of days before its official release and got hooked up with distiller Andy Garrison, who walked me through how this unique collaboration with one of Portland’s most beloved breweries resulted in what is a truly unique whiskey. I can say this because I also got to taste the just bottled product and, boy, oh, boy it was damm good, right from the initial hit of cherries on the aroma to the slight bitter chocolate finish at the end.
Stone Barn Brandyworks, as the name implies, mostly is known to local craft spirits drinkers for its various fruit brandies. It has a couple of whiskies, both aged and unoaked, that it produces as well, according to Garrison. This unorthodox distiller hasn’t been long in the saddle of his trade, but has been learning the ropes rapidly in part by splitting his time between Stone Barn and another distillery. For a guy who’s previous career was accounting and who did home brewing on the side, he has a hell of a whiskey to add to his young portfolio.
Straight Rye Cherry Adam Whiskey, he said, began as 100 percent, stone ground rye from Oregon-based Bob’s Red Mill. It was mashed, fermented and distilled at the distillery on its custom German copper pot still before being put into toasted new American oak barrels for around two years. Two batches of this aged straight rye were then transferred to an ex-bourbon barrel for two months of finishing. This barrel previously saw life aging very old Elijah Craig bourbon before coming to Hair of the Dog to age its very hard to come by Cherry Adam beer for around two years.
The former beer barrel, when Stone Barn got it from the brewery, had the cherry essence of beer still within its wood, among other flavors. The time the rye spent in this barrel brought some of that essence to the final bottled whiskey, which before being ready for sale to the public first was cut from 110 proof in stainless steel containers down to a more drinkable 90 proof.
“When we got the barrel and you took the bung out and smelled it,” Garrison told me as we tried some of the whiskey, “it was amazing. It was like ambrosia and deep cherry, sort of slightly smoky, bitter chocolate malty character [reminiscent] of Adam.”
Looking at the final whiskey in 375 ml bottles one is drawn in by the rich amber color that is natural. It is non chill-filtered, and Garrison finds it altogether to be something akin to a sherry casked whiskey that will entice the palates of those who like slightly sweet or spicy whiskies.
Stone Barn expects to release around 600 bottles, some of which may find themselves into local liquor retail outlets. To make sure you get a bottle or two though you’ll want to visit the distillery to snag some. If you happen to be able to track down a bottle of Cherry Adams as well it might be fun to taste the two together and see how much cherry goodness your palate can handle.
Nino Kilgore-Marchetti is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Whiskey Wash, an award winning whiskey lifestyle website dedicated to informing and entertaining consumers about whisk(e)y on a global level. As a whisk(e)y journalist, expert and judge he has written about the subject extensively, been interviewed in various media outlets and...