Whiskey Review: McMenamins Billy Whiskey

, | April 30, 2015

billy-reviewEditor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a free sample to review by the party behind it. The Whiskey Wash, while appreciative of this, did keep full independent editorial control over this article.

McMenamins Billy Whiskey, released by the Portland-based brewpub chain behemoth McMenamins in September of 2014, is a welcome addition to the Oregon spirits family. As we wrote about not too long ago the whiskey is distilled at the Cornelius Pass Roadhouse Distillery in Hillsboro, a suburb of Portland, as opposed to at McMenamin’s popular Edgefield Distillery, like the limited edition Devil’s Bit.

The CRP distillery, as they colloquially call it, was founded in 2011, and used a 100 year old French Cognac still (a 160 gallon Alambic Charentais pot still, to be exact) to make their Billy Whiskey.

McMenamins, as is custom with their other spirits, only sells their whiskey at McMenamins outlets and distilleries (by the glass or by the bottle). The $35 per 750ml Billy Whiskey certainly proves worth the visit.

Billy’s wheat-heavy mash bill and 2+ year aging in “lightly toasted” oak barrels does not garner it a bourbon labeling (this necessitates a mash bill of at least 51% corn), yet still provides for a surprisingly complex spirit.

The light caramel shade of the whiskey connotes its youth, yet its nose and palate prove its age does not define it. The nose imparts a bevy of toasty baking spices; cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and slight lemon zest provide the feeling of smelling a gingerbread cookie straight from the oven. The warmth of baking spices continues on in the palate, with darkened gingerbread, candied ginger, and espresso notes defining the spirit. Billy’s official tasting notes offer molasses on the palate, which is clear from the gingerbread taste.

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The aftertaste gives strong notes of Dutch speculoos cookies, lingering warmth but not overwhelming bite, and slight ginger.

A lovely whisky overall, despite its relative youth. The nose, palate and aftertaste exhibit a wonderful symmetry. I would absolutely make the trek to purchase a bottle of McMenamins Billy Whiskey again, especially at $35 a pop. It would surely prove a great whiskey for cheering up dreary Portland winters, but drunk on a warm summer day it could be quite enjoyable as well.

I give McMenamins Billy Whiskey a score of 93 for value, consistency and great flavor.

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Savannah Weinstock

I am a graduate of Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR whose Environmental Studies thesis focused on “Scotch Whisky, Sustainability, and Commodification of Nature & Culture”. While writing my thesis, I spent time living and studying in Glasgow, Scotland where I visited and interviewed distilleries nationwide, concentrating on the...