Featured at World Whisky Day 2014: From one of the very few artisanal distilleries in the United States, McCarthy’s has only been in production since 2000. It hasn’t wasted any time, though, winning Best Small Batch Whisky in the World from Jim Murray’s bible in 2004 and other high marks since then. McCarthy’s is also unique in that the whisky is made from peated malt imported from Islay, given that Oregon shares certain climate qualities with Scotland. The aging renders their young whisky surprisingly smooth.
Distillery: Clear Creek
Region: United States
Age: 3 year
Location: Portland, Oregon
Bottled: June 20, 2011 (Batch W11-01)
Nose: Wood, apple wood smoked bacon, sweet smoke, peat, pear, sweet, pine
Palate: Fruit (cantaloupe), vanilla, oak
Finish: Peat, sweetness
Comments: Water is most definitely not needed, but will diminish the peat finish and bring out the sweetness in the palate.
Adam – This is like drinking youth, glorious youth. A smooth whiskey for its age, with a lot of good flavors going on. It has smoke, but not too much; peat, but not too strong; sweetness, but not overdone. It’s a whiskey that has room to grow, as neither the palate nor the finish jump out ahead of the nose. While the distillery states that its goal is to create an American Islay, I think they should run with what they’ve developed so far. The peat and smoke are just part of a great, relatively balanced mix. Conjures pleasant feelings of camping in the American Northwest and enjoying the high life. If any of you go camping with whiskey, however, be sure to invite me along.
Kate – This was my favourite find of World Whiskey Day. One thing to note about this whiskey is that the distiller freely admits it is trying to mimic an Islay Scotch. As much as they try to do this, while not a bad attempt, to my palate it still remains distinctly an American whiskey. The nose is like maple syrup being warmed over a log fire with bacon cooking next to it. It also has a hint of pine sap. It’s palate has some peat but it is a new oak taste rather than an older aged, toasted taste. McCarthy’s also has a sharper flavour than Scotches (not a bad thing, just different). You also get a hint of pine, maybe from the evergreens that are prolific in the Pacific Northwest. All in all, it’s a very nice American whiskey that tips it’s hat to it’s Scotch counterpart.
Meghan – Mr. Peat comes late to this party but he does make a grand entrance at the back of the palate and stays to help clean up. If he’s too loud for you, a drop of water tames the peat down to a nice extra in the background. Overall, a delightful whiskey that gives me a flare of patriotism and proud to share it’s homeland. I am also very intrigued to explore Clear Creek’s other products (mainly eau de vie fruit liquors).
Henry – Amazingly complex for a young whiskey. Very smoky – almost too smoky to be truly balanced. While it is tasty, there are much finer whiskies to be had at this price point. What we have here is the quintessence of American market-driven thinking – instead of following the example of Sweden’s Macmyra and taking a chance on something unique, McCarthy is trying too hard to make Scotch whiskey in the Pacific Northwest. This Seattle-based drinker, for one, would be thrilled to see what unique dram they are truly capable of producing if they would but put their minds to it.