Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Edgefield Distillery Tour:

"Too much of anything is bad, but too much 
of good whiskey is barely enough."
                                  -Mark Twain

Located in Troutdale and designated a National Historic Landmark, McMenamin’s Edgefield comfortably sits on a 74-acre tract which use to house the county poor farm. Perfectly situated just 13 miles from downtown Portland and just on the cusp of the Columbia River Gorge, one can tour the numerous falls which dot the historic highway or take a quick drive into Portland for a day of sightseeing. 

Nonetheless, even with Multnomah Falls and Downtown Portland having plenty to offer, the real motivation for someone choosing to stay at Edgefield is precisely Edgefield – a destination in-of-itself. Built for the very reason to showcase the grandeur of the McMenamin’s Empire, Edgefield is the McMenamin’s Brothers crown jewel and it is awesome. One can spend hours (days), literally getting lost through pub crawling many of the ten distinct and unique bars, watching a movie in the theater, playing golf on one of the two par-3 courses, getting a full spa treatment and spending time in the giant outdoor soaking pool, wine tasting in the winery, smoking cigars in the cigar bar, or just simply hanging out on one of the large porches or picnic areas strewn throughout the campus.

It is here at Edgefield where they produce their wine, much of their beer, and most importantly to myself and this blog, their spirits. Opening its doors in 1998, the Edgefield Distillery has built production up to a number of gins, brandies, whiskeys, and liqueurs. Considered one of the preeminent micro-distilled whiskeys in America, their Hogshead Whiskey is what has brought McMenamin’s Distillery into the light. Of which I will have a review of both the Hogshead and its much younger version of itself, the White Dog.

The Edgefield Distillery is located near the south end of the Edgefield campus housed in a converted dry barn which was originally used to store vegetables during the poor farm days. Surprisingly the space is fairly small for such an operation – but the aesthetic quality of the converted barn is fabulous with the woody aromas of the constructed barn mixing with the current fermentations and distillate. Packed full of old mash tanks which use to be used for their beer production they now hold distillate in various stages. During my tour I was fortunate enough to observe the current distillation of their rum production as well as nose its head. Don’t get me wrong, the process of distillation, once it’s in the still, is akin to watching water boil, literally. But the scent of the rum distillate, which at the time of my tour was at about the center run of its heart, smelled amazing. On the first step inside not only does one get the bready smell which is common in a distillery, but also present was a sugary-sweet fragrance which comes from the sugar-cane molasses used in rum production.

Near the end of the tour, while I was being shown the barrel room which is also a surprisingly small space for the amount of spirits they produce, I was told that the Hogshead whiskey, of which I purchased, was bottled at about 37 months. Their goal, the head distiller explained to me, was to eventually reach five years in the barrel. Leaving the tour I could defiantly say I was, and am, excited to try this barely three year old spirit which is something quite unique which will not, in the present future, be available again. 

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