"Don't swallow any of that. It'll spoil the taste of the bourbon." - Larry Csonka
Portland, OR has been described as "Munich on the Willamette." However, the more distilled products from Portland I taste, I am not inclined to think it will be the next Clermont or Aberlour on the Columbia. The newly released Burnside Bourbon from Eastside Distilling in Portland, OR is a mystery to me. The bottle says it has been “barrel aged” 4 years and it was “procured” and “bottled” by the Deco Distilling company in Portland, OR. This all seems very strange to me for three reasons: First, for it to be aged for four years, the bourbon would have had to be distilled at the very birth of the company – and seemingly in secret – since past interviews that I have read suggest a small company that has been extremely busy making rum for the past four years. Second, the bottle does not say it was distilled by Deco. It says it was “procured” by them. What does this mean, I don’t know. It immediately makes me think of an LDI product, like Bulleit or Templeton or even some very well renowned products like Whistle Pig or High West. However, all of these products are, in my opinion, much better. Lastly, the company Deco Distilling is no longer. Its name was changed to Eastside Distilling. All this ends up being very baffling because there is nothing to be said about this on their website, besides saying that Eastside Distilling was "formerly Deco.” I do understand that this bourbon was recently released, but I have not seen one review, or any announcement anywhere about the product itself besides the company website. And the singular site designated for Burnside Bourbon, which the back label on the bottle suggest people should visit if they want more information, is currently "under construction." (Update: now leading you to their general website) All things considered, this is very confusing. Maybe I am making a larger deal about this than needs be – obviously if you have to change your company name for legal reason (if that is the reason?) than it is understandable that you might be behind on some things - but whenever I find a publicly offered product which has little information to be found about it, and one somewhat clouded in mystery, I tend to be hesitant about getting even a little excited about it. Not to mention the price for this micro-distilled spirit (if it is one) is $24.99 for a 750ml bottle (though the bottle doesn't have a ml amount on it). Let me just ask you how many micro-distilleries are selling their 350ml (not 750ml mind you) bottles for less than 30 bucks? I don’t know of any. Rogue, another Portland spirit, which ages their whiskey for less than a year are selling theirs for around 35 bucks, and on top of that I’ve heard its less than proficient.
On Facebook I did see this photo posted by Eastside (Update: I can't seem to find the photo anymore) of two used bourbon barrels which were said to have 100 proof distillate. So what are they doing? Taking less than barrel proof distillate and aging it for a few more years? Or was that just an experiment and it had nothing to do with Burnside Bourbon? I could go on but that is enough of a rant, what about the review:
Burnside Bourbon Review:
Price: Around $24.99 for a 750ml bottle.
Packaging/Labeling: The bottle is completely removed from the Eastside Distilleries Rum labels. Appearing to have been made on Photoshop, Burnside presents a different theme entirely, with no information about the company, not even a legend. It does say, “Put some sideburns on your face!” which really confuses me – does it relate to the guy on the label – which I would ask: is this Burnside himself? Does it simply mean that by drinking this whiskey it’ll grow hair on your chest? A "real man’s whiskey”? Well I hope the ladies enjoy drinking this…
Alcoholic Content: 96 Proof, 48% ABV.
Nose: The nose is the strong point for this whiskey – yet it needs to open up and I would suggest a drop of water. Light corn, apricot, cinnamon, wood spice, and burnt sugar.
Tasting: The palate is green, comprised of boiled fruit with corn and a very distinct saccharin note. The finish barely give hints of buttered corn, cinnamon, wood and nuts. Water does help some to even out this uncontrolled party.
Conclusion: All in all the whole thing is a bit rough, never quite asserting itself. The palette is mediocre at best. Something only to be enjoyed with a dash of cola. I just don’t know what to say about this, but maybe we should all wait for more information about this product. And maybe more aging. I would just ask the question, if you have the choice between this bourbon and Buffalo Trace, for example, which cost $20, or George Dickel Barrel Select which is 5 dollars more than Burnside, what would you choose? I believe that shopping local is generally a better option and I am even more willing to dish out the extra cash to get it local – but what I expect in return is more, not less – more information, more quality, more everything. I really really wanted to like this. Unfortunately I am underwhelmed.