I am a lover of the bourbon. Whiskey, Rye, Irish and Kentucky Mash are all the bees knees in this gal's book. The complex flavors pair well while dining out, and bourbons are good for sipping, which is my preferred method of imbibing. Thoughtful people sip; deep and compelling minds sip. At least that's what I tell myself. With dozens of distilleries producing whiskey in Washington State and about double that in Oregon, there is no shortage of new sipping adventures for fellow admirers of the brown liquor. This piece is a guide for you bourbon sippers and just a sampling of whiskey themed festivals, distilleries and establishments that are just as smitten with the brown booze as we are. I'd love to include them all, but we would be here a very long time. Let's begin, shall we?
April 3: HopScotch, a Spring Scotch and Beer Fest, Seattle. This one is an indoor beer, scotch, wine and, yes, whiskey tasting festival hosted by Fremont Studios. The pop-up bar will include scotch seminars and more and is a great adventure for bourbon lovers who have partners that are less than enthusiastic about the brown liquor. Proceeds benefit the Fremont Chamber of Commerce's community grant programs, and with a smooth $45-$50 ticket price, you won't feel bad about doing some good. Check out HopscotchTasting.com for full details.
May 8 and 9: Whiskeytown USA, Portland. This grand festival includes more than 200 whiskeys, five stages, 25 bands and nine featured restaurants. Holy hallelujah! The price is a mere $28 for a day pass or $45 for a 2-day pass, which includes three taster tokens per day. Whiskeytown USA also hosts The Great Whisk(e)y Debate on May 7 at 6:30 p.m., which includes a group of whiskey connoisseurs speaking about the heritage and flavor of some of the featured whiskeys. The $50 ticket price includes craft cocktail samples paired with appetizers. In addition, Morton's Whiskey Tasting Benefit Dinner will be held May 6 at 7:15 p.m. Morton's delivers a fine dining experience with a featured menu, while an ambassador takes guest from barrel to bottle with a perfectly paired meal to boot. The $150 ticket price benefits Be the Match Foundation and Achon Uganda Children's Foundation. Reservations are required. Check out WhiskeytownUSA.com for event details.
Though the time has passed, this is one to keep on the agenda for next year. Hosted by Portland brewery Stormbreaker Brewing, the Brewstillery Festival is held in February. This year, 18 breweries and 12 distilleries teamed up for a flavor extravaganza. The $25 ticket price included a commemorative glass and 10 taster tokens to sample the wares, with loads of boozy goodness on site to purchase and enjoy later, too. Keep up to date by checking out StormbreakingBrewing.com.
Fremont Mischief in Seattle produces spirits from Northwest ingredients, as well as offers cocktails and tours. Photo credit Jackie Fender
On the local level, we have Heritage Distilling Company in Gig Harbor. HDC's Elk Rider series includes bourbon, rye and blended whiskey varietals, so regardless of your preference, your palate will be pleased. HDC also offers a unique distillery experience with its "My Batch/My Cask" opportunities, allowing true bourbon lovers to get up close and personal with the distilling process and concoct their own mini-cask of delectable libation.
If you head a bit north to the Seattle area, you will encounter far more distilleries creating bourbons. A few I'm fond of include Woodinville Whiskey Co., Fremont's Mischief, OOLA, Westland and 2bar Spirits. Travel east in Washington a ways over the pass to experience Spokane's Dry Fly Distilling's Washington Wheat or Bourbon 101.
Oregon has a fabulous sampling of distilleries doing up the bourbon with the likes of BULLRUN, Mcmenamin's Cornelius Pass Roadhouse, Eastside Distillery and Rogue (which may be better known for its potent Dead Guy Ale).
The best sorts of libations pair well with a good meal, and whiskey and bourbon's big flavors just beg to be paired with bold and hearty dishes. In Tacoma, I'd recommend Steel Creek (1114 Broadway) for a sampling of more than 100 whiskeys. Craft cocktail kings like 1022 South J tend to have some more hard-to-find bourbons, and fine-dining establishments like Maxwell's Restaurant and Lounge, Stanley and Seaforts and El Gaucho include some of the finer of the brown liquors for sophisticated sipping.
In Seattle, you'll discover the Whiskey Bar, Kickin' Boot and my personal favorite Radiator Whiskey, all of which impress with an ample whiskey selection and compelling craft cocktails highlighting the majestic beauty of bourbon.
Oregon, Portland in particular, has a reputation for being quirky, hip and bourbon heavy. Well-regarded establishments serving the brown liquor include Old Sage, Bourbon and Bones, Kask and Pope House Bourbon Lounge, which actually challenges bourbon lovers with a "bourbon derby" and hosts regular bourbon 101 classes that guide sippers through dining and drinking informational courses.
There you have it: bourbon, whiskey and rye stardom in the Pacific Northwest. We have word count restrictions, so moonshine wasn't on today's agenda, but rest assured, friends, that will come another day. In closing, I'd like to include a little love to my favorite libation:
Oh dear nectar of the gods, how you slay me. Your brown, boozy goodness and oaky sips with nuances of smoky sweetness are truly divine. I seek you out with each adventure because you are the Goose to my Maverick, the Cagney to my Lacey, the Kirk to my Spock. You sometimes get us in sticky situations, but your deliciousness always emboldens me to forge ahead. I heart you to bits, you big lug.
(To borrow from the great Beyonce) Drunk in Love,