Unless you are in or a frequent visitor to the Pacific Northwest, you’ve probably never heard of McMenamin’s, and certainly not their Edgefield Distillery. Yet it is quite possible that Edgefield has made some of the best whiskey of the young craft distillery era.
A few years back, a four-year-old Edgefield rye won gold at the annual American Distilling Institute (ADI) competition. According to the distiller who accepted the award, Booker Noe (Jim Beam’s grandson, himself a legendary whiskey-maker) helped them with the recipe. It was superb. Asked if, when, and how it would be sold, they answered, “It won’t be. We kind of drank it all.”
Brothers Mike and Brian McMenamin started with a pub back in 1974. Today, McMenamins is a chain of resort hotels, restaurants, bars, music venues, golf courses, movie theaters, and probably a few other endeavors. They brew beer, distill spirits, and vint wine. They grow a lot of the food they serve in their restaurants and grow the grapes from which their wines are made. They’re way into preventing waste and promoting energy savings and efficiency.
The distillery was established in 1998. It is part of Edgefield, a 100-year-old historic McMenamin's resort hotel, located about 20 miles outside of Portland.
Last month, at their annual St. Patrick’s Day blowout, they released a whiskey called Devil’s Bit, made from malted wheat and barley, and aged for twelve years. It is heart-breakingly good, clearly recognizable as malt whiskey, yet different from anything you’ve ever tasted before. The nose alone is a revelation. They could sell it by the sniff.
If you want to become a distiller, and make great whiskey, get thee to Troutdale, Oregon. If you just want to taste what the craft distillery movement can become, same advice.