By Father John Rayls
Hood River Distillers describes itself as the largest and oldest importer, producer, bottler, and marketer of spirits in the Pacific Northwest. Established in 1934 in Hood River, Oregon, Hood River Distillers began by making fruit wines and brandies from the apples and pears that were going to waste as excess production from the valley’s abundant harvests. Hood River Distillers has been at its current bottling facility in Hood River, located along the Columbia River with majestic Mt. Hood as its backdrop, since 1969.
Their whiskey line is based on sourced Canadian whiskies, including the main Pendleton Canadian whisky, a rye, a cinnamon-flavored whisky. To that line, Hood River now adds Pendleton Midnight Blended Canadian Whisky.
For many of us living down here in the States, there is either a love it or hate it relationship with Canadian whisky. It’s marketed as a very smooth sipping whisky. This part is true, but often it’s so smooth as to have no character, so smooth that you don’t even take notice of any part of it as you consume it. When mixed with any other liquid, including water or ice, it is frequently overwhelmed.
This 90 proof whisky comes from a mixed set of stocks, some of it all aged in Canada for three to six years, and some of it finished in Brandy casks in the United States.
The color is the traditional brown with shades of orange. However, the legs are different from other, similar whiskies I’ve observed. This is not an oily whisky, but it still appears to stick to the interior of the glass. It leaves a ring near the top of the swirl, but quickly evaporates below it. You are left with small droplets suspended near the top ring.
Hood River Distillers describes the nose as “musky notes of leather mix with warm cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and a hint of ginger; finished with subtle undertones of dried fruit.” All I can say to that is…Really? I mean…really? The nose is faint at best. I know the South Texas allergies are alive and well his time of year, but still…
I really wanted to give this blended Canadian whisky a B- score because of some of the things already mentioned, but I couldn’t. I’m still wrestling with it, but as I write this I find the taste makes up for some of the other shortcomings. I actually poured a second glass tonight after an earlier disappointing tasting this week, and giving out second chances is often a good call when it comes to whiskey.
To say it’s smooth is a little like saying General Sherman took a short tour of the South during our Civil War. Smoothness normally doesn’t necessarily attract my attention, but it did this time. However, it’s the flavor that actually surprised and aroused my interest.
The official tasting notes describes the taste as “full, well-balanced oak is paired with hints of coffee cake, nuts, carmelized bananas and candied figs for a complex flavor.” I think they have way too much time on their hands, but the flavor has captured my imagination. I believe you must sip this slowly, study it, and focus intently on the flavors. It makes you look for it. This whisky begins at the front of the mouth and jumps to the back. It has got a short to medium finish.
Pendleton Midnight is going to be available in select markets beginning in September, for a suggested retail price of $34.99. It’s difficult to set an age on this blended whisky.