Bull Run Collaboration
For the second in the series of The Solo Club’s collaborations with local producers we invited over our neighbors Bull Run Distillery. Bull Run was founded by Lee Medoff, formerly of House Spirits and maven behind the locally iconic Medoyeff Vodka. He and Jennifer Kadell, Bull Run’s delightful Sales and Marketing manager, stopped by last week and brought over a selection of whiskies for our team to taste and to tinker with.
When Bull Run started up in 2010 Lee had a vision for a true Oregon Malt but because of the ageing such an expression would require Bull Run started life as a Merchant Bottling outfit, acquiring distillates from other producers and blending to produce a reflection of their own style. The most well known of the these has been Temperance Trader which has since morphed into the Bull Run American Whiskey, a predominately corn-based spirit aged a minimum of 9 years in used-bourbon barrels. However, Lee’s passion was to develop an Oregon Whiskey. A whiskey that would reflect the place where it is made and the influences that guided its vision.
Made from 100% malted barley from the Klamath Basin and brought up in new American oak barrels influenced through the years by Western Oregon’s four distinct seasons.
Lee states his inspiration came from a pint of beer. The great beers in the great Pacific Northwest are made from malted barley - the grain that exemplified our region was right there in his hands. Malted barley is bold, complex and delivers a lot of body. It is also not generally associated with traditional American Whiskies which fit the pioneering vision.
He convinced friends at Burnside Brewing to make a high gravity sweet liquor for Bull Run to turn into whiskey wash. Back at the distillery they ferment the wash at high temperatures using lots of ale yeast resulting in a high alcohol, bone dry wash ripe with fruity esters. The ester creation is on purpose. It concentrates well in the distillate giving the grainy, cereal driven spirit with a surprising brandy like nose. The barrel aging then defines and refines the whiskey. Lee believes that malted barley is uniquely suited to stand up to new oak casks. The intensity of the new oak with its char wrestles with the richness of the malt until a balance is found.
Our team tasted this unique whiskey and immediately wanted to play with it. The ripe fruit, almost brandy like nose underlined with grass and sage immediately suggested a bold interaction with something bittersweet. We toyed at first with some heavier amari but some of the subtler elements of the malt became lost so we gave Gran Classico a stab. This bitter aperitif is made by soaking a mixture of 25 aromatic herbs and roots including wormwood, gentian, bitter orange, rhubarb, and hyssop in an alcohol/water solution in order to extract their flavors and aromas. The maceration creates a natural golden-amber color and unlike many other producers such as Campari and Cynar that use such Turin-style recipes, it is not dyed carmine red but left with that appealing hue.
We found the roasted grain and cereal qualities of the malt as well as the sweet, fruity notes coincided charmingly with the gentian and bitter orange of the aperitif. However the sweetness of both was overly pronounced so we cut that with a little dry vermouth which brought the cocktail into perfect balance. Topped with a ‘maraschino’ed parsnip for a garnish, we present the [Placeholder] cocktail - available at The Solo Club, starting March 2nd.
clear creek Collaboration
Here at the Solo Club we strive to shine a light on the classic tastes from around the world that we’ve encountered on our travels. We’re particularly keen upon the herbal digestivi, collectively known as amari, that form an integral part of the Italian eating and drinking landscape. As part of our determination to expose Portland to these bittersweet experiences we’ve decided to enlist the help of some of our favorite producers and tastemakers right here at home, to let us use their lens to better focus our view on those liqueurs, vermouths and bitters that have so inspired us.
First up to bat, appropriately enough, was Clear Creek, Portland’s original (and amongst the nation’s first) craft distillers. They were founded back in 1985 by Steve McCarthy with a vision to use the bountiful fruits of the Pacific Northwest to create fruit-based spirits that could rival the best of their European counterparts. Using old-world techniques and sourcing ingredients from the local orchards and fresh water springs of Mount Hood they quickly established themselves as noteworthy contenders in the field. Traditional copper stills, 20 lbs of pears to create a single bottle of their flagship pear brandy, superior attention to detail - the essence of pure fruit creating exceptional products - have put Clear Creek on the map and kept them there.
Jody Guthier of Clear Creek joined us at Solo last week. A native of the midwest, growing up in Iowa, Jody fell in love with our industry while bartending through her college years. This passion brought her to Portland back in 2011, working her way to her current position representing CCD in Oregon, Colorado and Utah. She kindly brought us an abundance of products to sample including the delicious Marionberry Liqueur and Blue Plum take on a classic Slivovitz. What really grabbed us, though, as being truly reflective of the Solo Club was the spectacular Doug Fir Eau de Vie. This highly aromatic digestif is based on an obscure Alsatian spirit - Eau de Vie de Bourgeons de Sapin and made with a clear grape brandy that has been finished with hand picked Doug Fir tips - soft, sweet and limey. The result is dense with aromas of fruits, herbaceous in the palate, reminiscent of our favorite European after-dinner “medicinals.”
It became clear that with his delightful product a little goes a long way so we decided to try it out as a rinse, much like one might with absinthe in a Sazerac. We toyed with a number of base spirits to pair it with but eventually settled upon Clear Creek’s own Clavados-style Apple Brandy. The brandy has a delicate sweetness but is robust enough to stand alongside the potent Doug Fir punch. Following down the Sazerac path we added a couple of dashes of our house-made Creole bitters (thank our own Shawn Duncan for that marvelous creation) and thus was born “Temptation in Eden”, the first collaborative cocktail in a series that we shall be showcasing amongst our specials and eventually onto our permanent menu. Enjoy.