The Trees Are Talkin’ to Me
A wise man once told me that we bourbon enthusiasts pay so much attention to what happens before the barrel we forget that it all comes together after it’s been in the barrel. Peek through the trees in Oregon and you’ll find Eastside Distillery, formerly Deco Distilling, a craft distillery based in Portland with an interesting twist on sourced whiskey. Having test ran the spirits business with their rums, they quickly hopped on the bourbon train and released several finished whiskies, all sourced from various locations and ranging in age with finishing techniques that highlighted their surroundings of the Pacific Northwest. This, however, was not their only stroke of genius.
The brilliance is also in the rebranding of their flagship product, Burnside Bourbon, by focusing on the local influence and unique finishing of the whiskey. You may have come across this bottle when it looked like this…
… but now the bottles look like this…
They chose to ditch General Mutton Chops after they discovered he had no connection with the area. Instead they conceptualized the brand off of the street they were located on and decided they would dedicate the distillery’s practices with the surrounding area in mind. In other words, they took a native oak species and combined it with the bourbons. I also like to think “Burnside” is referencing the inside of a toasted barrel, thus aging whiskey on “the burnside”.
Not only are the bottles kick-ass, but the use of Garryana Oak, or “Oregon Oak”, is the real MVP. Used by Oregon’s original winemakers in the 70s, this native oak was home to many gallons of fermented grapes and can now only be found in a few places in the world, the Pacific Northwest being one of them. This is why Eastside Distillery might just have the largest collection of Oregon oak casks of any distillery today.
Garryana oak is a soft and spongy white oak with unique tannins and an unusually high amount of vanillin. These unique characteristics, I believe, molds a softer finish and allows the whiskey to move in and out of the wood to compensate for the cooler weather in the PNW. Ironically enough, this native oak now struggles to survive man and will be used less and less in coming years. I won’t go too much into this but there is an interesting article that explains Garryana Oak in further detail.
Why does this all matter? Because the magic of bourbon happens in the barrel, and although Eastside Distilling sources their bourbon (which their head distiller, Melissa Heim openly admits), they thoughtfully blend carefully selected barrels together and finish their whiskey using resources from their natural surroundings to achieve a unique taste. If that’s not something to appreciate then I don’t know what we all enjoy this hobby for.
Tasting Notes: Burnside Garryana-Finished Small Batch Bourbon
Contents: 46% ABV // 92 proof // Small Batch Bourbon // Blend of various aged single barrel whiskey
MSRP: $42.99 for a 750ml bottle
Appearance: Glowing Honeycomb
Nose: Frosted flakes, vanilla, oak, bright pink jolly rancher
Palate: creamy and sugary cereal, pears, apples, sweet and tart
Finish: Gentle finish. Very short burn with semi dry tongue and lingering candy apple and vanilla
I was very pleased with the first glass I poured. This is one of those bottles I hope more people try in order to realize there is amazing product from other places besides the traditional product coming from Kentucky. The frosted flakes and vanilla in this bottle forms a flavor Tony the Tiger would be proud of, making this a breakfast bourbon if there ever was one… The magic behind the Garryana oak seems to brighten up the sweetness and noticeably suppress the spice. The pink Jolly Rancher note seems a little farfetched when you read that, but the brightness of the fruity notes bring out the candied state of said fruits. I will say, I can tell the bourbons used for the blend are on the younger side and could use some more sleep, or longer aged barrels from their source to use in the future batches as the oak flavor bleeds through too often while you taste. Other than that, I highly suggest trying this. Get off your high horse and see what these craft distilleries produce!
Check out the new Burnside website at burnsidewhiskey.com!
Editor’s Note: This whiskey was purchased by us at Superfly Bourbon Club. In no way, does acquiring the bottle in any form manipulate the direction of this review.