As the saying goes: Portland is weird. On a recent RackHouse Whiskey Club trip out there it got us thinking: It must be something in the water. And, as it turns out, we were on to something.
The Oregon capital’s primary water source is supplied by the Bull Run watershed. It’s also the key ingredient in one of the city’s most popular watering holes: Bull Run Distillery.
“We have a very unique water source and it’s called the Bull Run Watershed,” Lee Medoff, Head Distiller and Founder of Bull Run Distillery told us. “It’s protected by an act of Congress back in the 1870s. The city’s fathers got this beautiful lake up in the Cascade Mountains and it’s been that way since the 1870s. It used to flow through wooden pipes by gravity to the city of Portland.”
It’s that water that gives Bull Run Distillery’s products its distinct character.
“The water source is very pristine. There’s nothing else added to it. It’s very soft water and it’s really good to use for brewing and spirits,” Medoff added.
As with all spirits, the ingredients that make it are key. Including its water.
“A lot of people don’t realize that half of what’s in your bottle of alcohol is water,” Medoff explained as we sipped on their nine year aged American Whiskey. “Water is used to cut the product down from distillation strength eventually to bottle strength. The water source from Bull Run is soft water. It adds a much more creamier, oilier and softer mouth feel to the finished product.”
Born and raised in Oregon, Medoff began his career as a brewer. He moved on to winemaking after a move to Europe.
During those formative years working at a French winery, he saw how vineyards used oak to enhance their products and how it added flavor to the wine.
“It gave my first indication of how important barrels are and what wood can do. That started off a lot of things for us as far as finishing,“ Medoff shared.
In 2010, he started Bull Run Distillery.
From forest to faucet to still, Bull Run’s whiskeys are using some of the best water in the U.S. They’re also experimenting with aging them in different types of barrels including cognac barrels, Madeira barrels and Pinot Noir barrels.
“What that does is creates a super unique product. The whiskey is completely different by using new and unique barrels,” Medoff explained. “The whiskeys we’ll feature in the RackHouse Whiskey Club box will show a unique contrast of what barrel aging can do.”
Bull Run American Whiskey
Made from 96 percent corn, it’s the lightest and sweetest product Bull Run offers and has very little barrel character to it despite being aged for nine years.
Pinot Noir Finished Whiskey
The same American Whiskey as above is put into French oak barrels for a further two years and takes on the character of what was in that barrel before. In this case, Pinot Noir wine. The result is drier than its cousin.
Try these side-by-side by signing up to RackHouse Whiskey Club.