Trail's End Bourbon: A Collaboration Between Hood River Distillers and Clear Creek Distillery


by Colonel Steve Akley

When it comes to a sourced bourbon, there are three components you look for:

1). The Story - Why was it sourced, what are the telling us about the offering, etc?

2). Added Value - Are they taking the whiskey they purchased and adding value to it, or simply selling it?. Some take the whiskey the purchase, bottle it and sell it. Others, do something to make it ever better than what they purchased and thus, make it their own even if they didn’t distill it.

3). Taste - That’s it, right? Basically, yes. The other two make get you in the game, but you aren’t becoming a loyal customer of anything that simple has a good story or because you are a fan of the idea of adding value to it. It always simply comes down to taste.

Well, I’ve come across one that does a great job on all three. It’s a collaboration between Hood River Distillers ( and Clear Creek Distillery ( The base for this offering is an 8-year-old Kentucky bourbon. The story of this one is that the route from Kentucky to Oregon follows the journey of Lewis and Clark, hence the name, “Trail’s End.”

So, I like the story. There’s nothing misleading about it… it makes sense… and, it provides insight into the name.

That’s a win.

What about added value… the concept of making it your own as opposed to simply bottling, slapping a label on and selling it?

This is where it gets good. It’s also where we see the collaboration really working. Hood River Distillers is a decent-sized craft distillery so the company will take advantage of their market presence but what Clear Creek brings to the table is the idea of “making it local and making it their own” because they took the Kentucky bourbon they added staves of Oregon oak to give it a unique finish. This second “oaking” gives it a distinctive taste. The utilization of Oregon oak is something Clear Creek Founder Steve McCarthy has been doing since the 1990s. He actually started by crafting barrels made from locally sourced oak.

While it isn’t a totally random collaboration (Hood River bought Clear Creek in 2014), it does highlight the best of both companies and definitely provides a value above-and-beyond simply sourcing.

That’s win #2.

Okay, we’re off to a great start… but, as already stated, it all comes down to this… tasting it.

I can tell you on the nose it’s caramel, cream and baked goods. The taste is French Toast and oak and it’s a big mouth feel type of bourbon. You could almost chew this one it stands so bold. The finish is a nice, gentle Kentucky hug. It warms up the back of your throat and lasts a while.

Yep, win #3.

So, there you have it. A sourced offering that hits on everything the bourbon fan is looking for. It comes in at 90 proof and has a suggested retail price of $39.99 and it’s got a nice pedigree of awards it has collected.

Pick up a bottle of this sipping bourbon today!