Whiskey Review: McCarthy's Oregon Single Malt


by Colonel Steve Akley

In an industry dominated by stories, Clear Creek Distillery has a standout… and, best of all, unlike many of the tales we hear as whiskey fans, this one is absolutely true.

Inspired by a trip to Ireland where he visited some local distilleries, Steve McCarthy came back to the U.S. with a quest to open his own distillery and recreate some of the flavor profiles he discovered in Irish Whiskey.

You’re probably thinking, “That’s not that uncommon of an occurrence. Many people are inspired by trips to distilleries to open their own. What’s the big deal?'“

The big deal is, this was well over 20-years ago. In the early 90s, there really wasn’t a craft distilling industry. Whiskey wasn’t on the uptick and people weren’t looking to invest their future by opening a distillery, particularly when you factor in the legal hurdles in place at the time.

This didn’t deter Steve McCarthy, and he started Clear Creek Distillery. He would serve not only as pioneer for getting in the business so early, but also a leader in terms of innovation. Wanting to truly make everything he was doing local, he sourced Oregon Oak for the barrels he used to age his product. This is a trend we are really just starting to see today in craft whiskey and Steve McCarthy has been doing it nearly 30 years.

I got the chance to try McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt, his signature whiskey. It’s distilled in a 60-gallon pot still. The whiskey purists will be pleased to note it’s a single distillation and its non-chill filtered. This is bound to make for a flavorful offering, but, the key will come down to… is it a good flavor?

Well, let’s take a look…

On the nose, I get some peat and apple, I said came off more applesauce than a varietal of apple.

The tasting experience was extremely unique. Sweet Honey Crisp apples upfront… peat across the tongue… kinda spiking the tongue with a spicy note as well. It finishes with a note of chocolate for me with the spicy/peat still dancing on the tongue as you get the warm whiskey hug (hey, this is an Oregon whiskey, so it’s not a “Kentucky hug”).

As a bourbon fan, would I buy this?


It’s got just the right amount of everything… taste, complexity, finish. Yes, it has a peaty note to it, but it’s not a peat bomb. It’s different than most anything else in my collection. As I stare at bottle-after-bottle deciding what I am going to drink on any given night, I can tell you that different is good… in this case, different is really good.