A spirit lover’s devotion to a particular whiskey is often marked by its similarities to Kentucky bourbon, primarily the sweetness that comes from being produced by 51 percent corn and aged in charred white oak barrels. As distilling sweeps the United States, consumers are left to differentiate the qualities found in whiskey produced in nearly every region, including Oregon.

This learning curve is part of the inspiration behind Oregon Whiskey Hour developed by Lee Medoff and his team at Bull Run Distilling Co. in Portland. The goal? To educate consumers about the defining characteristics of Oregon whiskey and how it compares to corn or rye whiskies produced in other regions. How does a distillery challenge us to expand our definition of a spirit without putting us to sleep? With whiskey, of course.

Bull Run hosts happy hour-style meet ups at bars and restaurants designed to raise awareness about Oregon whiskey as its own unique category. Medoff and team pour free tastes of Bull Run’s newly released Oregon Single Malt Whiskey, in addition to other whiskies, while talking with guests about the styles of newly emerging whiskey. Guests can also order cocktails designed especially for the event that showcase the possibilities of Oregon-made whiskey.

Medoff believes we’re entering a “golden age of Oregon whiskey,” the current state having a lot to due with the newness of regional whiskey to consumers. “Oregon whiskey is a young category with a distinct flavor profile, especially when compared to whiskies around the world,” the distiller says. “With Oregon Whiskey Hour, we hope to strike up a conversation about Oregon terroir as it relates to whiskey and talk to our whiskey-loving Portlanders about what makes Oregon whiskey so unique and special.”

What makes Oregon whiskey so different? We probably couldn’t have more breweries in Portland than strip clubs without the help of malted barley. This abundant ingredient from breweries is combined with water from Bull Run Watershed, and new American oak barrels and matured in Oregon weather to create the terroir that affects taste. Bull Run Distilling hopes to guide consumers to recognition and appreciation of this environmental stamp on the state’s whiskey.

Upcoming Oregon Whiskey Hours will be Friday, March 31 from 5-8 p.m. at the Multnomah Whiskey Library Green Room, and Thursday, April 6th from 5-8 p.m. at Irving Street Kitchen.

For an introduction to Oregon whiskey at home, the event website features cocktails like this cocktail by Irving Street Kitchen available for the April 6 Oregon Whiskey Hour.

Bobby Burnside
Makes 1 cocktail

1 3/4 ounces Bull Run Oregon Single Malt
1/2 ounce Steven Smith Brahmin’s Tea-infused Cocchi Americano, or black tea
1/4 ounce Bénédictine liqueur
2 dashes Regan’s orange bitters
Ardbeg 10-year scotch, as a mist
Garnish: wide orange peel

Combine all ingredients except the Ardbeg in a mixing glass and stir until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into a coupe, spray a quick mist of Ardbeg over cocktail and garnish with orange swath expressing the oils over the glass.