A Bit of Brandy

We have visited dozens of beer distilleries and a few wineries, but when we saw a distillery for brandy in the Portland area, we knew we had to stop to learn more, even if we aren’t brandy drinkers. It’s an experience, right?

Clear Creek Distillery makes “eau de vie” which is Fancy Frenchness for a double distilled brandy made from fermented fruits. Portland’s warehouse district houses Clear Creek’s distillery and tasting room.

As we looked at all the bottles of liqueur, my eyes were immediately drawn toward their core brand and marketing coup – the Pear-in-the-Bottle pear brandy. The clear bottle is beautiful with the oversized pear sitting, trapped in the plump end of the vessel. Fruit growers actually place bottles over the growing pear while still on the tree. We imagined fields full of pear trees artificially shimmering in the sun like some mobile home park beer tree. Once the pear and its glass tomb are harvested, the fermented pear brandy is added and the bottles go on sale for $80 a pop. Very cool souvenir and wonderful brandy, but it is definitely not in our budget.

After a few “beginner” questions, we hopped right into our tasting. We first started with a variety of fruit eau de vies – pear, apple and blue plum. I expected these first few samples to be a sweet liqueur but it is much more like a sweet vodka or gin, drier and harsher on the palette than I had anticipated. We were then offered the Oregon Pot-Still Brandy which is aged in oak barrels and tasted similar to a Kentucky Bourbon, which was great for Kimmer, who loves his Maker’s Mark.

Finally we moved on to the sweet liqueurs, sampling the sweet cherry, blackberry, loganberry and raspberry, each of which tasted like they could be spread directly on toast. The last sample we had is the most interesting. Clear Creek makes Eau de Vie of Douglas Fir which is infused with springtime buds from a Douglas fir distilled then infused again. They recommend trying this one last as it coats your mouth and would ruin your taste buds. Wondering what it tastes like? Consider what it would be like to eat one of those tiny green pine trees the car wash hangs from your rear view mirror to remove the stank of accumulated fast food containers, and you’re getting close.

Definitely worth a stop if you’re ever in the Portland area, and a great place to take friends. For more information.