The bottom shelf: Bull Run whiskey

Photo by Samuel Woods

By Samuel Woods

I have been hesitant to review whiskey for The Bottom Shelf. There’s a trope of whiskey being the drink of choice for journalists, likely in a desperate attempt to imitate Hemingway, which I have been ashamed to conform to. However, I recently had the opportunity to try Bull Run Distilling Company’s Oregon Single Malt Whiskey which changed my reservations. Bull Run Distillery is just off of NW 23rd St. and was founded by Lee Medoff, a Lewis & Clark College alumnus. Medoff worked as a brewer for McMenamin’s and head distiller for House Spirits before starting Bull Run. They offer a wide range of spirits, the most unique being starka, a wine-barrel aged vodka, and Arak, a Levantine anise spirit made in collaboration with the restaurant Mediterranean Exploration Company. As always, the Pioneer Log does not endorse underage or unsafe drinking.

The whiskey came with an individual batch and bottle number, a craft touch that I appreciated. I tried bottle 268 of batch two, it would be interesting to comparatively return to this review when they eventually release their third iteration. Taking it on the rocks, I noticed the deep caramel color indicative of the four years spent aging in New American oak barrels. The aroma is delicate with hints of vanilla and maple and an underlying sweetness. The use of pure Klamath Basin malted barley is immediately noticeable on the palate, with a grainy sweetness reminiscent of Canadian whiskys such as the iconic Oregon based Pendleton’s. The maple aroma continues into the palate and is particularly strong upon the finish, where it remains after the smooth burn of alcohol, a surprising aspect considering this whiskey clocks in at almost 90 proof.

This is truly premium whiskey and in my opinion best consumed simply on the rocks or in a minimalist spirit-forward cocktail, such as an Old Fashioned. Still, the sweetness does lend itself towards mixing. This issue, I’ve prepared a cocktail that best shows off the whiskey while still allowing some creative ingenuity. The White Portlander is a take on the White Russian, which uses toasted cream (think browned butter) to add nuttiness.

The Bottom Shelf’s White Portlander

2oz Oregon Single Malt Whiskey

1.5oz cold brew coffee

Toasted cream

Simple syrup


Toasting the cream is the difficult part of this cocktail, but it’s totally worth it. It turns the grassy flavors within the heavy whipping cream into caramel butterscotch. To toast, fill a saucepan with heavy whipping cream (each drink uses around 4oz, give or take), the higher fat content the better. The extra fat isn’t required for the browning process, but it makes the resulting cocktail have a fuller mouthfeel. Cook the cream over medium-low heat until it starts to turn tan and you can smell a slight nuttiness. Remove from heat and refrigerate. In a lowball glass combine whiskey and cold brew then add ice. Top with toasted cream, pouring slowly over the back of a spoon purely for the aesthetics. Add simple syrup to taste. Garnish with grated nutmeg.

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