Editor’s Note: These products were provided to us as review samples by Eastside Distilling. This in no case, by our editorial policiesinfluenced the final result of this review.
Eastside Distilling describes itself as “A once small and sleepy rum importer founded in 2008”, but has expanded its vision since then. Today, Eastside has amassed a portfolio of craft spirits that includes Burnside Whiskey, a brand of Portland, Oregon. Promotional material on Burnside’s website touched on a number of tropes familiar to residents of Oregon’s largest city who recall an earlier era. Portlandia–references to the 1990s heyday of Portland’s “weirdness” At Bud Clark’s immaculate, platonic ideal of one tavern (where they serve the best Rueben on the planet to date), and a photo of the White Stag sign partially obscured by the towers of Burnside Bridge are all well chosen both to create a location-based narrative set for the whiskey and to induce in me this strange and warm intoxication which I suspect is either civic pride for my hometown or toska.
In keeping with their localist aesthetic, the Burnsides signature move end wits in Qercus garryanna or Oregon White Oak. Apparently, barrels derived from Oregon’s native oaks contain a bit more vanilla flavor than is appropriate for the region’s famous pinot noir, but there’s almost always a place for vanillin in whiskey and wines. people of Burnside have released several blended whiskeys with Oregon oak finishes.
Today, they use their finished Oregon Oak whiskeys in pre-made cocktails, joining the growing number of canned mixed drinks looking to gain a foothold in regional markets.
Tasting Notes: Burnside Honey Lemonade
The sour citrus flavors complement the earthy sweetness of the honey quite well from the first sip. It really only hits one note in the mouth and it hits him pretty hard. The more I drank, the more it all amounted to an onslaught of very sweet and ambient floral citrus on my palate. It wouldn’t surprise me if people with different preferences than mine enjoyed it on a hot day, but I didn’t finish the box.
The bourbon flavor lurks waaayyyy in the bottom of it, which makes the 12% ABV a little sneaky for a sweet tasting drink.
Tasting Notes: Burnside Bourbon Cola
Before my first sip, I noted the sweet vanilla, earthy, grassy aroma that accompanies a good bourbon and cola. What I tasted was just slightly under-balanced, with the sweet vanillas of the bourbon flowing through a relatively understated cola to take full control of the palate. There is a hint of bitterness in the mid-palate that transitions into a more vanilla and spicy finish that adds to the rich custard flavors that I want from this kind of mixed drink. I usually prefer my whiskey neat but here I felt the mixer didn’t take up enough space to justify its presence and I wanted more. Not necessarily more cola in volume, just stronger flavor.
I wouldn’t send it back to the bar under any circumstances, but I wouldn’t order another one unless it was happy hour.
Both are great options if you’re looking for a pre-made cocktail, but I’m starting to feel like the whole canned cocktail concept is lost on me. At least when it comes to whiskey drinks.
More often than not, I walk away feeling like I could have just mixed my own cocktail to better suit my preferences. Burnside’s line of bourbons are, in my experience, pretty good, so I’d say it’s best to just grab a bottle (I enjoyed my last bottle of the Goose Hollow VRS) and experiment to find the right proportions with your own favorite cola or lemonade.