Editor’s Note: This product was provided to us as a review sample by Eastside Distilling. This in no case, by our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the purchase link at the bottom of this review, our site receives a small referral payment which helps support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
“Doing things a little differently” should be the slogan of Eastside Distilling of Portland, Oregon. They hold a unique distinction as the first and only listed on the stock exchange craft distillery and this year launched a Maraschino Cherry whiskey using Luxardo cherry liqueur. Founded in 2008, Portland’s Eastside Distillation is nestled on Portland’s famous street Distillery Row.
Luxardo of Padua, Italy creates its cherry liqueur with the skins, pits, leaves and stems of the Marasca summer cherry, which imparts a robust and complex flavor. The cherries are left for up to three years in a larch vat before being distilled in copper stills. The distillate is diluted with water and sugar to bring the ABV down to 32% and bottled like the “original” maraschino liqueur. The resulting liqueur is the same family recipe practiced for over 200 years.
The Luxardo brand began in 1821 with Girolamo Luxardo in Zadar, a city in modern Croatia that was then part of Venice. After the Second World War the distillery was moved to Torreglia in Veneto and became one of the most important distilleries in the whole country. Remarkably, the company continues to be owned by the original founder family. Over the centuries, they expanded their operation; and for many, the company “Luxardo” needs no introduction. Like Beam-Suntory, they have worldwide holdings in almost every variety of alcohol.
On the other side of the Earth, Eastside Distilling was founded in 2008 in Portland, Oregon. As a brand, they are developing their own portfolio which now includes Burnside Bourbon, Hue-Hue Coffee Rum, Portland Potato Vodka and Azunia Tequila. Eastside already has a flavored whiskey, a marionberry whiskey that uses local Willamette Valley fruit. In 2021, the bottle received a much-needed facelift, but at its core the product remains the popular 60-degree blend of Eastside whiskey and marionberries.
In a Press release for Maraschino Cherry Whiskey, Eastside Chief Distiller Jason Ericson said, “Combining Old World liquor with select casks of New World American whiskey creates a unique and approachable product that is the perfect complement to any bar, and is sure to attract consumers new to the world. of whiskey. This unique fruity whiskey is guaranteed to transport the senses to the Italian Riviera.
Two things make this whiskey different. The first, Eastside, markets it to consumers not as a pure whiskey with a cherry flavor, but rather as a cocktail base or mixer. Typically, I see these types of drinks sold as whiskey (+) – think Fireball. A brand takes whiskey and pumps it with syrups or other additives and tries to sell it as a legitimate whiskey product. Here though, Luxardo and Eastside are making a tactical shift and marketing it to the growing cocktail crowd versus the whiskey or spring crowds.
The second interesting aspect of this product is the use of Luxardo cherry liqueur. It’s the flagship product of the Luxardo brand, and the family doesn’t seem to want to tarnish that reputation. Which makes the fact that Eastside Distilling not only uses the product, but boldly identifies the Luxardo liqueur in the bottle more impressive. Eastside had to receive exclusive permission from Luxardo to make this cherry whiskey liqueur.
For me, that meant a different approach to the exam. If you are considering buying a bottle, it is important to understand that you are not buying a whisky. You are buying a complex mixed drink that is intended to be used more like Campari or a vermouth than a traditional whisky. With this in mind, we turn to glass.
Whiskey Opinion: Eastside Distilling Maraschino Cherry Whiskey
Vital Stats: Eastside distillation. 30% ABV or 60 proof. A blend of Luxardo cherry liqueur and American whiskey. MSRP: $39.95, Portland, Oregon.
Appearance: Deep red, amber. The golden hue of whiskey is softened by cherry red. The legs are even and thick in the glass.
Nose: Extremely sweet, with some cherry tartness. I’m having trouble finding whiskey notes. There are very soft touches of wood and hints of cereal.
Palace: A cherry bomb to start with, but despite that there is no syrupy texture. It has a slight oily feel on the tongue and a smooth feel in the mouth. The whiskey appears mid-palate with light honey and arctic char, nicely complementing the cherry liqueur without direct competition. Overall this hits with lots of cherry and very subtle whisky.