Monday, July 8, 2013

Clear Creek Kirschwasser

Producer: Clear Creek Distillery
Name: Kirschwasser
Type: Cherry Brandy
Mash: Oregon & Washington Cherries
Region: Oregon, USA
ABV: 40%
Serving 1: In a snifter
Serving 2: On the rocks

We are lucky in the United States to have a vibrant, thriving craft beverage market. Micro-brewed beer is as popular as ever, and it is only looking up. Not only are some of the finest wines made here, but artisanal wines also abound. (Quite often, of course, that is a distinction without a difference.) Craft coffee roasting is everywhere. Increasing numbers of people are doing increasingly wonderful things with whiskey. Even juices and ades are being made better.

Then we have brandy. Small though it may be, there is indeed a craft brandy presence here in the States. What really sets it apart from its sister movements with other beverages, more than just its size, is the fact that it is not juxtaposed against any major, mass-market domestic versions of the same. There are some European ones, but none from this side of the Pond. We make and consume a zillion gallons annually of cheap, industrial-scale beer, wine, coffee, whiskey, juice, and what have you, with varying degrees of quality. But brandy? The entirety of American brandy production is as pristine as can be. Anyone making it is doing so in no small part out of simple talent and passion.

Clear Creek Distillery in Oregon may trace its inspiration for brandy back to Europe, and its distillation techniques as well. But the importing ends right about there. The ingredients comprising the heart of this brandy are all grown Stateside; and the marriage of opportunity, talent, resourcefulness, and enthusiasm leading to Clear Creek's success, which comprises the brandy's soul, is itself a particularly American phenomenon.

The Kirschwasser is perfectly limpid and colorless; it could easily be confused for water. As is my wont with spirits, I tasted it in a snifter and then separately over ice cubes, so as to experience both its fiery passion and its calm collectedness, and glean all sides of its profile and personality. In the snifter, it emits a pungent aroma of deep cherry notes. There are vague hints of red berries, but they do not break up the nose; the aroma is even and consistent throughout. The palate is less pungent, but bold fruitiness certainly dominates. There are hints of black plum and dark berries. One oddity, of which I cannot make heads or tails: there is no note of nuts to my discernment, and yet I pick up an unshakable impression that if there were such a note, it would have to be of almonds. I have no clue what that is about; my dear readers may make of it what they will. The Kirschwasser's finish, which lingers for a moment or two, but not three, is of cherries. It has medium viscosity, and is smooth, mature, and fruity. It comes across professional with a touch of enthusiasm.

Served on the rocks, the Kirschwasser offers a bright red cherry aroma: fresh, crisp, refreshing. The palate is of cherry and red berries, sweet, with hints of plum and grappa overtones. The body is solid, and the intensity, while moderate, has major lasting power. Those fruity notes, when they hit the throat, do not change or diminish in the slightest; they waft right up to the back of the nostrils as pristine as ever, and even gently cool the sinuses along the way. The finish is of a cherry flavor with a grappa feel to it.

This Kirschwasser would be great any time of year. In the winter, served in a snifter, it can warm up even the iciest evenings with its smooth, viscous pungency; in the summer, served on the rocks, it can make for a great evening with its crisp, fresh fruitiness. Get some today, and experience American artisanal beverage making at its best. And, enjoy.


  1. I absolutely LOVE Cherry Brandy, although it's hard to find many where i'm from (in Australia). My favourite is one described on the bottle as a "Croatian Cherry Wine", which comes in a round bottle - as in round and flat like a disc on it's side (hard to explain). Will have to try and hunt this one down through as it sounds great. Do you have any idea as to if it's available in Australia?

    1. Matthew, I'm sorry, but I have no idea. You may wish to contact Clear Creek directly with that question. But as for the one you have, I have a bottle of Maraska Slivovica that is the same shape. Were you referring to this?