The abundance of fresh fruits in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, under the shadow of Mt. Hood, less than an hour outside Portland, also just happens to be one of the world’s best regions for making specialty fruit liqueurs. Loganberries, blackberries, ripe raspberries, and my favorite, the juicy pears. You know, the kind that actually quench your thirst with all the sweet juices bought right from a roadside farm stand. Not the tough tasteless variety that were picked in their adolescent stage, stuffed into boxes, and then dumped on a supermarket shelf expected to suddenly become ripe mature adults without the benefit of sunlight and natural ripening.
Clear Creek Distillery also does the right thing with fruits, only they use naturally and fully ripened specimens for a higher purpose…something to be imbibed as an aperitif or mixed in cocktails.
Owner Steve McCarthy started Clear Creek Distillery about twenty-four years ago because he wanted to find the best use for fruit produced from the family’s orchard. During his travels in Europe he was exposed to a number of traditional European spirits, among them an eau de vie made from Williams Pear. Back home, he replicated it with pears grown directly in bottles right in his pear orchard. Now, Clear Creek has won numerous awards for its world-class eau de vie, grappa, and wine brandy. Using traditional European pot stills combined with techniques learned in Alsace and Switzerland, no colors or flavors are ever added giving the liquor a distinctive “nose” reflecting the careful fermentation and distillation of perfectly ripe fruit. All you get is the pure unadulterated fiery essence of Oregon’s finest fruits.
Photo courtesy of Clear Creek Distillery