Highland Stillhouse

Over the weekend I had a chance to make it beyond the comfy inner eastside where I spend most of my time. A friend invited me to try the Highland Stillhouse, way down the river in Oregon City. It's a nondescript building overlooking busy McLaughlin (and beyond it, the industry-lined Willamette River), not particularly promising as you approach it by car. But inside, it's a classic Scottish pub, cozy, dark, and wood-paneled.

For beer fans, there's plenty to delight. The pints are honest, and the taps flow with well-selected ales, including several that are pumped from casks. Over the weekend, they had Ninkasi Otis and Full Sail Slipknot on cask (among others). That slipknot is a thing to behold. The website has a representive, but out-of-date list of offerings.

But the real reason to go to the Stillhouse is whisky (which is just concentrated beer, right?). In addition to Irish, American, and Canadian offerings, they have a massive selection of Scotch. I count 59 brands (most with multiple vintages and treatments), including 24 Speyside malts, 10 Highland, six Lowland, three Campbeltown, eight from Islands and the West Highlands, and eight Islays. For Islay fans, as I am, that is a complete list.

The big winner: Ardbeg 10 (their basic malt, and one of the Islays). Better men than I have said it smells of "tar-covered rope" and is "filled with fragrant peat reek," and that its flavor is "medicinal," "seaweedy," and "salty." In other words, magnificent. (I'd add that it was very hot, with a volatile quality that raised black-pepper notes through the palate and into the nose almost involuntarily.)

It's a mellow place and a welcome site for folks living South of town. And worth a drive for those of you who love single malts.

PHOTO: PDX Pixels [link]