Previously, we reviewed Pendleton 1910 Rye and had mixed feelings on it. There were some things about it we didn’t like, but we couldn’t deny that it was quality whisky for it’s price point. So, that’s led us to want to try more of their whisky, and the next on our list was Pendleton Midnight. It’s a little bit cheaper than the rye and not aged as long, but I think there is some serious upside to this bottle.
In this review we’re going to find out if this blended Canadian whisky is as good – or better – than Pendleton’s Original or Rye offerings after spending some time in American brandy barrels.
Pendleton Whisky History
Before we dive into the whisky itself, let’s talk a little about the company that produces it. The first thing of note is that Pendleton Whisky is bottled and owned by Hood River Distillers. Hood River Distillers (HRD) is located in Hood River, Oregon, right near Mt. Hood.
HRD produces over 10 brands of spirits, but much of the distilling is done elsewhere. They sell vodka distilled in Seattle, bourbon from Kentucky, tequila from Mexico (as it has to be), so it’s no surprise that they are also in the Canadian whisky market.
While Pendleton is distilled in Canada, much of its identity and marketing is tied to Oregon, specifically the Pendleton Round-Up. The namesake of this whisky is one of the largest and most prestigious rodeos in the west which takes place in Pendleton, Oregon.
Pendleton Midnight Whisky Overview
- Whisky: Canadian Blended Whisky
- Bottled By: Hood River Distillers
- ABV: 45%, 90 Proof
- Age: Minimum 3 years. A portion of the blend is aged 6 years in American Brandy Barrels
- Mashbill: Unknown
Canadian Whisky requires the whisky to be mashed, distilled, and aged in Canada for a minimum of three years, so most of the whisky production is done in Canada. However, Pendleton Whisky arrives at Hood River Distillers and the last portion is done in-house. The Canadian whisky is cut to proof with water from glaciers on Mt. Hood.
The real differentiating quality of Pendleton Midnight is that a portion of its blend is aged 6 years in American brandy barrels. Brandy is a spirit produced by distilling wine. You may be familiar with brands such as Hennessy or D’ussé, two of the more popular cognacs on the market, both of which are types of brandy.
Barrel finishing whisky has become a much more common process over the last couple decades. Letting whisky sit in various used barrels is meant to add a unique flavor, something to make it stand out. ex-brandy barrels are meant to provide notes of sweetness and dark fruit, much like the wine brandy is distilled from.
Pendleton Midnight comes in a very sleek bottle, like pretty much all of their whisky. The dark charcoal label makes the whisky in the bottle sit a little darker than it is, and the silver lettering looks almost metal. A silver button site just below the neck of the bottle, and the cap displays the proof of Pendleton Midnight in the same silver fashion.
The bottle is labeled as having a “full bodied flavor” and an “uncommonly smooth finish” as well as cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger notes. Let’s find out for ourselves!
Pendleton Midnight Flavor Profile
Now that we’ve covered all the basics, we can dive into why we’re all really here. Is Pendleton Midnight good whisky? What does it taste like? It’s time for my favorite part – pouring myself a glass and enjoying some whisky.
Nose: Leather and apricot. Fairly light and underwhelming.
Taste: The most prominent flavor is nutmeg by far. There’s some oak and candied fruit mixed in, but when sipped neat, it is overwhelmingly nutmeg and spice. There’s a slight buttery mouthfeel as well.
Finish: Nutmeg and clove sit on the back of the throat. medium in length, exceptionally smooth and easy.
Is Pendleton Midnight Good?
Pendleton Midnight is really a tale of two stories for me in the flavor department. When drunken neat, it’s a story of overpowering and intense flavor. With the addition of an ice cube or a splash of water, it’s one of balance and harmony.
As is my experience with the other Pendleton Whisky selections, Midnight is quality whisky. It’s incredibly smooth and easy to drink – there is no burn, there is no wince in your face when you sip it. It’s also a bit thicker than expected even with the addition of ice or water. The buttery mouthfeel coats your throat and leaves you wanting more. The two tales are really a difference of flavor.
Nutmeg and clove, perhaps ginger, too, are so intense that it covers up a lot of the sweeter, fruity notes. The Pendleton Midnight label is not lying when it says it has a full bodied flavor – I simply find it to be a little overpowering.
However, my next couple sips, after the ice melted just a bit, the spice backed off just a tad and allowed notes of sweet and dark fruit to shine brighter. Honestly, after my first sip or two of Pendleton Midnight neat, I’m surprised by just how much I like it.
Pendleton Midnight Whisky Price
Obviously, taste isn’t always the most important piece of the puzzle – price plays a very large role as well. Here at Barrel and Brew, we like Pendleton Midnight, but is it worth the price? We compare various prices of Pendleton Midnight at Total Wine stores across the country to determine an average price.
750ml Pendleton Midnight Price: $30-35
The low to mid $30 price range is the sweet spot for quality, high-value whisky, and Pendleton Midnight hits the nail on the head. There’s a lot of good sipping whisky available in this price range and there’s a lot of sub-par sipping whisky in it as well. This falls in the good category.
I definitely recommend picking up a bottle of Midnight. Try it neat first, and see if you like the intense flavor of the spices. If not, add a splash of water or a cube to your dram, and it certainly wont let you down.
Pendleton Midnight Cocktails
First, don’t go mixing Pendleton Midnight with coke or other soda, you can get much cheaper, worse whisky if you plan on that. The price range of Midnight, along with it’s quality, makes it a perfect selection for some nicer cocktails. However, I am curious to see how the flavor mixes in them. Will it be overpowering or will it find balance with those strong flavors in an old-fashioned or Manhattan?
1.5 oz Pendleton Midnight, .75 oz vermouth, 2 dashes of angostura bitters, 1 cherry. Mix it up with ice in a shaker and pour into a cocktail glass.
I followed this recipe, a standard recipe offered by the Pendleton Whisky website, but was a little disappointed. I thought this might make a great Manhattan, but the spice, vermouth, and bitters all clashed more than they came together. Perhaps, it’s my bartending skills, or lack thereof, though.
2 oz. Pendleton Midnight, 1 tsp simple syrup, 2 dashes of angostura bitters and orange bitters, an orange peel.
Again, we’re following the recipe given by Pendleton’s website. The old-fashioned with Pendleton Midnight is much better, in my mind, than the Manhattan. Overall, a solid option, but I’ll still opt for drinking this on the rocks.
1.5 oz Pendleton Midnight, 1 oz Campari, 1 oz vermouth, 1 orange peel.
Again, we’re following the recipe given by Pendleton’s website. The Campari brings out some stronger fruit flavors, but it still clashes with the vermouth. In terms of cocktails, the old-fashioned is the winner here.
Pendleton Midnight Summary
Pendleton Whisky can be a bit of an enigma. It is a Canadian whisky that markets itself heavily with the people and traditions of the American Pacific Northwest. It’s a whisky that ties much of its identity to an American rodeo, makes donations to the U.S Armed Forces, but is distilled in Canada. Which is it? Both, I suppose. One thing I will say, they definitely do Canadian whisky justice while supporting American communities and military.
Pendleton Midnight was equally confusing for me. I appreciated the quality and ease of the whiskey from the first sip, but the intense flavor had me thinking it just wasn’t for me. It took only a couple more sips to figure out I was wrong – this is a quality whisky with great flavor. It simply takes a splash of water or an ice cube to get it there, at least for me. At $30-35, I recommend picking up a bottle on your next trip to the liquor store.