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Tasting Pendleton Midnight

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The Sounders latest food & beverage partner is a whiskey out of Hood River Distillers.

Dave Clark

On May 24th, an email popped up saying that the Seattle Sounders and Hood River Distillers reached agreement that Pendleton Midnight is the official whiskey of the Seattle team. You may have seen the billboard announcing the same as you drive up highway 99 or 1st Avenue.

Before we talk about sponsorships, because for most of you that’s boring, let’s hit the tasting notes. Please understand that my whisky experience is mostly from the Scottish Isles. I prefer peat and smoke notes. It is my understanding, but not my experience, that Canadian whiskeys feature more sweetness with less bite.

I poured a fresh bottle, recently purchased for ~$35 at a local Safeway. As it was my first tasting I poured into large-mouth, clean glass with no ice or water. I inhaled while pouring, in order to experience the nose of the 90-proof whiskey.

The nose is of vanilla and soft leather. An initial sip is smooth and soft, a texture of butter. The alcohol burn is late and comfortingly warm. This whisky is weighty, but not hefty. Warm spice notes are throughout. There is a hint of holiday baking spice.

Further sips offer more clarity, but variance, in which spices are forward. This is a complex set of flavors, rather than a singular note spiked out. There are layers, but the variety is within the spices of comfort rather than heat. Every taste is simple and easy. There is no difficulty in drinking this whiskey, which belongs in an empty glass, not mixed with other spirits or flavors.

Hood River Distillers points out that they earned a 96 at the 2016 Ultimate Spirits Challenge. My limited experiences with Canadian whiskeys mean that I am unable to compare notes with similar spirits, but I do know that after one night with Pendleton Midnight I will enjoy again, and again.

Let’s compare to the official bottle notes, as my tasting experiences are in coffee, beer, and wine.

Nose: Musky notes of leather mix with warm cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and a hint of ginger; finished with subtle undertones of dried fruit.

Palate: Full, well-balanced oak is paired with hints of coffee cake, nuts, caramelized bananas and candied figs for a complex flavor.

Finish: A full-bodied and satiating finish with a lingering smolder of spices, pecans and walnuts.

I’m not a fan of nut as a flavor designation, preferring it as reference to body. Tonight’s sips will focus on those fruit notes. I’m a bit ashamed they didn’t come forward for me, but that may be due to a lack of experience with the type of beverage.

I also know that the only reason I considered exploring the Oregon-based product is because of their partnership with the Sounders..

The various food and beverage sponsorships the Sounders have vary from huge multinationals - Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s - to small and local like Taqueria El Rinconsito. Other sponsors in this segment are Columbia Crest, El Jimador, Oberto, Starbucks, Subway and Yucatan Guacamole.

There are various levels of branding. McDonald’s is the “Official Breakfast of the Seattle Sounders FC.” Columbia Crest created a branded wine called “Supporters Blend” with the team crest on a bottle in near black with rave green accents.

Pendleton Midnight is not carrying team branding. It still connects with Pacific Northwest. It is from Oregon and carries the classic Pendleton Round-up Association logo.