Recently, as I sat in a movie theater waiting for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to start, I eavesdropped on two people talking behind me. Guy on my left was describing his recent encounter with McMenamins' latest liquor, New Trough Whiskey. "It tasted like rubbing alcohol," he complained.
I wanted to turn around and call the guy out right there and then. What a wuss! Doesn't he know that the new McMenamins whiskey is the closest thing to moonshine on the market? Doesn't he know that this
is the stuff that makes you a man?

Maybe I'm the wrong guy to ask. Personally, I've never liked traditional whiskeys, and to my relief, this whiskey tasted nothing like Jack Daniels or Maker's Mark bourbon and didn't look like it either. New Trough isn't nearly as sweet or full-flavored as the nationally recognized hooch. And unlike aged whiskey, this stuff is clear: kind of like the un-whiskey.

Whiskeys, much like wines, are usually aged in barrels. The insides of these barrels are singed to varying degrees, opening the inner workings of the wood to penetration by the aging liquor; this permits the essence of the barrel character to be passed on to the spirit.

New Trough, however, never even comes close to the inside of a barrel. It's fresh out of the still, unaged, and therefore pure, unadulterated whiskey, without the typical flavoring that comes with storing the spirit in a barrel or the coloring from caramel, an often-used whiskey additive. Distilled from the McMenamins' Hammerhead beer recipe, New Trough goes straight into the bottle--crystal clear--just like moonshine. I like to call it legal white lightning.

A recent trip to the McMenamins Edgefield Distillery to speak with Lee Medoff, McMenamins' one and only distiller, taught me more about this "white" liquor. "Whiskeys don't start off brown," he informed me. "In fact, everything comes out of the still perfectly clear. Our New Trough is a really light whiskey that in its pure form is perfect on the rocks or straight up." But believe me, at 80 proof, this stuff still isn't that "light"; beware of operating heavy machinery under the influence.

Who would have thought an unaged whiskey would have such a uniquely palatable flavor? Certainly not I. But maybe I am alone. Clearly that wimp in the movie theater couldn't handle such pure punch. Hey guys: If drinking straight up is too much for ya, you might want add a little bit of that lil' kid favorite, Coca-Cola, into the mix. There. Does your tongue feel better?

If you still crave the brown liquor, don't despair. McMenamins will soon be releasing Hogshead, a 1-year-old whiskey made especially for St. Patrick's Day. And, in 2003, be on the lookout for their first standard line of aged whiskey.

New Trough Whiskey

$3.75 a shot, $13.45 per bottle Available by the shot at all McMenamins bars that serve hard liquor and at the