Friday, July 23, 2010

Great places to drink whisky ... The Highland Stillhouse, Oregon City, USA

highland stillhouse logoSituated on a hillside overlooking Willamette Falls, the Highland Stillhouse is a pub and whisky bar located 30 scenic minutes southeast of Portland, Oregon in the United States' beautiful Pacific Northwest. The current owners, Tammy and Mick Secor, have been visiting Scotland and her distilleries for the last twenty years and have decorated their bar with mementos from their personal collection (peat cutters, old whisky posters, personal pictures of distilleries and distillery managers, to name just a few). Upon first walking into the second floor "snug bar" (Tammy's name for the cosy public bar - the lounge is located on street level) I felt like I'd walked into the Highlander Inn in the town of Craigellachie in Scotland's Speyside region.

The bar boasts over 200 single malt whiskies, an additional 100 "world" whiskies and quite a few beers to boot (over 60 from Scotland alone, and even two cask conditioned "real" ales on tap). They also serve great food. For more information, check out their website or follow along on Twitter (@StillhousePub) or Facebook (The Highland Stillhouse Pub).

highland stillhouse exteriorThe building dates from 1925 when it was a petrol filling station. In 1926, the owner of the filling station installed a cafe and ran both ventures through the end of the 1950s. At that time the filling station was closed and the entire downstairs became Art's Cafe, with the upstairs providing living accommodation. Tammy and Mick purchased the building in 2005 and spent one year renovating both the downstairs and the upstairs. The addition of a covered deck allows patrons a chance to sit outside and enjoy the picturesque scenery with a pint and a dram... and maybe a deep fried haggis ball!

highland stillhouse interiorLike the best whisky bars the Highland Stillhouse barkeep presents you with an informative whisky menu when you inform them of your desire to sample a tasty treat from their collection of over 300 whiskies. The menu provides information on 'usquebaugh' and Scotland's five whisky regions. The offerings are separated according to region. Then there's a list of world whiskies, blends, and single grain whiskies. There's even a map of Scotland on the back of the menu so you can source your selection. When you find out that Tammy's license plate reads "ARDBEG" you won't be surprised to discover that the whisky menu favors releases from that particular distillery located on Islay's south shore. The Ardbeg options include Provenance 1974 ($169 a dram), the highly sought after 17 Year Old ($46.75 a dram), Rollercoaster ($34.50), and the rest of the current line. Special bottlings from other distilleries include a 24 Year Old Brora ($38.50) and a 22 Year Old Port Ellen from Connoisseur's Choice ($46.75).

However, before you start thinking this bar only serves high rollers you should know that the majority of the whisky menu features whiskies priced between $4.50 and $15 so there's plenty of choice for those of us on a budget. Mick offers a monthly sampler where you can purchase three whiskies for $20 and often leads his own whisky tastings. Whisky is poured in 1.5oz measures and served in a Glencairn glass with a pitcher of bottled water on the side. Pints come in 20oz glasses (rather than the US's standard 16oz pour).

During my time at the Highland Stillhouse I was fortunate to share a pint and a dram with Tammy and Mick while I listened intently to their tales from twenty years of visiting Scotland and meeting individuals whom I've only read about in books and magazines. They are both terrifically warm hosts and run a beloved local establishment that has won its fair share of awards in the relatively short time it's been open. If you find yourself in the vicinity of Portland, Oregon I highly recommend dashing down I-5 and across 205 in order to take advantage of what the Stillhouse has to offer. When you see 15,000 foot Mount Hood rising up to greet you, you'll know you're in Highland territory.
guid scotch drink logoWe thank Jason Johnston-Yellin from the Guid Scotch Drink whisky blog for writing this review and supplying the interior and exterior photos of The Highland Stillhouse. Be sure to check out his excellent and informative blog, if you haven't already - he can also be followed on Facebook and Twitter (@GuidScotchDrink).


Adulting is Hard said...

Loved your description of the bar that I equally love, check out my own review at


Drew said...

Accurate description above and the whisky selection always changing. Mick has also formed a committee of sorts that after you join you access all kinds of tastings at a discount plus an early chance at Ardbegs yearly release. Ardbeg loves this place and it’s known nationally for the amount of Ardbeg it sells. Hence, a great annual celebration of Ardbeg Day festivities. Great whiskeys, good food, unpretentious folks, a warm celebratory feeling - the Highland Stillhouse could have been plucked from Scotland’s own pubs. i’ve been to both and there’s no difference save the patrons accents. By the way, kilts and pipes are welcome!