Everyone loves a hatchet job from time to time, so here's the rub on Pendleton: not only does it taste like total garbage, it has one of the stupidest stories and brand identities in all whiskydom.
Let me elaborate. Pendleton is a Canadian whisky that has decided that the absolute best niche market to pursue is American rodeo enthusiasts. No, I'm not shitting you.
As proof, you'll notice that their logo is a bucking bronco with some dude losing his cowboy hat. And the slogan is "Let 'er buck." It actually does sponsor rodeos. Sometimes, the special edition bottles are just jingoistic as all get out, with American flags and stars and camouflage prints.
It's like someone found some random Canadian and asked him, "Hey: what do you think the Americans would want to see on their whisky bottle?" The man rubs his chin thoughtfully and replies, "Well, probably some bucking broncos and and shit. I'm pretty sure they like horses." And here we are.
Pendleton tries to add some degree of Yankee authenticity by proudly claiming that they make the whisky with special glacier water from Mt. Hood, Oregon. This marks perhaps the one and only time that a distiller has been so deliberate as to say, "Our signature flavor comes from watering this stuff down."
That said, they may be doing us a favor, because I wouldn't want to have this stuff at full strength. In fact, the glacier water may very well be the best part of Pendleton. From the very first smell of this hell liquid, I knew something was going to be off. The nose was a bizarre amalgam of wet hay and the caramel syrup they pump into Starbucks lattes. I immediately anticipated something artificial and cloying as I raised my glass.
The taste was way more horrid than I had thought. You'll immediately experience a sickening, sour kind of chemical sweetness that's reminiscent of straight aspartame or stevia. Fight past that, and the caramel from the nose shows up in the form of extremely blackened, totally carbonized sugar. Imagine chomping into a sugar-free caramel scraped out of a blast furnace and you won't be too far off from what Pendleton has to offer.
Past that, there's also a bitter citrus taste in there that reminds me of kumquats, which is totally out of place. But hey, stick with tasting this stuff, and you'll also get some corn funk that brings to mind shitty bourbons in addition to shitty blended Canadian whisky. What a two-fer! It's almost stunning how Pendleton crashes all around you in waves of bad.
Some of you might think I'm a snob because I felt that finishing even my 50ml taster was a herculean struggle. If that's the conclusion you're heading towards, I'd say this: give me the benefit of the doubt and check the review index, because there's a whole hell of a lot I like that's affordably priced—including other Canadian whiskies.
For one of Pendleton's marketing campaigns, they came up with the tagline, “Out here, this is whisky.” No wonder I don't have a goddamned tan. Based on my experience with the bottle, I'll continue to stay in here, thanks. Like, fucking forever.