Eugene on the Rocks: WhipperSnapper at a Whiskey Bar


meiji 2What is better than bellying up to the bar at Izakaya Meiji for a craft cocktail and a snort of local whiskey?  Nothing comes to mind.  Taking in the sweet flavors of WhipperSnapper whiskey, by Ransom Spirits, and absorbing the bustling sounds of this amazing little Japanese whiskey bar is a sure-fire way to enjoy an evening.  Whether you are a total newbie or you have been in a hundred times the sights, sounds, and smell (oh the smell) will invite you in and make you feel like you are in just the right place.

This is not the first encounter between WhipperSnapper and myself. In fact, we have become rather well acquainted over the last year.  When the barman, Travis, suggested WhipperSnapper my first thought was to try something slightly more exotic, but why not take something you know and look at it through the eyes of a reviewer rather than an old friend?  That is what happened, and what an eye-opener it was.


WhipperSnapper shines in the glass like a freshly minted penny.  The vibrant color comes from aging in new and used whiskey barrels, as well as used Oregon Pinot barrels.  Along with a gorgeous hue, the glass could run away with the legs this whiskey has. It is thick!  The nostrils will tingle slightly as the glass approaches, but that will be the first and last sign of heat from this young, upstart of a whiskey.  At first sniff the usual oak and vanilla characteristics of a whiskey can be detected, but there is something else lingering in the finish.  There is a sweetness to the nose that is reminiscent of a dark rum, but again there was something else, something that felt personal.  The smell of sweet pipe tobacco is one of the few remaining memories I have of my late grandfather, and the second I realized what the scent was it sent me right back to sitting on his lap reading the morning paper.

The Boulevardier at Izakaya Meiji

After pondering the mysteries of life and death, it was time to move on to that first sip. WhipperSnapper is a burst of flavor from the very beginning.  Butterscotch, oak, and cereal flavors coat the entire palate.  The sweetness quickly subsides, leaving a surprisingly crisp finish. Whiskey can be appreciated for its intense flavors, intricacies, and complexity, but some whiskeys are simply meant to be enjoyed.  This is an unpretentious and thoroughly satisfying whiskey that is made right here in Oregon, and will not break the bank.  Find out more about WhipperSnapper at

Meiji makes a fine drink.  That is well known, and certainly contributes to their always packed restaurant.  Travis, easily recognizable by his outstanding mustache, recommended a Boulevardier using WhipperSnapper.  The Boulevardier is a classic cocktail related to the Negroni, but substituting gin for whiskey (usually bourbon).  Sweet, tart, and delicious.  The deep ruby color is almost too pretty to drink, but eventually the smell of subtle spices and citrus will take hold.  It was perfect for a rainy spring evening.  Another fun fact about Izakaya Meiji is that they are open seven days a week, and have happy hour menu all day on Mondays.  For those of us whose work schedules, or preferences, do not allow for going out on the weekends it is so nice to have an upscale option for dinner and drinks on a Sunday or Monday.


Growing up in the Napa Valley meant that Ben was surrounded by food and wine culture from a very young age. It began a life long love of food, and all of the wonderful libations that go along with the perfect meal.
Ben attended the Napa Valley Cooking School, in St. Helena, California. Under the tutelage of Chef Barbara Alexander, and other renowned chefs such as Master Chef Dieter Doppelfeld, Ben honed his skills in the kitchen. He was fortunate enough to spend time in some of the best restaurants in the country, including a stage at The French Laundry.
After working his way through the kitchen ranks, Ben decided it was time to try a new challenge. That is when the opportunity to become a partner at Hard Times Distillery was seized, and the rest of the story remains to be seen.
Being an owner of a distillery has helped him bring together the love of food, and drink. Since one is never complete without the other, it only makes sense to write about them both.
Ben lives in Eugene with his partner, Dr. Beth Washak, and two year old son, Jaxson. When they are not busy working and chasing a baby, they enjoy nothing more than relaxing with a local brew and friends.

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