Review: Stalk & Barrel Rye Canadian Whisky (Cask Strength) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
~60%
Aging
~3.5 yrs; Bourbon Barrels
Recipe
100% Rye (malted & unmalted)
Distiller Still Waters (Concord, Ontario)

This is the same rye as their 46% bottlings, except undiluted from the cask. I love their standard rye, so the cask strength offering is certainly also appealing!


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Cask 34, 61.4%
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2016

Some confectionary sweetness, pine, coconut, marshmallow, and a layer of complex spices and some nice spice. Dill pickle is prominent. On the palate – big and enveloping, with lots of oak, vanilla, dill, apple, and light bourbon notes and terrific tea notes. Finishes with marshmallows and rising spice. I really like this stuff. Terrific!

Score: 88/100

Value: 63/100 (based on $100)


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Cask 56, 60.2%
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2016

Anise candies, white pepper, mint, vanilla – quite sweet, in fact, on the nose. Oak, also, is present in greater quantity here. Some vegetal aromas like celery, too. Lightly earthy. Coconut. When diluted to 46%, it’s softer and more creamy and oaky than the two barrels I’ve tasted at 46%.

The palate is a lot softer than expected – but lots of spices still. The barrels I have tasted have been vibrant and spicy, so I figured this one would be that, only more amped up. Not so. Lots of cloves and cinnamon, black tea, and a bit of bubblegum too, which also comes through on the palate. It is young, but this is such quality distillate that it isn’t bad. Nice spice on the end too. Granny smith apples. Surprising amount of bubblegum. Some deep vegetable notes too…particularly on the finish. And honey, too.

Though I quite like it at cask strength, this one is not quite the quality of the previous two barrels I have tasted – not quite as complex. Still, however, terrific. I’m amazed, frankly – if someone were to tell me whether I would enjoy a 3 year old rye, matured in ex-bourbon barrels, at cask strength – I’d likely answer no. The distillate is just so terrific at Still Waters, though, that this one works out very well.

Score: 86/100

Value: 53/100 (based on $100)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2017

Grassy spice, oak, long-brewed black tea, icing sugar, and sharp pepper.  The palate is big, full of caramel, light corn husk notes, blueberry, black tea, and a tangy, spicy character. The finish is big, with spices and sweetness doing a bit of a dance. Brilliant spices, and lots of douglas fir notes – I love it, as usual. I rated a cask strength single malt higher this year, but I still like this style more.

The fir/pine notes are amazing, along with the grassy spice and the tea notes. At times, they almost leech to a tropical fruit like lychee. It’s remarkable. This is one of the most special and unique ryes I’ve tasted, and, frankly, I’m fascinated (which doesn’t happen often with me and flavor!).

Score: 87/100

Value: 58/100 (based on $100)


Review: Stalk & Barrel Red Blend Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Blend of Canadian Whiskies
Distiller Multiple (Canada)

The higher end blend from Still Waters, coming in at 43% and $40, containing more of their whisky relative to the sourced stuff.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2016

Vanilla, caramel pudding, apricot, pine, and a nice rye heart. Oh, and lots of milk chocolate – it’s quite impressive.  Vanilla wedding cake, lilacs, and light oak come in as well. With time – cookie batter, cinnamon, and lots of milk chocolate. The palate is creamy and clean, balancing well the spicy rye and the sweet oak. At times, youth is felt – but it is all coming from the terrific young Still Waters product which I still find so appealing.

Brilliant spices, complexity, and balance. I am partial to their rye, but this is still a very worthwhile whisky. What I like about all the new two blends from Still Waters is that the blends are different from what they have made in the past, but they are have the distinct Stalk & Barrel style, which is a good one.

Score: 85/100

Value: 80/100 (based on $40)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2017

Apple, apple juice, oak, lilac, and some toffee, oak, and grassy spice underneath. Lots of vanilla! The nose grows beautifully with time. The palate has a delicious, tangy and tannic structure on which apples, pears, grassy spice, clove, and vanilla sit. The finish fades out with gorgeous spices and light tea notes. Terrific!

Score: 84/100

Value: 77/100 (based on $40)


Review: Stalk & Barrel Blue Blend Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Stalk & Barrel Blue.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Blend of Canadian Whiskies
Distiller Multiple (Canada)

Still Waters distillery recently released two new blends through the LCBO – a blue blend and a red blend which includes a blend of sourced whiskies and their own whiskies. I like the blends – they very much show their house style through the blends, which wasn’t seen in their original blend, 1+11. The names Blue and Red simply come from the names given to the candidate blends as they decided on their recipes. Notably, this whisky comes into the LCBO at a price of $33, meaning it is really the first micro distillery product in Canada able to come in close to $30 and compete with some of the lower priced big distillery products (which range up from $26 at the cheapest).


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2016

Some nice rye notes at the centre here, with brilliant tea, clove, and supported with light stone fruit, apple, oak, charred wood, and wooden pencil shavings. Again, the palate has nice rye at the centre and is still very clean – I say this because many products coming out of micro distilleries are not. Lightly creamy too, with some good vanilla, chocolate, and apricot on the palate. A bit watery in places - it seems something like a whisky with a terrific superstar (the rye) but no supporting cast. Light jasmine on the finish, alongside mixed nuts and the brilliant grassy spices that tend to come out of Still Waters distillery.

Terrific blending by the Still Waters fellows. They still haven’t made a whisky that has failed to engage me as a whisky lover.

As an aside, I like this, and it is sweet enough at the beginning of the palate but not quite enough on the end or finish for this. My solution is to add a drop of bourbon (or a sweet rye, but you don’t want to mask the brilliant rye notes already in here!), which does the trick beautifully as long as it’s not too much. I like something between 8-15% added, i.e., about ½ - 1 tsp of bourbon per oz, depending on the bourbon. It brings out some beautiful notes in the blend, actually.

Score: 82/100

Value: 75/100 (based on $33)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2017

Bright, creamy, with lots of oak. Rich, integrated fruit too. The palate is full of very creamy oak, vanilla, dried apricot, white pepper, and lightly drying spice on the end with a touch of molasses and drying oak.

Score: 83/100

Value: 77/100 (based on $33)


Review: North of 7 Canadian Whisky (North of 7 Distillery) by Jason Hambrey

   
  
 
  
    
  
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 Image copyright by North of 7 Distillery. Used with Permission.

Image copyright by North of 7 Distillery. Used with Permission.

ABV
45%
Aging
3 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
51% Corn, 26% Wheat, 12% Rye, 12% Barley
Distiller North Of 7 (Ottawa, Ontario)

An Ottawa whisky (I am an Ottawa native, so I'm interested!) - made in a bourbon profile - largely corn, and matured in New Oak from a four grain mash bill. North of 7 was perhaps the last craft distillery to get a contract with Independent Stave Company - the renowned maker of barrels for renowned Kentucky Distillers like Buffalo Trace, Jim Beam, and Heaven Hill. Because of the whisky boom, they won't take any more clients! All that to say, North of 7 has some pretty good casks...


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Cask 1
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose has a nice grainy base with lots of caramel and a grassiness reminiscent of spicy pot still Iriish whisky. Vanilla, anise, methol, sharp new oak, corn husks, butterscotch, cucumber, and lots of grain notes – wheat flour, nutty grain, polenta, and light grainy earthiness. Surprisingly wheaty – cream of wheat comes through quite clearly. The youth of the nose is present, with a bit of rawness on the otherwise pleasant and grain-forward nose. The palate is corn and oak forward, with a light caramel rumble before a spicy and grain-laden finish. The anise is present throughout, and the spicy finish is lightly creamy with butterscotch – for good effect. They emphasize their casks, from Independent Stave Company (who also supply Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill, and most of the other successful distilleries in Kentucky) – and for good reason. These casks will treat this whisky well, given a few more years.

Based on the mash bill and how it is matured, you might be expecting a bourbon. It’s reminiscent of the style – but it’s not. Either it is simply not warm enough in Ottawa, or it needs more time – but that is of no matter. A thoroughly enjoyable whisky, this, and shows lots of potential as the years will add on.

Score: 84/100

Value: 61/100 (based on $60)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Cask 2
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2017

Centred on grainy notes, reminiscent of spicy mixed grain porridge, yet still with quite a bit of orchard fruit – peach and pear. Wheat really comes out. Tangy, too – the light bits of menthol, pineapple, and oak that play in nicely. Maltesers, milk chocolate, vegetal cacao, and a touch of green cardamom too. The oak and the grain are both so rich with this one – nice…

Score: 84/100

Value: 61/100 (based on $60)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Cask 3
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2017

This now has more prominent notes suggesting wheated bourbon, which I didn’t get in the previous cask. Corn, vanilla, confectioner’s sugar, grape, light floral rye, clove, pear, toasted hazlenuts, blanched almonds, green tea, and a grainy, porridge-like character. There’s a sharp yeasty note too.  It really has come on – it makes me quite interested to know what this will taste like at 6+ yrs. The palate is lightly sweet, with a toffee backdrop with the grainy notes, coconut, and ripe banana on top. The finish has prune, cacao, lots of nuts, clove, and other baking spice. Lightly earthy, too, on the finish – nice touch.

There are still a few off notes which I expect to get ironed out as it gets older – but coming along well! These also lift off as the bottle is open a bit.

Score: 85/100

Value: 66/100 (based on $60)


Review: Glen Saanich Canadian Single Malt by Jason Hambrey

 Image courtesy of De Vine Spirits.

Image courtesy of De Vine Spirits.

ABV
45%
Aging
18 Months; Quarter Ex-Bourbon Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller De Vine Vineyards (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

De Vine Vineyards recently put up a distillery and they started maturing single malt, with the first release making quite a splash with a Silver in the 2017 Canadian Whisky Awards and selling out quickly. Not yet a whisky, but they will be releasing 2 and then 3 year old version along with barrel finishes in time. However, they wanted to release a younger version to show the terroir and character of the whisky before the aging process adds and changes too much flavour.

This release was floor malted at the distillery by Mike Doehnel at Saanich, using local barley - the talk of malting on the web site is much more than just cheap talk. The bourbon barrels are sourced from Washington state.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 2016
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2016

Pleasing and complex on the nose with lots of hay, apples, cherry pits, menthol, apricot crisp, cherry pits, and baking spices. The palate is sharp initially with the grain and fresh peaches, before oak, smoke, pepper, and vanilla pudding take over and command the finish. The movement is wonderful! The palate is brilliant, but the nose needs a bit of work - it’s still a bit “green” and young – but very worthwhile.

Score: 85/100

Value: 74/100 (based on $70)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2017

2 years old now; previous batch was 1.5 years old.

The nose is grainy, with dry spice and light apple coming through. Malty and minerally, almost like an English bitter made with that mineral-laden water. The palate is light, clean, with a growing rich malty character towards the end with rising spice and malt. Nice dried fruit with almost a bit of spice and gunpowder. The barley comes through beautifully – reminds me somewhat of Bruichladdich, no surprise given that the master distiller apprenticed there. The earthiness of the barley is brilliant.

Better than last year, but still waiting for what age will bring – a lot I expect. Rare to find such a young spirit so good.

Score: 85/100

Value: 74/100 (based on $70)


Review: Dillon's Three Oaks Rye Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
3 yrs; New Ontario Oak, New American Oak, First Fill Bourbon
Recipe
100% Ontario Rye
Distiller Dillon's (Beamsville, Ontario)

Dillon’s splashed into the whisky market with a bang, immediately selling out of their two initial cask strength rye releases - and now they have released a new rye, at 43% in 500 ml bottles sold for $40. The whisky is made from 100% rye, 7 first fill bourbon barrels, 2 new american oak barrels, 1 new ontario oak barrel. The whisky was filled in 2013 and early 2014. Nice bottle, too. Dillon's often releases their whiskies in smaller bottles, which I like - it spreads out some good spirit and lets people taste it without having to lay out a lot of money.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 1
  • Bottling Code: N/A (Bottle 2110)
  • Bottling Date: 2017

Bright and fruit forward – green apple, apple sauce, pear- with some coconut, vanilla, sesame,

grassy, spicy rye, celery. Lightly creamy. Yeast and the grain character are shown through lightly as well.  Despite the new oak, it must not be that heavy of a char because this is quite distillate forward rather than being heavily focused on charred wood. The palate is terrific: creamy toffee and green apple lead into waves of incredible toasted grain and spice flavours. And some juniper and arugula as well, adding great structure. Great movement. The finish is moderately light, and maintains is lightly sweet, balancing the grassy rye, arugula, toffee, oak, and orchard fruits. Very easy to drink!

Really nice stuff. I still think at 46% this would go just a bit farther, particularly on the finish. Some people are disapointed that it isn’t CS, but I’m happy with that choice as the elegance of the whisky is probably better shown at this strength.

Score: 88/100

Value: 82/100 (based on $60)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2017

Develops beautifully. Apple juice, pineapple, fruit drops, again slowly developing to reveal very nice grain notes. Light rye bread, crusty brown bread, toffee, and pear. The palate carries all the fruit notes forward in terrific fashion alongside terrific rye bread notes and lots of spices and light arugula. The rye bready notes on the finish are terrific. Very nice!

Not quite as deep or as well integrated as batch 1, and doesn’t taste quite as mature, but still terrific and some of the best micro rye in Canada.

Score: 87/100

Value: 78/100 (based on $60)


Review: Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask Single Malt Taiwanese Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Kavalan Solist 1.jpg
ABV
59.1%
Aging
~6 years; Oloroso Sherry Cask
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Kavalan (Yuanshan, Taiwan)

One of the most highly regarded bottlings of whisky, Kavalan Solist Sherry. Here we go!


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Cask S081225011; Bottle 287/535
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: ~2014

The nose has 2% North American milk (yes! and North American milk doesn't taste like milk elsewhere - it isn't stated without reason), lots of anise, licorice, star anise, fennel seed (very much - Kavalan is quite licorice-y, and this is no exception), milk chocolate, sherry, celery, oak, tobacco, currants, vanilla. The nose at cask strength is incredible - dilution changes it, but doesn't improve it - the components battle one another with more power at cask strength - the oak, the sherry, the licorice, the spice. It is pretty dense stuff.

The palate has lots of currants, milk chocolate, anise, fresh fennel fronds, clove, cinnamon, and a bit of a malty core. It's quite nice, really. At cask strength the malt and raisins feel so pure, fading to spice and prunes eventually. The finish is spicy with tobacco, clove, green tea, dried fruit, celery seed, and apple chips.

I generally don't love anise-y whiskies but this is growing on me quite a bit. It is marvelous...very complex, a bit weird, very good...a single cask, so these vary from cask to cask. Some, I hear are marvelous, but given all the licorice in Kavalan - I might not due them justice.

Score: 88/100

Value: 1/100 (based on $216)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: S090123071 (bottle 434 of 514, 58.6%) 2015.08.17 13:34
  • Bottling Date: 2015

The nose is rich and woody, with light licorice, and lots of spices – from wintergreen to a rich, slightly edgy woody spice perhaps like licorice root. But lots more: roasted almonds and cashews, orchard fruit, peach and nectarine, walnut, and toffee. Slightly sweet on the nose; it’s balanced well. It holds itself together on the nose better than most cask strength single malts, with a rich oaky centre surrounded by all the spice, herbal notes, and fruit. Also, oddly, the earthiness is more prominent at cask strength compared to when it is watered down.

The palate has chocolate and lots of almond, sherry, and rich oak. It has lots of typical Italian mixed dried herbs, fresh fig, strawberry. A very rich mouthfeel, and great movement, with a rising set of flavours and feels toward the finish. Quite a bit softer than my cask.

The finish has date bars, wood char, dried spices, green tea, and dried apricot – and some dried thyme. The whisky has a bit of astingency akin to over-steeped black teas – not necessarily bad, but different - the whisky is built around this and it gives it a very interesting structure.

This cask is quite a bit different than my sharper, licorice-laden, and slightly astringent bottling above. This is less „winey”, more oaky, and has less spice and astringency. The cask above had some of the most licorice I’ve ever seen in a whisky.... (my tasting of concertmaster might have had more).

Score: 89/100

Value: 12/100 (based on $216)


Review: High Coast (BOX) Second Step Collection 02 Swedish Single Malt Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
51.2%
Aging
Ex-bourbon and ex-oloroso
Recipe
100% Barley
Distiller High Coast (Adalen, Sweden)

A special, cask strength release from BOX. For more info, their website is packed-full of information.

This whisky is a vatting of:

  • 8.2% unpeated single malt, aged 5.2 years in a first fill bourbon cask
  • 31.3% unpeated single malt, matured 4.7 years in first fill oloroso sherry cask
  • 12% unpeated single malt;  matured 4.9 years in first fill oloros sherry cask
  • 8.5% peated single malt; matured 4.7 years in oloroso sherry cask

Review (2018)

  • Batch: 02
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2016

Lots of dried fruit – has a slight sulphur edge. Wine gums, oak, toffee, apple, vanilla – with still a light oily youth. Raisins, prunes, and a nice set of spices – tannic, clove, and nutmeg. It’s heavily sherry influenced – I really like it. Quite complex – and there is a really nice integrated peated component – impressive with all of the sheryr involved. Lots of nice earthiness and dried fruit too. The palate is quite nice – balanced, fruity, with spice and lots of dried fruit and a slight touch of sulphur and smoke too. Rancio, dried peaches, dried orange, and tannins. Nice finish that is a bit bready and woody, and with a touch of burnt-like bitterness. Spicy, rich, smoky on the finish.

The sherry works pretty well with their distillate, and this displays it very well. Rich, and much deeper than Dalwe.

Score:  87/100

Value: 31/100 (based on $148)


Review: High Coast (BOX) Dalwe Swedish Single Malt Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
First Fill Bourbon Barrels
Recipe
100% Barley
Distiller High Coast (Adalen, Sweden)

BOX (now named High Coast distillery) is an emerging Swedish single malt. They are extremely generous with information - probably the most information on a bottling of their spirit I have ever seen from any whisky brand. Even the yeasts used are listed! The whisky is made from 63.5% is 5.24 year old first fill bourbon cask (200 L), 24.1% is 5.23 year peated whisky from 200 L first fill bourbon cask, and  12.4% is 5.1 year old  135 first fill bourbon cask.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 01
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2016

Really interesting peat. Peat fires, green apple skins, rye porridge, whole wheat noodles, licorice, and confectioners sugar. Very interesting. It’s quite nice, but not too deep. The palate comes out a bit more with lots of spice, rich and organic earth, and burning pine. Slightly confectionary, still. Pine needles too. The finish is spicy and slightly tannic. It’s nice, and a pleasant micro-distilled peated whisky – often I find they aren’t as appealing as this one. I like the rich, porridge-like character. A bit of smoked tobacco on the end.

Score: 84/100

Value:  37/100 (based on $122)

 


Review: Nikka Coffey Malt Japanese Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Grain Whisky (i.e. not Malted Barley)
Distiller Miyagikyo (Sendai, Japan)

Similar to the Nikka Coffey Grain (which I really like), this is a malt made in Nikka's coffey still.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: 6/14E481631
  • Bottling Date: August 2016

A very Japanese nose – light incense, apple juice, vanilla, spicy oak, banana, and light dried citrus. Well balanced and elegant. The mouthfeel is rich, with a rich spiciness – clove, rosewood, and sandalwood – and light fruit and floral notes to balance it out. There is lots of vanilla and oreo ice cream. The finish is sweet with light floral notes, raisins, prunes and a suggestive maltiness. It’s very  easy to drink, but I think its sibling Coffey Grain is actually better.

Score: 85/100

Value: 49/100 (based on $99)