Review: Redbreast Pure Pot Still 12 Year Old Irish Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
12 yrs; Oloroso Sherry and Bourbon Casks
Recipe
Malted and Unmalted Barley
Distiller Midleton (Midleton, Ireland)

This is an Irish pot still whiskey, which means it is made from both malted and unmalted barley - and one of my favorite Irish whiskies. It is distilled at Midleton distillery in County Cork, Ireland. It is aged for 12 years, mostly in Oloroso sherry casks but partially in bourbon casks as well. The first official reference to this brand was in August of 1912, so it’s been around for quite some time. The name, redbreast, refers to a robin. It was likely named by the chairman of Gilbeys, an Irish liquor merchant that managed the brand, who loved birds.


Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Some nice vanilla comes through, alongside some milk chocolate, dulce de leche, maple, charred oak, honey, dried apricot, strawberries, sweet stewed apples, mango, and still with the distinct pure pot still character…all harmoniously balanced. There’s also some beetroot, contributing a wonderful earthiness as well. Some leather emerges over time as well. A wonderful nose!

Taste: There’s a slightly grassy pot still character, apples, with wonderful underlying sweetness. This is delicious, with a brilliant light and smooth mouthfeel – it’s not extremely thick but it wonderfully coats the mouth. There’s some oak and vanilla in the background which leads right into the slightly spicy finish with a light touch of dried fruit. Lots of caramel and toffee as well…very elegant.

Finish: oaky, with an underlying caramel sweetness and a bit of earthiness. It’s quite light, with some nice vanilla notes, and lingers for some time. There is also some maltiness in the finish, and some charred oak.

This is a whisky full of wonderful balance, complexity, and depth. And, it’s very delicous… very easy to just keep drinking the stuff. It starts off as very enjoyable, and it doesn’t get any worse – this is a highly acclaimed whisky and it lives up to the bill.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, at $75.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L430931228 10:56

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Lots of bourbon on this nose, at first! Quite complex, and a bit sweet, with spice, wood, apple, sherry, creamy oak, and some solid grassiness. It is a nice contrast of creamy wood, apple, and drier sherry and oak. Dry wood and banana cream pie come through at the end. Lots going on, well integrated, and quite lovely. Compared to the batch tasted above it’s cleaner, more creamy and buttery, but less earthy and complex, with a bit more sweetness and vanilla and oak compared to the more malty and slightly heavier character of the other. Both fantastic whiskies though.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, at $75.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Loads of fruit, rich, spice, and fruit. Some nice orchard fruit – and the oak is terrific – it is dense and rich. Interesting marine notes – not sure why I find this with some Midleton products – dried seashells, lighter dried fish (not too fishy), and sea salt. The palate is spicy, fruity, balanced, and a bit tannic – loads of flavour in here, with the fruits leading into oak and spiciness – eventually to a tingly, spicy, oily finish with orchard fruit, vanilla,  white pepper, and citrus pith. Big for 40%.

This doesn’t have the complexity or vibrancy of the past two batches, but it’s still very good.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Could be higher if this particular batch was a bit better - this one is still good but not as good as the other two I’ve reviewed above - but still quite a good buy for 70$.


Review: Redbreast Lustau Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Redbreast Lustau.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
10-13 yrs
Recipe
Malted and Unmalted Barley
Distiller Midleton (Midleton, Ireland)

It is no secret that I love the Redbreast lineup, as a huge fan of the 12, 12 Cask Strength, and the 15, and 21. This is an impressive whisky – matured for over a year in a sherry cask – not like the typical short finishes of 32 months just to infuse the barrel juice – this actually gets some influence from the underlying oak. Oloroso sherry from Bodegas Lustau – Redbreast always has a bit of a sherry influence but the point of this whisky is to bring those notes to the forefront.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L622131243 14:36

  • Bottling Date: 2016

The nose is full of sherry, yet still holding those earthy, grassy, and creamy Redbreast characteristics. Brown sugar, rancio, figs, walnuts, chestnuts, vanilla, apple chips, and old oak. Sharp and spicy too. The finish is deeply controlling, and yet this does not stray from the family style – it is firmly Redbreast. Brilliant. As it sits, the sherry comes a bit more under control and the malt and oak lead more heavily.

The palate leads with a creamy, slightly spicy body before dried fruits, clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg assert themselves to the forefront and then slowly fade away into a finish of rancio, creamy malt, toffee, cinnamon, and apples. Very well put together. A bigger redbreast than the 12 and 15, and complex and well integrated – but perhaps the least elegant of them all – but that, perhaps, is not the point of this firm whisky.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $90.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L810931132 08:54 19/04/18

  • Bottling Date: 2018

I don’t feel like I need to do a full review, but I wanted to revisit this dram. In particular, it’s motivated by a visit to the Midleton distillery where most of the pot still Irish whisky in the world is produced. I visited both Midleton distillery and the Jameson experience in Dublin, where I got to try my hand at blending pot still distillate. What I found, interestingly, was the pot still was a bit less robust than I assumed, and I struggled to get a nice balance between the sherry and pot still. It is remarkable – the balance between the pot still and the sherry in the dram – with the bright fruitiness and oily spiciness of the pot still distillate with the dried fruit, rancio, and spice of the sherry casks employed. It’s about perfectly balanced here, and I love it. Remarkable production and blending – try this dram, but you may need to be accustomed to Redbreast 12 and 15 to properly appreciate this.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This batch just so beautifully balances oak, sherry, and pot still. Amazing.

Value: High. Arguably, it could be viewed as the top of “average” but I really like this stuff and it is a good buy, unless you don’t like sherried whiskies!


Review: Steinhart Haskap Gin by Jason Hambrey

Steinhart+Haskap.jpg
ABV
47.5%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Steinhart (Arisaig, Nova Scotia)

Haskap berries are a new “superfood” and grow abundantly in Nova Scotia, having been heavily promoted in the last few years. Why not make a gin from them? Haskap berries are known by other names, like the honeyberry or blue-berried honeysuckle (they are in the honeysuckle family). As with all Steinhart gins, no artificial flavours or additives here.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Another rich, fruity, and spicy gin. The fruitiness is more like elderberry – rich and slightly tannic. Licorice notes, dried mixed berries, strawberry jam, marmalade, and the cinnamons which have more of a woody than a spicy characteristic. The palate is dense, and lightly sweet – with the rich berry notes, light bitterness (almost like clove) and a finish where cereal notes emerge alongside more rich dried berry. Throughout, there are light incense characteristics.

I haven’t tried haskap berries before – but this reminds me a fair bit of elderberry, and it’s rather nice. I suppose it’s not surprising – the berries are both in the honeysuckle family.

Assessment: Recommended. Very unique and well put together. It would mix well, with all the dense fruity and spicy flavours. In fact, a case could be made to use this as a Campari substitute in a “negroni”, with one part gin, one part this, and one part sweet vermouth – or even dry in this case.


Review: Steinhart Blueberry Gin by Jason Hambrey

Steinhart+Blueberry.jpg
ABV
47.5%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Steinhart (Arisaig, Nova Scotia)

Arisaig, where Steinhart distillery is located, is famous for its blueberries - some call it the blueberry capital of the world. Why not, then, make a gin with blueberries? This is made with local wild blueberries, not additives or colouring.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

A bit of a dark, rich earthy start – blueberry is indeed there, along with a rich spiciness and some pickled lemon. The nose is sweet, but quite spicy – in a woody sense, like nutmeg and cinnamon. It isn’t fruity in a bright fruity sense, but denser – like the dried flower, woody, and spicy notes in dried berries. The palate is fascinating, loaded with berry notes, juniper, lemon peel, and a rich berry, citrus, and spice finish. It is incredibly rich, and isn’t as sweet as you might expect – compared to most sweetened fruit gins. Terrific!

On another note, it’s made me see different sides to blueberries, which isn’t insignificant.

Assessment: Highly Recommended. This is really rich, unique, and tasty stuff. The bottle is beautiful, too.


Review: Steinhart Rhubarb Gin by Jason Hambrey

Steinhart+Rhubarb+2.jpg
ABV
47.5%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Steinhart (Arisaig, Nova Scotia)

To create this gin, Steinhart had to source rhubarb which grows like a weed but is expensive to buy (odd that) - so they utilized facebook and all their connections to source all the rhubarb they could locally - and they created this, a rather wonderful gin that is released when the rhubarb is in season and sells out every year.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

This is a rhubarb gin, and perhaps my favourite part is this: it is very clearly rhubarb. They don’t shy away from it, and it is brilliant. The nose has rich vegetal characteristics, earthiness, and some rich woodiness, spice, and bright fruit – but rhubarb is at the center. The palate is tangy, with a nice core of rhubarb and hot spice (like cayenne papper), with a rich rhubarb, spice, and juniper finish. It is quite awesome – easy to drink, yet complex, and still unique and rich. Most excellent.

This is sweetened so it is a bit syrupy – but I quite like it.

I was immediately curious how it compared to Dillon’s Rose Gin, another Canadian sweetened and richly flavoured gin. It’s quite different – a bit more distillate forward, and very much light and floral compared to this – which is rich, thick, and spicy. Both excellent – Dillon’s might be more elegant but this is richer. Which do I prefer? Probably this, but that’s likely a mood question.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended. I had it at “highly recommended”, but this is so unique in how it utilizes an ingredient I rarely see in gin – rhubarb, and it’s focused around it so beautifully. And it’s one of those gins, for me, that makes me think of childhood and rhubarb pies – and it’s so special to have food or drink bring you back to good early memories.


Review: Steinhart Dry Gin by Jason Hambrey

Steinhart+Dry+Gin.jpg
ABV
47.5%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Steinhart (Arisaig, Nova Scotia)

The first producer of gin in Nova Scotia, and a rather good one - this got my attention at the World Gin Awards (judging was blind, I found out later what it was) where it eventually picked up the best Canadian “classic” gin. It is made with Prince Edward Island wheat and legitimately fresh ingredients - the citrus peel which goes into this gin is fresh, not dried, from organic fruit. Diligent care is taken in distillation cuts to produce exactly the profile desired, and it’s not just one cut as often seen with whisky. The juniper is from Tuscany as Canada doesn’t get warm enough summers to achieve the flavour profile desired. It is bottled at 47.5%, so it packs a good kick of flavour – and comes in a beautiful blue bottle. It is made from a wheat base combined with 26 botanicals, including rather expensive ones like vanilla and saffron.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

What a beautiful nose as you pour the first glass – bright mixed citrus peel, woody juniper, deep coriander spice, and a light earthiness. The nose is intense, yet balanced – citrus, rhubarb, lemon, coriander, dill seed, cucumber peel, and fruity notes – something like grape – tying everything together. The palate is rich and spicy, balanced between the woody notes, the fruity notes, cucumber, and the spice. There is a slight sweetness which balances the palate quite nicely. A nice mouthfeel, viscous and spicy. The finish is long and developing, with waves of cucumber, spice, juniper, and coriander. The finish is very nice and clean, too.

This might be a touch hot for some, but a touch of water really opens this up and you don’t lose any flavour with some water. Excellent! This is a terrific gin to sip – one of my favourite Canadian gins. Of course, it mixes well too – but some of the subtlety is lost in cold cocktails.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended. This is nearly a perfect complex gin for me, sipping wise, and it is a masterful mixer - it really is.


Review: Sivo Le Single Malt Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Sivo+Single+Malt+2.jpg
ABV
42%
Aging
New European Oak; Sauternes Barrel Finish
Recipe
100% Quebec Malted Barley
Distiller Maison Sivo (Montérégie, Quebec)

Sivo Le Single Malt is matured at first in new oak and then finished in Sauternes casks, giving a rich and developing fruitiness to the whisky. It’s in high demand, and in Sivo’s own words - they can’t make enough of it. At present, it is only available in Quebec. I’ve tasted a number of cask samples from there - they have some interesting casks going, including an incredibly honeyed beer barrel.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 2019; Finished in Sauternes Casks

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Sharply nutty and full of quite intense grain – like buckwheat soba noodles, but also pain thinner and sharp rye sourdough. Very sharp and unique, but still could use a bit more barrel time – much like le rye. Dried, sweet, fruit throughout, too – dates, raisins -  with a growing sense of roasted grain on the palate and a lot of woody – oak, maple, and chestnuts. There is a nice charred and smoky note – a bit like cacao – towards the end. Nice medium bodied, mixed grain finish with dried fruit, cacao, oak, and oaky spices. It has a terrific finish with a great balance between the dryness, sweetness, and tartness. The finish makes the whisky very moreish – it is having me come back and back.

It is sharp and nutty much like Le Rye – but the palate is softer and lighter. In terms of 3 year old single malts, this is pretty good. The grain character is not too heavy/rough (though it is sharp) - it  works well. It doesn’t have the spicy or tea notes of the rye, but it isn’t as rye. I like it more, but it isn’t as interesting. They are both whiskies to watch as they continue to develop and age.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). It still has the harshness of youth and heavy oak, but this is very interesting and carries spicy, earthy, wine, and grainy notes really well.The finish is just awesome, and it really draws you in. It is very complex, and worth trying. Notably, it’s a touch better and more balanced than the first batch I tasted.

Value: Average. Exactly in the middle of the category too. Notably, cheaper than most craft distilled single malts at $55 and this had a sauternes finish to boot.


Review: Sivo Le Rye Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
42%
Aging
New European Oak; Port Barrel Finish
Recipe
2/3 Quebec Rye, 1/3 Malted Barley
Distiller Maison Sivo (Montérégie, Quebec)

Maison Sivo was started by the Sivo family, who originally came from Hungary where the national drink is palinka, an unaged fruit brandy. With that background, Maison Sivo distills a number of fruit spirits along with some whiskies, currently a rye and a single malt. It’s a relatively new product.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

There is paint thinner and nail polish remover on the nose, and the alcohol is a bit prominent at its bottling strength of 42% - but with some water this fades and complexity is really drawn out. The nose is centred around some really nice grainy notes, reminding me of the warm smell of fermenting rye grain. There are lots of peppery notes, loads of rye spices (baking spices, green and grassy spice, and lilac), along with cherry juice, prunes, and a sweet wine character. The palate is sharp, spicy, and fruity – very jammy, with a nice oaky backbone. The spicy, dried fruit character of the port really comes out towards the end of the palate. The finish is dry and spicy, with white pepper, lilac, dried cherry, and vanilla.

The youth comes through on this one – but there’s lots of complexity and the whisky is quite interesting and has reasonable balance. As/if this whisky gets older, there’s a lot of potential! If you want to explore something that is a bit more unique and intriguing, I’d recommend, and I expect if the distillery can age it longer it may not be far from something special. It’s a bottle I’ve flagged to follow over the next few years.

Value: Average..


Review: Shelter Point French Oak Double Barreled Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Shelter Point Distillery.

Image courtesy of Shelter Point Distillery.

ABV
50%
Aging
6 yrs; American Oak; Blackberry Wine Finish
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

Shelter Point double barreled some of their whisky in French oak blackberry wine casks - here is something unique! This was after about 6 years in American oak.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Coconut, vanilla, caramel, pineapple, and rich orchard fruit and sharp baking spice. Big on the palate – spicy, rich, and full of grain and milk chocolate notes even amidst all the fruit sitting overtop. Lots of rich dried fruit, particularly apricot – frankly, it’s remarkable how well the apricot fits in. The finish rides on a wave of vanilla. My favorite Shelter Point to date. It doesn’t have the finish of some of the artisanal cask finishes but it brings a whole lot to the table…

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $80.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 2018

  • Bottling Date: 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Toffee, broad grain notes, marzipan, and apple juice – yet still with lots of oak, dried fruit, and berries. There is a really great nuttiness shining through, complemented nicely by the oak. It is sweet, easy, and fruity – both fresh fruit and dried fruit, with a bit more emphasis on dried fruit – both stone fruit and raisins and currants. Excellent, and even a touch better than last year!

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $80.


Review: Shelter Point Distiller's Select Cask Strength Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Shelter Point Cask Strength 1.jpg
ABV
58.4%
Aging
First Fill Bourbon Barrel; Finished in French Oak
Recipe
4 casks single malt + 1 cask rye
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

That's right, Patrick Evans is a fan of rye, and decided to throw in a cask of rye with some of Shelter Point's single malt and release it at cask strength. This is now their second whisky release, and has been available only recently at the distillery for $69. It is an odd mix, a vatting of single malt and rye, then finished in French Oak - but I must say after this Shelter Point is quickly moving into competition with Still Waters for my favorite Canadian micro-distillery producer...


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 2016

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

The nose has much of the standard single malt notes – fruity, with apple and cherry, oak, buttery pastry, icing – but with absolutely terrific cereal notes too, good earthiness, and some nice stewed apricot too. Diluted down to a similar strength as their single malt, it is richer and more complex but not quite as lively. Nice spices develop with time. It’s still young, as with the other Shelter Point I have had – but the youth doesn’t come through as much on the palate as with the other one. The palate has some creamy grain, but an incredible vegetal spice grips the palate towards the end leading you into a very rye-laden finish. Quite fascinating in fact – the malt leads you gently in, and the rye boldly ushers you out. Definitely more complex than the standard single malt, and the rye provides wonderful intrigue.

Drinking at cask strength, it really is upped in flavor compared to the diluted version of this whisky, with almond and coconut seeming to come out more. The rye comes into its own with complex vegetal and spice notes particularly on the finish. Not quite as graceful as the inaugural release single malt, but more interesting and more complex. I like it more, but not quite enough to bump it up a percent.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $80.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Five casks of single malt whisky were combined with one cask of rye whisky to make this limited run of 1200 bottles. They were all finished in a French oak cask.

Vanilla, oak, crème brulee, unripe pear, nectarines, stewed fruits, dill, strawberry, and a light floral character. There’s a nice, subtle, candied element to the nose. The palate is big, full of toffee and dried fruits and finishing with spices, mint, and dried apricot. The dried apricot is just remarkable. Big finish – lots of complexity and spice. Lots of nuts, throughout, and nice complexity even if a bit brash at times.

This was one of my top 25 whiskies in the Canadian Whisky Awards in 2017. And for good reason - it’s big, complex, and interesting.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $80.


Review (2019)

·         Batch: 2018

·         Bottling Date: 2018

·         Bottling Code: N/A

This is big, and full of rich grain. It’s quite something – sharp toffee, hazelnut oil, a light grain characteristic, and light spice – but with a comfortable bracing of oak. The palate is sharp, rich, intense – lots of flavor from spice, nuts, oil, and loads of fruit. There is a spicy grain character at the core which I just cannot help but love – and the finish is loaded with dried fruits, umami, and light pepper notes. Very nice…

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $86, against other whiskies at this cost.