Review: Granny's Gin (Last Mountain) by Jason Hambrey

 Image courtesy of Last Mountain distillery.

Image courtesy of Last Mountain distillery.

ABV
40%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Last Mountain (Lumsden, Saskatchewan)

I quite like Last Mountain's products - their whiskies and their other products (like their dill pickle vodka) are made very well. As I do like my gin, I thought I'd see how it stacked up - it is a juniper heavy gin with 4 other botanicals including cardamom and pepper, made to be in a classic dry style. It is made in honor of Colin Schmidt's grandmother, who likes gin "not too florally". She liked her gin and sodas (I do too! 3 soda:1 gin with a citrus twist is my preference).


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2018

I am actually quite a fan of juniper focused gin, as we are here – but also with some nice coriander and dried citrus peel. It is a really nice, rich nose. The palate starts with juniper, and ends with citrus – dried orange and grapefuit peel.  There is a terrific lemon edge to the whole thing, and the finish is light and has a nice spicy edge to it, alongside citrus and pine. The base to the gin is light, and not too heavy – which I like. Fairly light finish, but slightly drying and very pleasing.

It’s more in the style of a traditional dry gin, but I tend to quite like those styles.

Score: 4/5


Review: Glen Saanich Genever by Jason Hambrey

 Image courtesy of De Vine Spirits.

Image courtesy of De Vine Spirits.

ABV
45%
Aging
None
Recipe
Malted Barley Base
Distiller De Vine Vineyards (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

Genever was the original spirit that predates gin, developed in Holland and consumed starting from the 16th century - flavoured malt distilled with botanicals and used to cover up poor tasting spirit and for medicinal (and recreational...) uses. This then was found by the English who started then developed it to gin. It is still widely consumed in Netherland and Belgium.

When I visited De Vine vineyards, I tasted through all of Saanich’s spirits when I visited, and this is the spirit I chose to walk away with. Nicely balanced, good feel, and interesting. The malt base underneath works its wonders. I only bought a half bottle, but I wish I had taken a full....


Review (2018)

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

Fascinating nose. Really intriguing and spicy – lots of licorice and clove, with a terrific balance between citrus, herbal, and spice notes. Dried fruit notes come in too, and this is a full bodied spirit. It reminds me, in some ways, of homemade bitters (or, I suppose, purchased) which are added to gin. Beside other gins – you start to notice all sorts of interesting notes – tomatores, sea minerality...The palate is rich, complex, and spicy with great mouthfeel. This would mix well, and makes some great classic gin cocktails, including a nice take on a negroni. Terrific, rich spices. Star anise just shines through. It’s nice too since the coriander is quite present on the nose, but it fades to all sorts of other flavors throughout the palate.

I tasted through mostly all of Saanich’s spirits when I visited, and this is the spirit I chose to walk away with. Nicely balanced, good feel, and interesting. The malt base underneath works its wonders. I only bought a half bottle, but I wish I had taken a full....

Score: 5/5

 


A Visit to Glen Saanich by Jason Hambrey

I quite like Glen Saanich distillery. I first received wind of it during my judging for the Canadian whisky awards last year, when their single malt received a silver (and snuck in doing so, not even being a Canadian whisky at only 1.5 years old – that being said, very impressive to do so well without much age on it). They have since produced a great innovation, Ancient Grains, a whisky spirit (still young) which is based on a 5 grain mashbill of local, organic, heirloom grains matured in quarter casks. It is a very nice spirit, and I wish I could call it a whisky.

Their popularity has lead them to having pre-sold their single malt out for the next two years – remarkable. Their bottles are beautiful, showcasing local art – but, moreover, the Glen Saanich distilley is located on a beautiful farm on Vancouver Island, a bit less than a half hour drive from Victoria. The head distiller, Ken Winchester, apprenticed at Bruichladdich and grew an appreciation there for terrior – consequently, the distillery is located on a farm with a view to use their own grains in whisky production.

Ken Winchester started as a trained winemaker in California for a number of years before turning his attention to distilling. He brought the well-known Victoria gin to market, a brand now produced under a different recipe at a different distillery. The distillery uses 100% local BC grains and uses a still which was found at a bankruptcy sale! The still’s documentation was all in German, and had to be refitted and updated before it could have been used.

Despite my scathing remarks about the nonsense of terrior with whisky – there are a few distilleries, Glen Saanich being one of them, where you can trace the source of the grain, visit the farms, and see the terrior (though whether you can taste it, I'll leave to you...). It is a wonderful experience. The distillery is packed with barrels and mason jars full of infusing spices and botanicals for various experimentation and product development. I tasted through their products – vermouths, rums made from honey, gins made from wine (some of the spiciest gins I’ve tasted), genever (an old world gin with a single malt base), and of course their whisky.

Craft distilling has really come into its own, and this is a distillery that showcases that. I recommend a visit, and maybe get in line for their whisky. It’s still in its infancy, but given the quality thus far, its only up from here...

Review: Del Maguey Pechuga Mezcal by Jason Hambrey

ABV
49%
Aging
None
Recipe
See below
Distiller Del Maguey (Santa Catarina Minas)

This is a limited production mezcal, made with both agave and also wild mountain plums and apples - distillation only occurs when these are in season. The process is quite intense: first, Santa Catarina Minas mezcal is made from Augustfolia Haw Agave, roasted for 4 to 5 days with mezquite, huamachil, and eucalytus wood. It is double distilled in a Clay still, and then, they go nuts. They place a hundred kilos of mezcal in the still with 100 kilos of wild mountain plums and apples, red plaintain bananas, pineapples, almonds, and uncooked rice. Next, a whole skinless, bony chicken breast is suspended in the still and a 24 hour distillation process takes place. The name, "pechuga" means chicken breast.

This has to be one of the world's craziest spirits.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Cucumber, soy sauce, fried tofu, pepper, mint – it reminds me much of the smells from Japanese ramen restaurants. Crispy Chinese duck made with 5-spice powder, and a bit of anise seed candy. The palate is quite big, which suits it well – with more of that crispy duck coming in. I am glad it is at 49%, it would be a bit watery otherwise. Finishes with 5 spice powder, some mint, licorice root, and green peppercorns. Not as complex as some other mezcal offerings, but it isn’t too hot at 49% and the body that gives to the vegetal pepperiness, fruit, and candy, makes it quite appealing.

Score: 82/100

Value: 12/100 (based on $120)


Review: Del Maguey Vida Mezcal by Jason Hambrey

ABV
42%
Aging
None
Recipe
Augustofolia Haw Agave
Distiller Del Maguey (San Luis del Rio)

Del Maguey is a brand owned by Sazerac, and they, like many mezcal brands, try to highlight the characteristics of different mezcal regions creating a series of single village mezcals. This mezcal is made from agave roasted with mesquite, quebrachi, and huamuchil wood for 3-8 days and distilled in a copper pot still.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: ~2015

The most reminiscent of smoky whisky of all the mezcals I’ve tasted, but, not gonna lie – a bit of a manure scent to this one, like manure drying in the sun. As a friend once said…”however, a very sterile manure”. Very sharp on the palate, and surprisingly clean, without any of those detracting notes on the nose. Chorizo sausage, and drying and smoky, like burning fall leaves, in the mouth too, but a bit light.  A long, integrated finish with some light fruit like starfruit, a bit of rubber, and lots of earthy notes. And a bit of saccharin. Interesting, and good to drink, but this is something I’d likely mix more than sip, and it would be fantastic for that.

Score: 83/100

Value: 32/100 (based on $90)


Review: Zacbe Mezcal Reposado by Jason Hambrey

ABV
39.6%
Aging
3 months
Recipe
Espadin Agave
Distiller N/A

This is quite the Mezcal - just a nose of it and you will see so! It is one of my best and most interesting mezcal experiences, though I know very little about the Mezcal itself. I suspect they may be distilling flavor components other than just agave, or else they are brilliant at creating flavour! A few whisky fanatics absolutely loved this when we tried it together. It is generally available in Ontario.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: LV02
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Fruity, exotic, and creamy – with a bit of a green mango smell to it. Mango sherbet, pineapple sherbet, peppery, and a bit sweet - but not super smoky. A bit of a rubber-factory type scent to it all. Big, smoky, and creamy on the palate with a huge load of fruit as well. I’m thinking this might work fabulously with a cigar…quite nice, really, it is. Very complex, but not super smoky. So interesting with the candy-creaminess….and the smoke. Lightly drying on the finish. One of the creamiest non-cream liquers I have tasted. This has been a huge winner at tastings – I’ve tasted this alongside whiskies I’ve scored in the 90s and it has still come out the majority winner among whisky enthusiasts and experts. If you see one, I’d get it. I’ve also tasted this one in flights of mezcals, and after tasting it, the others taste rather bland, to show you the power of flavour here. It does fairly well with air in the bottle as well.

Score: 90/100

Value: 82/100 (based on $83)


Review: Mezcales de Leyenda Oaxaca by Jason Hambrey

ABV
42%
Aging
None
Recipe
100% Augustfolia Agave
Distiller N/A (San Juan del Rio, Mexico)

This is one of the most easily available Mezcals in Ontario, and a higher quality one of those available. This bottle is actually what attracted me to Mezcal / not only on its own but also as a fantastic mixer.

This is produced by the Mezcales de Leyenda brand, who produce different mezcals from different areas of Mexico to highlight the characteristics of each. This comes from Oaxaca, from San Juan del Rio where the mezcal is both distilled and where the agave to produce the mezcal is grown. It is made from 100% Espadin agave, after being cooked 3 days in a lava rock pit, being crushed by a horse drawn stone tahona, and being fermented in open air fermenters for 72 hours. Double distilled, certified organic and fair trade. Good stuff!


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: ~2014

This was the first mezcal that really fascinated me. Creamy, smoky, fruity – if you haven’t had mezcal it is definitely worth the experience. An absolutely top-rate mixer. Smoke, agave, vegetal, with a fantastic pepper to it. Vegetal, earthy, smoky, and yet very clean.  Castrol oil, pepper, cucumber, mac and cheese with leeks and bacon…clean, long, and delicious…and a bit dry on the finish. A light, vegetal and smoky finish. I wish many whiskies would come off this complex at the still. It does, however, lose smokiness with time and air in the bottle – beware.

Score: 86/100

Value: 62/100 (based on $72)


Review: Crown Royal Bourbon (Blender's) Mash Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Crown Royal Bourbon Mash 2.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
Charred Virgin oak and Ex-Bourbon
Recipe
64% Corn, 31.5% Rye, 4.5% Malted Barley
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

This whisky is produced very much like a bourbon – distilled in a column still from a mashbill of 64% corn, 31.5% rye, and 4.5% malted barley. It is then dumped into a mix of new and once-used barrels – this is one of the 3 flavoring spirits used in Crown Royal blends (two others that can be readily seen are the coffey rye in Crown Royal Single Barrel / Blender’s Select and Northern Harvest Rye) which are mixed with 2 base spirits to form Crown Royal’s blended whiskies. So the portion of the whisky dumped into new fill barrels is made in a process just like a straight bourbon, but it isn’t a bourbon since it’s made in Canada (bourbon is a protected product of the United States) and includes some ex-bourbon casks (which bourbon cannot include). That being said, it tastes much like a fruity, high rye bourbon. In the US, the label was initially approved but was since recalled and is being re branded as Crown Royal blender’s mash in the US.

I really like seeing the base spirits of the various distilleries in Canada – to hear more about Crown Royal’s process, you can read more here.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: L3… 117 06:53
  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is full of dried fruit – dried peaches, dried apricot, confectioner’s sugar, prunes – and then we have white grape, a sharp fruity spiciness remniscent of northern harvest rye, corn husks, and very pleasant rising bread aromas. Buttery. Just a touch of honeysuckle intense dried florals too – both rose and lilac. It’s no wonder this is a flavoring whiskey!

The palate has a rich woody sweetness with the fatness of corn, alongside dried apricot, dried peaches, dried strawberries, dried rose, clove, cashews, and brown sugar. I love the dried rose!! The finish is woody, slightly spicy, and drying with more mixed dried fruits. Dry glass is very sweet, with loads of vanilla, spiced maple syrup, and fall marshes.

As typical with most whiskies that come from Crown, quite creamy. This would be way better at a higher ABV – this would be a bomb at 50% or 60%.

Score: 87/100

Value: 87/100 (based on $35)


Review: Los Sieste Misterios Doba-Yej Mezcal by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45.5%
Aging
None
Recipe
100% Doba-Yej Agave
Distiller Sieste Misterios (Santiago Matatlán, Mexico)

Mezcal is a very interesting spirit - it is made in Mexico from Agave, but has fewer restrictions than Tequila (Tequila is actually a subset of Mexcal). A big difference is that Mezcals can be quite smoky because the agave hearts are roasted in ovens before being fermented and distilled, supplying rich, smoky, vegetal notes. Mezcal quality is widely varied - some of them are absolutely terrible. This Mezcal is double distilled in a copper pot still.

Los Sieste makes mezcals from different agaves to highlight their differences. This is made from Doba-Yej Agave.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Lot DBY 08/15; bottle 280/1213
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: ~2016

Creamy, with a sharp, slightly raw side to it. As often with mezcals, this has a bright, very creamy fruity side to it which really enhances complexity. Roasted malt, celery, roasted tomatos, durian (taste, not smell), roasted black pepper. Sweet and spicy on the palate, with celery seed, dry, crisp grass, and a compelling dryness.  Quite decent, and on the more affordable side of Mezcals that come through Ontario, but not as put together as many of the mezcals I encounter.

Score: 81/100

Value: 51/100 (based on $56)


Review: Kilchoman Coull Point Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Kilchoman Coull Point.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
4-5 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Kilchoman (Rockside, Scotland)

Kilchoman is a very new Islay distillery - founded in 2005. It was the first distillery to be built on Islay in over 120 years, though there are new ones currently being build. It is a "farm distillery" - a proportion of the barley used in production is grown and malted at the distillery. Coull Point is a rugged outcrop of rocks on the west coast of the island. The whisky is composed of a vatting of a 4 and 5 year old single malt, with the 4 year old being finished in oloroso sherry butts for 4 weeks prior to bottling. I have been quite impressed with all of Kilchoman's bottlings.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Interesting on the nose - not that old, but not showing the perils of youth with some raw oiliness – though, with some time, this fades and towards the end of the bottle I didn’t notice it much. An intricate balance of dry smoke and fruit. The peat has a really nice amaro quality – quite like cynar, and still good minerality is shown – all balanced well with some creamy vanilla (some good bourbon casks here!). The palate isn't quite as impressive as the nose, but still very interesting, with, perhaps, some turnip! Grape fights the peat in the end...and the peat leaves some impressive dried vegetation on the finish. For a smoky peated dram that is still quite light – they do really well. Very enjoyable.

Score: 87/100

Value: 37/100 (based on $112)