Review: Two Brewers Peated Yukon Single Malt Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

ABV
43%
Aging
7-8 yrs
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Two Brewers (Whitehorse, Yukon)

A bit of a rarity- you don't often see Canadian peated whisky! This, however, gets its smoke from UK sourced peated barley. Canadian peat has been used in quite a few distilleries in the states, but for now it seems Canada is still looking to the UK for their peating demands.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Release 03
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2016

1750 bottles released. Fruity, and rich – guava, candied apple and pear – and still a bit of a spicy background alongside cacao, smoke, peat, leather, and dried apricot. Lots of pear. Develops a bit more broadly with time. On the palate, continues with pear, smoke, peat, cacao, dried apricot and peach - but arugula and spice start to sweep in! It finishes with more candy, caramel, smoke, and spice.

Score: 85/100

Value: 63/100 (based on $75)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Release 07
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2017

The only gold winning medal from a micro-distillery at the Canadian whisky awards. Quite remarkable!

The nose is smoky – lots of it - with some nice minerality and medicinal notes – while also being bright with terrific earthy notes. Vegetal and rich – dry straw, white pepper, ripe yellow apple, young leather...

The palate starts with limestone and rich orchart fruit – apples, pears, and ripe peach - closing out with smoke and a burst of wet earth. The finish remains on the earthy, smoky notes with some roasted malt too. Eventually it fades to malt and the enduring fruit – pear, apple, pineapple. I don’t know if I’ve ever encountered a peaty whisky which integrated such bright fruit. Impressive.

It has just a terrific collapse of smoke, minerality, and peaty earthiness with an earthiness from the barley malt. Just terrific. Smokier than batch 03.

Score: 90/100

Value: 73/100 (based on $100)


Review: Two Brewers Classic Yukon Single Malt Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

ABV
46%
Aging
7-8 yrs
Recipe
100% Malted Barley - mostly pale malt
Distiller Two Brewers (Whitehorse, Yukon)

Two Brewers is an interesting distillery because they started (as in the name) in brewing, so they had expertise in that important flavor generating part of the whisky making process. Their whiskies are about 7-8 years old, very mature for a micro distillery compared to most which are releasing their product as soon it is legal to do so, after three years. They also run with four different streams of single malt - "classic", "peated", "special finishes" and "innovative" whiskies. Each release has about 800-1600 bottles per release, and they use different malted and roasted grains along with varying fermentation techniques and a mix of barrels to get the sort of flavors they want. It's about time for a taste!


Review (2016)

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

A Yukon-only release. Earthy, and lightly smoky, with apple, pineapple, pepper – the earthy and smoky elements of the nose lifts off with time leaving heavy fruit and porridge behind. The palate continues on with some very interesting elements – vegetal notes, yet still holding on to tingling spice and earthy grain. Nicely done!

Score: 85/100

Value: 63/100 (based on $100)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 06
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is incredible. Remarkable fruity – loads of ripe yellow apple, ripe pear, pineapple, guava, custard – and yet full of underlying spicy bready notes. There’s a bit of sharp grassy spice and some unripe green pear, as well as hard banana candies. It’s quite complex and very well integrated. It doesn’t nose or taste immature at all. The palate is gorgeous – it has some vanilla but finishes with some rich, dark, roasted malt. Great underlying grain and earth, too. The finish, then, maintains all the fruit but is loaded with roasted malt notes and light spice and oak. Figs, too. Brilliant!

Score: 91/100

Value: 80/100 (based on $100)


Review: Port Ellen 37 Year Old 1979 Single Malt Scotch Whisky (2017 Special Release) by Jason Hambrey

Thanks to Diageo for the picture.

Thanks to Diageo for the picture.

ABV
51.0%
Aging
Refill American Oak hogsheads and butts; 37 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Port Ellen (Port Ellen, Scotland)

Port Ellen, here we have another mothballed distillery soon to be resurrected. This special release was composed of a vatting of 8 casks, resulting in 2,988 bottles. Let's see what the old Islay will reveal...


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 2017 Special Releases, 1979
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2017

Gorgeous colour in the glass. But you forget about the colour once you get to the nose – wow! Blueberries, smoke, mixed herbs, moss, straw, dried fish, rubber, and lots of sea minerality. There’s more – grapefruit, sesame, virgin olive oil, cacao nibs, leather...more? might as well - Wet heather (plants, not flowers), blueberry bushes, vanilla, alphonso mango, black pepper, oak, brown rice, dry bacon, rockpools, apricots, light butterscotch, guanabana, himalayan pink salt...

The palate is smoky, rubbery, and yet still sweet with a load of vegetal peat szechuan pepper, and thyme – lots of thyme. Lavender, candle wax, brown sugar, chutney – rubbery on the end. Perfectly balanced between the load of flavors present, the sweet vanilla, and the peat. Creamy, tropical fruit character is still here, too.  Quite remarkable. Brightens on the finish with pickled lemons, heater, clove, oak, szechuan peppers, crispy bacon, malty beer, black olives, and a good dose of smoke. And a bit more thyme...

One of my favorite whiskies which I’ve ever tasted.

Score: 97/100

Value: 0/100 (Based on $4000)


2018 Canadian Whisky Awards - Runners Up by Jason Hambrey

The Canadian Whisky Awards is quite an event - a nonprofit whisky competition with a revolving door of 10 judges from across Canada who each take a full month to plot their way through nearly 100 different Canadian whisky samples (all blind, the samples are numbered), tasting them each at least twice. It takes me about an hour a day for a month, if I have my way with time (which isn't always the case). This year, the winner was the wonderful Wiser's 35 Year Old. Remarkable, since older competitions usually don't get their due since all tasting is typically done in a flight, which tends to highlight big complex whiskies over subtle complex whiskies. However, Wiser's 35 year old is still bottled at 50%, so it's no slouch either...

As usual, I wanted to present the top whiskies of the 2017 Canadian whiskies awards, as defined by the average of all the 11 judges individual blind scores. To illustrate how close of a race this was, look at how minutely different the top 5 were in terms of score (all within 0.4%!!). Masterson's lost its chance at a repeat by less than 0.05%! All of these fared very well in the competition:

1.  J.P. Wiser's 35 Year Old

2. Masterson's 10 Year Old (behind 0.045%)

2. Wiser’s Dissertation (behind 0.045%)

4. Wiser's Union 52 (behind 0.3%)

5. Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel (behind 0.4%)

6. Canadian Club 40 Year Old (behind 0.5%)

6. Lot no. 40 Cask Strength (behind 0.5%)

8. Wiser's Last Barrels (behind 1%)

9. Gooderham & Worts 4 Grain (behind 1.4%)

10. Caribou Crossing Single Barrel (behind 1.8%)

So, the Hiram Walker distillery accounted for (at least) 7 of the top 10, and Corby's snagged 6 of the top 10.

As a (interesting) comparison, here were my top 5 ranked whiskies in the awards:

1. Wiser's Union 52

2. Masterson's 10 Year Old Rye

3. Lot no. 40 Cask Strength

4.  Canadian Club 40 Year Old

5. Lot no. 40

Review: Westland Distillery Peat Week American Single Malt Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Westland Distillery.

Image courtesy of Westland Distillery.

ABV
54.4%
Aging
First Fill Ex-Bourbon & New American Oak
Recipe
100% Heavily Peated Malted Barley
Distiller Westland (Seattle, Washington)

Westland released this limited edition, created from peated Scottish barley, in three different labels, at cask strength of 54.4%, representing the best of big, peated whisky from Westland. It's a blend of distillate 36-56 months old, and a blend of two first-fill ex-bourbon casks and five new american oak barrels. 1500 bottles produced.


Review (2017)

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

Big and smoky – with lots of dry peat, charcoal, vanilla, and a bit funky. Caramel, smoke, banana chips, hay, roasted stem tea, almonds, dark chocolate, beets – leading into a caramel-laden, smoky, oaky, and rich palate including many hints of dried tropical fruit. Pear, The finish has lots of cacao, fruit, caramel, and spices which emerge – clove and white pepper.

I quite like the proof. It’s flavorful and rich without being overpowering. I quite like this, but it’s hard to beat their wonderful single malt.

Score: 88/100

Value: 34/100 (based on $143)

 


Review: Brora 34 Year Old 1982 Single Malt Scotch Whisky (2017 Special Release) by Jason Hambrey

Thanks to Diageo for the picture.

Thanks to Diageo for the picture.

ABV
51.9%
Aging
Ex-Bourbon Barrels; 34 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Brora (Brora, Scotland)

You wonder how much Brora is still left - this is the youngest Brora in some years, distilled the year before the distillery closed. This year, Diageo started plans to re-open the distillery, which will come with much fanfare and likely expensive price tags in the future - but good news, nonetheless. Let's hope the quality matches some of the best Brora years...


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2017 Special Releases, 1982
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2017

Lots of creamy fruit on the nose, and tropical too. Jackfruit, kiwi, mango, toffee, slight woody smoke, soot, apples, gooseberries, blueberries, leather, light earthiness, almonds, lemons, rose petals, and growing waxiness – almost meaty. Immensely complex. Waxiness grows. The palate is much more smoke forward than the nose, with vanilla, butterscotch, limestone, straw, and lemon surrounding it. The tropical fruits still remain central, with spice, smoke, and the sweet vanilla/butterscotch/custard filling in the gaps. The finish is smoky, but bright with lots of fruit – apple, kiwi, white pepper, oak, and spicy tobacco. Dry, woody, and smoky with time. The old notes are terrific.

Not nearly the smoky, fruity Brora I tried last year- but this is still fantastic.

Score: 92/100

Value: 0/100 (based on $2000)


Review: Johnnie Walker Green Label Blended Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Johnnie Walker Green Label 1.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
15 Years
Recipe
Blend of Single Malts
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

This whisky is probably my favorite Johnnie Walker, and it's only recently back after being off the shelf for a number of years. Unlike the rest of the lineup, it is a blended malt, meaning that it is composed of a blend of single malts with no grain whisky. Moreover, it carries a 15 year old age statement, is bottled at 43%, and lists many of the core malts used – talisker (wood smoke, pepper, oak, and rich fruits), linkwood (fruit, flower, and cedar), cragganmore (malty taste, slight smoke, and sandalwood), and caol ila (rich fruit, drying sea salt, and peat smoke). Moreover, an attractive bottle and a cork.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: L7234DN001 00038026
  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose presents a broad mix of fruits – apples, poached pears, mandarins, and peaches -  with toffee, honey, light smoky charcoal, maple, and touches of floral notes. Broad, lightly elegant, and easy – with soft edges. The fruits just grow, and grow – and the lightest touch of peat is brilliant. If you ever doubt this just add water – you can smell just about every non-tropical fruit you find in scotch whisky here. The palate starts sharp and lightly smoky, with drying pepper and loads of toffee and fruits to back everything up. The peat is nice – lightly smoky and vegetal – but it is so nicely integrated into the whole toffee-laden and fruity palate. Light finish with light spices and loads of fruit and toffee, fading relatively fast to a sweet, spicy, and slightly dry finish with a few nuts. Overall, it’s still a fairly light whisky so there must be some lightly flavored base here.

Score: 87/100

Value: 68/100 (based on $80)


Review: Rig Hand Bar M Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Picture courtesy of Rig Hand Distillery.

Picture courtesy of Rig Hand Distillery.

ABV
45%
Aging
~4 yrs
Recipe
Wheat, Barley, and Rye
Distiller Rig Hand (Nisku, AB) and Last Mountain (Lumsden, SK)

This is Alberta's first micro-distillery whisky (released in November 2017), made with a collaboration between Last Mountain and Rig Hand distillery - a blend of Last Mountain's 100% Wheat Whisky (who produce the best wheat whisky I've tasted...) and Rig Hand’s 10% Rye, 40% Wheat, and 50% Barley mashbill. The Rig Hand component has seen a variety of casks: 10 gallon used wheat whisky barrels from Last Mountain, 25 gallon used bourbon barrels from Stillwrights, Ohio, 53 gallon used bourbon barrels from Heaven Hill, Kentucky and 60 gallon used French sherry casks.

Rig Hand hopes to collaborate more with Last Mountain to produce similar releases in the future and maintain the flavor profile. Rig Hand has other whiskies to be released when mature  - a 100% rye, a bourbon style corn whisky, and a single malt.


Review (2017)

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

Grainy notes, light clove, roasted green peppers, coconut, orange peel, and grape lead into a palate which lends soft molasses, cream of wheat, light icing sugar, and that classic, dusty Canadian rye backbone of light spices. Lots of peppery spice notes on the nose. There is a light oiliness which is terrific, and a rising set of waxiness and woody spices towards the finish. The finish has some green pear, clove, and cinnamon with brown sugar making an appearance too once much has faded.

This isn’t a raw whisky – I say this only because often tasting something from a craft distillery means it is too young – this is not so, it is ready. It’s light, it’s fairly easy, and it is a whisky that leaves you wanting more. There isn’t much wrong with it – it’s balanced and interesting – but not overly complex. A good inaugural release - we’ll have to see what is next for Rig Hand!

Score: 81/100

Value: 40/100 (based on $85)


Review: Westland Distillery Peated American Single Malt Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Westland Distillery.

Image courtesy of Westland Distillery.

ABV
46%
Aging
First Fill Ex-Bourbon & New American Oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley (6 malts)
Distiller Westland (Seattle, Washington)

This is Westland's peated whiskey - made with Saison yeast and a mixture of 6 malts, one of which is a heavily peated malt. It's peaty, but they also make a massively peaty Peat Week limited release each year. Bottled non-chill filtered and without caramel colouring.


Review (2017)

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

Here is some peat! Banana, pear, sharp and mineral-laden peat, clove, moss, prunes, sandalwood, and celery seed. Caramel and fennel grow in the glass. The palate is full of pear, smoke, caramel, toffee, and white pepper – all with a really nice body. The finish has some roasted lemon, celery, toffee, sea salt, and cacao.  I really like it – increasingly as I continue to drink it.

It’s nice – this tastes peated, but not in the style of a Scottish single malt.  

Score: 86/100

Value: 50/100 (based on $100)


Review: Lagavulin 12 Year Old Limited Edition 2012 Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Lagavulin 12.jpg
ABV
~56%
Aging
12 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Lagavulin (Lagavulin, Scotland)

This whisky is a limited release, but it comes around every year, so it's not very rare. It usually clocks in at a higher price than the 16 year old - this is because of the cask strength and limited nature of the release. Lagavulin is a terrific distillery for just about all their releases - I really quite like what they do.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 2012 Release (56.1%)
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2012

Big, slightly sour peat. Smoke, vanilla, tar, gooseberries, smoked paprika, stewed peaches, grape, vanilla, lots of minerality, smoke, soot, seaweed, cucumber, earthy, marula, a bit briny, …terrifically complex and interesting. It’s voluptuous and creamy, with lots of peach here too. The palate shows tar, slightly burnt lentils, terrific minerality, bonfire, smoking dried leaves, tinned and fresh peaches, custard – all with perfect tannic grip. Earthy peat, too – but this doesn’t dominate. The finish is fabulous: smoking leaves, freshly baking bread, charred chickpeas, strawberry jam, vanilla, custard, brine, dried peaches, lime, cilantro, and light tannins. Top notch stuff – and the tannins are just perfect. Incredible whisky. This is the biggest, and most muscular between the regular (terrific) releases of the 16 year old and distiller's edition. It’s just so big…if this wasn’t at cask strength it would be a 92 – but the cask strength shows through so well, particularly the finish.

Score: 93/100

Value: 75/100 (based on $140)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2017 Special Release (56.5%)
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2017

Smoldering smoke, saltstone, lightly sweet, raisins, cacao butter, slightly farmy and peppery too. The palate is buttery, full of wood smoke, also including rich cacao and lots of earthiness – brilliant. Sweetness is perfectly balanced. The finish is beautiful, and rich – including roasted malt, woodsmoke, white pepper, peppery radish...dries to heather brush.

Very peppery – more than I remember. Brilliant. I’d call this one cloying, in a positive sense, with all the sweetness – but I suppose it’s never used in a good way, eh? I guess we’ll settle for "syrupy” or "syrup-laden” or something...

They are pricy, but they are good! Likely my favorite regular Islay, though I do like the Ardbeg 10, too.

Score: 92/100

Value: 47/100 (based on $160)