Review: Signal Hill Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Signal Hill 1.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
Refill Casks, Virgin White Oak, Ex-Bourbon Casks
Recipe
95% Corn, 5% Malted Barley
Distiller N/A

This is a new addition to Canadian whisky, a non-chill filtered combination of corn and malted barley whiskies matured in Canadian Whisky Casks, New White Oak Casks, and Ex-Bourbon Casks. It is an independent bottling of Canadian whisky, so it wasn’t distilled in Newfoundland, where it was bottled (no distiller is listed). It is bottled by Rock Spirits, who also bottle Screech and George Street Spiced Rum (I like to mix with George St.). The presentation of the whisky is fantastic, too – I find the bottle quite attractive. The whisky is named after Signal Hill, right near where it is produced in Newfoundland - the site of the first reported  transatlantic transmission by Guglielmo Marconi.

They recommend Old Fashioned, Whisky Sours, and Manhattans with this. They all work pretty well, though the manhattans need a lighter vermouth.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is fresh and clean, with light notes of dried berries, floral rum, and gentle oak. There is a nice rich spiciness to it, one that is a bit bitter, in a pleasant fashion that provides some grip. The fruitiness tends to grow with time, revealing more dried fruit and a bit of citrus. The palate is lightly sweet, and very easy. It has light brown sugar, light oak, dried blueberry, clove-studded oranges, and a flourish of vanilla and rum at the end. The finish has a touch of molasses, vanilla, some tannins, hard caramel candies, and clove and white pepper.

This is a very easy whisky to drink, and I find it very pleasant and well balanced – a great choice for a casual whisky. How about a comparison the 10 year old, rum-finished Guy Lafleur whisky from Wiser’s. That has a much deeper grain character and is more full bodied and rich, with less of what seems to be a rum characteristic. But Signal Hill is a bit more straightforward, and doesn’t emphasize the grain as much.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. It’s a good whisky, and the price isn’t too high. It is perhaps a bit more than I would like to pay for this whisky (35$ might be the sweet spot for me), but that’s still only a difference of 5$.


Review: Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Balcones Baby Blue 2.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
Used 5 Gallon Barrels
Recipe
Roasted Heirloom Blue Corn
Distiller Balcones (Waco, Texas)

This whiskey is made from double distilled heirloom blue corn, matured in used 5 gallon casks for a limited time. It is released young and youthful - intentionally - in order to display the character of the blue heirloom corn used to make the whiskey. The first whiskey released in Texas since prohibition, and perhaps the cornerstone whiskey which established Balcones as a leader in craft distilling.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is sharp and young – oily, unripe pear, jalapeno, white pepper, but is full of lots of toffee, mixed roasted nuts, and lots of tropical fruit. But – it evolves, with cinnamon, sunflower oil, dried corn, and terrific roasted notes. The palate has lots of toffee, with some spice, tea, and light oak – and rich sunflower and corn oil (which does a nice trick!). The finish is lightly sour, with more toffee and some pear – but rich and spicy - the spices on the end are brilliant. Young, but very well crafted – the distillate comes through beautifully and it is creamy, rich, and spicy – and a bit candied. It is terrific!

I really like it. The youthfulness on the nose does detract the score, though. But, that being said – I do like whiskies that show good underlying distillate – and this has that.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This really is unique, and shows the amazing depth that a young whisky can have, and, moreover, one made from the typically one-dimensional corn! This is rather unique in the world of whisky.

Value: Medium. At about 60$ USD, it’s a bit high in cost for what you get. I was between low and medium for this, but it gets the bump to medium for uniqueness.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: BB18-3

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is raw, rich, and so full of corn. It is awesome. Sweet, oily, and creamy – with vanilla, prunes, dried apricot, blood orange, clove, and baking cinnamon rolls. The palate is so creamy! What a wonderful mix of oak, berry notes, tobacco, cacao, and dried corn. The finish is slightly tannic, with lots of vanilla, oak, dried fruit, and light baking spice (nutmeg too). Awesome!

Highly Recommended. This really is unique, and shows the amazing depth that a young whisky can have, and, moreover, one made from the typically one-dimensional corn! This is rather unique in the world of whisky.

Value: Medium. At about 60$ USD, it’s a bit high in cost for what you get. I was between low and medium for this, but it gets the bump to medium for uniqueness.

Score: 87/100

Value: 63/100 (based on $93)


Review: Balcones Brimstone Scrub Oak Smoked Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Balcones+Brimstone+1.jpg
ABV
53%
Aging
>1 Day
Recipe
Roasted Heirloom Blue Corn
Distiller Balcones (Waco, Texas)

Scrub oak is a variety of small, shrubby oak present throughout the US. They are more shrubs than trees, so you wouldn’t make barrels from them, but Balcones found a use for this oak here! They smoke the distillate as part of a proprietary process, and it is aged for “at least one day” in accordance with whisky regulations in the USA (though I’m not sure how long it is actually aged, but it isn’t labeled a bourbon or straight bourbon, so it is presumably not aged that long).


Review (2019)

  • Batch: BRM18-2 (Bott. 3.28.18)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is gorgeous. Rich woodiness and multifaceted oak, but this is offset by a light berry fruitiness and some rich dried fruit. Frying tomato paste, sandalwood, and rosewood. A home smoker at work…The palate has terrific mouthfeel and contains a terrific hit of smoke, black pepper, vanilla, and clean oak. There are terrific dried fruits throughout. The finish is smoky, rich, and woody. I do love this stuff!

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). It’s the first non-peated smoky whisky I’ve really taken to. It has a rich woodiness, smokiness, and it’s distinctly smoky and non-Scottish.

Value: Average. It’s pretty good to get a unique, smoky whisky like this for about $70 US. It competes with some of the cheaper Scottish peated whiskies pretty well – but it really is in a category by itself. If you’re good to lay out 70 USD for a whisky, this is a decent pick, but it’s still 70 USD.


Review: Balcones 1 Texas Single Malt Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Balcones+Single+Malt+2.jpg
ABV
53%
Aging
19 Months
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Balcones (Waco, Texas)

This is another American Single Malt, but it is very American – it doesn’t taste Scottish. I appreciate distilleries that are forging their own paths, like American distilleries trying to create a different style, not just replicate Scottish single malts. It’s certainly seen a lot of oak, given the colour!


Review (2019)

  • Batch: SM18-3 (I think; hard to read; bottled 5.8.18)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose has strawberry jam, roasted grain, blanched tomatoes, and charred oak. There is a real rich woodiness present here. Loads of wood too – sandalwood, rosewood, and oak. The palate is loaded with strawberry jam, astringent oak, wood charcoal, chocolate malt, cacao, and pear. It’s still very woody, to great effect. The finish has lightly roasted grain and a light astringency.  

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This is another great example of an American single malt – it’s unique and tasty, full of oak and grain.

Value: Low. You can certainly get better value products in the American market, or the Scottish market, for the price. However, it is on the cheaper and better side of American single malts.


Review: Balcones Texas Rye 100 Proof Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Balcones+Rye+1.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
18 Months
Recipe
100% Elbon Rye
Distiller Balcones (Waco, Texas)

This was produced from 100% Texas Elbon rye for Balcones tenth anniversary celebration. There was a cask strength and a 100 proof version released. The rye was grown from farmers who were approached by Balcones to see if they would grow some rye for them as a cover crop, and harvest the grain for them, rather than just let them be eaten by cattle etc. as part of crop rotation. It is made from rye, roasted rye, crystal roasted rye, and chocolate roasted rye. I believe it’s the first roasted rye grain whisky I’ve had.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: RYE10018-2 (Bott. 6.7.18)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Loads of fruit – mandarins, pear, prunes – and loads of rye grain – roasted grain, wet grassy fields, and some dry marsh. Roasted nuts and roasted malt notes, too, and a touch of cauliflower. There is so much earthy grain packed into this! The palate is sweet, and full of a rich roasted character (think chocolate malt), chocolate, and dried apricot. The finish is full of deep dark chocolate, and a rich earthiness (damp, rich, earth). The finish is hot and spicy, too – I quite like it. With water added, it opens up well – especially the fruitiness. But you lose some of the dense grain character. Very nice!

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). Not only is the flavour great, but the roasted character of this rye really comes out and is rather unique.

Value: High. A price of $44 USD for a rye like this, with its unique character and rich flavor, is pretty good.


Review: New Southern Revival 100% Jimmy Red Corn Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

High+Wire+Revival+Jimmy+Red.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak; Aged 2 Years
Recipe
100% Jimmy Red Corn
Distiller High Wire (Charlestown, South Carolina)

If you talk to any chef in a critically acclaimed restaurant, they’ll always tell you that good food starts with quality ingredients. It’s odd, then, that

Anson Mills is a company which started as an endeavor to explore heirloom grains for the good of both land and flavour. Originally, it came out of a desire to resurrect old strains of rice used in southern cooking renowned for flavour. If you want to try some of the best oats of your life, order some from Anson Mills and cook according to their instructions. It’s a “wow” moment.

Anson Mills worked to resurrect one strain of corn, Jimmy Red, which was a red variety of corn which became popular among moonshiners. Originally, there was not even enough corn to make a batch, so High Wire partnered with Clemson University and Anson Mills to generate the seed stock and produce some corn. They describe it as the most flavourful corn they’ve ever distilled, with a rich 3 inch oil cap on top of the fermenter! The heirloom grains typically have deeper roots, which bring more trace minerals (and flavour) into the grain (as older vines would for wine). This whisky is similar to Balcones Baby Blue, similarly an heirloom corn with loads of flavour.

The bourbon was first released in November 2017.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 5

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is rich and grain forward – very diverse – semi-dried tomatoes, rich spices, buttery polenta, thyme, caramel, vanilla, oaky spices, nut oils, apple sauce, and mixed grain porridge. Complex, interesting, and it doesn’t smell too youthful. It’s a whisky I would enjoy spending significant time with on the nose, which is a rare compliment. The palate is warm and rich, where a dense corn character unfolds with lots of mineral notes and a pleasant, fall marsh earthiness developing on the finish. The spiciness in the palate is subtle, but excellent in terms of where it sits. The finish has nice spices – nutmeg, hot cinnamon, and more semi-dried tomato and a light herbal character.

Perhaps the most flavorful 100% corn whisky that isn’t more than 15 years old, although Blacones Baby Blue is worth a shout too. This is a bit richer and has more oak, and it’s not quite as creamy, oily, or “raw” corn as the Baby Blue. I really appreciate the investment into quality corn – it does show. Also, this will get even better if it continues to sit in a barrel a few more years.

A great tasting besides Balcones Baby Blue, Westland Single Malt, and Glen Saanich Ancient Grains – all great, young, grain driven whiskies.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). On a taste level, this might drop down to “recommended” but it’s extremely worthwhile to try the complexity and uniqueness in a corn whisky like this. It’s rather fascinating.

Value: Low. On a value standpoint, paying north of $100 USD for a product like this - you are paying for something unique, local, and more expensive to make - but on a taste perspective, you can do better for flavour and complexity from some larger producers.


Review: Barchef (An Auditorium of Perspective) by Jason Hambrey

Photo credit:  Leanne Neufeld Photography . Courtesy of Barchef.

Photo credit: Leanne Neufeld Photography. Courtesy of Barchef.

Five years ago, I decided to take a month off whisky. Whisky had revealed something to me in a brand-new way – I loved flavour. But I didn’t want to be consumed by it. However, I boxed up all my whisky, and moved it to the basement for a month. A week into my “whisky fast”, I was in a bookstore and stumbled upon an incredible book – Frankie Solarik’s Barchef. The first chapter isn’t even a list of cocktails – it’s a list of homemade bitters, enticing recipes which result in a household of mason jars full of spices and dark, bitter, and spicy infusing spirit.

Within a week I’d made every single bitter and infusion in the book, and within two years I’d made every cocktail in the book –from the brilliant combination of absinthe and homemade orgeat liqueur in Van Gogh’s Downfall, to the Tobacco-infused, dry-ice enhanced Mad Man, to my all time favourite cocktail, Smoke and Mirrors which boldly combines smoke, cherry, and rosemary in impeccable fashion. The must-experience cacao-infused mezcal infusion in the book has completely transformed my cocktail game.

I always thought that the penultimate liquid was whisky, followed by coffee – until BarChef convinced me that cocktails deserved number 2 – or perhaps even number 1 – on my favourite liquid list. Just as I was getting into cocktails, I left Toronto, sadly, and wasn’t able to become a regular visitor to one of the world’s best cocktail establishments.

Recently, I visited the bar to try some cocktails, bitters, and infusions – it isn’t your ordinary bar. Frankie Solarik, the head bartender (the Bar Chef) describes his desire to create an “auditorium of perspective” which engages all of the senses while telling, or provoking, a story. The bar focuses on modernist cocktails, created with the manipulation of texture and fragrance through the techniques of modern gastronomy: liquid nitrogen, dry ice, alginates, foams, creams, and soils. These aren’t pairings you see in bars, but rather, the best restaurants in the world. The cocktails leave it ambiguous as to whether they are to be sipped, or eaten. The bar itself is fitted with fire detectors which use heat, rather than smoke, to enable customers to order manhattans smoked with hickory chips before their very eyes. Indeed, the entire establishment smells lightly of hickory smoke. Just visiting the bar is an experience unto itself. As you sit, incredible smells waft through the bar as your neighbours order cocktails – eucalyptus, hickory smoke, cedar, coconut, patchouli, hickory smoke, basil, pine all made an appearance as I sat at the bar.

Cocktails left to right: Apricot, Smoke & Mirrors, and Van Gogh’s Downfall. Courtesy of Barchef, photo credit: Leanne Neufeld Photography.

Can I resist but describe some of what I tasted? I had “The Apricot”, a cocktail full of apricot, almond, loads of spice, and oxidized wine. It is slow and textured - initially almost too intense - but it softly unfolds over time as it dilutes and warms. Apricot and chamomile grow with time - but this is only the cocktail! When you order it, it comes with three smoking spheres: nitro-frozen meringues which explode in your mouth with mint, sharp apricot, and a rich herbaceousness. The flavours are accompanied by a puff of steam out your mouth and nostrils! Each of the three meringues hits you differently with the flavours they bring out, each complementing the cocktail brilliantly.

Or, perhaps, the cocktail Essence of Fall (pictured at the top)– a cocktail which smells so richly of earth, fall mushrooms, and cedar – amidst a cocktail full of maple, orange blossom, mint, almond, oxidized wine, and bright floral notes. If that’s not your jam, how about a cacao manhattan, made with house vermouth and cacao bitters? Or Fields of Spruce, a cocktail which brilliantly combines a light, citrus character with Benedictine-like richness, deep herbal notes, spruce, and madeira. They also serve bottled cocktails, of which the king is The Kensington – a brilliant cocktail which uses patchouli to brighten the deep spice in the cocktail, and offsets the richness of Canadian whisky with rosemary and lavender.

What if you don’t live in Toronto? I recommend getting a taste of Barchef anyway – Barchef project is a toasted chamomile old fashioned with terrific bitters. Incredibly moreish and 25$ for 375 mls. It is a “wow” cocktail, and it’s very accessible.

Ranking the Last 7 Years of Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

I started tracking with Canadian whisky 7 years ago, and it is remarkable how things have changed since then. I expected this would change, and indeed it has - for the good, and also for the worse (releases harder to find, more expensive). And, indeed, as I predicted in 2016, Diageo found in 2018 Canadian whisky to be valuable enough to decide to lose a barrel in Diageo’s Crown Royal warehouses, releasing a “Lost Barrel” of 25 year old Canadian whisky as part of their premium Orphan Barrel set of releases.

So, how do I rank the last few years? I’ll rank them and give a snapshot of some highlights. I’ll focus on my favourite gains/losses, and the micro distilling market is largely absent from this list, in part because it’s young, and in part because they’re still dominated by whiskies that aren’t quite there yet (though I will mention a few highlights).

I’ll rank them in ascending order to my favourite.

7. In seventh place, I have 2012. We had a few very notable releases, headlined by the release of Lot no. 40, Forty Creek Portwood, and Highwood Stampede 25 Years Old. Then we had a number of other notable whiskies come to the scene, that seem to have been around much longer - Pike Creek 10 Year, Crown Royal Black, and Alberta Premium Dark Horse. Also, around this time Still Waters came to the scene with their impressive rye as one of the earliest craft distillers.

6. In sixth place, we have 2016. It contains one of my all time favourite whisky releases, Lock Stock and Barrel 16 year old - an amazing cask strength rye from Alberta, along with its cask strength sibling, Hochstadter’s Family Reserve. But, beyond that, a bit of a flat year - Wiser’s started finishing Pike Creek in rum rather than port barrels (I like the change), they introduced a terrific expression in their (very affordable) Double Still Rye, and introduced the sour-milk mashed Last Barrels. Crown Royal started the noble collection with their respectable Cornerstone Blend and Forty Creek released a subpar release in Founder’s Reserve. I think we lost Wiser’s Small Batch in here somewhere.

5. 2013 wasn’t that busy of a year, relatively, but we had the release of a number of very solid whiskies: Masterson’s Rye, Forty Creek Heart of Gold, and Collingwood 21 Year Old rye headlined the year, with notable contributions from Whistlepig (their 10 year old and Boss Hog), and Wiser’s Red Letter.

4. 2015 might have bumped into third place, but around this time we lost the terrific Danfield’s 21 year old which was a dazzling and very affordable expression. We also got a 35 year old Canadian Rockies at a blistering 79.3%, Canadian Rockies 21 to Canada, the amazing Crown Royal Single Barrel, Gooderham & Worts (yes, it’s only been around for three years…), and Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye. Forty Creek had another dip with Three Grain Harmony, but there was enough good stuff going on elsewhere to offset it.

3. In third place, 2014. A number of great baseline expressions were released - Canadian Club 100% Rye, Crown Royal XO, Lock, Stock, and Barrel 13 year old, and Ninety 20 Year Old (nice). But, no shortage of great limited editions either - Forty Creek Evolution, Masterson’s Straight Barley, Masterson’s Straight Wheat, Wiser’s Red Letter, and Crown Royal Monarch. We lost Crown Royal Cask no. 16 and Century Reserve Lot 15/25, good whiskies but not too big hits given the gains.

2. 2017 would have been number one, except for something of a tragedy - Wiser’s Legacy, one of Canada’s legendary whiskies, was discontinued. It was one of the best Canadian whiskies, and it was quite affordable. Also, the Lot no. 40 recipe changed, and in my opinion the bottlings just haven’t been as good since (likely due to younger age rather than a fault of the recipe). But Canadian whisky really buzzed this year - Canadian Club went head to head with Wiser’s, releasing a stunning 40 year old. Wiser’s released a magnificent set of releases - Dissertation, Union 52, Lot no. 40 Cask Strength, Gooderham & Worts 17 Years Old Little Trinity, a 21 year old Pike Creek finished in Speyside casks, Wiser’s Canada 150, and a 15 year old. Crown Royal got in the action with a great wine barrel finished special release and a Blender’s Mash release of some of their Coffey Rye. Forty Creek came through in a big way with Heritage, my favourite release from them in the past few years. We even saw something special from Collingwood in their double barreled Town Whisky. Also, Lock Stock and Barrel released a great 18 year old 100% rye from Alberta, though it is pretty hard to find. Oh, and Two Brewers came to the scene, producing Yukon single malt which I adore.

1. My favourite of the past 7 years was 2018, though 2017 only lost out because of the loss of Wiser’s Legacy, a magnificent core expression which special releases can’t quite replace. Two Brewers shone through with a great cask strength and hopped release, Forty Creek had a very well regarded limited release in Unity, Canadian Club dazzled again with a 41 year old, Diageo got in the mix with a 25 year old corn whisky from Crown Royal, Crown Royal released a terrific 13 year old “Bourbon mash” alongside a more mediocre non-age stated Bourbon (or Blender’s) Mash. We had some more great old corn whiskies from Highwood - a 30 year old special for BC liquor stores, and a 17 year old at 50% released from Canadian Rockies. Oh, and Wiser’s continued at breakneck pace - three whiskies for an NHL Alumni limited release, a 19 year old seasoned oak expression (terrific), a 2018 commemorative release, an oaky 21 year old pike creek matured in three oaks, a gooderham and worts special release from 11 spirit types, another terrific lot no. 40 cask strength, and another great 35 year old. Now that’s a year!

I didn’t try everything, but I was able to try most, so it’s been a privelege - and we are trending upwards! 2019, I expect, will have its share of great releases.

Should whisky be rated? by Jason Hambrey

I work as a cost analyst for major capital projects in the Canadian Coast Guard. The most challenging part of my job is communicating the context of a given estimate. Is the estimate preliminary (e.g. has the ship been designed yet?). Is that number for construction or for the entire lifecycle? Is it based on bad data? Does it assume 30 years of operation instead of, say, 40? And I do care about metrics (I am an engineer after all…). A 100 point scale for rating whisky isn’t a useful metric, and, just like big cost estimates, it is easily taken out of context.

Whisky isn’t one dimensional. How can you possibly assess a whisky as one value on a 1-100 point scale (or, more often, 70-100)? And if one were to break down different assessment categories, is there an objective way to do so? Taste preference is at its core subjective.

It isn’t hard for me to rate whisky – I have reviewed a lot of whisky, I have a sharp palate, and I’ve developed metrics and characteristics that feed into my given score for a given whisky. I understand the full context of what my ratings mean, and I’ve gotten better and more consistent at evaluating “how good” a whisky is. But this presents multiple challenges still:

  1. Different people have vastly different palates and preferences. For example, some people like a bit of sulphur in their whisky, while some can’t stand it. Additionally, people rate whisky in a very different manner – one person’s “90” might be another’s “80”. Even among experienced tasters, like those on the Canadian Whisky Awards, the scores are often considerably different. This is not uncommon on panels even with experienced judges.

  2. Ratings don’t dictate what I drink, or even how I recommend. A higher rating isn’t necessarily better. It really depends. Some days I want to drink this, some days I want to drink something else. One of my favourite whiskies is Amrut Peated Cask Strength, but I am far more likely to grab something else out of my cabinet (like Ardbeg 10, Dickel 12, or Gooderham & Worts) on a regular basis. If I have friends over for board games and we are drinking out of tumblers, it impacts my whisky choice. It really depends…

  3. Uniqueness is important, to me especially. Sometimes a whisky isn’t rated highly, but it’s the one I end up bringing everywhere because it’s different. An example is Lohin McKinnon’s chocolate malt. I often reach for that in tastings or to bring to parties because it’s different, but I don’t rate it highly. And it’s always a hit, even if it’s not the favourite of the night: people love the unique stout-like kick of roasted malt in the middle of the palate.

  4. Ratings actually get in the way of enjoying whisky. It comes down to getting the best, or not trying whiskies which aren’t rated highly. I often find ratings get in the way of being able to have intelligent conversations about whisky….

Does this mean that a rating is not useful? No. I have a certain set of friends and reviewers whose palates align with mine, and I like knowing their ratings. But, generally, it is not. The review content is in the review, not the score. I’ve given a full year considering it, but I’m going to stop giving numerical ratings.

The core element I want to communicate is how much I would care about recommending a whisky. I’ll assess into 5 categories:

  1. Recommended

  2. Highly Recommended

  3. Very Highly Recommended

  4. Exceptional (highest level of recommendation)

The fifth category is unlabeled. There are some whiskies which I won’t recommend, which I won’t assess into those categories. However, I won’t explicitly “Not Recommend” it, since if you are like me, you want to try everything. It’s often useful to taste whiskies that aren’t recommended. I’ll update each category with the percentile of whiskies that are assessed in or above that category.

I thought about this a lot in developing my value metric, which I quite like – but that also faces two challenges – price varies according to where you live, and second, it depends on my numerical score (my scoring methodology is described here and here). I think the best way to address this is to state what I’d pay for it, factoring in the current market.

I continue to rate whiskies on a numerical scale for myself and a few others, like Whisky Analysis, which takes ratings into account well. If you yourself appreciate my numerical ratings, and want access to them – send me an email (there is a contact form on the website) and I can share my database with you.

My Favourite Drams of 2018 (Part 2) by Jason Hambrey

Basically, my favorite special releases this year.

1. Caroni 2000

Caroni is a closed rum distillery from Trinidid & Tobago, and is now renowned for its unique and complex spirit. This is my favourite spirit I tasted this year, 55%, unsweetened, and 17 years of age. I bought it at a whisky store in New York. Heady and complex - immensely spicy and medicinal, with all sorts of rubbery and tarry notes (to the point that some friends thought they’d get a headache just smelling the stuff). If you like intense, medicinal peated whiskies this stuff works a charm. Read my review here.

2. Talisker 8 Year Old Cask Strength

This stuff is just awesome. If this could possibly be turned into a regular release, I would love it. Huge, complex, smoky, spicy, fruity.

Read my review here.

3. A few other Diageo Special Releases: Cladach, Inchgower 27 Year Old, Carsebridge 48 Year Old, and Caol Ila 35 Year Old

These don’t merit their own line item like the Talisker 8 because of some rather prohibitive pricing. The Cladach is a remarkable complex blended smoky malt with lots of marine character. The Inchgower 27 was uniquely herbal and lightly fruity, the Carsebridge was incredibly rich and elegant, and the Caol Ila 35 is among the best whiskies I’ve ever tasted. If you get a taste of any of these, you won’t be dissapointed.

4. Lot no. 40 11 Year Old Cask Strength

I don’t have a lot more to add - this stuff is just awesome, as always. Intense, rich, and moreish. Big and fruity this year. If they keep bottling these upwards of 8 or 9 years they’ll probably be a perennially on this list.

Read my review here.

5. Century Reserve 30 Year Old and Canadian Rockies 21

Two old corn whiskies coming out of highwood - the incredible 30 year old from BC liquor stores which came in at 45% and only 150$! The Canadian Rockies 21 is always good, too.

Read my review here.

5. Crown Royal 13 Year Old Blender’s Mash (Noble Collection)

This whisky tastes just like an elegant bourbon, but it is immensely complex with a ton of rye character. In a blind tasting of over 100 whiskies, this came in my top 2. It’s sadly only available in the USA, but if you can get it, you should…

Read my review here.

6. J.P. Wiser’s 35 Year Old

This year’s isn’t quite as unique or rye heavy as last year, but it’s a bit more approachable and still unbelievable. Perhaps the pinnacle of Canadian whisky at the moment.

Read my review here.

7. J.P. Wiser’s Seasoned Oak

A 19 year old corn whisky, with a very lovely dash of rich rye. Oaky and rich, too.

Read my review here.

8. Westland Amaretto Cask

This was one of my favourites of a the year - a cask sample of an amaretto casked Westland. I thought it might not work at all, but it was just awesome!

Read my review here.

9. Westland Garryana

I tried a single cask of an exclusively Garry oak matured westland, and I understand why they blend it - it is intense and rich, similar to Japanese oak in its overpowering nature. When Westland applies their blending magic, though, we do get something truly spectacular in the peated releases.

Read my review here.

10. Port Charlotte 2007: CC1

I quite like the cask strength port charlottes, and the cognac cask does the trick here…very nice!

Read my review here.