Review: JP Wiser's 10 Year Old Triple Barrel Canadian Whisky (European Union) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
10 Yrs; American Oak; Canadian Rye whisky barrels; first-fill bourbon barrels
Recipe
Double Distilled Corn Whisky and Column Distilled Rye
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

This whisky, one of master distiler Don Livermore’s favourites is a blend of three barrel types - reused American oak, ex-Canadian rye barrels, and first-fill bourbon barrels. The result is a whisky which is versatile as a sipper or in cocktails - but it is an EU exclusive.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Rich, spicy, and fruity on the nose with some maple and dried fruit. Light orange, vanilla, prunes, and some herbal spice notes - celery and dill seed! The palate has some nice brown sugar and slight bitterness, which gives good grip. Deeper and rounder than Wiser’s Deluxe. The finish has some dried citrus, dried fruit, and gooseberries. A bit drying, too – which I quite like.

Decent, straightforward, with a little bit of spice in the background. I like the heavier, spicier or older wiser’s products, but this isn’t bad nor particularly special. There is a light thread of rye in here, but it isn’t huge…

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). I think it’s worth a try if you aren’t exposed to Canadian whisky. It is a bit of a representation of a mid-level Canadian whisky if you live in an area where not much is available. If you have access to other Canadian whisky, I’d suggest that there are much better options. It does give an introduction to a bit of decent Canadian whisky and the terrific Wiser’s brand – while acknowledging that this is still at the bottom of Canadian whiskies I’d recommend.

Value: High. At these prices, it’s a good whisky at near bottom-shelf prices.


A Few Whiskies on the Way from Black Fox Farm, Saskatchewan by Jason Hambrey

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These days, most folks who start up a distillery have a background in brewing or distilling. However, Black Fox got an interesting start – from grain farmers John Cote and Barb Stefanyshyn-Cote. Many of the original distillers, indeed, were farmers who were able to distill grain to preserve it, make it easier to transport, and at times, make a bigger profit.

The prairies grow a lot of grain, and Saskatchewan is the heart of the prairies – indeed, there is more agricultural area in Saskatchewan than the other prairie provinces of Alberta and Manitoba combined. Based near Saskatoon, the farm distillery is taking a Canadian approach by focusing on single grain whiskies of various bases – wheat, triticale (a wheat/rye hybrid), and oat.

The whiskies, at present, are of age – about 3.4-3.6 years old each. I got sent some samples of a 100% unmalted wheat, 100% unmalted oat (toasted to help fermentability and flavour), and 100% unmalted triticale whisky each matured in new American oak as a preview – a date has not yet been set for their release. Triticale, particularly - is exciting - a hybrid of rye and wheat. The distillery had to go through a variety of different varieties until they found one which was good for flavor and fermentability. All the whiskies use a staged fermentation with multiple yeasts and are put into new oak. They are all coming along very well and they are in the group of higher quality whiskies which are currently on the market from Canadian craft distilleries and small producers. I wrote a few tasting notes below - note that these whiskies are not yet available and I will post proper reviews of the whiskies when they are ready to be released.

See a few notes on how they are progressing below:

Black Fox 100% Wheat Whisky Cask Sample

  • New American oak, filled 11/9/2015, sample drawn 4/03/2019 (3.4 yrs) 48%

The nose has charred oak, cream of wheat, red currants, orange, and a bit of black pepper. Some quite nice fruits to it – like elderberries and black currants. It is quite oaky, with an assortment of wood spices – it is a very nice woodiness. The nose isn’t raw, which is rather impressive at this age even with new oak.  The palate is lightly sweet, full of toasted oak flavours, orange, and light, sweet spice at the end along with freshly baked bread. The sweetness does well to balance out the spice and the oak – it’s lightly sweet, not too much. It has a really nice sweet wheat character to it. The finish has some more dark fruit, more oak, and spice.  The grain characteristics continue for some time, along with a bit more dried fruit.

If this whisky were to be released today, it would be in my “recommended” group.

Black Fox 100% Oat Whisky Cask Sample

  • New American oak, filled 8/22/2015, sample drawn 4/03/2019 (3.6 yrs) 48%

Again, we have some really nice grainy notes here. It smells, indeed, like oats! But there’s also some rich baking spices, a rich spicy woodiness, toasted oak, and even some more exotic wood notes like bamboo. Pear, too. Deep wood – it does a nice trick.

The palate is light, with creamy porridge, vanilla marshmallow, and a great creaminess. Vanilla and spice come in on the end, which is full of sweet creamy grain, light spices, and light charred oak. A bit more dried fruit and spice comes out on the finish. The finish has a set of notes I’d characterize as oats just starting to toast on a skillet. The finish is lightly tangy and sweet – which I quite like! Despite the new oak, the oat spirit is a worthy competitor and isn’t lost. Not as oaky or as sharp as the wheat, and a bit softer.

I recently pulled this out at a Japanese tasting and it was a hit.

If this whisky were to be released today, it would be in my “recommended” group.

Black Fox 100% Triticale Whisky cask sample

  • New American oak, filled 8/10/2015, sample drawn 4/03/2019 (3.6 yrs) 48%

Of the three samples I tried, this one takes the best to the new oak.

Quite different from the other casks. Coconut, pineapple, and a rich set of fruity rye-like spices, dried, fruit, cacao nibs, and vanilla. Lots of oak and toasted oak notes. This reminds me of rye whisky, with all the floral and spicy notes.  Nice caramel too. There is a nice grainy middle, and oaky base, and a spicy-floral intense set of top notes. Prunes, dried apricot, lilac, whole grain bread, whole mixed-grain porridge, toasted oak, and cinnamon.

The palate has a really nice spicy sharpness, lilac, clove, and a sweet grainy finish. There is a really nice set of dried fruit characteristics here which aren’t present in the other Black Fox whiskies. It has a really rich middle with quite good depth to it. The finish has dried stone fruit (prunes, peaches, apricots) but also fresh plums, peaches, and apricots – along with green pear, oak, baking spices, lilac, cream of wheat, and an Irish pot-still like green oily spiciness.

If this whisky were to be released today, it would be in my “recommended” group.

Review: Black Fox Oaked Gin by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
42%
Aging
6-8 months, American oak
Recipe
100% triticale spirit with botanicals
Distiller Black Fox (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan)

This aged gin is sold as a single barrel product. The gin has a bit of a bigger profile, particularly with more anise, than the other Black Fox gins - this gives it a bit more body to balance out the oak. The distillery releases about 20 casks of this per year.


Review (2019)

  • Batch:

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The wood comes off initially – vanilla, caramel, dry white oak – but behind it we have spice, cucumber, sawdust, juniper, leather, and cinnamon. The palate has nice sharp spice, citrus, and floral characteristics embraced by sweet woody notes, vanilla, and structured with light wood tannins. Very nice! The finish has a bit more cucumber, caraway, dried floral notes, and almost a marshmallow-type wood characteristic.

For whisky enthusiasts, you might notice characteristics of a nicely toasted cask here – specifically the toasted, not charred wood characteristics. Excellent!

A very nice aged gin. It’s one that I like to sip neat. It’s good chilled – some of the complexity is lost and the woody notes come out at the core. Still quite good chilled, but I’d take this neat so as not to lost all the complexity and balance.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.


Review: Black Fox Cucumber Gin #7 by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
42%
Aging
Not Aged
Recipe
100% Triticale Whisky with botanicals and cucumbers
Distiller Black Fox (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan)

Whole cucumbers are added to the gin after it is finished to macerate in flavor and colour. Once the gin is finished, the used cucumbers are used in the production of the next batch of gin. The recipe is distinct from their dry gin and aged gin, to appropriately surround the cucumber notes.


Review (2019)

  • Batch:

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The nose is very rich in cucumber – it takes me to peeling field cucumbers. It reminds me particularly of sharp, slightly bitter cucumber peel rather than cucumber flesh. The palate is spicy, with cucumber at the centre and coriander spice surrounding it, alongside white pepper and a slight drying nature. There is a touch of cucumber peel bitterness in the palate which I actually really like. Caraway, quite brilliantly, comes out in the big finish. It’s a bit soapy – perhaps a combination of the cucumber and coriander, reminding me of some natural soap shops (not a bad thing). The cucumber on the finish is enduring.

I find the herbal notes are quite prominent, and at times too much – this sometimes smells a bit like the crisper section of my fridge when herbs have been in there a bit too long. This is not always to my liking, when sipped neat. But, chilled or in a cocktail these notes are lost and the freshness of the gin really shines through. I tested this with friends and many of them didn’t make any such association, so it might be a fairly personal preference. When chilled, the cucumber notes really come out, so it does exactly what you would want in a cocktail. This is a cocktail gin for me, not a sipping gin (as most gins are). As suggested, it works great in a gin & tonic or with ginger ale.


Review: Black Fox Dry Gin #3 by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
42%
Aging
Not Aged
Recipe
100% triticale with botanicals
Distiller Black Fox (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan)

This gin is the basic dry gin from Black Fox, designed as a martini gin - and it certainly works very well in a Martini (as in a honey gimlet). It is made with 15 different botanicals including Calendula flowers and rhubarb from the Black Fox farm. Also, an amazing bottle - they use the glass stoppers like Shelter Point does. The base for the spirit is Black Fox’s tasty triticale spirit which is spicy and fruity, and gives the gin good depth.


Review (2019)

  • Batch:

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The nose is deep, with a nice contrast of flavours to it – slightly sweet, slightly floral, slightly spicy.  The bottle, also, is beautiful. Orange and rhubarb play off a slightly tangy sweetness (similar to yoghurt – this doesn’t smell like yoghurt; but the tangy/sweet characteristic is analogous to it), with a rich spice backbone that is quite woody like cloves and cinnamon. The palate is big, rich with floral notes (violet and chamomile) again contrasting woody spices. This is held together by a clean, slightly sweet spirit which isn’t lost either – quite excellent! The finish is sweet, spicy, and lightly tannic. The notes start with citrus and floral characteristics, but fade slowly to lightly grainy, woody, and sharp spice notes. Awesome!

When chilled, this retains the sweetness and the spice, which makes it for a kick-ass martini gin (as advertised). I do love the woodiness of the spices – these are not lost amidst being chilled. Similarly, in a pink gin or a gin & soda, this has a great character – so this is a premium mixer, too.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.


Review: Tiffon Tres Vieille Reserve Grande Champagne Cognac by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
40%
Aging
80 yrs
Recipe
Grande Champagne Grapes
Distiller Tiffon (Jarnac, France)

Now here is a rather impressive one. 95% of all cognac is produced by 5 massive companies, but there are a handful of small, family owned cognac producers who give out some excellent product often for a very reasonable price. Here is one.

Ages for this product on the internet are different – some say 70 to 80 years, some say 90 – but Tiffon’s website says the cognacs in this blend are all more than 80 years old. Wow! There is some very old cognac in here and all the grapes are from the best region of cognac, Grande Champagne from Tiffon’s old vineyards (many cognac houses just buy grapes, they don’t own vineyards).

There are different versions of this “Tres Vieille” bottling from different regions – for example the more available ones from Fins Bois and Borderies.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2016 (purchased 2016, not sure when bottled)

The nose has a beautiful fruity sharpness to it, with notes of fresh cherries, plums, but more intense – in the way that the flavour intensifies as the fruit dries. Lots here: French oak, vanilla, caramel, dark maple syrup, cardamom, clove, nutmeg, cherry pits, rancio, toasted almonds, red currant jam, strawberry jam, and elderberry. Honey really grows with time – strong honey like manuka. Some really nice ethereal aged-spirit notes, too. The palate is oaky (especially with water) and a bit tart but balanced with a heavy dose of rich dried fruit, spice, and French oak characteristics. Nuttiness really comes out on the palate. It’s not too oaky or unbalanced on the palate. The sharpness of the dried fruit remains, and the spiciness is rich. Too bad it’s only 40%, a bit higher ABV would balance the richness of the palate and the finish better.  The finish is lightly tart and oaky, with lots of old wood notes and rancio. The tannins really pick up on the finish, and the oak is a bit too central at the finish – the other notes are there, but they are a bit too masked by the oak. Oddly enough, if you move your tongue in your mouth it seems to release more flavour on the finish.

I really like the nose, I can smell this for a long time and be quite entertained. The palate and finish, while very good, falls a bit short of the nose but are still good.

How about some reference points: St-Remy XO is reminiscent of a light unaged fruit spirit compared to this (age really does show up in side-by-side tastings); it is very rich compared to many of the spicy, fruity, and somewhat clean mass market cognacs; it is richer even than some of the old Armagnacs (40+) in my cabinet – but I find Armagnacs tend to lighten favourably with age. Though it has a better nose, this isn’t quite as nicely balanced as Dartigalongue’s 1975 39-year-old Armagnac, which I rate slightly higher. It has perhaps the best nose I’ve ever encountered on a Brandy, Cognac, or Armagnac.

This has been a stunner for every guest I’ve shared it with.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.

Value: Low, based on $260.


Review: Pierre Ferrand Renegade Barrel 2 Eau De Vie De Vin Chestnut Wood Finish by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
47.1%
Aging
6-26 yrs
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Maison Ferrand (Cognac, France)

Despite coming from a cognac house, this is not a cognac because of its rather unique aging regimen - a chestnut barrel! Apparently, this was a practice before the second world war but it has fallen out of fashion (and regulation – this is called a grade eau de vie because it cannot be called cognac due to the cask type). This is made with a Pierre Ferrand cognac from Ugni Blanc grapes, matured for 5-7 years in 350 litre new and used oak barrels. There is a small amount of 25 year old cognac included as well. Then, the blend is finished in a 225 litre chestnut cask for a year which apparently gives notes of candied fruits, floral, and honey notes. 18 casks went into this release.

Although we don’t see many chestnut casks for whisky or other spirits, they are still used in the production of certain items, like balsamic vinegar.

Currently available at the SAQ in Quebec.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Renegade Barrel #2, cask 1/18.

  • Bottling Code: 1P020518

  • Bottling Date: 2017

A spicy, oaky nose with charred oak, wood spices, raisins, dried cranberries, black tea, and deep woody notes. It’s quite torn between rich dark fruit, rich oak, and spice. Caramel, fig, berry jams, star anise, pineapple, stewed plums, wet wicker baskets, brazil nuts, and even some woodworking shop notes like leather and maybe furniture polish. I really like that this is bottled at 47.1% since it brings out the wood notes really well.

The palate has lots of wood notes, and, indeed – some chestnut notes. Vanilla, dark chocolate, dried currants, dried cranberries, dried papaya, dried pineapple, chesnut spread, and sweet fresh sawdust. It has some nice, unique roasted notes – like roasted wood, but not oak. It’s richly creamy, but more like a cacao butter than vanilla. The finish is slightly tannic, with dried hibiscus flower, dried cranberries, golden raisins, and buttery wood notes. The finish is deep and complex.

Well, this is quite unique – especially in the unique creaminess and woodiness – it’s one of the rare spirits which is pushing me to increase my tasting vocabulary.

Assessment: Highly recommended. There are some incredibly complex threads woven into this one.

Value: Low, at $136.


Review: St. Remy Authentic XO French Brandy by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
40%
Aging
French Oak, >10 years
Recipe
Blend of different red and white grapes
Distiller St. Remy (Nantes, France)

This brandy, from the largest French brandy brand in the world, is made from red and white grapes sourced from throughout France (Burgundy, Champagne, Rhone, Loire, etc.). It is distilled in a column still and aged in French oak barrels.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

The nose is quite rich, with lots of dried fruit and spice. It’s much oakier and richer than the VSOP, at the same time, it is a bit less vibrant. Raisins (Thompson and golden), dried currants, gooseberries, black currant jam, marmelade, candied orange peel, white pepper, vanilla, clove, and a bit of dry-ness on the nose. There’s almost a bit of fruity burnt-caramel on the nose, like jam that has been boiling to the point of just beginning to burn. The palate is sweet, with orange blossom honey, green tea, dried apricot, lots of dried fruit, and lots of baking spice – it follows much from the nose, but is surprisingly lighter than the aromas on the nose. It has a nice bit of tannin to it as well, which gives it some nice grip, but also wouldn’t lead me to having three of these in a row. The finish is slightly nutty, with almond and lots of raisin and a touch of apple. Honey and cinnamon, too. Medium bodied: it’s not a light brandy, nor a really heavy one.

This is a great launching pad for starting to explore Armagnac and cognac. With all the interest in heavily sherried scotch, I’m a bit surprised that more aren’t exploring good brandy.

This is a common pick for me for cocktails or to put on my Christmas cake.

Assessment: Recommended.

Value: Great value for $30.


Review: Sivo Rebel Le Moonshine Du Rye by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
42%
Aging
None
Recipe
2/3 Quebec Rye, 1/3 Malted Barley
Distiller Maison Sivo (Montérégie, Quebec)

Janos Sivo, the founder of Maison Sivo comes originally from Hungary where Palinka - clear white brandy - rules as the national drink. He told me that he has been incredibly impressed with rye as he has worked with it, even right off the still before it enters into a barrel. As a result, he releases his unaged rye spirit - a mixture of rye and single malt new make - to show off the spirit. It is available at the SAQ in Quebec.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

The nose is grainy, spicy, and sweet. It’s very fruity, with touches of floral notes too. Lots of berries! The complexity of rye is on full display. The palate is light, quite herbal, and spicy. The sweet grain character of the spirit rises towards a lightly hot finish with a light roughness and dryness.

Very characteristic of Sivo. Fairly clean overall. It’s not one I’d reach for to sip, but I find new makes so interesting in understanding what maturation does to a whisky. If you are curious to try new make whisky spirit, and haven’t, this one is decently priced at $25/500 ml.

With ice, it has a soft grainy front and is fairly sweet.


Review: Shelter Point Single Cask Rye Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
59.7%
Aging
~10 yrs
Recipe
100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

This whisky is about 10 years old, originally distilled in Alberta (not at Shelter Point) and brought to BC in 2011. It is a distillery-exclusive, single cask release, 100% rye, with only 206 bottles - and will not be a regular release. For you Shelter Point fans, this is a good one.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Distinctly shelter point with the oily notes, but still very different – marshmallow, sharp flowers (lilac and lavender), clove, white pepper, dark chocolate, and even some pepper. Sweet vanilla, and a nice bracing from the oak too. There is a nice spicy edge to this one, throughout - The palate remains sharp, with a rich oily core and loads of floral notes, finishing with lightly bitter spice. It has a really nice middle, and isn’t too spicy at cask strength. The finish is sweet, with vanilla, custard, some dried fruit, and a nice oiliness. Baking spice and tannin, too. The sweetness nicely balances the alcohol strength, and it has enough richness to do well at 60%.

I really like that it’s bottled at cask strength – I quite enjoy this. I love the continued exploration of rye in Canada. My favourite way to drink it is neat, at cask strength, in a cognac snifter.

Highly Recommended (49% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, but nearly in the average category at $110.