Review: Benromach Peat Smoke Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Benromach Peat Smoke 1.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
9 Years; First fill ex-bourbon
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Benromach (Forres, Scotland)

It’s difficult to find more heavily peated non-Islay malted whiskies. I suppose Talisker might be one (malted at glen ord) or Ardmore, perhaps the classic highland peated whisky. Benromach, as far as I can tell, is peated from a local peat source – and I assume local is more local than Islay. The reason that is significant is Islay peat has such a unique characteristic with the heavy marine and medicinal aromas. Other areas of peat are composed of other vegetation – so from a perspective of peat “terrior” it’s always interesting to see different regions. It’s peated to 67 ppm, which is quite a punch of peat – that’s more than Ardbeg!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Distilled 2008, Bottled 2017

  • Bottling Code: 3/5/2017

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Creamy bourbon aromas on the nose, but also vegetal, woody smoke. Some pear and berry fruitiness on the nose, too, and notably – the nose develops with time – becoming more woody, earthier, and richer. The palate is lightly sweet, creamy, and becomes quite ashy – with a touch of tropical fruit on the end – quite nice! Milk chocolate, throughout, and flashes of rich nuttiness. The finish has a nice touch of smoke, ash, cacao powder, and perhaps smoked dried flowers – it’s a bit floral! Very pleasant, and easily begs for another sip.

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

Value: High, at $90.


Review: Kavalan Solist Port Cask Single Malt Taiwanese Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Kavalan+Port+2.jpg
ABV
58.6%
Aging
~7 years; Port Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Kavalan (Yuanshan, Taiwan)

Here we have a Kavalan Solist, fully matured in Port wine barriques.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Cask 0110112009A (58.6%)

  • Bottling Code: 2018.09.20 11:37 HK

  • Bottling Date: 2018

That is a spicy nose! Licorice, clove, fenugreek, cacao, wet oak, prunes, wine gums, fresh cherry, currants, vanilla, and lots of citrus peel. The nose is slightly sour, but it is fabulous! The palate is sharp and textured, with a rich undercurrant of sweet, rich oak. The oak is fascinating – it is huge, integrated, and it isn’t over-oaked. The finish is sweet and sour, with prunes, dried cherry, sultana raisins, and clove. And some more currants.

At cask strength, this is huge and muscular. It drinks really well with water, and opens up, but the palate is unbelievable at cask strength. The oak, fruitiness, and spiciness are balanced – and very warming as it does down! This one is very easy, and makes you want a second without any effort! Very balanced, and dangerously drinkable especially at a near 60%.

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

Value: Low to Average, depending on buying price. If you get this for around 100$ CAD (it is possible in places) then it has decent value, but if you are looking at $200+, there are better value options.


Review: Caol Ila 18 Years Old Unpeated Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Special Release 2017) by Jason Hambrey

Caol+Ila+18+2.jpg
ABV
59.8%
Aging
18 years; Refill American Oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Caol Ila (Port Askaig, Scotland)

An 18 year old Caol Ila, unpeated - different from their typical releases. I’ve liked these in the past - I always like trying these.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Special Release 2017

  • Bottling Code: l7079cm000 51690150

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is awesome - rich marine malt, apple, sea salt, oak, grass, hay, spices, pineapple, and light vanilla.  Great nose. The taste has loads of hay, sweet light oak, mixed orchard fruit, clove, and a touch of chilli-type spice. A touch of tannic textre. Some rich leather-like aged notes too.  The finish is light, with oak, orchard fruit, toffee, and green wood.  Barley comes in nice at the end. It’s very rich! A nice deep malt.

It’s quite nice with water – it really shows off the depth of caol ila’s malt, even without the peat.

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

Value: Low. A pretty expensive bottle of whisky.


Review: Bunnahabhain Ceobanach Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Bunnahabhain+Ceobanach+1.jpg
ABV
46.3%
Aging
>10 Years; Ex-bourbon casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bunnahabhain (Port Askaig, Scotland)

As with all Bunnahabhains, a non-chill filtered and natural colour malt. This one is heavily peated, though, and a limited edition - this batch 03 is the last of it, and it came to Canada! It sold out quickly, but was a very nice pickup for $100.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: no. 03

  • Bottling Code: P0 0 28L3 …17144

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose is smoky and a bit zesty, with a light touch of cacao, rockpools, straw, dried apricot, and lemon zest. The peat here is intense and very attractive – there is a dense peatiness about this. And to round it out, there is a nice sweet oakiness, mixed nuts, and malt. The palate has sea spray, smoke, earthy peat smoke, vanilla, light woodiness, and lots more minerality. There is a gentle sweetness to round out the taste, too. This really is up my alley…

The finish is long, smoky, and earthy. It has a nice briny component to it, also – capers and a touch of black olive. It’s more on the smoky side of peat, thoughout – but I like how the brininess and earthiness grows on the finish. The finish, too, is slightly sweet and dry which really balances out the experience. Lovely!

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

Value: Average at $100. If Scotch was the only whisky category, this might be higher against the market, and it’s certainly good against peated whisky options.

 


Review: Glynnevan Double Barreled Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Glynnevan+Double+Barreled+2.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
Two casks
Recipe
N/A
Producer Authentic Seacoast (Guysborough, NS)

This whisky is sourced from the prairies and is partially matured at the Authentic Seacoast distillery in Guysborough, Nova Scotia.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose follows suit of a traditional younger Canadian whisky that has had a decent amount of oak extraction - pine, caramel, maple, burnt wood, brown sugar, toasted wood, raisins, cinnamon, intense woodiness, maple, and butter. The taste follows suit from the nose, but I also get some white chocolate and a growing piney wood character with tannins slowly building. The finish has a burst of vanilla, fading tannins, and some bitterness.

The balance isn’t great - it’s very woody and big, but lacks subtlety and doesn’t integrate the spirit characters in with the heavy barrel flavours. I like it with a touch of water.

Value: Low to Average. At $47, it’s not a bad price against whisky as a whole – but in the Canadian category you can do better. It’s still sourced distillate, which is slim pickings generally – I’m quite interested to see what their own distillate will be like.


Review: Newfoundland Seaweed Gin by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
None
Recipe
Spirit, Dulse Seaweed, Juniper, and Savoury
Distiller Newfoundland Distillery (Clarke's Beach, Newfoundland)

Newfoundland Distillery produces two gins, one focused on cloudberry (an inland flavor) and this one, focused on dulse seaweed (a maritime flavor) with some savoury and juniper as well. You often see gin loaded with multiple ingredients, but this is just about three simple and deep flavours.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

This is fairly marine in character, with sea-spray, sweet and oily grain spirit, and some juniper in the background. It’s probably the gin with the most seaside character that I’ve ever tasted – quite remarkable. It’s slightly sweet on the palate, and has a nice honeycomb character as well as a nice, delicate woodiness. The savoury is perfect, here. Spices come through quite richly at the end – slightly bitter spices like clove, with a light drying nature. It works a nice trick! Caramel comes through at the end too.

Works really well in cocktails, especially lighter gin cocktails where the marine character really pops (like, for instance, a cocktail made with basil, elderflower, soda, and a bit of lime).

Assessment: Highly recommended.

Value: High, if you like premium gins. $35 isn’t bad for that.


Review: Newfoundland Cloudberry Gin by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
None
Recipe
Spirit, Cloudberry, Juniper, and Savoury
Distiller Newfoundland Distillery (Clarke's Beach, Newfoundland)

If you notice, most of Newfoundland’s products are centred around three ingredients, often with one local and unique ingredient - roses and kelp (their Rose & Gunpower rum), chaga mushrooms (their Chaga rum), dulse seaweed (their seaweed gin), or - in this case - cloudberries. Cloudberries grow in Newfoundland, and taste (I’m told) similar to a blackberry or raspberry and are a big delicacy in Scandinavia and fetch high prices. However, they aren’t widely cultivated. This gin is made with just three botanicals - juniper, savoury, and cloudberry. It’s rare to see a “bridge” in gin between the juniper and the brighter fruit character other than coriander, but savoury plays a really nice trick and it’s a very different play on traditional gin.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

There is a real woody-juniper nature to this one, reminding me more of juniper wood than the berries themselves. Big herbal characters blend into woody juniper and dense, dried mixed berry notes. Simple, clean, balanced, and elegant. Very well put together, and I like how the grain character comes through but it’s still a very clean spirit and I like the centrality of the herbal notes here – many gins are focused on citrus, spice, or juniper and not many venture this far into the herbal side of things. Savoury, also, is one of my favourite herbs…

The finish carries the herbal notes quite nicely, along with a bit more intense wood.rit.

Assessment: Highly recommended.

Value: High, if you like premium gins. $35 isn’t bad for that.


Review: Newfoundland Aquavit by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
None
Recipe
Barley Spirit, Peat-smoked juniper, and honey
Distiller Newfoundland Distillery (Clarke's Beach, Newfoundland)

I don’t often go after unaged spirits, but this one caught my eye on a beer coaster which was advertising this product - it is made with peat-smoked juniper, barley spirit, and honey. I’ve tried some other Aquavits I quite liked this year, and it’s a category I think which could be explored more. Peat-smoked juniper? Yes, I want to try that.

This, notably, was the first spirit produced in Newfoundland which has been fully grown and legally distilled in the province.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose has a rich grain character, smoke, juniper, lemons, and a light mineral essence. I like the grain-forward nature of the spirit. I really haven’t had a spirit quite like this before – it is perhaps like some smoky whisky new makes that are quite smooth, but it’s quite different as well. It has a really nice savouriness to it, almost like roasted tomatoes. Or, perhaps – smoked tomatoes (you can buy these, but they aren’t easy to find…). The smoke really comes through on the palate, at the end – a bit like a meat smoker with cherry wood.

This is a complex, interesting, and unique spirit – it has endless application in cocktails. I can just imagine great pairings with tomato, dried apricot, fresh stone fruits, or honey and soda.

This aquavit and Sheringham’s are both terrific – I think more distilleries should pursue this type of spirit.

Assessment: Highly recommended.

Value: High, if you like smoke and unique spirits. $35 isn’t bad for that.


Review: Chaga Rum (Newfoundland Distillery) by Jason Hambrey

Chaga Rum.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
5 Years
Recipe
Demerera Rum with Infused Botanicals
Distiller Newfoundland Distillery (Clarke's Beach, Newfoundland)

I really liked Newfoundland Distillery’s Gunpowder & Rose rum, so I’ve been very curious to try this one - a rum infused with Chaga mushrooms! Honey is added to the infusion, to round everything out. The 5 year old rum is sourced from Guyana, but the infusion happens in Newfoundland.

I’m evidently not the only one who liked this, as it also won best Canadian spiced rum at the World Rum Awards.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

A terrific rich rum character, with a really nice earthiness which comes not only from oak but also from a subtle deep-forest mushroom earthiness. It has a real richness to it, much like the El Dorado rums. Orange peel, rich oak, mixed roasted nuts, dried cranberries, cacao, manuka honey, prunes, and brown sugar. The palate follows the nose, but the earthiness is amped up – dense, rich, dark earth. The finish, in particular is wonderful – there is a rich molasses character and a rich, roasted earthy character that is both sharp and deep. There is a light smokiness at the end, reminiscent a bit of chipotles.

How does this compare to Gunpowder & Rose Rum? They are both terrific. The Gunpowder & Rose is extremely floral and a bit more unique, but this one is dark and rich, and amps up the rich rum character with even more richness and earthiness. It makes me appreciate the gunpowder & rose rum more, perhaps – it is extremely innovative (rose & rum!) but works really well.

If you like aged rum, and have access to this – buy it. It would be even better at 45% or 46%.

Assessment: Very highly recommended.

Value: High. $40 is very good for this.


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; Wine Finish
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

Shelter Point double barreled some of their whisky in French oak 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

Finished in blackberry wine casks.

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

Finished in blackberry wine casks.

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 (2019)

  • Batch: 2018

  • Bottling Date: 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Aged for 5.5 years in American oak before being finished for 335 days in quail’s gate pinot noir casks - we’re now not in blackberry cask territory.

This whisky opens with a terrific nose - really nice rich, fruity notes, raisins, red currants, cardamom, sour notes, green apple, baking spices, and great oak. Light shelter point barley characteristics. Lightens up nicely with time. Really opens up with water. The taste is slightly salty, with currants and loads of fruit and tannins – but there are some really nice malty and toffee notes as well. It is very savoury. The finish is winey, thick, and spicy – with some roasted grain notes. Nice body on the finish.

I really like it! It is a departure from before – it has more wine, fruit, and richness. The blackberry releases previously were a bit spicier. I like this version even more.

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

Value: Average, based on $80. But it’s above average if we’re just looking at Canadian single malts.