Review: Wild Turkey Longbranch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
43%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Wild Turkey (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky)

This whiskey was produced in collaboration between Wild Turkey and Matthew McConaughey - it has resulted in a bourbon about 8 years old which is filtered through both american oak charcaol and texas mesquite charcoal to soften out the whiskey a bit.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose is spicy, with apple, oak, and corn – but it is quite clean and light for a bourbon. What glorious oak! It’s lighter than i expected for a wold turkey – which makes sense given the charcoal filtration. The taste is full of grain - dried fruit and rye, and nice vanilla laden oak, but also with light-spices  and dark fruit, and toasted notes. A very easy-going bourbon. The finish is oaky, with dried fruit. Lightly sweet. A very easy-going bourbon.

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

Value: Average, based on $60. But, in the bourbon category, below average.


Review: Jack Daniel's Barrel Proof Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
66.65%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
~80% Corn, 8% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Jack Daniels (Lynchburg, Tennessee)

These are rather hidden secrets coming from Jack Daniel’s, not too hard to find and not too expensive. It’s certainly a much more refined, bigger, and expressive Jack!


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Barrel 18-0394 (bottled 1.11.2018, 66.65%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

This smells so much like Jack Daniels with the hit of spicy caramel, but it’s so much bigger, spicier, and rounded. Rich oak, caramel, toasted fennel seed, dried orange, clove, wood char, and dried berries. The palate has a depth of corn, with a touch of nice vegetal rye (arugula), spices, and loads more caramel. Lots of banana, too. The palate is so big and spicy, even if water is added! The finish is rich with corn, spice, and caramel notes. There is a nice kick of oak and tannin on the finish, too. Fantastic!

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This is pretty universally liked among my bourbon lovers who don’t like most Jack Daniel’s bottlings, so I suggest giving this one a try if you like big bourbons.

Value: Average. It’s not a bad price for a cask strength whisky of this calibre, but it’s still sitting around 65 USD.


Review: Maker's Mark Private Select Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey (Selected by BC Liquor Stores) by Jason Hambrey

Maker’s Mark is interesting in that they only produced one product, produced the same way, but for over 50 years (our standard Maker’s Mark). Until August of 2010, when they released this whisky, Maker’s 46, just before the retirement of Bill Samuel’s Junior, the son of the Bill Samuels who started the Maker’s Mark (as we know it today with new recipes and the famous red wax bottles). The wood going into this is air dried for 12 months (called “seasoning”) which changes the character of the oak – most oak is seasoned in some way, but usually not this long.

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Review: Little Book Blended Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
59.4%
Aging
8-40 Years; Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
A blend of straight rye and corn whiskies
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

This is quite the endeavor - a blend of Kentucky Straight Rye (8 years old) with a Canadian straight rye (13 years old) and a Canadian corn whisky (40 years old). One can assume the Canadian portion came from Alberta, since Beam owns that remarkable distillery - but it may have been sourced elsewhere. Talk about unique.

This review is for the second release, which differed from the first release which was based around a 4 year old straight bourbon, a 6 year old rye, a 13 year old corn whiskey, and a 6 year old 100% malt whiskey..


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Chapter 2: Noe Small Task

  • Bottling Code: 1689597L5 13:53 17199

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Sharp, diverse, and complex nose. Mint, lemon peel, pickled lemons, arugula, oak – loaded with oak, so it’s not very much like a Canadian blended whisky despite the Canadian components. It’s a bit sweet – and it’s quite deep. Sweet tarts, dried chanterelles, truffle oil, toasted macadamias, toasted hazlenuts, mixed sprouts, blueberry, canola oil

Deep, yet quite soft. The palate is full of a mix of all sorts of rye – fruity, spicy, herbal (radishes), and cinnamon. Still, there is a nice corn body to this, and a very nice mix of spicy and rich grain notes. What a nice, complex whisky. There is an incredibly rich nuttiness and herbaceousness present, and the balance is terrific – especially at cask strength. The finish is lightly sweet, with some nice spices in tow. The herbal characteristics are not lost at all, and the rich oakiness remains throughout. This is just about a perfect fall whisky.

It has less colour than most bookers, probably because the Canadian rye was refill casks. It is an entirely different animal than a booker’s which is much more focused on corn and a bit more focused on a big bourbon profile than Little Book, which is very much in its own category – but with deep American rye whiskey nods.

One of my favourite American-produced whiskies to date.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This is at the higher end of this category, too.

Value: Average (based on $130).


Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye Whiskey (Barreled 2009) by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
59.8%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
N/A (but at least 51% Rye)
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

This was a special release in 2018, and it came with anticipation - a cask strength, 9 year old knob creek rye! Some people certainly liked it, given that Whisky Advocate named it their number 2 whisky of the year.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Barreled in 2009, Warehouse A

  • Bottling Code: L3182CLH 13282005

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Very oaky, and quite intense. Some of that classic Jim Beam rye nuttiness and vegetal character (buckwheat, perhaps?), mint, sorrel, cacao, and oak. Very rich. There is more – hazelnut oil, roasted celeriac, baking spices, a hint of patchouli, freshly milled whole wheat, and a bit of mandarin.

The palate is sharp and spicy, with loads of oak (fairly tannic), mint, patchouli, bitter clove, black pepper, mint, wild rice, lilac, and tannic oak. Corn is not absent either, with some rich corn husk coming through at the end. Extremely flavourful. The finish is quite herbal, tannic, and oaky.

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

Value: Average. A very nice whisky, but still a fairly high price (~100 CAD). If you like it more than I do, as some do, value would be higher, of course.


Review: Elijah Craig Single Barrel for Kensington Wine Market (2019) by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
47%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
75% Corn; 13% Rye; 12% Malt
Distiller Heaven Hill (Bardstown, Kentucky)

One of many single cask selections that Kensington Wine Market in Calgary does, but mostly Scotch – only a couple of bourbons are chosen. Barrel 5214622, warehouse F, floor 3, barrel 17 F.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Barrel 5214622

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

Soft for an Elijah Criag, not quite as oaky as many. Sweet honey, roasted hazlenuts and pistachios and other mixed nuts, corn oil, tobacco, leather, maple, and even something a bit floral – like potpourri! Old musty oak too – I love that smell in a bourbon. A sweet, oaky palate which is fairly complex – with nuts, spices, and some orange all working well together. The finish is full of oaky caramel, honey – and a bit of earthiness too which is a very nice touch. Quite a nice finish – rich, complex, with decent length.

Oddly, lots of oak here but not very tannic. I’m a bit surprised; it makes it seem a bit lighter than it is.

I rate it very similarly, but I think I actually slightly prefer the official bottlings of Elijah Craig, as I do like the bigger oakiness in Elijah Craig – but I think this would appeal to those who like softer, less oaky bourbons. This showcases a different side of Elijah Craig stock.

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

Value: Average. In bourbons alone, it’s a bit below par.


Review: Hochstadter's Family Reserve 16 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
61.9%
Aging
16 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

This whisky was released at the same time as (my revered) lock, stock, and barrel 16 year old - it is from the same cache of barrels from Alberta Distillers which Cooper Spirits acquired - a cask strength, intense rye whisky. Alberta rye at over 60% - I must try this! It costs a pretty penny, though, sadly.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Now there is a nose! Quite candied, with loads of arugula, some spinach, light medicinal overtones, candied orange, prunes, plums, loads of clove, dried blueberry, dried cherry, dusty asphalt, oak, sundried tomatoes, loads of cedar – it just gets better with time. It reminds me a bit of the heavy caroni rums with some of the spice and medicinal notes. We have some dustiness too!

The palate is very herbal, lightly medicinal, dried spices – very Alberta. It ends in a rich flourish of arugula. Lavender,  throughout – it is quite sweet, with notes of icing sugar – moreso than other Alberta whiskies I’ve tried. This whisky is so huge, and so deep! The finish is oaky, rich, and still very fruity – lots of dried fruit, berry notes, clove, icing sugar, nutmeg, sweet oak, and the slightest bracing of tannin.

It is a very different whisky than Masterson’s, when compared side by side. The masterson’s isn’t as sharp or deep, and has a lot less vibrancy (if you can believe such a thing). Unbelievably, it puts masterson’s to shame – and masterson’s is one of the best Canadian rye whiskies, which rarely gets outdone. That says something.

I still like this a tad less than the Lock, Stock, and Barrel, which I feel isn’t quite as sweet and is a touch more balanced. Compared to the Lock, Stock, and Barrel 18 – this is less oaky, and more muscular, with deeper fruity and spicy notes.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Average. Amazing whisky (some of the best), but 200 USD is a price, for sure!


Review: Canadian Club 41 Year Old Chronicles Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
45%
Aging
40 Years; Refill American Oak
Recipe
100% Corn
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

The follow up to the remarkable 40-year old bottling of Canadian Club last year, this is a bit different - to the 41 year old corn whisky small amounts of young rye, sherry, and cognac were blended in. To my knowledge, the oldest Canadian whisky ever released to date.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Luscious, mature whisky with all the expected richness: coconut oil, beeswax, honey, oak, and yet – a nice set of spice and dried fruit notes. The palate is aged whisky that is loaded with flavor: berry notes, waxy notes, woody notes, dried fruit notes, and spice notes – it is lightly sweet, with an ethereal aged whisky quality and top notes of blueberry and honey. The nose here is just brilliant, and the spiciness in the middle is just really nice. The finish has a touch of tartness and some dried fruit reminiscent of dark fruit found in red wines.

This is very excellent. However, it falls a bit flat on the palate relative to last year (which was one of my favourite whiskies ever). It’s a bit spicier, and the dried fruit notes are more prominent.

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. My perfect whisky is worth $300, and I haven’t found it yet. A very good whisky, whether $300 is worth spending on a whisky is up to you. I will say, though, that you won’t find any other really good whiskies over 40 years old at this price.


Review: Canadian Club Barley Batch Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
42%
Aging
5-6 Years
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

This whisky was released to celebrate Canadian Club’s 160th anniversary in 2018, and it based on a blend of 5 year old standard Canadian Club (as in Canadian Club premium) from Hiram Walker distillery and 6 year old malt whisky from Alberta Distillers (owned by Beam Suntory, who own Canadian Club). It is bottled at a higher ABV, and is a limited edition.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Interesting almost tropical aromas – coconut water, bamboo, green (unripe) mango – but also familiar applesauce, vanilla, and peach. Also, mulberry – very distinct! The palate shows a bit more grain, leading onto a grainy and spicy finish with a hit of vanilla. The spices come through at the end, particularly, to balance everything out especially with a light grainy richness coming through.

This is quite a departure from most Canadian Clubs, other than perhaps the 100% rye – it is extremely fruity, more in the style of the younger, very fruity micro-distilled single malts which are on the market. However, it still has a grain richness to it that is different than a micro-distilled single malt.

If you want to try something different, and aren’t familiar with the vibrant and very fruity young malt whiskies, it’s a good try for uniqueness. If you have, though, I’d skip this one and go to a CC20 for just about 10$ bit more, or a CC12 for less.

Value: Average, at $60.


Review: Two Brewers Innovative Yukon Single Malt by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

ABV
43%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Two Brewers (Whitehorse, Yukon)

Two Brewers has an innovative line, alongside their classic, special finishes, and peated lines – in this line of products, they bring their brewing expertise to the table to generate unique expressions through the use of special brewing techniques during fermentation.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Release 5 (Sour Mash Single Malt)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

This batch is the first in the innovative line, and it is brewed using a sour mash – where the spent mash (the remains of a previously fermented mash) is poured back into the fermenters of the next batch to increase the acidity in fermentation – originally done to help the yeast do their job better and sometimes to create sour taste profiles in beer. You see this everywhere with Kentucky bourbon, but rarely with single malts (at least I haven’t heard of any doing this) – so this is indeed unique.

Vibrant fruit, and very reminiscent of the Two Brewers style. Interesting, though, with cinnamon coming in amidst the over-ripe banana, pineapple, guava, orange, and raspberry (yes, this is fruity!). Sweet roasted red pepper, dill, acacia honey, and even a light mineral backbone. The palate is surprisingly malty, but also with some spicy vegetal notes – dill, water cress, and arugula. Creamy porridge, too, with lots of cereal notes – which also I find all over the nose after I’ve taken a sip. Lightly sweet, but nicely balanced. The finish is lightly spicy, oaky, and still carrying sweet fruit notes. Another winner from Yukon!

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

Value: Average. Really good whisky, but at $100 it starts to compete against other possibilities in the $100 range.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 08 (Hopped)

  • Bottling Code: L1 50781D 17/11/2017

  • Bottling Date: 2017

I’ve been eager to try this one. It’s from the Yukon distillery, but this time they used hops in their mash and distilled the hopped distiller’s beer. I asked Bob what hops he used, and he said "I think cascade – but it was so long ago that I don’t remember!”. Pretty rare to hear a micro distilery say that!

At first, you get all the broad and rich Two Brewers fruit notes – mango, apple, pear, banana – but this has some unique and lovely notes to it. Pine, cedar, vanilla, baking bread, rich barley, anise, a slight marshmallow character, with more pear and a bourbon-like dried fruit character arising with time. The palate starts sweet, but, as usual, there comes a great Two Brewers roasted grain character alongside a saccharin sweetness. It has a great edge to it, between the sharpness of the grain and the light piney bitterness of the hops. There’s also a bit of szechuan peppercorn, here, too.

The palate comes through with great grain, and on the end there’s a very nice bitter touch from the hops. The finish is quite reminiscent of when you drink beer and whisky together, the hop notes staying in the background but full of the fruity character of the whisky. Lots of rich grain notes, a bit like a rich stout. I like the bitterness and it has a pleasant drying sensation.

In some ways I like it more, but it is not quite as bright as some other releases. The hops work well - it is the best hopped whisky I’ve tasted, and it is unique.

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

Value: Average. Really good whisky, but at $100 it starts to compete against other possibilities in the $100 range.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Release 11 (Munich Malt)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

This is a Two Brewers, but made with Munich Malt, a malt known for bringing in a rich grain characteristic to beer.

The nose is rich, very much Two Brewers but with a richer and deeper grain characteristic. We have honey, rich mixed grain, light woody spice, and lots of fruit: peaches, plums, and mixed tropical fruits. The grain blossoms on the palate right through to the finish, which is still grainy, lightly sour, and herbal. The tropical fruits remain, and we get a typical hit of arugula in the middle. – but the fruit continues, and we get a nice hit of milk chocolate towards the end. Terrific! The finish is lightly sour, lightly herbal, with oaky vanilla and baking spice with touches of tannin. Quite different than the sharp and piney spiciness in the last innovative release, the hopped single malt. This is really good, the best of their innovative line so far, from a taste perspective.

I just love the stuff Two Brewers is putting out – this is perhaps my favourite of their categories because of the uniqueness each batch brings.

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

Value: Average. Really good whisky, but at $100 it starts to compete against other possibilities in the $100 range.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Release 14 (Roasted Malts)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

Dragonfruit, caramel, custard, fresh baking bread – a really nice set of baking spice aromas. Two Brewers really does such a nice job with all their whiskies- the bright fruit so uniquely woven into the rich grain character. The roasted malts here assert their presence more than they did with the munich malt or other releases, and there is a really nice elegance to this whisky especially as it sits out. The palate has roasted grain at the centre, with a very pleasing, almost gritty grain character at the end which is fantastic. Fruit, oak, and dessert notes are present throughout the palate, well balanced and full of intrigue. The finish is grainy, and lightly fruity. Not as much is going on the finish as on the palate, but it’s still very pleasant. The 46% pays off, especially on the finish.

The grain character here is slightly bigger than the other Two Brewers releases, where grain still plays a significant role. Very nice.

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $100. This is about what you should expect from a whisky (or Scotch) which you pay $100, and this is better than most Scotch whiskies that cost $100.