Review: Stalk & Barrel Special 1+11 Blend Canadian Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Distiller Multiple (Canada)

This whisky is produced by Still Waters distillery, in Concord, Ontario. Still Waters distillery only started distilling whisky around 4 years ago, and, as with most distilleries when they start – cash flow is difficult at first as the whisky has to age for at least 3 years in Canada. Still Waters did something interesting – they purchased whisky, mostly 4-6 years old, from other distilleries and blended in some of their young spirit was well to produce a blended whisky. In Canada, legally, you can include up to 1/11 of either young spirit (at least 2 years old) or wine and still legally call the product Canadian whisky – according to Davin DeKergommeaux’sbook Canadian Whisky, this regulation originally sprung out of large tax breaks that the US gave to Canadian producers during a time when there was surplus American spirit due to crop failure – but this also helped Canadian producers compete with American producers, who were using neutral, unaged spirits, as significant or primary components of their blend. Consequently, Still Waters is able to include spirit at least 2 years old as part of this blend.

I do like the bottle, and the colour is very light – signalling that the whisky almost certainly does not have added colouring, as most whiskies do – the addition of caramel colouring is generally looked down upon by connoisseurs for both reasons of flavour and false image (not allowing the consumer to see cask effects on whisky).

Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Sharp rye with a bit of mustiness coming off, surrounded by a rich sweet corn base, vanilla, green tea, roasted coconut, hot cacao, cinnamon and some sharp and volatile astingent notes which I find largely at the beginning of the nose. There’s some citrus notes, like dried orange peel, and I can sense the slight acidity in the whisky off the nose. There are some creamy and buttery notes, much like cacao butter which seem to grow as the whisky sits. There are also some menthol notes, both in the effect and flavour of menthol. Some of the grain in the background is a touch stale and ever so lightly bitter, which detracts a bit – and there’s some meatiness (reminding me of frying ground beef) which comes in after a bit of time which I don’t like much but I do find in some other Canadian whiskies like Canadian Club. There’s lots going on, and the nose is quite complex, but it’s a bit messy too.

Taste: A nice, full feel to this one. A sweet, oily, and vanilla-tinged start lead on to a bit of young rye before spices take over and lead on into an enduring and developing finish. The feel and the oils really carry this one very well…in many senses, it’s a classic blended Canadian – a rich body with some tingling rye and spice at the edges, without too powerful flavours. There’s some light fruit, like white grape too, and some whispers of molasses and smoke….it has a slight bit of acidity which is quite engaging. Well done.

Finish: Spices and mint, with refreshing acidity and a cleansing nature, which slowly unfolds, revealing a touch of oak and cedar, cacao, nutmeg, corn chips, and green grape.

The nose, I find, is a bit messy – but still interesting and complex – I do really like the intriguing cacao butter notes in this. However, the taste and the finish are very well done, and this is an excellent whisky, and certainly good for the price. I’ve been intrigued with Still Waters so far…and I’m eager to try their rye whisky when it is old enough and released.

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

Value: Average, at $40.