Review: Stalk & Barrel Rye Canadian Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

~3.5 yrs; Bourbon Barrels
100% Rye (malted & unmalted)
Distiller Still Waters (Concord, Ontario)

This is the first rye whisky to be produced by Still Waters Distillery, a micro distillery in the Toronto area. As their new make is the best I’ve had, of all new makes I’ve tasted, I’ve been anticipating this release for a long time especially because I matured my own rye from their new make. These are single cask releases, with lower proof versions coming in at 46% and cask strength versions a bit north of 60%. At this point, the barrels have been first fill ex-bourbon barrels.

Review (2014)

  • Batch: Cask 17

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

This is just about 3 years old, having been barrelled at 62.6% on Oct. 16, 2011 and bottled on Oct. 25, 2014.

Nose: It still smells a bit young (which it is!), but this is less noticeable as it sits. Some brilliant and bright honeycrisp apple comes off at first, though soon it is overtaken by everything else – first some vanilla, a buttery note, and black tea notes (which I also find in the new make), along with a bit of a buttery note. There’s also a fair bit of hay notes as well – sort of a (positive) barn like note. Then there is a surprising amount of “green” notes like pine aromas, wintergreen, and some juniper which take some time to develop. These are wonderful, I think. There is a bit of fresh banana too. Then we have some freshly baked spice cake, butterscotch pudding, and some vanilla comes through also. Interestingly, some of the oily and hay notes remind me of their single malt. On successive nosings I have noticed different dominant characteristics, which show some of the complexity here.

Taste: There’s a nice buttery feel to this one! I also quite like the balance of sweetness, dryness, and spice. The green notes from the nose carry through, with some pine character to it, along with lots of spiciness – black pepper, clove, and then some spearmint on the end. Some of the bourbon from the cask is also lurking about….very nice. The dryness is balanced just about right for my liking, and it feels light but has a brilliant rich spicy and evergreen underbody – overall it feels pretty “fresh” – like it would be a very appropriate springtime dram – spicy enough warming comfort and fresh enough that it is somewhat refreshing. Very delicious.

Finish: Peppery, spicy, and even a bit tannic. It still has some black tea notes carrying through, and the pine notes almost take on a bit of a character like hops in this. A bit of the oak comes out, sometimes even with a bourbon note or too. It’s a bit dry, too. It’s also “self-cleansing”, where the finish itself lightens up and feels light and fresh in your mouth after a while, a characteristic I love in whiskies. I wouldn’t mind a touch more flavour, but it’s quite good, and it lingers quite well.

Conclusion: I like how the spicy, grassy, character of the rye has come out, rather than drowned out in oak. Though this is good, I’d love to see what some more age would do to this. The quality of the spirit itself is great, but it seems like it could take some more development in aging very well, and it might round out the flavours a bit more. I do really like the pine/fresh green notes in this, making it somewhat of a spring whisky, perhaps. I like this more than the single malt and it’s been the best product coming out of Still Waters that I’ve tasted to date, and I can see potential for some pretty breathtaking casks of this stuff.

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

Value: Average, at $70.

Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: Cask 49

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Young, powerful, and spicy spirit which shows through some brilliant black tea notes, oily richness, pepper, dried apricot, dried blueberries, oak, and light bourbon notes with some nice spice on the end. Well balanced, and very intriguing. One of my favorite ryes, and quite unique among those that I’ve tasted.

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

Value: Average, at $70.