Review: Stalk & Barrel Single Malt Canadian Whisky (Cask Strength) / by Jason Hambrey

Ex-bourbon casks
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Still Waters (Concord, Ontario)

This is the cask strength version of the Stalk & Barrel single malt, available from their distillery. Quite similar in profile to their regular single malt, only this is, as expected, a bit punchier at cask strength.

Review (2014)

  • Batch: Cask 1
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date:  2013

This cask was filled December 1, 2009 (at 60.6%), into a new oak cask. On April 4, 2012 it was moved to cask 40 for finishing (first fill ex-bourbon). It was at 61.7% at this point. It was bottled April 16, 2013 (at 62.3%), producing 209 bottles. (As an aside, the still waters website has lots of cask information).

Nose: At times, unfortunately, there’s a bit of that nagging staleness with this one. I find this one has a bit more oak than the other expressions, and with that, more caramel and a bit more of a “stewed” character – the apple and pear seem to come in the form of apple or pear crumble, with notes of apricot and raspberry jam. Interestingly enough, though this one spent the least amount of time in a bourbon cask, I find the corn and bourbon notes the strongest in this one – but they still only play second fiddle. A bit of a bakery in here – banana bread, gingerbread, with a slight sour character a bit like the tartness of plum jam. And, I think, it’s a bit more earthy on the nose than the others.

Taste: I find the flavour is better at cask strength, I think – the vanilla, and creaminess come through more and it develops a bit better. On a continued tasting of this one, I noticed more bourbon and an earthy character that the others do not have. It’s quite rich, I find – which is nice, with all the dried and baked fruit notes and the nuttiness. But, there’s more corn here from the bourbon than elsewhere – and the earthiness seems to be springing out of that. Of the three, this one is the “darkest”, and heaviest, and I think I like it the most.

Finish: This one definitely has dried fruits (raisins and apricot) to a capacity none of the others do. There’s also vanilla in larger degree than I saw in either the nose or the palate, and even a bit of spearmint! And oak and apple come forth…amazing the oakiness here in a three year old whisky. The finish is much bigger in the cask strength expressions, I find, and this is the best of the lot.

Of the first three reviewed here, I think this is my favourite – though I might even say that cask 11 is more complex and cask 8 is a bit better balanced. Cask 1 is more woody, and, carries a nice earthy bourbon character to it that I really like. The fruitiness tends more towards dried rather than fresh or candied, which is also a component I like.

Score: 83/100

Value: 42/100 (based on $100)

Review (2014)

  • Batch: Cask 11
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2013

This cask was filled November 15, 2010 and bottled June 20, 2013 (3.6 yrs) at 62.3%.

Nose: Of the three, the fruit seems the freshest here – fresh apple, fresh banana – this one also has perhaps the most creamy texture of the three (though I wouldn’t call it that creamy) – and some of those banana notes start to morph into banana pudding if you stick to it. Some of the fruit is a bit candied – but still not as much as cask 8. Beneath it all, there’s a good bit of malt – I think it’s more noticeable than cask no. 1 but not as much as cask 8. Also, I think, it’s the nuttiest of the three – roasted cashews (primarily) and almonds (secondarily) are definitely in the mix, and from time to time I find myself thinking of nutella. And, as I mentioned the creaminess earlier – there are notes of a vanilla buttery-ness to this one too (this one has the most vanilla on the nose). And, breezing in and out of this one, from time to time, is some bourbon.

Taste: Sweeter, I think, than cask 1 – and has quite a complex and slightly less character, which is also longer. There’s more maltiness here than cask 1, and there’s a slight spicy nutmeg note, and a bit of dryness and the lightest touch of bitterness. The most vanilla of any of the palates is present here, and the nuttiness is very rich. It’s a bit lighter, fruitier, with a bit more malt character than cask 1. There is a bit of a candied fruit note, as seen from time to time on the nose, and some of the tannins in the oak effect quite a bit of “texture” to this palate.

Finish: A bit of sharp apple, I think, with a good kick of spice. also a bit of an effect similar to baking soda in feel, which is a bit unfortunate. However, it’s of decent body and..sure enough, once all else fades, you realize you are left with oak.

Conclusion: I think this one is a bit more malty, with a bit less caramel than cask 1. I think it is the most complex on the nose, and the fruit is just brilliant in this..altogether I find it is a whisky I am wanting more and more of.

Score: 83/100

Value: 42/100 (based on $100)

Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A, 60.2% ABV
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2017

Complex. Banana, grassy spice, tea, oak, vanilla, marmalade, dried thyme, milk chocolate – expressive and very interesting. Creamy, spicy, fruity, grassy – what breadth, and what balance on a whisky with a beautiful, rich middle. The palate is rich, with brie, apples, oak, bean sprouts, snap peas, apple seeds – finishing with oak, tannins, spices, and more snap peas.  The herbal and brie notes are new to me – maybe I didn’t notice them, or maybe they are cask specific – but they are interesting!

These casks have been getting older, coming now up closer to 5 years than the original 3, and it's showing!

Score: 88/100

Value: 63/100 (based on $100)