Review: Two Brewers Special Finishes Yukon Single Malt Canadian Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

ABV
43-46%
Aging
7-8 yrs in first cask, finished for about a year in finishing cask
Recipe
100% Malted Barley - mostly pale malt
Distiller Two Brewers (Whitehorse, Yukon)

The abv above is because the first release was 46%, the second was 43%. Here we have the terrific Two Brewers single malt - but this time finished in a variety of different casks, depending on the release - they say they hope no two releases will be the same. It is worth noting that the finishing period here is longer than typical - most barrel finishes are quite short (more like an "infusion") as most of the liquid remaining in the finishing barrel is absorbed in 90 days or so. The amount of liquid soaked into a finishing barrel is significant - barrels have gallons of soaked liquid in them once they are finished maturation. Thus, most distilleries aren't doing a whole lot more in finishing than adding in another ingredient, in a way that passes as legal because it's soaked into a barrel. However, a longer finish means also that you get a bit of maturation from a second, different, barrel, which means it really is more of a finish. This year long period of finishing means we get to see some of the effect of that.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Release 02

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Distilled in 2009 and finished in PX sherry barrels, 46% ABV.

Very green, and interesting - unripe pear, unripe banana, unripe mango, black pepper, soy sauce, and some sweet grain. The palate brings in lots of pineapple, yellow ripe apple, and a decent strength leading into orchard fruit and light smoke on the finish.

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

Value: Average. Starts to compete with other $100 whiskies, which has quite a few of the best drams in the world.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Release 04

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Blended and finished in a bourbon barrel. 1440 bottles, at 43%.

The nose is vibrant and fruity with exotic fruit – guava, soursop – with some mint, vanilla, dried peach, sweet potato, and malt-driven beer notes. The palate has a sweet, malty core on top, middle fruit notes with peach and apple – all with an earthy, nutty edge to it. The end of the palate and finish is very vegetal – arugula and spice, reminding me quite a bit of rye. The finish is clean, spicy, and creamy with light earthy smoke, peach, almonds, and dried papaya.

This whisky is one with great texture, movement, and complexity – I highly recommend.

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

Value: Average. Starts to compete with other $100 whiskies, which has quite a few of the best drams in the world.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Release 09

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Finished in European PX barrels.

The nose is full of dried fruits – but more „standard” fruits for a single malt – raisins, prunes, dried apricots. Very sherry driven, with dried orange peel, sherry spices, and oxidized wine playing key parts in the nose. We also have rich grain, in the two brewers style, but it is subdued. Horseradish, too!

The palate is a bit less dominated by sherry, with a strong malty core and a classic spicy, grainy finish. It is still loaded with dried fruit – though the tropical fruits come through, too. The finish has rancio, dried fruit, and a sharp herbal characteristic – thyme and basil. And the herbal grain character comes through, too – I love it.

This is a nice whisky, but I think the cask dominates too much – the fruity, complex and tropical character of two brewers is taken over by a sherry cask which loads the experience with dried fruits, spices, and rancio – still very good, but I don’t think the best pairing for Two Brewers.

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

Value: Average. Starts to compete with other $100 whiskies, which has quite a few of the best drams in the world.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Release 15

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

Another sherry barrel finish. The nose starts with the typical bright fruit, notably peach this time, sharp grainy aromas, cinnamon, and rich and sweet stone-fruit wine notes. It has almost a dessert-like quality to it, but, oddly enough, it fits in really well into some of the earthy notes on the nose. The palate is rich, with oak coming in but offset against the grain and herbal notes. The finish has arugula, baking spice, and sherry.

I think this is probably my favourite of the sherry finishes to date. The nose, I find, is just about perfect and has a nice delicate balance between the components.

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

Value: Average, as above.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Release 18

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

Another cask strength (58%!) from Two Brewers - this time with an age statement! It is from two seven year old barrels, a combination or first fill ex-bourbon and new barrels. Non-chill filtered, no colour added - what we like to see! It’s the first age statement, but it isn’t the oldest. Two brewers batches have a range of ages, typically - for example, a recent release was 5-9 years old, and pretty evenly spread across the range. Each batch has a different formulation depending on what they are trying to achieve. So, how does this taste?

The nose is very buttery and creamy – in fact, it almost has an Irish whisky nature to it. It’s a very compelling whisky with green wood, baking spice, custard, vanilla, oak, orchard fruit, grassy spice, baking sourdough, and a light vegetal characteristic. It develops, slowly, with time. More of a spicy and custard characteristic than most two brewers, and it is a bit more oak forward – indeed, I didn’t even recognize this one blind as a Two Brewers in a recent blind tasting – but I scored it very highly. The shape of the whisky is quite different than most Two Brewers – but it is excellent! It takes water very well – in fact, I think I prefer this with a drop or two of water.

The palate is creamy, buttery, and rich. What fantastic whisky! Tremendous stuff. Coconut, custard, clove, banana cream pie, tannins, pear, and nutmeg. The finish is long, creamy, and sweet. Great oak. There is a really nice vegetal, umami character that emerges too – it’s really great. And a beautiful cedar note to look for.

I guess all the new oak really shifted this whisky a bit further outside the boundaries compared to most Two Brewers– but it is very good and surprisingly (to me) different. Very well balanced, still. I think my second favourite two brewers, after batch 10…

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

Value: Average, but towards the higher value end of the category. Relatively expensive at $125, but also very good…


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Release 23

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

This single malt is a lightly peated single malt matured in ex-bourbon, then finished in both sherry and port barrels. So, intensive on the finishing time now! Something a bit new.

The nose is very two brewers – tropical fruit, rich grain character – but also smoky, oaky, and winey. It’s quite a mix of flavours here – bright port, rich sherry, sharp peat, and vibrant spirit. A fascinating, layered, nose with lots going on. The sherry has a really nice binding effect on the whisky.

On the palate, a classic rich grain character comes in sharply before sherry softens it out into a sweet, very fruity finish. Not your classic two brewers fruit (lighter orchard fruit and tropical fruit) – but candied orange, prunes, currants, berries, and fruitcake. The peat comes and outlasts the fruit on the finish. You can taste all the components – the sherry, the peat, the port, and the spirit. I always like that.

One of the richer two brewers, I think. A fantastic mix of flavours, but they aren’t quite as clearly balanced as some of their other whiskies. But can I complain? No. Excellent stuff.

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

Value: Average based on $100.