Canadian Spirits

Review: St. Laurent Rye Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
3 Years
Recipe
80% Rye, 20% Malted Barley
Distiller Distillerie du St. Laurent (Rimouski, QC)

The second whisky from Distillerie du St Laurent, and this one hits home - a batch of rye whisky that was 2/3 matured in virgin oak casks and 1/3 matured in ex-whisky casks (re-fill). I really liked what they did on their three grain whisky, so I’m quite curious about this one - especially as this one is all about rye. Currently only available in Quebec.


Review (2022)

  • Batch: 001

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2022

Nice grainy notes on the nose, full of spice and barrel tones. The grain notes are just terrific - like wet, flavourful cracked grain. The oak is there but is pretty well integrated into this pretty bold style. Caramel, custard, fennel, green wood, rye bread, vanilla, pine needles, wet earth, and dried apricot. Great nose!

The palate leads with spicy grain notes, this time closer to a spicy herbal character (arugula) compared to the baking spice on the nose, which plays a backseat here. There is a really nice thread of toffee in the middle. Woodiness is present too - both in sweet vanilla and creaminess but also, and notably, in a sharp fresh woodiness that complements the spicy rye very well.

The finish is great. Spicy, woody, fruity and dry. Dried fruit comes out, as does cinnamon, a bit of orange peel, tobacco, and a touch of cacao. Dense and layered.


A really nice, complex whisky - not often is a second whisky release so impressive at this age. Remarkable since bolder whiskies are hard to balance. It’ll get even better with some age, which will round out the flavours a bit more and give some depth- but this is great stuff now. This is one of the best ryes you can get from a small producer.

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Pretty decent stuff for $55!


Review: Blackstrap Rum (Last Straw Distillery) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45%
Aging
1 Year; European Oak
Recipe
100% Blackstrap Molasses
Distiller Last Straw (Vaughan, Ontario)

This is the blackstrap rum which I loved - an unaged rum which is perhaps my favorite white rum ever. It has now been matured in a cask, so we have some age to it...


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Cask 1

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is oily, with lots of white pepper, blueberry, molasses, cilantro, chipotle- still that classic blackstrap flavour, but with oak this time – the palate is lightly confectionary, with oak, blueberry, molasses, white pepper, brown sugar...the finish fades out with dried berry notes, white pepper, and molasses. The finish has some nice oily, vanilla, toffee notes which just go on. A really nice rum! On the lighter side, and I really like it – though I still might oddly prefer blackstrap to this. I do love that white rum.

Assessment: Recommended.

Value: Average. If you like the category, it’s a decent buy for $50.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: Blackstrap 2.5

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2021

This has come on a long way from the last time I tried it. I love the white version of this, and immediately on the nose I realize the previous one I had (cask 1 above) was a bit of an adolescent version that hadn’t quite found its way.

This one, however, is right on point: rich molasses, cloves, vanilla, oak, brown sugar, honey, apple, peach…if you want a rum with a classic character that ticks all the boxes – this is it. The palate is balanced well between the sweetness, rich molasses character, orchard fruit, and tannins. The tannins do well to introduce a clean, spicy, and molasses-laden finish.

Mixes nicely in cocktails, too. It competes well in the category of lighter Spanish-style aged rums – and does so very well.

Assessment: Highly Recommended.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: bsr004

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2021

The nose has very nice oak – rich, spicy, woody, sweet – but, against the wood, is a very nice spirit character – dried berries, red currants, molasses, dried mixed fruit and even a touch of bright chamomile. It has the nice complex, savoury fruitiness found in so many rums that pairs so nicely with the light caramel notes. The palate has a nice richness to it – both from the spirit and from the oak. Light earthiness, toffee, apple, plum, nutmeg, oak, orange peel, clove, and some brown sugar. The palate and finish both have nice savoury notes throughout. The finish leaves you with light tannins, spice, toffee, and white pepper. Very complex, especially in the way that dried and fresh fruit drift in and out.

This is one of the best rums made in Canada!

Assessment: Highly Recommended


Review: River's End Gin (Wolfhead Distillery) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of wolfhead distillery.

Image courtesy of wolfhead distillery.

ABV
43%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Wolfhead (Amherstburg, Ontario)

This gin is made using a wheat spirit base. A number of botanicals are incorporated through vapour distillation with the spirit being distilled through a botanical basket that includes Italian juniper, coriander (from Canada and India), Moroccan orris root and grains of paradise, California grapefruit peel, Egyptian hibiscus, Haitian bitter orange peel, Chilean rose hips, Vietnamese star anise, Indonesian cinnamon, and Guatemalan cardamom. Now that’s a world tour!


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2021

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Immediately, you get the three classic pillars of gin – juniper, citrus, and spice – in full complement and playing off one another brilliantly. Underneath, there is a really nice berry character and the richness of the juniper is terrific. The brightness of the lemon has been captured really well, and the spice pops on the palate more than the nose – making this a perfect cocktail gin. It’s very clean throughout with a nice long bright, spicy finish. Anyone who reads my gin reviews knows that I really like juniper – so this one plays right up to my style.

The gin is quite scrumptious – it has a nice balance and an underlying sweetness that really plays well off the spice, citrus, and wood. It makes it very easy to sip….

Highly recommended.


Review: Wolfhead Vodka by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of wolfhead distillery.

Image courtesy of wolfhead distillery.

ABV
40%
Aging
None
Recipe
100% wheat
Distiller Wolfhead (Amherstburg, Ontario)

Wolfhead distillery makes this vodka from wheat, which tends to give vodkas a good mixture of sweetness and texture with a bit of a grainy bite. Once the wheat mash is fermented, it is distilled seven times to get a pure product.

I’ve done a lot of vodkas recently, which may surprise some - but, it’s mainly because I’ve had a pandemic discovery - I quite enjoy both vodka martinis and gin martinis if there is a good dry vermouth to use. And, pretty well, the better the vodka, the better the martini.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2021

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Very clean and slightly creamy with very subtle light blueberry, white pepper, almond, and a slight note of plaintain chips. There is a slight perception of sweetness on the nose. It is clean, light, and very smooth on the palate. The finish is clean, creamy, and maintains that slight perception of sweetness. Once the initial finish fades, everything brightens up slightly with some bean sprout notes.

Highly recommended.


Review: Barrel Aged Gateway Gin (Lone Pine Distilling) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of lone pine distilling.

Image courtesy of lone pine distilling.

ABV
45%
Aging
Ex-bourbon cask
Recipe
Wheat and botanicals
Distiller Lone Pine Distilling (Edmonton, AB)

This gin is made by maturing Gateway Dry Gin, the rich and spicy flagship gin of Lone Pine Distilling, in ex-bourbon barrels for a few months.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2021

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Very spicy and citrusy coriander, a heavy juniper character, and big lemon. The barrel character is there, with vanilla and toffee – but it doesn’t dominate. On the palate it has a very calming influence on this full-bodied gin, with vanilla and a creamy character coming alongside the big spicy body of the gin. The finish has charred oak, lemon, juniper, and more coriander.

A nice barrel aged gin – barrel character has been added without dominating, keeping it firmly in the gin category for mixing and sipping.

Highly Recommended.