35 Maple Street

Review: Bib & Tucker Small Batch White Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
1 day; Ex-bourbon Casks
Recipe
72% Corn, 15% Malt, 13% Rye
Distiller N/A (USA; Produced by 3 Badge Beverage Corp.)

I was resistant to try this one, as white whiskeys only go so far - but after the president of 3 Badge said he was quite "bullish" on the category, my interest was piqued. Generally, white whiskey - unaged, or, in this case, barely aged - is quite harsh and unpleasant. It really is a category separate from whisky, in my opinion - and white grain spirit or a similar designation would make more sense to me. However, given that 3 Badge makes Masterson's (I love the rye and the barley), I'm always curious to see what else is up their sleeve.

This is matured (perhaps rested is a better description) for 24 hours in once-used Bib & Tucker bourbon barrels after it has been distilled first in a column and then a pot still. White whiskeys are more popular for cocktail uses than straight sipping, so I'll look at some of the recommended cocktails too.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 001

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

There is a lot of corn on the nose, but it doesn’t have the harshness or rawness of most white whiskeys. Sweet, grainy, and spicy – it seems to me that this is designed as a white whiskey, unlike most which are just the initial products before going into the barrel, full of fusel oils which turn into flavorful esters later in the process. Probably the second best white grain distillate, after stalk and barrel’s rye new make. The palate is easy and pleasant, with corn, dill, and a bit of spice and maple on the end – the end is drying, with a touch of coriander seed and clove. Clean, with a light finish. Not bad!

Value: Low (based on $75; yes, Canadian prices - in the US it is about $40USD....)

I must add that the above is a sipping score. This was made to be mixed. How does it fare? It  its own quite well as part of a boulevardier (better than the aged stuff!). Quite nice, in fact.  It also would work quite well as part of an improved whisky cocktail too (an old fashioned with a dash of marascino and absinthe). It makes a particularly nice black manhattan – though I like making a variant with 1 ½ oz bourbon/rye, 1 oz sweet vermouth, and 1 oz amaro. This is similar to their cynarly cocktail on the website, but I didn’t have any cynar to use on it at the moment. I was interested to try their lightning fizz recipe, because I like allspice – that one works a charm, though add 0.5 oz of allspice dram not 5 oz. Whoever put that cocktail together did a brilliant job - the allspice notes pair brilliantly with the nuttiness of the whisky.


Review: Bib & Tucker Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Bib & Tucker.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
6 Years; Charred American Virgin Oak
Recipe
70% Corn, 26% Rye, 4% Malt
Distiller N/A (USA)

A release coming from 3 Badge, who also make Bib & Tucker White and the fabulous Masterson’s. I love to taste product lines coming from companies who do things well. They are transparent, to their credit, about what is going on here – "lower than average” barrel entry proof, which means more flavour from the fermentation going into the barrel. A barrel char number 1 was used (less char than often, meaning a bit less caramel and sweetness). The grains harvested in late 2006 and 2007. Non chill filtered. Also, terrific bottle....


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 12th Release

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2016

The nose is nutty, with hazlenut oil, caramel, dried cherry, vanilla, and a nice showing of distillate – the corn and the rye both, with the earthy rawness of the grains coming through. Some nice earthiness – old books. The palate shows the corn beautifully, fading slowly to floral rye and spice as the finish begins. Corn husks, vanilla, cinnamon, hay, peach syrup, those hazlenuts, and a kick of oak. Great mouthfeel. I love the grain-forward nature (is this becoming a trend?) of the bourbon, rather than oak-forward. You don’t always see that. Gosh, it goes down easy. The spiciness on the finish is terrific.

It is very pleasant to sip, but I would love to use this for mixing. It would mix terifically – I don’t love heavy oak in my cocktails, and this one doesn’t give that – but it has the essence of bourbon throughout it. This would be an 84, but those grains are so beautiful....

As for cocktails - the nuttiness is nicely maintained in a boulevardier, and the oak fits in nicely to the earthiness of the campari without dominating. My favorite cocktail I made with it was a Basin St (1/3 bourbon, 1/3 triple sec, 1/3 lemon juice). It’s hard to go wrong there. I don't generally gravitate towards old fashioned, but this makes the best I’ve ever had (on second thought, this could beat out the basin st.). It’s definitely worth a go – I had a few of these...

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

Value: Low (based on $105)


Review: Masterson's 10 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey (Barrel Finished) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45%
Aging
10 yrs; Matured and Finished in Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

This is Masterson's standard 10 year old rye, but finished in new charred virgin oak of different types. Since the base rye of each finish is the same, it really showcasing the effect of different oaks for maturation.

Very broadly, the differences between the oaks is subtle. The American oak is more creamy and sweet, and the "smoothest". But, I think, the least complex, though still very complex. The Hungarian oak is the earthiest, and the most unique and hence interesting. The French is the most complex, and the most "old-world" reminding me of the oaky influences on old world wines and spirits. It is also the most tannic and has tons of dried fruit notes. Interestingly, for the side by side tastings I have done, the American has the best nose, the French the best palate, and the Hungarian the best finish. It's a fascinating side by side, if you ever get the chance....


Review (2017)

  • Batch: PSA3 / American Oak Barrel Finished batch 001

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

The winner of the 2017 Canadian Whisky Awards, a month-long blind judging competition by a jury of 10 judges. The staves for this finish were from Missouri and seasoned (air-dried) for over two years to develop flavor before being crafted into the finishing barrels for this whisky. The wood was largely (80%) tight grain oak. I have two batches above, since I tasted them side by side and the same tasting notes and rating applies to both batches. I thought they were quite consistent.

This whisky is finished in American oak, and, as such, it is a bit different than the regular Mastersons. More woody – broader, but not quite as sharp. We have the best of the creaminess of Masterson’s, but enhanced with a buttery, slightly oaky, and anise laden covering. Some really nice black tea notes too, which emerge beautifully over time. It is different – not as sharp as previous masterson’s, but everything is still there. The palate is woody, with oak, but such a terrific backbone of awe-inspiring rye. Arugula, cinnamon, oak, caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, anise, black tea, and a whole mixed bag of spices and vegetal notes and some sharp medicinal notes characteristic of Alberta rye. Lovely! The finish is full, oaky, creamy, and loaded with rye.

I love the sharpness in batch 1 and 3 of the non-finished whiskies. This isn’t quite there – but whether this is your favorite, or whether the unfinished batches are – will be more up to personal preference than quality. These are all so terrific.

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

Value: Average.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Hungarian Oak Finish, Batch 001

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Hungarian oak is its own species, quercas petraea also known as Sessile Oak, much like American oak (quercas alba)  – one of the two prominent European oak species (alongside French oak, quercas robor). The trees are from a slow growing region of Hungary, air dired outdoors for two or more years. The folks at 3 Badge, who produce Masterson's, says it contributes a nutty profile to whisky. By the way, Hungary is a beautiful country (I lived there for a few months), so it's interesting to taste a bit of the land, so to speak.

Spicy, with prominent persimmon and earthy Armagnac notes. Oaky. Peach, plum, apricot, and some floral notes also come in on the heavy fruity nose – but still so oaky. Spiced candied citrus rinds, vanilla, earth, cashews, menthol, and sharp candied notes. The palate continues on with the big fruit before a big vanilla-laden oak and very dry finish. Currants, and wine tannins too. The finish is wonderful, with a mix of vegetable, wood, and spinach and arugula notes. Dried mushrooms (chanterelles) too. Once the oak fades, the arugula emerges. Brilliant. Perhaps the most interesting of the finished mastersons.

Amazing the difference between the oaks. Much more spicy, dried fruit, and dry than the American oak finish which is more creamy and light.

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

Value: Average.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: French Oak Finish, Batch 001 (PSF3)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Finished in virgin French oak.  Air dried staves for at least 2 years.

Oak, oak, oak, but also currants, arugula, clove, and it still has a spicy, candied set of flavours not seen in the American oak finish (but seen in the Hungarian) – it reminds me very much of spicy cognacs. But, to the rye...Complex - oak, apple, light toffee, unripe pear, arugula, black tea, juniper, black pepper, creamy tropical fruit, fresh orange, and dried corn. The notes continue, more or less, on the palate, with slight astringency. A decent strength of finish - and a good bit of rye. The dried fruit notes fit in so brilliantly with the rye. Brilliant whisky.

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

Value: Average.


Review: Masterson's 10 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45%
Aging
10 yrs; Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

This whisky is distilled in Alberta, by Alberta distillers, and is a rarity among whiskies – 100% unmalted rye whisky. As a straight rye, it is matured in new charred oak, giving it a big bold profile. 100% rye is unusual as a full component of a released whisky, though some canadian distillers produce and age 100% rye, corn, barley, and wheat whiskies as components of their blends. One reason 100% unmalted rye is unusual is because enzymes have to be added to the whisky to turn starch into sugar before the fermentation – and these microbial enzymes are grown and produced by Alberta Distillers themselves.

There are a few other Canadian 100% rye whiskies, including Alberta Premium (unmalted rye), Lot no. 40 (malted rye), and others, from time to time, such as the limited edition Collingwood 21 Year old (malted rye) – but this is the best of the lot. It is bottled by 35 Maple Street, a Californian company which selects and bottles the casks of Masterson’s. They also have released a 100% unmalted barley whisky, and a 100% wheat whisky all produced and aged in Canada.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: 3

  • Bottling Code: B11 244 TK31 11-0795

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Lots of oak on the nose, with the brilliant floral rye and light medicinal character. You can live in this nose for a bit! A bit of a creamy texture to this nose…caramel, vanilla – it might come off as a bit sweet if not for the wonderful spices – coriander, cinnamon, cloves, mint, black pepper. And herbaceous rye – the arugula, spinach, tobacco…I could go on – and I haven’t even gotten to the lilacs and dried hibiscus. On the palate, it starts out slow, but it is big – and the arugula comes in force, with a spicy, oaky finish that lingers nicely as the spices fade to the vegetal aspects and back to the oak and some rosehip jam. Beautiful balance. The mint is interesting – almost menthol-like, but not minty in the same character as seen in many bourbons and ryes.

When I first had Masterson’s I didn’t love it – I only liked it. More and more, I find this style is ever more my favorite. I can’t get enough of this stuff as my palate has developed and my preferences have shifted. This has more character and flavor than batch 5, and it’s the woodiest release I’ve tasted – and competes on an even level with my beloved batch 1, which is ever so slightly more refined and complex – but also softer. I still like batch 1 the best, but the difference in rating isn’t enough to keep these a point apart.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Very High. This is just an awesome whisky. And, while not cheap, the quality of this whisky completely offsets the price.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: 5

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: Oak has no problem coming off this nose – it fits in well with the spicy and honeyed notes. Vanilla, and rye that smells almost candied to me with the influence of charred wood. Elements of it are also slightly floral, as if there were a vanilla flower. There are fruity elements to this too, with a touch of apricot and peaches and bananas, and dried apricot emerging after some time. And, with all the above, there’s some pretty wonderful mossiness and earthiness – but it’s still all balanced beautifully. There’s a very slight chemical spirit component, slightly like petroleum, in the nose (which is also slightly present in Alberta Premium) – it fits in really well. It’s rich, and deep. What a nose!

Taste: A nice spicy bite, this one. The oak comes in with some sweet and spicy rye, with an underlying graininess and earthiness. It is certainly mouth-filling. There are layers of vanilla, manuka honey, creamy caramel, oak, brown sugar, apple, and some nuttiness. There are some typical dried apricot notes I usually find in whiskies matured in new charred oak…

Finish: This is an enduring, complex, and full-bodied finish, as if the whisky hasn’t left the mouth at all after it has been swallowed. A peppery rye fades to oak, vanilla, dried apricots, apple seeds, brown sugar, a touch of menthol, and a good dose of earthiness. What is more, there is a good underlying sweetness well matched to the very long finish.

Conclusion: This is fabulous. Complex, deep, delicous…it’s quite bold for a Canadian whisky, but, then again, it is bottled by an American company where the taste is for straight American ryes – big, bold, and often oaky whiskies. This one is really, really good.

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

Value: Average. A great whisky, but not that cheap (~110$).


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: 1

  • Bottling Code: B14 232 TK-8 14-0814

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Bold and full of strength - jam-packed with rye, banana, cinnamon, black tea, rose hip jam, turnip, and some medicinal notes. A phenomenal nose. Rich and full on the palate, with oak, vanilla, apple jam, and arugula along with spice and tannins in balanced measure. This is fabulous stuff, and, despite being so bold, is exceptionally clean, well-integrated, deep, and complex.

Why batch 1 was released after 5 and 3 I don't know, but this is terrific stuff - they must have saved some stock so they could release it after they saw how the market responded. This is the batch that won gold at the Canadian Whisky Awards, and one of the best ryes I have ever tasted.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Very High. This is just an awesome whisky. And, while not cheap, the quality of this whisky completely offsets the price.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 15

  • Bottling Code: L4 069-161303

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Glorious stuff, once again! Since previous notes captured many of the details let’s focus on the broad differences and overall strokes here.  Rich oak, sweet dark cherries, coming against loads of rye spice with some creaminess holding the middle together as well. Sweet, yet it has a dry element to it as well, and there are lots of cloves here. The palate leads with oak and lots of clove, and some dry arugula and vanilla laden wood on the finish. Still quite creamy with lots of cherry. Waves of vanilla, oak, arugula, cinnamon, and clove on the tannic finish. Yet, the big bold rye doesn’t quite come through as beautifully as in previous batches – the oak seems to relatively hold a bit too much of its own here – to the point that it is actually slightly out of profile compared to the other batches (though generally in a very similar category, of course). More fruit, more oak, more confectionary, with less spice, grain, and complexity. The balance is still quite good but it is no longer as fascinating because of less complexity. However, we’re comparing to some legendary whisky – this is still terrific.

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

Value: Average. A great whisky, but not that cheap (~110$).


Review: Masterson's 10 Year Old Straight Barley Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

If a 100% rye whisky, or, even more, a 100% wheat whisky are not that common – this, even more so, is perhaps the only of its kind – a 100% unmalted barley whisky. Malt whisky is abundant, and Irish whisky often contains a mix of malted and unmalted barley, but 100% unmalted barley is not common at all. The original spirit was distilled in the beer column still, then re-distilled in a stainless steel pot still (a “batch kettle”).

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Review: Masterson's 12 Year Old Straight Wheat Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Masterson’s entered the market with an absolutely fantastic rye whisk(e)y, and has since released two other products – a straight wheat whisky and a barley whisky. All of the products are sourced out of Canada, again showing off some of the fantastic whiskies in Canada which often get lost into blends. This whisky is 12 years old, bottled at 50% ABV, and, from the looks of it, doesn’t have any added colouring. As a straight whisky, it is aged in brand new charred oak barrels. It also, I might note, is 100% wheat – not something you find in whisky very often. This whisky is a limited release and will not be a regular product. We know it is produced in Canada, and my guess would be Alberta distillery (surprisingly, not Highwood) - but that is a guess and nothing more.

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