Alberta

Review: Park Distillery Glacier Rye by Jason Hambrey

Park Unaged Rye 1.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
None
Recipe
100% Alberta Rye
Distiller Park Distillery (Banff, Alberta)

Park Distillery is located in the beautiful town of Banff, alongside a restaurant. They are relatively new, so the whisky isn’t of age yet - but we get a preview in this unaged grain spirit.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2019

The nose has toffee, pine, rich spices, and an oily richness. There is a really nice grassiness and a bit of banana candy and vanilla. It’s a new make and is thus a bit rough, but not as rough as some. I think the underlying grassiness, woodiness, and spices might play out well as it sits in the barrel. The palate is sweet, with some dried floral notes and an oily grain character. The finish is a touch sour, with more pine notes, toffee, and hibiscus.

Interesting, with a nice complex base – but it’s not one I enjoy as is. But, I’m interested to see what some time in the barrel will do.


Review: Hochstadter's Family Reserve 16 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Hochstadter+2.jpg
ABV
61.9%
Aging
16 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

This whisky was released at the same time as (my revered) lock, stock, and barrel 16 year old - it is from the same cache of barrels from Alberta Distillers which Cooper Spirits acquired - a cask strength, intense rye whisky. Alberta rye at over 60% - I must try this! It costs a pretty penny, though, sadly.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Now there is a nose! Quite candied, with loads of arugula, some spinach, light medicinal overtones, candied orange, prunes, plums, loads of clove, dried blueberry, dried cherry, dusty asphalt, oak, sundried tomatoes, loads of cedar – it just gets better with time. It reminds me a bit of the heavy caroni rums with some of the spice and medicinal notes. We have some dustiness too!

The palate is very herbal, lightly medicinal, dried spices – very Alberta. It ends in a rich flourish of arugula. Lavender,  throughout – it is quite sweet, with notes of icing sugar – moreso than other Alberta whiskies I’ve tried. This whisky is so huge, and so deep! The finish is oaky, rich, and still very fruity – lots of dried fruit, berry notes, clove, icing sugar, nutmeg, sweet oak, and the slightest bracing of tannin.

It is a very different whisky than Masterson’s, when compared side by side. The masterson’s isn’t as sharp or deep, and has a lot less vibrancy (if you can believe such a thing). Unbelievably, it puts masterson’s to shame – and masterson’s is one of the best Canadian rye whiskies, which rarely gets outdone. That says something.

I still like this a tad less than the Lock, Stock, and Barrel, which I feel isn’t quite as sweet and is a touch more balanced. Compared to the Lock, Stock, and Barrel 18 – this is less oaky, and more muscular, with deeper fruity and spicy notes.

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

Value: Average. Amazing whisky (some of the best), but 200 USD is a price, for sure!


Review: Canadian Club Barley Batch Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
42%
Aging
5-6 Years
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

This whisky was released to celebrate Canadian Club’s 160th anniversary in 2018, and it based on a blend of 5 year old standard Canadian Club (as in Canadian Club premium) from Hiram Walker distillery and 6 year old malt whisky from Alberta Distillers (owned by Beam Suntory, who own Canadian Club). It is bottled at a higher ABV, and is a limited edition.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Interesting almost tropical aromas – coconut water, bamboo, green (unripe) mango – but also familiar applesauce, vanilla, and peach. Also, mulberry – very distinct! The palate shows a bit more grain, leading onto a grainy and spicy finish with a hit of vanilla. The spices come through at the end, particularly, to balance everything out especially with a light grainy richness coming through.

This is quite a departure from most Canadian Clubs, other than perhaps the 100% rye – it is extremely fruity, more in the style of the younger, very fruity micro-distilled single malts which are on the market. However, it still has a grain richness to it that is different than a micro-distilled single malt.

If you want to try something different, and aren’t familiar with the vibrant and very fruity young malt whiskies, it’s a good try for uniqueness. If you have, though, I’d skip this one and go to a CC20 for just about 10$ bit more, or a CC12 for less.

Value: Average, at $60.


Review: Black Velvet Onyx 12 Years Old Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
12 Years; Ex-bourbon
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Black Velvet (Lethbridge, Alberta)

It’s too bad - we don’t get to see many older whiskies out of the Black Velvet distillery, which produces some nice stuff - the old Danfield’s line, especially the 21 year old, was fantastic. But here is one - 12 years, a step above the 8 year old Black Velvet Reserve, and showcasing a bit more of what Black Velvet can do.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

Balanced, light, broad and integrated. Very nice mix of grain, oak, and loads of spice at the end. Maple cookies! There is more: lots of blueberry, apple, and butterscotch. The palate has a nice richness, spiciness, and dryness to it. A very nice whisky! Well blended and quite enjoyable.

The most interesting part about this whisky is that it reminds me of older vintage Canadian whiskies I’ve had from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. It has a distinct funk to it, almost like a mustiness, that is subtle – but present.

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

Value: N/A. I couldn’t figure out what this cost. But it’s worth about $67 in the overall whisky market (heavily influenced by the high prices of Scotch) and in the Canadian whisky market probably $35-40 as Canadian whisky (and American whisky) typically offers a better palate experience and complexity per dollar than Scotch.


Review: Black Velvet Reserve 8 Years Old Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
8 Years; Ex-bourbon
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Black Velvet (Lethbridge, Alberta)

A “reserve” version of black velvet which has spent an additional 5 years in casks - it is indeed a huge step up. Not available in Ontario but available in some other parts of Canada and in the USA.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

Fairly subtle…light spice, light wood, light grain, light pine. It also has some nice white wine and herbal notes. The nuances are bourbon-like, with vanilla and dried fruit coming through – but also spicy notes, peach, and a thread of floral notes. Very much in the style of a classic Canadian whisky (not necessarily a modern one, though), with a light complexity to a whisky which is light-bodied with a spicy edge.

This reminds me of a Crown Royal, but, other than Danfield’s products, I don’t have much experience of better black velvet products. Definitely deeper and rounder than the standard BV, and it’s more like a Crown royal in terms of creaminess, vanilla, and brighter fruits like grape and gooseberry – like the limited edition, perhaps – but it isn’t quite as creamy and it sits a bit on the spicier side.

If you don’t have access to much Canadian whisky and you are wanting to explore, this is not a bad place to start getting exposure – but see if you can find any whiskies which I recommend more highly on my highest rating page.

Value: I’m not sure, as I couldn’t find prices online against my typical benchmarks. Against the whisky market (including Scotch, which drags the market up due to its high price for a given quality of taste) this is worth about $40, so I expect this is good value although I couldn’t find values online. I’d pay $26-30 for it, and I expect it’s even below that in the US.


Review: Eau Claire Single Malt Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Eau+Claire+Whisky+1.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
First fill ex-bourbon and sherry hogsheads; 3-4 years old
Recipe
100% Alberta Malted Barley
Distiller Eau Claire (Turner Valley, Alberta)

This whisky is the first release from Eau Claire, a distillery in Alberta which opened in 2014 and focuses hugely on Alberta Grain, specifically very local grains produced within 100 miles of the distillery. Moreover, the distillery itself has a stable of plough horses with a focus on the production of house-grown grain.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 02

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The nose is quite rich and grainy – pepper jelly, currants, roasted malts, white pepper, and mixed nuts all jump out of the glass. The spirit isn’t very heavy, and carries with it a very nice balance of fruit, spice, and grain. The palate has a rich set of caramels, milk chocolate, lightly roasted malt, toasted macadamias, spicy dry oak tannins, and clove. The finish is still full of dried fruit, toasted grain, and a touch of baking sweetbread. There is a real richness here, yet the spirit is quite clean and balanced. Very well done for a young single malt!

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This is a very pleasant surprise. I haven’t seen many young single malts that have been so refined in Canada. It actually reminds me a touch of Westland’s single malt – which is much oakier, nuttier, and deeper – but they share some similarities.

Value: Average. Toward the low end of my “average” category, but it isn’t “low” value even at $102, and certainly not in the context of craft single malt - which shows the quality of this stuff.


Review: Canadian Club Chairman's Select 100% Rye Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

This whisky, it seems, took most people by surprise. I don’t usually get surprised by a new whisky release, but this one I didn’t see until it just about hit the shelves. Though it is Canadian Club, it is not actually distilled at the Hiram Walker plant in Windsor (like the rest of the Canadian Club line) – it is actually distilled and bottled in Alberta, from Alberta Distillers. However, they’re both owned by Beam-Suntory so some stock-swapping isn’t as difficult as it otherwise might be, and it makes sense to sell Alberta rye from a marketing perspective because Canadian Club has a much bigger brand name.

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Review: Highwood Rye Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Rye and Wheat
Distiller Highwood (High River, Alberta)

This whisky is distilled from rye and wheat, and is the flagship whisky for Highwood - though it is not available in Ontario. The grains are distilled and aged separately, with wheat as the base, before being blended - in a typical Canadian style. According to Chip Dykstra, the whisky is about 5 years old.


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 5114 07:26

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Sour, with some dry rye spice, flambeed bananas, orange peel, and some rich vanilla laden grain in the background with some mixed fruit drop notes. Grape and white raisin come in on the palate, slowly fading to light rye spice. The spice lingers for some time, with a bit of a cleansing and enduring, and lightly fruity finish with some canned peaches. Alongside being an enjoyable sipper, that rich grain in the background is the sort of thing that would turn this into a very nice mixer. The wheat, as often, brings in some quite bright candy fruit to the mix.

Score: 81/100

Value: 75/100 (based on $26)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Coconut, peaches, orange peel, pine needles, vanilla, clove, and vanilla lead into a light palate with a bit of coconut, more pine needles, and dried orange peel. The whisky finishes with spices (clove and cumin), light oak, and orange peel. Young, but complex and quite enjoyable. Terrific mixer.

Value: Average. Not a fantastic whisky, but it’s simple and quite decent - and cheap (~25$).


Review: Lock, Stock, & Barrel 18 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Image copyright,  Cooper Spirits Company .

Image copyright, Cooper Spirits Company.

ABV
54.5%
Aging
18 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

I love Alberta rye. Pot distilled rye is my favorite style of whisky, I won’t deny it, and it can be an acquired style with all of the sharp spiciness and rich character. Alberta Distillers is widely acknowledged as likely the best rye distillery in the world, and it certainly distills a massive amount of it – perhaps the most in the world, but that is a conjecture without evidence.

Cooper spirits hand selected a number of barrels of 100% unmalted rye matured in new oak from Alberta years ago, releasing first a 13 year old, then a 16, and now this 18 – all favorites of mine, and right up my wheelhouse in terms of style.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

These Alberta ryes get a bit more restrained with age, but incredible spirit lies unfolds as you continue to nose. They start off sharp, spicy, and vegetal and soften, growing in fruit and oak integration with age. This has terrific, creamy fruit that sits on top – and underneath – black tea, arugula, iodine, rubber, pear, dense oak, cola, black licorice, ginger, dried peach, dark chocolate.

The palate is huge, with a load of arugula, tannic oak, cedar, and clove. It’s amazing how much the rubbery and medicinal notes carry through. Amazing aged notes – the oak both holds the grip in terms of flavor but also in terms of both maturity and reining in the powerful rye. The tannins are just about to the edge – but they are not quite too much. Huge finish, about as full of big, spicy rye as you can imagine, alongside tea. It has more creaminess and caramel than the 16 year old, but it’s not quite as vibrant, playful, and unique – and doesn’t have the incredible light fruit which makes it not only a good rye, but one of the best and most unique ryes I’ve tasted. Also, this is much oakier. So, now I’ve compared it to perhaps my favorite whisky of all time – this is still an unbelievable rye, indeed, an 18 year old new oak rye from the best rye producer in the world. It is pricy, but it is something....

Remarkable.

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

Value: Low. It’s a terrific whisky, but comes at a big price (about 230 USD).


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.