Alberta

Review: Whistlepig Piggyback 100% Rye Aged 6 Years by Jason Hambrey

ABV
48.28%
Aging
6 Yrs; Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

This is a whistlepig that didn’t really even touch Vermont where the farm is! It’s made in Alberta, imported, and bottled in New York. But, no matter - that is disclosed and Whistlepig knows how to select good rye. This rye is pot-distilled and is 6 years old.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2021

What an amazing rich, spicy nose! I love it. Citrusy, spicy – but very earthy and herbal. Lots of charred oak, too. It really is a core expression of what Alberta pot still rye tastes like – so deep and complex and herbal. It’s unlike some of the other Alberta distillates – like the Canadian club 100% rye or the cask strength version which are dominated by this bright, candied fruit character. This is all the base notes, and I love it. It’s similar in profile to the other whistlepigs from Alberta or Masterson’s. What incredible spiciness!

Onto some quick  tasting notes – the nose has orange peel, oak, vanilla, caramel, baking spices, arugula, and light smoke. The palate is rich, with a huge backbone of oak, arugula, baking spice, watercress, orange peel, and pepper. The finish is sharp, with intense pepper fading to watercress, baking spice, and sweet oak.

This is some good pot still rye… obviously, I like this – it’s my favourite style of Canadian whisky – but how does it compare to some others like Masterson’s? It’s sharper and spicier – not as complex, subtle, or refined – but it packs a bit more punch in terms of sharpness. More caramel too – but you need a bit more of that with all the spice.

Terrific for the price – the list of whiskies like this under $50 in Ontario are quite slim. I love to sip as is, but this would do a nice trick in cocktails too.

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

Value: Very high at $45.


Review: Alberta Premium Cask Strength Canadian Rye Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Alberta Premium Cask Strength 1.jpg
ABV
63.7-66.0%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

Alberta Premium is well-regarded as the best producer of rye whisky in the world. However, usually their rye is found in the standard bottlings of Alberta Premium, Canadian Club 100% Rye , or others. This is seen in the success of brands like Masterson’s or Whistlepig which source a lot, if not all, of their product from Alberta. If you were to just taste those brands, you might not realize how good the rye is that is made at Alberta Distillers. Not only is there rye of exceptional quality, the flavours of the different types of ryes made are quite diverse - you can tell this by tasting an Alberta Premium, Canadian Club 100% rye, and a masterson’s or a “imported from Canada” whistlepig side by side.

Here is one for the connoisseurs, though - a 100% cask strength rye! This is just fantastic. More than half of Alberta’s product gets sold directly into other brands (it is a big distiller) with a growing use from Jim Beam in some of the new Basil Hayden’s and others. But, I love Alberta rye, and I love cask strength - and I’m glad they left some for us.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L9212ADB01341225

  • Bottling Date: 2019

What a nose! This is much closer to Canadian Club 100% Rye (which is also made at Alberta Distillers), in terms of profile, than the standard Alberta Premium which is a relatively soft whisky compared to this. This is rich, and loaded up with rye. The nose has tons of complexity – banana, orange, clove, new charred oak, dried cherry,  grapefruit, dried orange, caramel, toffee, clove, nutmeg, black pepper, white pepper, wintergreen, corn on the cob – really, it’s nothing like the nose of the standard Alberta Premium which serves a different audience – a light, slightly sweet, slightly spicy whisky. Some dusty notes, too, which I don’t find too often anymore but which I quite like. The banana notes come out hugely at higher proofs, less so at lower proofs. Slight medicinal notes grow with time. This, is a whisky for rye connoisseurs. At least one time when you taste it, I recommend gradually adding water to the mix. This reveals all the layers of complexity here.

The palate has a nice touch of oak, vanilla, arugula, dried apricot, grapefruit zest, and more orange. There is lots of sugar caramel, too, and tingly spices. The “middle” of the whisky is medium bodied and textured, with dried fruit, orange, and vegetal notes on top with sweetness on the back end and spices around the edges. Hopefully that “visual” helps you understand how I understand this whisky. The arugula, oddly, gets a bit lost at lower strengths but is really good at around 48%. It’s also very good at cask strength.

The finish has lots of orange, rich rye spice (quite vegetal), grapefruit zest, orange, arugula, prunes, hibiscus, and oak. And if you think all rye tastes the same, give this a go beside Lot no. 40 cask strength!

A very nice whisky. It’s a bit too “CC100%” for me, with such intense bubblegum-like fruit that I find it isn’t as great as I’d hoped. I’d have preferred if it went the route of Masterson’s/Whistlepig/Jefferson’s which were all sourced from Alberta. However, it’s still very good and I you try it, if you can find it.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). Nearly into the next category, but not quite.

Value: High. A great price for this quality.

Curious about a second opinion? Check out Mark Bylok’s review here.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

Very similar to last year’s release – rich spices complemented by candied citrus, oaky caramel, rye bread, orange zest, vanilla cream…the spices maybe have a bit more pop in this release and the grain notes are slightly deeper -  but the whiskies are very much alike and the differences are smaller than the general taste comparison error. The palate brings in rich dark fruit – prunes, figs – on top of the candied citrus and the plethora of spice. Definitely a spice bomb here! The spices on the finish are just fantastic.

So much different than the usual Alberta Premium whisky. Really great.

I actually like this one around 45% - it still has a good bite, even then.

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

Value: High at $65


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2021

The profile of these releases, unlike some releases, are so consistent in character that some tasting notes need no repeating – there is the very bright, candied citrus notes alongside confectionary characters, stewed apples, toffee, vegetal rye, and SPICE. The palate follows – I love how this one maxes out the fruity characters of some rye whiskies while also presenting an incredibly rich, complex character vegetal and slightly medicinal character that sets Alberta’s ryes apart so specially.

How does this compare to releases 1 and 2? As I said, they are very consistent. But, if you want to pick them apart: this one is a bit more creamy, with a bit more toffee and the “breadth” between the top confectionary notes on one end and the spicy, vegetal backbone is a bit broader than in release 2. The spice is more evident (but not necessarily bigger), in release 1 and 2 than in release 3. The first releases are a little more spice/barrel centric, while this has a bit more fruit and toffee but without losing the depth. It actually seems like this one has just as much underneath but a bit more on top – at least that’s how I would describe it in a tasting. What a great release this has been!

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This was on the cusp of this category last year but it’s made it this year. It’s just ever so slightly better.

Value: still high, despite a price hike from $65 to $80. Great stuff!


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.


Review: Rocky Mountain Gin (Lone Pine Distilling) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of lone pine distilling.

Image courtesy of lone pine distilling.

ABV
46%
Aging
None
Recipe
Wheat and botanicals
Distiller Lone Pine Distilling (Edmonton, AB)

This gin was created to evoke the wild landscape of the Rocky Mountains. Wild bergamot, wild mint, and roses all grow in the Rocky Mountains in Alberta. These were used, alongside juniper, goldenrod, lemon and lime peels, ginger, cardamom, cubeb berries, orris root and a few other botanicals.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2021

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The nose on this one is different than the other Lone Pine gins – this is brighter, lighter, and more floral. Juniper, rose, meadow flowers, and coriander lead into a gin body with a surprising dry fruit character alongside spice, sharp herbal notes, lemon, and a nice light spicy character at the end with a slightly drying finish. The citrus really comes out at the end.

I really like how this one surprised me with the dried fruit on the palate – it really works. Very nice movement – floral, then fruit, then citrus.

Highly Recommended.


Review: Earl Grey Gin (Lone Pine Distilling) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of lone pine distilling.

Image courtesy of lone pine distilling.

ABV
43%
Aging
None
Recipe
Wheat and botanicals
Distiller Lone Pine Distilling (Edmonton, AB)

This gin is made by vapour infusing black tea and wild bergamot alongside more typical gin botanicals, including juniper, coriander, angelica root, orris root, grains of paradise and cinnamon. The vapour distillation process that lone pine uses keeps the botanicals separate from one another to extract the flavours separately before they mingle further up in the distillation column.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2021

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Rich, intense citrus on the nose but also with a very savoury, umami character that seems to tie the citrus to the woody notes. There is a light floral character and big spice characters too. The palate has lemon and an intense herbaceous character, similar and yet very different than bergamot. The cinnamon makes its presence felt. The finish is all earl grey tea, with a bit more citrus and pine.

Very intriguing gin. You don’t often see gins this herbaceous that pull it off. Very interesting to sip, and is the kind of gin I’d serve in the best of my gin cocktails.

Very Highly Recommended.