Barley

Review: High Wheeler 21 Year Old Single Grain New Zealand Whisky by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
43%
Aging
Ex-bourbon for 21 Years
Recipe
70% Malted Barley; 30% Unmalted Barley
Distiller Willowbank Distillery (Dunedin, New Zealand)

In 1997, the last remaining distillery in New Zealand was shut down, auctioning off all of their remaining stock. At the time, it was the world’s most southernmost distillery. In 2010, a company bought the remaining 80,000 litres and began to release some of it. The company hopes to get to producing their own distillate.

This whisky was made from unmalted barley whisky distilled in a column still, which was then mixed with single malt and laid down in ex-bourbon barrels. Non-chill filtered.

On a side note, the label is simple but packed with the information I’m interested in. Nicely done.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

A great aged barley nose – rich in apple and pear, grape candies, mixed fruit drop candies, as well as a very nice bit of earth and some sundried tomatoes. There is also a bit of baking spice and a great tension between the big fruit, the sweet vanilla, and an earthy grain character very reminiscent of unmalted barley. It does, indeed, have a bit of an oily irish edge to it.

The palate continues with a bright burst of fruit, but also with a smoky edge. It tastes a bit diluted – but, I am tasting from a heel that has been open for a while. This, undoubtedly, can have this “diluting” effect from my experience and I can tell that it was better before. The fruit seems to be increasingly candied on the palate, compared to the nose, and it leads into a very slightly drying, sweet, fruity finish.

If this is indicative of all New Zealand whisky, we should all try to get our hands on more of it!

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

Value: Low, since this is understably a bit pricy. Depends on how much you want to explore some well aged New Zealand whisky, I suppose!


Review: Sons of Vancouver "Cigarettes on a Leather Jacket" Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Sons of Vancouver Whisky 1.jpg
ABV
56.7%
Aging
3-5 yrs; ex-peated malt casks
Recipe
90% BC rye, 5% BC wheat, 5% BC malted barley
Distiller Sons of Vancouver (Vancouver, BC)

This whisky was made from a 5 year old rye whisky and three year old wheat and malt whiskies, all matured in an ex-Westland peated malt barrel. The distillery uses a rum yeast to ferment the rye, since the characteristics of the yeast play well off the grassiness in the rye .

The grains are all from northern BC. There are more whisky releases on the way - probably one release this year and five the next - some of them will be pretty unique (in a good way - some exciting ideas there).


Review (2021)

  • Batch: Release #1

  • Bottling Date: 2021

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The nose is quite spicy, in a similar way, in fact, to some of the classic spicy/dusty Canadian whiskies which are quite rye-influenced. It surprised me at first – it’s a note/profile that I don’t find often (if ever) with small producers. But, beyond that – what can I say- “cigarettes on a leather jacket” is appropriate! It’s lightly smoky and ashy, with leather, dried apricot, apple juice a light nuttiness, clove, orange peel, coconut, and dry earth.

The whisky comes to life on the palate – starting with smoke (odd, since whiskies often end in smoke), mixed dried fruit, before jumping into some distinct “Westland” notes with that vibrant fruitiness and jasmine that is in their malt. The finish closes with a good dose of “dustiness”, baking spice, clove, and orange peel.

I quite like the spiciness, and the cask influence is terrific. One of the better Vancouver whiskies I’ve had.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). At the upper end of this category. Quite good.

Value: N/A. It is sold out and used variable pricing as part of a crowdfunded campaign


Review: Old George Barrel Aged Gin (Fermentorium Distilling Co.) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Fermentorium Distilling Co.
ABV
43%
Aging
Red Wine Cask (French Oak)
Recipe
100% BC barley and botanicals
Distiller Fermentorium Distilling Co. (Victoria, BC)

Usually, when you see a barrel-aged gin, it is matured in ex-bourbon oak, and, on occasion, new oak. Here we have something totally different - a gin aged in a French oak cask that had a former life of a red wine cask. The distillery loved the flavours and colours coming from the wine cask, and, as a result, we have this - Old George Barrel aged gin.

The gin is named after the 1920s copper pot still that originated in the UK but was brought to the Okanagan in the 1950s to be put to work in the Okanagan valley in BC. The still hadn’t been used in thirty years when the distillery acquired it, and, understandably, it was in need of significant repairs. In 2014, spirit started flowing from the still yet again and it was dubbed “Old George”.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

  • Bottling Code: N/A

As a barrel-aged gin, you get different notes than your white gins – this is oaky, sweet, and very spicy with the tannins really playing in as well. However, this one is a bit different – it has a definite wine note rather than the typical oak/bourbon notes.

Behind the oak, there are lots of candied fruit notes (fresh candied, but also wine gums), light floral notes, black pepper, dried lemon peel and (of course) juniper notes. The wine definitely has a bit of an oxidized note to it, which I quite like – similar to a sherry cask.

Assessment: Recommended.


Review: Stump Coastal Forest Gin (Fermentorium Distilling Co.) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Fermentorium Distilling Co.
ABV
42%
Aging
None
Recipe
100% BC barley and botanicals
Distiller Fermentorium Distilling Co. (Victoria, BC)

Stump gin is described as a “coastal forest gin”, and it is made using hand-foraged herbs and unique botanicals grown in British Columbia. These botanicals are incorporated into the gin using both maceration and vapour distillation - these include juniper, bay laurel, cascade hops, coriander, grand fir, and lavender.

The gin is made from in-house malted Vancouver Island barley before being distilled through an old 1920-era British still and then through a new German still.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Awesome flavours, especially on the woody side – all sorts of pine, spruce, and juniper. “Forest Gin” is appropriate. But, behind that – we have a brilliant integration of spice and citrus. The lines between lemon peel and the lemony notes of pine become blurred, and the lines between the spicy notes of juniper and black pepper are also blurred. There is a light minerality to it, much like notes you get on the coast. Great integration.

I love the stuff – it is very much a mix of a coastal forest – forest floor, evergreen forest, light sea breeze, and spice.

Assessment: Exceptional (!!!). This is pretty well my absolute favourite style of finesse, depth, and character for a gin.


Review: Discovery Street Dry Citrus Gin (Fermentorium Distilling Co.) by Jason Hambrey

Image Courtesy of Fermentorium Distilling Co.

Image Courtesy of Fermentorium Distilling Co.

ABV
43%
Aging
None
Recipe
100% BC barley and botanicals
Distiller Fermentorium Distilling Co. (Victoria, BC)

Phillips beer is one of the only breweries to malt their own barley, in their Malt Works facility. This enables the brewery (and distillery) to use local barley and malt it in a way that enables them to lower their environmental emissions and give them flexibility in what they produce.

Once the grain is malted, it is transformed into spirit. Then, some botanicals are macerated in the spirit and some are put in a vapour basket through which the gin is distilled. This gin uses juniper berries, grains of paradise, cassia bark, black pepper, coriander, grapefruit, and lemon peel.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Very bright and citrusy. Ginger bread, lemon, grapefruit, cinnamon, mace, coriander, cilantro, and a nice backing of juniper. And – the lightest touch of grain – which I, of course, like. There is a nice perceived sweetness (it isn’t actually very sweet) on the palate. A fascinating mix of botanicals, with a nice undercurrant of spice but remaining bright, interesting, and complex. Medium bodied, without being heavy - which is nice for a gin.

I find the mix of flavours fascinating, and it evolves over time. Fascinating stuff.

And, if your go-to is a gin and tonic, this is awesome there too.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.