Bourbon

Review: North of 7 Canadian Whisky (3 Grain Wheated) by Jason Hambrey

Image copyright by North of 7 Distillery. Used with Permission.

Image copyright by North of 7 Distillery. Used with Permission.

ABV
45%
Aging
3 Years+; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
74% Corn, 21% Wheat, & 5% Malted Barley
Distiller North Of 7 (Ottawa, Ontario)

This is a single barrel, made from terrific ingredients - barrels from Independent Stave Company (which supplies most of the big Kentucky distilleries) and grain from Against The Grain, a local grain company specializing in heirloom grains. They use yellow corn, purple corn, wheat, rye, unmalted barley, and purple Ethiopian barley sourced from there - terrific stuff. The colourful grains often have more flavor.

This is matured in a heavily toasted, lightly charred barrel to give a rich set of toasted wood notes without being overly clean and caramel-laden.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Cask 26

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose is quite nutty and very oaky – with wood, caramel, charred wood, vanilla, roasted nuts, corn husks, mint, radish sprouts, green pear, fresh whole wheat flatbreads, fennel seed, and clove. The palate is thick, with a great kick of nuttiness and a terrific cask character full of white oak and rich toasted notes. The oak is sweet, rich, and spicy – quite deep. It has a real richness to it, with deep oak offset by corn and light dried fruit. Very nice to drink. I’m very eager to see what this is like in a few years – it’s already quite good. The finish is slightly sour, spicy, and oaky. The more you sip at this one, the oakier it gets. Works quite nice in cocktails – manhattans with a spicy vermouth, or it works well in an old pal. Very moreish.

It is not as far along, but I like this more than the 4 grain recipe, I think. Also, it’s a bit younger than the 4 grain stuff that’s been on the shelves.

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

Value: Average (based on $60)


Review: Crown Royal Noble Collection Blender's Mash 13 Years Old by Jason Hambrey

Thanks to Crown Royal for the image. Note that this is the wine barrel finish - the bottle is the same as the blender’s mash.

Thanks to Crown Royal for the image. Note that this is the wine barrel finish - the bottle is the same as the blender’s mash.

ABV
45%
Aging
13 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
64% Corn, 31.5% Rye, 4.5% Malted Barley
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

This whisky highlights the column-distilled, rye-heavy mashbill that is matured in new oak which Crown Royal makes - the process is very much the same as that used to make straight bourbons, with a mashbill, a column still, and new white oak casks. This is an older version of the Blender’s Mash (“Bourbon Mash”) released earlier this year by Crown Royal.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Noble Collection 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Clean and fruity – with rich rye, corn, and oak notes. Much cleaner, richer, and tightly held together, and more elegant, than the regular blender’s/bourbon mash. The nose is surprisingly elegant – not many bourbon style whiskies are so. It also is closer to a bourbon in taste profile than the blender’s mash.

Back to the nose…brown cardamom, clove, rich oak, dried chilli, cacao, corn husks, maple sugar, and ketchup chips! The palate has rich corn and wood, and has a sharp set of spice. Also there we have rich oak, prunes, dried apricots, clove, toffee, creamy oak, and fall marshes. Caramel and toffee really grows. As does oak and char.

The finish has a bit of tobacco and is drying. Lots of dried fruit, oak, and baking spices, too. Brilliant whisky.

Ever so slightly tannic, but I quite like it. I like it when whiskies play close to the line of too much bitterness and tannin for balance.

Easily on my favorite of the year list. Last year’s release was also exceptionally good (as was the year’s before) – great! If anyone thinks Crown can only blend whisky of different mashbills, they are missing this. But they are continuing to get a bit better…one of my favourite Crown Royals ever.

I’ve had this mashbill at cask strength – it is absolutely awesome. If they released a cask strength version at this age I’d be over the moon. If I’m on a wish list, I’d also take a few vattings of their favorite barrels of coffee rye at cask strength too!

Score: 92/100

Value: 91/100 (based on $82)


Review: Blanton's Original Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46.5%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 15% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

Blanton's is aged for about 9 years, in warehouse H at Buffalo Trace the only metal cladded warehouse there. It is made from the same corn, rye, and maltmash bill as Elmer T. Lee and Ancient Age, and is a hand bottled product from a single barrel. It is one of my favorite, if not my favorite whisky bottle - with collectible bottle stoppers which each contain a letter of Blanton's. It was launched in 1984, with great success, by master distiller Elmer T. Lee as the first single barrel bourbon in modern production. The whiskey comes off the still at 70%, dumped into the barrels at 62.5%, and uses a 6 month seasoning (air drying) on the staves before they were put into the barrels.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Barrel 90; Warehouse H; Rick no. 26; Dumped 10.15.13

  • Bottling Code: B1329016:52J

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Quite the nose, bursting with fresh strawberries, blueberries, and pomegranate, alongside oak and an impressive light oily quality which is well integrated within. Now we have lime zest too on the nose. On the palate, loaded with kombucha, and all sorts of tea notes - blueberry tea, raspberry tea, black tea, before resting on the fruity notes. Oily, as well, in the best sense of the word. Kombucha on the finish, with chili spice, and great complexity throughout - showing great bourbon without being a spirit smothered by corn or oak - we, perhaps, don't see this enough. A favorite bourbon of mine.

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

Value: High, based on $65. A good barrel of this edges it into the high value category at $65.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Barrel 327; Warehouse H; Rick no. 33; Dumped 12.31.15

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

A friend of mine said this was his favorite Blanton’s ever and sent me a sample. I never turn down trying more of my favorite bourbon brand!

Terrific nose, which develops beautifully too. A brilliant mix of rye, floral notes, tea, oak, corn, pomegranate, orange zest, spice cake, and corn which shines through on this one. The palate is full of spice, corn stalks, and toffee with tingly pepper. A nice finish with dried berries, corn husks, caramel, and black tea. Another terrific blanton’s.

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

Value: High, based on $65. A good barrel of this edges it into the high value category at $65.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Barrel 1467; Warehouse H; Rick no. 21; Dumped 2.5.18

  • Bottling Code: L18037011646J

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Fruity and spicy – dried rose, hibiscus, fennel seed, dried apricot and dried peach. Strawberry. What can I say, typical Blanton’s! It’s a bit more harsh and less rounded than most of the Blanton’s I’ve had. It’s sharp and oaky on the palate, with nice dried fruit coming in. Finish continues – dried fruit (more peach than usual), lots of rye spice, and rich sweet oak.

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

Value: Average, based on $70.


Review: Stagg Junior Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
63%+
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 10% Rye, 15% Malted Barley
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

Stagg Junior was released in 2013 partially to satisfy many consumers who wanted to try the George T. Stagg bourbon, a whiskey usually about 17 years old and bottled unfiltered and at barrel proof part of the esteemed and rare Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. This whisky is aged 8-9 years, and, similarly, is from the same recipe (also the recipe of Buffalo Trace) and is cask strength and unfiltered. It comes out in batches, and, thus, the alcohol percentage and flavour vary from batch to batch. As the whiskey is younger, has high production, and is released multiple times per year, Buffalo Trace hopes this is a more accessible whiskey in the mold of George T. Stagg.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A (66.05%)

  • Bottling Code: B14 191 0957N

  • Bottling Date: 2014

There’s a good dose of earthy oak, caramel, black tea, lots of white grape (the fruit really lifts up the whole nose), honey, a bit of marsh that’s drying out in the fall (or another season, I suppose…), and lots of dried apricot. I love the earthiness of the oak. The palate is sweet with a lot of black tea, candied orange, and some sharp spices – a mixed bag of old stale cloves and peppercorns. Still a bit sweet with almost a raisin-y type sweetness to it. Fades to tannins, oak, and dried apple.

Even if you water it down to 40% you still get quite a nice bourbon. But, much better at cask strength – though watered to 58-60% might be my sweet spot for this bourbon.

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

Value: Average (based on $85).


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 10 (63.2%)

  • Bottling Code: L180860118:557 REF IA 5C VT 15C

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Lowest proof to date for a stagg jr!

Very fruity! Cherries, mulberries, white grape, a light floral note and lots of spice – clove and ground cinnamon (i.e. more on the spicy than the woody side). The palate is big with dried fruit and a rich oiliness – full of that buffalo trace rye note you see clearly in the standard buffalo trace bottling – but it’s much bigger and richer here. Amazing fruity notes – raspberry jam, hibiscus, cherry, strawberry, but alongside the oily corn, oak, and spice you’d expect. The finish is drying, with lots of dried stone fruit (notably cherry), oak, caramel, and tannin.

A definite improvement on the initial stagg jr. which didn’t make me jump to buy more of them. This is much better.

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

Value: Average (based on $85).


Review: Wild Turkey Rare Breed Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
54.1%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
~51% Rye, 37% Corn, 21% Malted Barley
Distiller Wild Turkey (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky)

This whiskey is a near barrel proof bourbon, bottled at 54.1%, from Wild Turkey. It was originally released in 1991, and is a mix of bourbons 6-12 years old.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Nose: The first thing I notice are almonds and caramel. Orange, allspice, dried apricot, peppers, light smoky ash, very light vanilla, and a bit of sourness to it as well. Oak drifts in and out, and the corn is present, along with a some good malt, and some notes that remind me of white flour. Interestingly, I also get a kidney bean note! There’s a bit of dense spiciness with a thread of bitterness which I find doesn’t really fit in too well with the rest of the whiskey. A bit of earthy, marshy notes as well – which seem to be coming alongside the corn. It’s complex, with a lot going on, but I don’t find it particularly elegant or balanced.

Taste: The rye comes in quite nicely on the palate, alongside the corn – it’s quite a big whiskey. Leather, tobacco, rye spice, caramel, pineapple, and a bit of orange. It finishes with some spices, including anise. A bit of detracting bitterness I think. This is good, and interesting, but not spectacular.

Finish: Anise, marzipan, and caramel…it’s a bit dry, with a tiny bit of bitterness and sweetness. Some of those marshy earthy notes too, which I suppose is the earthiness of the corn coming through, and even some earthy-mushroom notes.

Value: Average, at $68.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 2015/09/17 14:11 LJ10946

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Rich...this is full of coconut, vanilla, oak, and fruit – plums, apricot, prunes, and dried peaches. It has a nice grainy character, with a nice earthiness and farm-like character to it. The palate balances the fruit, sweetness, and a light grain character. I’m enjoying this much more than the last batch of rare breed that I had - perhaps I got it wrong last time (it was just a small sample in 2015) or it’s actually better. The finish has fennel seed, oak, plum, and dried corn.

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

Value: Average, at $61.


Review: Ironroot Harbinger Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Ironroot Harbinger.jpg
ABV
58.4%
Aging
18 months; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
Yellow Corn, Peruvian Purple Corn, Bloody Butcher Corn, Flint Corn, and Rye
Distiller Ironroot Republic (Deniston, Texas)

Another big beast from Texas...


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 14K20-A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose has a broad array of grain notes – sweet oatmeal, rye flakes, pear, sea salt, icing sugar, and vanilla. The palate is very similar, driven by rich grain notes, reminding me very much of a mixed grain porridge, but still retaining an icing-sugar like confectionary character. Mixed grain porridge, red river cereal, caramel, and a light touch of mixed spices on the finish. For those that like very grain forward – I quite like the style, and lots of micro distilleries are producing it these days. It’s reminding me quite a bit of Ottawa’s North of 7 Whisky.

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

Value: Average to Low, based on $96)


Review: Forty Creek Double Barrel Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Blend of rye, corn, and barley whiskies
Distiller Forty Creek (Grimsby, Ontario)

This whisky was originally a special release of Forty Creek, but is now a part of their regular line. Every year John Hall, the whisky maker, drives down to Kentucky to hand-pick the bourbon barrels that go into this whisky – and he doesn’t accept just any old cask – it must match the profile he wants. In the style of forty creek whiskies, the barley, rye, and corn are distilled and aged separately in different casks, and then married together and combined into a bourbon barrel. The bourbon barrels are sourced from a number of different distilleries in Kentucky (not Wild Turkey, as many assume - they are both owned by Campari).


Review (2013)

  • Batch: Lot 240

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: It’s forty creek with a bourbon edge! there is the Forty Creek signature toasted oak, alongside bourbon aromas of earthy corn, dried apricot, and caramel. Honey and rye comes through very nicely, as well. A nice graininess comes through as well, reminding me of white flour and oats, and, interestingly, hot green pepper.

Taste: The bourbon flavours make up the base to this one, upon which sit rye, toasted oak, vanilla, a slight sweetness, and cinnamon, a touch of clove, and warm spiciness. There are some dried fruits as well – raisins, prunes, and dried apricots. The toasted oak and wonderful subtle sweetness and spiciness is still present, and is wonderful. There are some strawberry notes too.

Finish: Dried fruits slowly fade to a slightly dry spiciness and oakiness. Nice mouthfeel as well, with the whisky coating the inside of the mouth and slowly breaking down as well.

The bourbon cask wonderfully complements the forty creek style, and the style is still very much present – the cask does not overwhelm it at all. However, it’s not as deep or as rich as some of the other releases (and I find the price point a little difficult when it’s so much cheaper to go with copper pot or barrel select, which are both fabulous whiskies).

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

Value: Average. About par for the course for a whisky like this, in terms of value ($60).


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: Lot 258

  • Bottling Code: 4G\DII5313 09:38:29

  • Bottling Date: 2015

The nose is interesting and complex with vanilla, caramel, milk chocolate, vanilla, almonds and fresh oak with a bit of a chemical solvent-like backdrop. Some beautiful bourbon casks here. On the palate, the oily youth of the spirit comes through, though the backdrop is quite good. The grains, the spices, the wood, are all nicely balanced but just need a bit more time together - the whisky is brimming with potential but for a bit more time in the barrel.

Value: Average. This batch is sub-par, but it isn’t terribly expensive either in whisky terms (60$) and competes with a lot of Scotch whiskies at this price level (granted, Scotch is the worst bang for your buck in whisky).


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Lot 256

  • Bottling Code: 27J14 13:10:16

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

A dominant, clear, first impression of toffee - also creamy and lightly earthy, with nutty notes, the classic Forty Creek toasted oak, maple, cacao - complex and full on the palate but still showing too much youth on the corn whisky in this batch for me. Otherwise, well integrated and very delicious, with some fabulous spice in the mix too. The finish is creamy, and full – very nice.

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

Value: Average. About par for the course for a whisky like this, in terms of value. ($60)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Dry and spicy, with coconut, clove, prune, toasted oak, and a rich underlying grain character. The palate has a rich, oily base which carries lots of toffee, dried apples, and a variety of classic baking spices and brown sugar. Nicely distillate driven, but still too raw and young. I do like the classic Forty Creek characteristic which comes through – the toasted oak, yet it is different than the other expressions (nicely so).

Value: Average. This batch is sub-par, but it isn’t terribly expensive either in whisky terms (60$) and competes with a lot of Scotch whiskies at this price level (granted, Scotch is the worst bang for your buck in whisky).


Review: Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked.jpg
ABV
45.2%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak (twice)
Recipe
~72% Corn, 18% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Distiller Woodford Reserve (Versailles, Kentucky)

Woodford Reserve has a cooperage on site, and when I was at the distillery in 2014 they had just released this whisky and it was sold out everywhere. It is a combination of two types of casks – a heavily charred lightly toasted barrel and also a lightly charred but heavily toasted barrel which the whisky is matured for 9 months in, bringing out all sorts of oaky notes.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L300611542

  • Bottling Date: 2017

A rich, oaky, caramel-laden nose. Decadent caramel, apples, pear, cucumber, marmelade, plum jam, burnt toast, and hazlenut. It is interesting to taste woodford – because it is pot distilled, it is a lot narrower and in some senses cleaner than the typical column distilled bourbons, which means the grain comes out completely different – sharp, clean, and spicy. The oak is massive – if there was an oak centre of the brain, this would fry the circuits. The palate is full of charred oak, plum jam, caramel, smoke, and lots of spice – with lots of tannins, too. Oaky, and heavy. The palate, as they say, is going to oak – but this is a lot of oak – too much for me. It’s not that I don’t like it (I do, and I like tannic whiskies...), but I feel it doesn’t quite compete on the stage that other bourbons do. The finish is full of spice, dense fruit jam, charred oak, and tannins. Quite creamy, and it opens up as the bottle stays open.

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

Value: Average, at $72.


Review: Hillrock Estate Distillery Solera Aged Bourbon (Sauternes Finished) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46.3%
Aging
~6 yrs; Charred virgin oak, refill oak, and sauternes casks
Recipe
Bourbon (37% Rye)
Producer Hillrock Estates (Ancram, New York)

Hillrock Estates is in the Hudson Valley in New York State, and certainly "craft” – they grow their own grain, do their own floor maltings, and are doing some creative things – they are using a solera system (the only bourbon I know of to do this) which is a process coming from sherry production where barrels are never fully drained – only part of the barrel is drained and new spirit is added to mature. Thus, a solera spirit has a variety of ages in it – all the way to a minute percentage of the original batches. Glenfiddich 15 Year Old does this with Scotch, and has achieved quite a wonderful product in doing so. This whisky is also sauternes finished – at the least, all of this leads me to be very intrigued! Dave Pickerell, notable distiller of Makers Mark and establisher of Whistlepig, is now at the helm here, too. Hillrock started out with sourced bourbon, and I am not sure if this is produced or sourced – likely sourced, for now, as it smells quite mature.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2016

The nose has sweet notes of corn, rye, dried apricot, marshy earth, white grape, pear, and lots of spice. A rich, complex, buttery sweetness comes out too – likely from the sauternes – and it does a wonderful trick. The spices almost seem to be in the category of tequila – very interesting. I find bourbon to be a bit of a limited category because of the regulations, and consequently I find it often cannot rival the complexity of Scotch of Canadian – but whiskies like this tend to expand that category. A remarkable nose. The palate is complex, combining earthy corn, spicy rye, oak, and loads of spices - roasted jalapeno, clove, sharp cinnamon – along with milk chocolate, caramel, and a bit more pear. The finish is buttery, yet full of spices and grain notes and light woody incense. Wonderful stuff – this is a micro-distillery product that competes with some of the best of the big guys!

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

Value: Low, at $137.


Review: North of 7 Canadian Whisky (Mini) by Jason Hambrey

Image copyright by North of 7 Distillery. Used with Permission.

Image copyright by North of 7 Distillery. Used with Permission.

ABV
40%
Aging
3 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
51% Corn, 26% Wheat, 12% Rye, 12% Barley
Distiller North Of 7 (Ottawa, Ontario)

Apparently the LCBO, Ontario's sole liquor supplier, has not been carrying as many minis and it's opened up a market for more minis for hotels! So North of 7 started producing minis, available at the distillery and elsewhere. It's their same standard 4 grain whisky, but at 40% instead of the usual 45%.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose you expect from North of 7, grain centred but with a nice kick of oaky spice. Dried apricot, clove, plum, and a herbal quality like dried oregano. The lightest touch of cedar, too. The palate is quite spicy and dry, with a nice kick of oaky spice, caramel, leading gently to a dried fruit finish and eventually fresh pears, morphing between grain-centred flavour and spice. Not a drop in quality from their standard stuff, but it is better at the 45% standard bottling proof.

Still, I’d prefer this to many of the standard issue minis...

Value: N/A