Bourbon Cask

Review: Shelter Point Canadian Single Malt Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
~5 yrs; Bourbon Barrel
Recipe
100% Canadian Malted Barley
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

The first whisky from Shelter Point Distillery, one of the first micro-distillers in Canada, established in 2010, has arrived - not at at the minimum age of three years but at nearly double that age, 5 years. Shelter Point has patiently waited on this single malt until this year, and they are reaping good rewards.

Part of the barley used in this single malt was grown directly on the 330 acre farm (of which 250 acres are barley) surrounding the distillery. Much of the rest has been used to farm a cash crop, raspberries, to support the distillery. Patrick Evans, the owner of the distillery, is a farmer by trade, which has given him a knack for details. From cycling through various yeasts to use during the fermentation (some of which, in his words, produced aromas like "used diapers") - settling at last on a Belgian yeast -  to the grain and casks used - care is not lacking in every production of Shelter Point Single Malt. A number of future vintages will be released, showing the effect of each season on the grain grown, and, consequently, the whisky produced.

This whisky is double distillled, and is the start of a terrific set of releases from Shelter point. They have been working on a number of new and different whiskies, particularly some triple distillled unmalted barley whiskies, much in the style of the Irish.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Inaugural Run

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

It is surprising that for all of the Canadian single malt whiskies I have tried – Glen Breton, Still Waters, and this – they fall broadly into the same style of a grassy malt. However, this is my favorite distillate of the three, being a bit more grain led and complex. Very creamy-nutty – and lots more - golden delicious apple, granny smith apple, banana, lots of lightly earthy and nutty barley, peaches, apricot, almonds, vanilla, orange candies, and light oak all combine on the nose with light malt loaf and buckwheat. The mixture of the light and medium fruit notes with the heavier barley notes work very well together. The palate surpasses the nose, with terrific mouthfeel, and a creamy and peppery effect with the grain, oak, and fruit all held together well in balance, finishing with creamy barley, spice, and apricot. The finish is lightly drying, with good feel and body, balancing cereal, fruity, and vegetal notes. I'm very impressed with this, one of the best micro-distillery productions I have tasted. If the nose did a bit more work, this would be pushed even higher.

Also, the glass stopper on the bottle is amazing. I’d be interested to continue to look at this as it matures some more, as it would benefit- but as it is, terrific, particularly on the palate.

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

Value: Average, at $70.


Review (2018)

·         Batch: N/A

·         Bottling Code: N/A

·         Bottling Date: 2018

Pineapple, tropical fruits, banana, pear, almond, strawberry, and ripe yellow apple – bright and youthful. There’s also vanilla and a light set of clean oaky notes underneath, alongside a light set of spice note. This is quite a nice SM! This bottling continues to impress me. It sometimes has a bit of a strong yoghurt characteristic, but there is some pretty awesome inherent complexity.

The longer you let this sit, indeed, the longer the bottle is open – the better it gets.

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

Value: High. I think this is a great buy for $66.


Review: Shelter Point Avant Garde Barley Single Malt Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
57.3%
Aging
~5 yrs; Ex-Blackberry Wine Cask
Recipe
100% Canadian Unmalted Barley
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

Now here is a whisky -a single cask ex-blackberry wine cask, filled with 100% unmalted barley for 5 years and bottled at cask strength. I have always thought Shelter Point did really well in the ex-blackberry wine casks - this is no exception. 120 bottles produced.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: “Avant-Garde Barley” for the Strath, distilled 2013

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Quite a savoury whisky – umami, coconut oil, spice, dried apple, and banana. Broad and complex – a terrific nose which improves significantly with time – but, as good as this whisky is, I think it could continue to improve with time! The palate is a surprise – it brings in sharp arugula and spicy herbal notes like watercress. It’s fascinating, especially when paired with all the berry and berry bush notes (think berry leaf tea). The strength is perfect – it really highlights the breadth, and depth, of the whisky. A hit of dried peach at the end. Just awesome! Shelter Point has been making some excellent whisky to date, and this is the best of them- in terms of uniqueness, depth, and even breadth. One of the whiskies of the year for me.

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

Value: Average (based on $110).


Review: Shelter Point "Classic" Canadian Single Malt Whisky (Strath Liquor Store Exclusive) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
57.3%
Aging
~7 yrs; Ex-Tennessee Whisky Barrel
Recipe
100% Canadian Malted Barley
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

This whisky, distilled in 2011, is a cask-strength exclusive for the Strath whisky store in Victoria. It is a single cask….and it is rather excellent. 120 bottles produced.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: “Classic” for the Strath, distilled 2011

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Interesting – spicy, grainy, with nice dried fruit integrated throughout. This is so rich, one of the richer Shelter Points I’ve tried – and one of the better ones. It’s quite refined, bordering on elegance - and big.  The dried fruit just blossoms in the glass as it sits, but with other fruits coming forward too – apple juice, strawberry and black currant too. The palate is loaded with spice, fruit, and brown sugar.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). Just terrific stuff…perhaps my second favourite Shelter Point to date (after the Strath’s other whisky, Avant-Garde Barley).

Value: Average. Very nice whisky, but still at a price ($110).


Review: Two Brewers Classic Yukon Single Malt Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

ABV
46%-58%
Aging
7-8 yrs
Recipe
100% Malted Barley - mostly pale malt
Distiller Two Brewers (Whitehorse, Yukon)

Two Brewers is an interesting distillery because they started (as in the name) in brewing, so they had expertise in that important flavor generating part of the whisky making process. Their whiskies are about 7-8 years old, very mature for a micro distillery compared to most which are releasing their product as soon it is legal to do so, after three years. They also run with four different streams of single malt - "classic", "peated", "special finishes" and "innovative" whiskies. Each release has about 800-1600 bottles per release, and they use different malted and roasted grains along with varying fermentation techniques and a mix of barrels to get the sort of flavors they want. It's about time for a taste!


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Release 01

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

A Yukon-only release. Earthy, and lightly smoky, with apple, pineapple, pepper – the earthy and smoky elements of the nose lifts off with time leaving heavy fruit and porridge behind. The palate continues on with some very interesting elements – vegetal notes, yet still holding on to tingling spice and earthy grain. Nicely done!

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

Value: Average.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 06

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is incredible. Remarkable fruity – loads of ripe yellow apple, ripe pear, pineapple, guava, custard – and yet full of underlying spicy bready notes. There’s a bit of sharp grassy spice and some unripe green pear, as well as hard banana candies. It’s quite complex and very well integrated. It doesn’t nose or taste immature at all. The palate is gorgeous – it has some vanilla but finishes with some rich, dark, roasted malt. Great underlying grain and earth, too. The finish, then, maintains all the fruit but is loaded with roasted malt notes and light spice and oak. Figs, too. Brilliant!

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

Value: High. This is just good enough to scrape into a high value category, even at $100.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 10, 58%

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Our first cask strength two brewers!

This is what you might expect – a solid two brewers classic single malt, but with a much bigger paintbrush. Apple juice, apricot jam, tropical fruits, and all the beautiful grainy notes. It smells much like a bourbon cask – creamy, herbal, and lightly oaky. On the palate – it’s awesome. Big, creamy, with tropical fruits balanced by oaky spice, rich grain notes, and sharp spice. The finish comes out even bigger at cask strength, as might be expected. Lots of tropical fruits on the finish, too.

Not necessarily a better spirit than previous batches of the „classic” single malt, but it really gets carried through nicely at cask strength. It retains all the key notes, but adds some – the oaky spice and vanilla and caramel are front and center here, while they play a backburner at lower strengths. Well done – very well done.

As usual, the upped ABV reallly does well on the finish. I need to find a bottle of this....

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

Value: Average. Really good whisky, but at $130 it starts to compete against other possibilities in that range.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Release 13

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

What a nose! This is loaded with caramel and vanilla, but still offset with light stone fruit, pineapple, banana, vanilla, and oak. The palate is creamy, rich, and with a very nice kick of spicy greens (arugula, watercress) before a drying finish which remains slightly sweet and fruity. Earthiness grows on the finish, still being offset by a bright fruitiness and spice. Compared to other batches, I find this has a huge degree of caramel and toffee, and a light elegance to it.

I loved batch 10, which was really big – this is perhaps a bit broader and richer, but not bigger.

Is this the best single malt in North America? Perhaps…

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

Value: Average. Really good whisky, but at $100 it starts to compete against other possibilities in the $100 range.


Review: West Cork Bourbon Cask Irish Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

West Cork Bourbon 2.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
First Fill Ex-Bourbon Casks
Recipe
Grain and Malt Whiskies
Producer West Cork (County Cork, Ireland)

West Cork only opened in 2003- and are now releasing a range of their own whiskies, including this one. The distillery is focused on using Irish grain, triple distillation, and pot stills - they even malt some of their own barley. It's not a very big distillery, but it's making itself a name (certainly relative to the nearby Midleton). This whisky is a first-fill bourbon matured Irish whisky, composed of 75% grain whiskey and 25% single malt whiskey.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 01817

  • Bottling Date: ~2017

The nose is full of bourbon, lots of creamy oak, dried apricot, and a light nutty, grainy character. Thyme, red apple, caramel, straw mats, banana, and overall a nice tripical character with mango and dried papaya. The palate is nutty, with a nice mouthfeel. Creamy and slightly spicy, lightly oaky with pear and some dried peach. The finish is sharp, as if a concentrated wave of flavours slowly unfolds – with dried mango, banana, vanilla, peach, light grain flavours (somewhat not fully defined), and light oak. The finish has good grip. The bourbon cask plays a large part in this one, but I quite like it.

Really nice casual dram, I like the balance and feel of it.

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

Value: Average, at $42.


Review: Highland Park Cask Strength 2006 Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Gordon & Macphail) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
58.0%
Aging
8.5 yrs Years; Sherrry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Highland Park (Kirkwall, Scotland)

Independent bottles buy distillate from distilleries, and then cask and age them on their own, releasing often different lenses into whisky at various distilleries. This is exactly that - an exclusively bourbon matured highland park - a distillery known for the use of sherry casks. And, also, bottled at cask strength - something so many love as you have more control over how you drink it. It really is fun, especially if you are a fan of a distillery, as I am of Highland Park.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Distilled 22/06/2006, bottled 19/02/2015

  • Bottling Code: 19/02/15 AE/JAJE

  • Bottling Date: 2015

The nose is quite creamy – lots of butterscotch, toffee, blueberry, heather (the brush, not the flower), light smoke, wood charcoal, potpourri, dried peach, and even a bit of dried mango. The palate continues on, quite buttery – with light fruit and slowly growing with smoke, loads of honey and dried peach, heather flowers, and light spices and oak. Quite nice with water, and also opens up nicely with time to be more floral. This is nice – very much highland park, yet so different without the sherry. I still would love to see what an old version of this would be like – Highland Park ages so beautifully. It is nice to have a cask strength Highland Park – the heather and smoke is concentrated nicely, and it is a completely different animal in bourbon casks. I could easily drink a lot of this. The finish plays nicely together with peach, oak, bourbon notes, dried apricot, smoke, honey, and heather.

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

Value: Average, based on $130.


Review: Old Pulteney 17 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
17 years; Ex-bourbon and Ex-sherry casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Pulteney (Wick, Scotland)

I had trouble finding this once looking for it - but, though Ontario hasn't seen it - to my knowledge - Quebec gets it from time to time, albeit at a bit of a cost. Pulteney expressions mature beautifully - worth a try, if you see it.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L14 123 R14/5173 IB 10:00

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Some very nice fruit here. And really opens up. Wax, mangoes, toffee, and some hay malty notes as on the nose. Honey, almonds, grapefruit, rose, some of those cheesy sherry notes,

The palate is very flavourful, with lots of nice straw, hamster cage, spices behind the scenes, terrific malt, honey – big with good mouthfeel. The sherry makes its presence lightly known. Terrific barley, and strong woody notes…hmm, how do I describe it – reminding me of twigs breaking as I gather them for afire. Quite a mixed bowl of candied nuts too. Mmm.

Finish has honey, light wood, and some very nice spices once again. Great feel to it. Vanilla and oak creeping through as well. And a bit dry and spicy, yet surprisingly a bit creamy.

Very well balanced, very enjoyable. Changes nicely, as well.

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

Value: Low at $155.


Review: Glenfiddich 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
18 Years; Ex-bourbon and ex-oloroso
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenfiddich (Dufftown, Scotland)

This single malt is made from a mix of oloroso sherry casks and bourbon casks, which are aged and then married in batches for at least 3 months in large oak casks.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Cinnamon and slightly caramelized apples, pineapple, vanilla, and a bit of creaminess akin to vanilla pudding. There is some nice honey sweetness on the nose, and the oak has taken up some good presence. The caramelized, honeyed apple is so vibrant and inviting, and even more after the vanilla picks up as the nose develops.

Taste: Nice and viscous body. The oak comes in at first, with a good measure of honey – and some spicy apple comes in before fading to vanilla and some spicy cinnamon. Amidst all this, there are some raisins, with the slightest bit of an earthy peaty undertone. The spiciness, acidity, sweetness, and mouthfeel are all brilliant. Warm cinnamon and cacao on the finish. slightly herbal too.

Finish: Tingly, spicy, sweet, and even a touch oily .There are some light apples, vanilla, oak, honey, and just a very light touch of smoke. It is slightly herbal as well, and there even appears to be a bit of mint on the finish. Even, after some time, I find some malt comes through. It is slightly dry too, with good body and length.

This is very good – engaging, complex, and deep. Still, it’s light – not heavy or intense, but light and elegant. The oak has had its effect on the whisky, and it has done good work. A very nice extension from the 12 year old expression. Very pleasant.

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

Value: Low, at $157.


Review: Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Distillery Edition Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
51%
Aging
15 Years; Ex-bourbon and Ex-oloroso casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenfiddich (Dufftown, Scotland)

This is different than the solera matured 15 year old, and clocks in at an impressive 51% and is also non chill-filtered. It is made from similar casks as the other 15 year old, but without a solera process. So, we'd expect a better mouthfeel and finish than the standard 15, but how does it really compare?


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L32Z 4903 2611 0820

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

On the nose – lots of peach - stewed and dried - and lots of spice here as well! Pears, almond, custard, apple seeds, corn husks, and a touch of nice malt. The palate is rich – and with wonderful mouthfeel – nutmeg, cinnamon, almond, peaches, green apple, pleasing light malt – buttery and very easy to drink but also with the lightest texture of tannins. The finish is full of gummy peach candies – fuzzy peaches, in Canada.  Also dried apricots, pleasing vanilla, a touch of sherry spiciness, though it does disappear fairly quickly. I quite like the 15 year old solera reserve, and this doesn’t quite have the same complexity, but the mouthfeel is far superior and the palate shows a bit of a different character – but still a favorite of the Glenfiddichs for me.

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

Value: Average, at $60. Worth noting, though, for a higher ABV and decent single malt, this is on the cheaper end!


Review: Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
15 Years; Various Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenfiddich (Dufftown, Scotland)

This whisky is quite unique as it is aged via a “solera” process, used frequently in sherry, where you have a big solera vat (in the case of glenfiddich, made of oregon pine) where the distillers add in new aged whisky before they remove some – and the vat is always kept at least half full. Thus, you add whisky, and remove some – but the whisky you remove contains bits of whiskies as old as the vat itself, resulting in a mix of whiskies from the most recent filling to much older fillings.

In order to fill up the solera vat, whiskies aged in sherry casks are vatted together, and whiskies aged in new oak are also vatted together. The contents are then mixed with more whiskies, this time from refill casks , and this is all added into the solera vat (which has a capacity of 37,000 litres). The whisky is then allowed to rest for a few days before 50% of the vat is emptied to produce a bottled batch of the Glenfiddich 15 Year Old. It’s quite the process – but it does produce something quite unique – a blend of batches from the current year and dating back even to the start of the vat, and each year in between.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

This is quite a bit different than the 12 year old – it’s busier, spicier, and once the nose opens up is quite an incredible dram.

Nose: Apple and pear definitely come through, though the apple is more like a golden delicious than the green apple found in the 12 Year Old. Some cinnamon and vanilla come through, with honey, maple, apricot jam, marmelade, alongside dried apricot, raisins, and prunes, and some rich malt. At first I find the nose a bit dense, but it starts to open up and unfold brilliantly with time. Vanilla and apple just come out more and more as it sits.

Taste: Malt, with some apple and cinnamon and vanilla on the finish. It’s quite dense – there’s a lot going on. There is some sweet honey underneath, and there is a slightly grassy character alongside the malt with the spice riding over top of it all. I get a slight bit of spicy earthiness in the background, as if from peat, as I find with all the glenfiddich expressions…and there’s some milk chocolate on the finish. There is a great richness to this as well, and the balance is great. The mouthfeel is great in this one.

Finish: A bit fruity and spicy, with apple, vanilla and some lovely honey. Definitely longer and busier than in the 12 year old. There’s some oak and plum jam as well. Slightly dry.

This is rich, complex, and bold (at least in the Glenfiddich range). The balance of the nose, taste, and finish is good, and overall this is a very engaging whisky, especially after some time in the glass when it starts to open up and move from dense and bold to creamy and honeyed.

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

Value: Average at $77.