British Columbia

Review: Shelter Point French Oak Double Barreled Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Shelter Point Distillery.

Image courtesy of Shelter Point Distillery.

ABV
50%
Aging
6 yrs; American Oak; Wine Finish
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

Shelter Point double barreled some of their whisky in French oak wine casks - here is something unique! This was after about 6 years in American oak.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Finished in blackberry wine casks.

Coconut, vanilla, caramel, pineapple, and rich orchard fruit and sharp baking spice. Big on the palate – spicy, rich, and full of grain and milk chocolate notes even amidst all the fruit sitting overtop. Lots of rich dried fruit, particularly apricot – frankly, it’s remarkable how well the apricot fits in. The finish rides on a wave of vanilla. My favorite Shelter Point to date. It doesn’t have the finish of some of the artisanal cask finishes but it brings a whole lot to the table…

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

Value: Average, based on $80.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 2018

  • Bottling Date: 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Finished in blackberry wine casks.

Toffee, broad grain notes, marzipan, and apple juice – yet still with lots of oak, dried fruit, and berries. There is a really great nuttiness shining through, complemented nicely by the oak. It is sweet, easy, and fruity – both fresh fruit and dried fruit, with a bit more emphasis on dried fruit – both stone fruit and raisins and currants. Excellent, and even a touch better than last year!

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

Value: Average, based on $80.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 2018

  • Bottling Date: 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Aged for 5.5 years in American oak before being finished for 335 days in quail’s gate pinot noir casks - we’re now not in blackberry cask territory.

This whisky opens with a terrific nose - really nice rich, fruity notes, raisins, red currants, cardamom, sour notes, green apple, baking spices, and great oak. Light shelter point barley characteristics. Lightens up nicely with time. Really opens up with water. The taste is slightly salty, with currants and loads of fruit and tannins – but there are some really nice malty and toffee notes as well. It is very savoury. The finish is winey, thick, and spicy – with some roasted grain notes. Nice body on the finish.

I really like it! It is a departure from before – it has more wine, fruit, and richness. The blackberry releases previously were a bit spicier. I like this version even more.

Highly Recommended (49% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $80. But it’s above average if we’re just looking at Canadian single malts.


Review: Pemberton Apple Brandy by Jason Hambrey

Pemberton+Apple+Brandy+2.jpg
ABV
44%
Aging
Depends on Cask
Recipe
100% Whole BC Apples
Distillery Pemberton Distillery (Pemberton, BC)

Apples have been used to make spirits since at least the 16th century in France. In Europe, Apple Brandy is still commonly made, in both aged and aged forms - most notably in the region of Calvados which is famous for its aged apple brandies. Pemberton Distillery uses whole BC apples, distilling them and aging them in oak casks.

This is made in a very similar process to a Calvados, distilling the apples whole rather than just using part. As a part of the Calvados regulations, up to 30% of the base can be pears - in Pemberton’s case, they use 10% pears. Where possible, Pemberton tries to get as much diversity as possible from the apples and pears, using 8 varieties of apples and 3 types of pears. The cask type is different between the batches, from French oak, new American oak, ex-bourbon, and Canadian oak but the distillery is settling on using Canadian oak for the initial aging and ex-bourbon casks to finish. This batch is made completely from Canadian oak.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 2017 Harvest, Aged 14 Months

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

This reminds me quite heavily of Pemberton’s single malt, interestingly enough (not very surprising, though - most distilleries have a style between the stills, barrels, and yeasts). However, it is very different from Pemberton’s whisky.

The nose is rich in apple aromas, with applesauce, apple seeds, apple skins – but also hazlenuts, green pear, white pepper, vanilla, and even light over-ripe berry notes. I quite like the combination of the nuttiness with the apples. The palate is dry, full of apple sauce and light tannin, a touch of acidity, and more nuttiness but on the softer side like macadamias and almonds. There is a light bitterness which I quite like on the palate. The finish is slightly sweet, with vanilla, light oak, and more apple sauce. The hazlenuts are back on the finish. Baking spices come through on the finish, which is very complex especially as the spices make their way in. There’s even a nice herbaceous character subtly present throughout - but especially in the finish.

This is quite different than any other Apple Brandies I’ve had (which isn’t many). It is much heavier-bodied and nuttier and spicier, with more bitterness. If you read much of my reviews, I favour the unique and interesting – this is like that, for the spirits enthusiast. At first I didn’t know what I thought of the bitterness in the middle, but as I drink more of it and it combines with the spices and tannins, I love it.

Assessment: Recommended.


Review: Schramm Organic Canadian Dry Gin by Jason Hambrey

Schramm+Gin.jpg
ABV
44.8%
Aging
None
Recipe
100% Potato Spirit, Organic Herbs & Botanicals
Distillery Pemberton Distillery (Pemberton, BC)

This is a gin made from a base of distilled local potatoes, combined with juniper berries, coriander seed, orange peel, rosemary, angelica root, Ceylon cinnamon, rosehips and hops - all listed clearly on the label. I quite like how the ingredients are listed right on the label. It takes 18 pounds of potato to produce a single bottle of this!

The gin includes a very narrow hearts cut - only across 4 alcohol percentage points off the still - this was the best balance Pemberton could find between the heavier juniper and the lighter fruit notes.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 45 (Distilled Feb 2019)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

Rich juniper aromas, and an incredible wild sort of herbal and floral notes. It reminds me of certain blooming meadows, rich in a light mixed floral notes and sharp herbal notes. The hops come through, slightly – and they are awesome giving a real sharp character which contrasts with the cinnamon and dried orange. The juniper is strong, as I like it.  It’s a big gin, with a complex character. In the middle too, there is a flash of sweetness coming from the distillate, which isn’t lost – another big plus, for me, in gin. The finish has the juniper, earthiness, and a nice set of complex spices and woody notes.

I quite like the stuff. There is a light touch of earthiness too, I assume from the potatoes.

Chilled, the sharp vegetable character really shines through, along with the juniper. It is remarkable how strongly the flavours shine through, even chilled. It has a good voice in a cocktail, as I believe spirits should: this mixes well.

Assessment: Highly Recommended.


Review: Schramm Organic Potato Vodka (Pemberton Distillery) by Jason Hambrey

Schramm+Vodka.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
None
Recipe
100% Potato Spirit
Distillery Pemberton Distillery (Pemberton, BC)

Oddly enough, though I had tasted Pemberton single malt,, which is coming along - I didn’t really take a second glance at the distillery until I happened upon a small blurb on them in the wonderful book, The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart, which delves into the plants, herbs, spices, flowers, and grains that are used to produce alcohol. In Pemberton Valley in British Columbia, lots of potatoes are grown - and this product is a result of that. But, much care here is taken.

Tyler Schramm, the head distiller, has a master’s degree in distilling potatoes. He tried a variety of single-varietal distillations, before finally landing on a blend of five different types of potatoes. This has less to do with the differences in flavor between the varietals (which he says are insignificant) and more to do with starch content and environmental stewardship: embracing the distiller’s traditional role of using food scraps not usable for consumption to use. Each bottle of vodka requires fifteen pounds of potatoes, and these potatoes are misshapen or oddly sized that the farmer would not be able to sell.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose is very clean, slightly sweet, and lightly earthy. Damp, rooty earth, light pepper, and dried figs. The palate is slightly sweet, viscous, with a very clean flavour and a touch of zestiness and white pepper. On the finish, the earthiness remains, which is what I like about this vodka. A nice sweetness in the middle, too.

Once chilled, the viscosity increases, the sharpness disappears, the sweetness is slightly diminished but the earthiness remains. I am glad for this – this is the (good) signature of the vodka and I am glad it doesn’t fade with a drop in temperature. This is fantastic for cocktails! I think any vodka cocktails which could use a bit of earthiness (think vegetable cocktails) or ones which need a bit of heaviness to balance out the drink will get a nice contribution from this.

The character is light (as it should be for a vodka), but this is a vodka with character which I like. Some may like to sip this - it is a bit of a heavier vodka, but I think all the subtleties lead to a rather intriguing mixer. Time to open up the cocktail book!

Assessment: Recommended.


Review: Sheringham Akvavit by Jason Hambrey

Sheringham+Akvavit+1.jpg
ABV
42%
Aging
None
Recipe
Spirit made with caraway, dill, angelica, star anise, lemon, and orris root
Distiller Sheringham Distillery (Sooke, British Columbia)

I hadn’t had much akvavit before, but I was rather curious after this took home the Canadian Artisinal Spirits Competition’s “Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year”. Akvavit is a grain spirit flavoured of dill or caraway, in this case both, but with a dose of kelp as well to give it a sense of belonging to Vancouver Island. Akvavit hails from Scandinavia, where it has been produced since the 15th century - and caraway is a magnificent spice, even if it isn’t used much in North America. I am rather fond of it, so it’s no suprise that I like this.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 1347

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

Brilliant herbal aromas full of caraway, dried dill, and sea salt but with an incredibly rich and buttery grain spirit behind. Caraway is in the centre of this, through and through – but there are other spices all around it. The palate is still full of caraway, but with a rich grainy character which carries the spice and provides a nice bite. There is a nice, soft, marine character throughout. The finish is slightly citrusy, with caraway, dried dill, and light baking spices. The best part, perhaps, is that the grain spirit characteristic is not lost on this.

This is just a terrific spirit – I haven’t had many akvavits (they are hard to find) but I’ll be on the lookout for more, although this one is really dialed in so I think it’s a pretty high benchmark. It isn’t as broadly complex as some spirits, but there is a real depth here.

Also, terrific for cocktails.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.


Review: Sheringham Kazuki Gin by Jason Hambrey

Sheringham+Kazuki+1.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
None
Recipe
Gin made with local and Japanese botanicals
Distiller Sheringham Distillery (Sooke, British Columbia)

Out in western Canada it seems these Japanese style gins are increasingly popular - this one made with cherry blossoms, green tea, and yuzu.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 1308

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose is pretty heavy, with deep citrus notes, citrusy spice (like coriander), green tea, cherries, and a heavy floral character. Despite all the floral characteristics, the nose is still a bit heavy with thick citrus notes, like the heavier side of lemon peel rather than the floral side. The palate is rich, with a light grain character, limestone, and a spicy and citrus-laden finish. There is a reasonable amount of grip on the palate, and the finish is biting and enduring. There is a really nice spicy finish which builds towards the end. It is very well balanced, through and through.

This plays out really well in cocktails with the central citrus character and balance - but especially those with an Asian influence.

Assessment: Recommended.


Review: Sheringham Seaside Gin by Jason Hambrey

Sheringham+Seaside+1.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
None
Recipe
Gin made with juniper, rose, coriander, kelp, lavender and citrus
Distiller Sheringham Distillery (Sooke, British Columbia)

This gin is quite well known in Canadian craft circles - made on Vancouver island with land and ocean botanicals, including local hand-harvested winged kelp which is a signature of most of Sheringham’s products. It definitely supports the coastal character implied by the label.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 1521

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose here is really nice, and rather unique – a very nice maritime influence, mixed forest (i.e. desiduous and evergreen), citrus, sea salt, mint, and rich spice – a nicely balanced, rich, and bright nose. The palate has a deep set of vegetal characteristics, but it also carries classic juniper woodiness and spice. I really like the subtle maritime character of the gin, and these seaweed gins tend to carry some nice intrigue and umami at their core. This is even a touch salty! And, it’s hard to deny the lavender edge throughout – it’s not at the centre, but at all the edges. Very nice gin.

Assessment: Highly Recommended.


Review: Shelter Point Distiller's Select Cask Strength Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Shelter Point Cask Strength 1.jpg
ABV
58.4%
Aging
First Fill Bourbon Barrel; Finished in French Oak
Recipe
4 casks single malt + 1 cask rye
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

That's right, Patrick Evans is a fan of rye, and decided to throw in a cask of rye with some of Shelter Point's single malt and release it at cask strength. This is now their second whisky release, and has been available only recently at the distillery for $69. It is an odd mix, a vatting of single malt and rye, then finished in French Oak - but I must say after this Shelter Point is quickly moving into competition with Still Waters for my favorite Canadian micro-distillery producer...


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 2016

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

The nose has much of the standard single malt notes – fruity, with apple and cherry, oak, buttery pastry, icing – but with absolutely terrific cereal notes too, good earthiness, and some nice stewed apricot too. Diluted down to a similar strength as their single malt, it is richer and more complex but not quite as lively. Nice spices develop with time. It’s still young, as with the other Shelter Point I have had – but the youth doesn’t come through as much on the palate as with the other one. The palate has some creamy grain, but an incredible vegetal spice grips the palate towards the end leading you into a very rye-laden finish. Quite fascinating in fact – the malt leads you gently in, and the rye boldly ushers you out. Definitely more complex than the standard single malt, and the rye provides wonderful intrigue.

Drinking at cask strength, it really is upped in flavor compared to the diluted version of this whisky, with almond and coconut seeming to come out more. The rye comes into its own with complex vegetal and spice notes particularly on the finish. Not quite as graceful as the inaugural release single malt, but more interesting and more complex. I like it more, but not quite enough to bump it up a percent.

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

Value: Average, based on $80.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Five casks of single malt whisky were combined with one cask of rye whisky to make this limited run of 1200 bottles. They were all finished in a French oak cask.

Vanilla, oak, crème brulee, unripe pear, nectarines, stewed fruits, dill, strawberry, and a light floral character. There’s a nice, subtle, candied element to the nose. The palate is big, full of toffee and dried fruits and finishing with spices, mint, and dried apricot. The dried apricot is just remarkable. Big finish – lots of complexity and spice. Lots of nuts, throughout, and nice complexity even if a bit brash at times.

This was one of my top 25 whiskies in the Canadian Whisky Awards in 2017. And for good reason - it’s big, complex, and interesting.

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

Value: Average, based on $80.


Review (2019)

·         Batch: 2018

·         Bottling Date: 2018

·         Bottling Code: N/A

This is big, and full of rich grain. It’s quite something – sharp toffee, hazelnut oil, a light grain characteristic, and light spice – but with a comfortable bracing of oak. The palate is sharp, rich, intense – lots of flavor from spice, nuts, oil, and loads of fruit. There is a spicy grain character at the core which I just cannot help but love – and the finish is loaded with dried fruits, umami, and light pepper notes. Very nice…

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

Value: Average, at $86, against other whiskies at this cost.


Review: Shelter Point Montfort DL 141 Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Shelter Point Distillery.

Image courtesy of Shelter Point Distillery.

ABV
46%
Aging
Various
Recipe
100% Unmalted Barley
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

The Montfort DL 141 indicates where the barley was grown (at shelter point) which makes up this whisky. Interestingly, it is made completely from unmalted barley - a fairly rare style of whisky. Though a limited release, the barley itself was grown by shelter point and is the start of the exploration of terrior by the distillery, which will be a focus.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Aged 4.5 yrs in American Oak.

A lot on this nose: dried chanterelles, bready notes, vanilla, green hard pear, banana, dried apricot, pineapple, oak, coconut and gentian. The palate has coconut, green pear, and a plethora of grainy notes with a rich middle. The finish is nicely balanced, with vanilla, malty notes, dried apricot, and nutmeg. Almond throughout, espcially on the finish, which is quite nice.

More crisp and condensed than the standard Shelter Point, and not as fruity. Still a bit young which would round out quite well, I think, with age. That’s really all it is...needs more time in the cask. There’s some wonderful stuff underneath.

Doesn’t quite have the complexity, balance, or breadth of the standard shelter point – but it offers something different, with more oak and a denser flavour profile which unfolds in a slower, different way (i.e. it is less apparent on first sip, and requires a bit more study to understand). A very nice addition to the lineup, and I like what they are doing...

I do really like the compactness of the grain in this and the tannic grip it has. It’s a bit hard to talk about. Really nice, and a ton of potential – I think score would significantly jump at 8 or 10 years – it is a great direction.

Value: Low, based on $80. A very unique product though - the next year’s batch is much better, in my view.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 2018

  • Bottling Date: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 2018

This has more French oak than the previous bottling and was aged a year longer than the batch above. It seems to pay off:

Quite fruity –peach, sour pear, vanilla, custard, and light black pepper – yet also having a growing toffee and sugar characteristic, and, with time, an earthy cigar characteristic. There is a beautiful grain character present, with flour and nut oil notes richly present in the middle. Also, great berry notes – blackberry tea, raspberry – and a great earthiness in the middle. This whisky is about terrior – and I find in this a much deeper earthiness than in the standard shelter point – unique and awesome.

This is quite an improvement over last year’s bottling, and seems to have started to gain quite a following!

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

Value: Average, based on $80.


Review: Pemberton Valley Single Malt by Jason Hambrey

ABV
44%
Aging
Depends on Cask
Recipe
100% Organic Malted Barley
Distillery Pemberton Distillery (Pemberton, BC)

This whisky is presented beautifully, a perfect craft presentation, I would say - cask, bottle, materials, distill date, bottling date, and the distiller. The whisky is pot-distilled, and aged in a full size bourbon barrel. I’ve had two casks of these, and they were very different - one 3 years old and one 8 years old.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: Cask 1 (3 years old)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Lots of cherry - cherry pits, cherry liqueur, cherry beer - fighting some oily grain. Grassy, herbal, and spicy underneath it all as well, with linseed oil and nectarines adding complexity to the mix. On the palate, some apples come into the mix with some buttery oak as well emerging to some light sour spice on the finish. Cherries stay in the mix throughout.

Value: Low, at $90. It hasn’t come together and even at a much lower price I wouldn’t buy this.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Cask 3 (44.2%), 8 years old

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

This is made from organic pale malted barley and 4% peated malt, matured in an ex-bourbon barrel. This is aged 8 years, so it’s quite a step from the whisky reviewed above.

The nose is sharp, grainy and interesting – pear, oak, toasted grain, caramel, dried apricot, soba noodles, and hay. The grain is very rich in character on the nose – this has come leaps and bounds beyond what I tasted 3 and 4 years ago! There are some really nice barley aromas here – spice, rich earthiness, pine, and a bit of broccoli. A relatively dry nose too – very good.

The palate is rich, spicy, and grainy with a nice mouthfeel and a nice mix of spice notes, vegetal notes, and caramel. The finish is dry, carrying on with pear, dried apricot, white pepper, a touch of grapefruit zest, almonds, and a bit more fresh broccoli.

This certainly shows what time in a barrel can do!

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This is very unique stuff that has come together quite nicely. Most single malts from small distillers in Canada go the fruity route, this is more towards spicy and earthy – which I quite like. I quite enjoyed this!

Value: Average. About what you’d like to expect if you are spending $82.