Canadian Spirits

Review: Granny's Gin (Last Mountain) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Last Mountain distillery.

Image courtesy of Last Mountain distillery.

ABV
40%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Last Mountain (Lumsden, Saskatchewan)

I quite like Last Mountain's products - their whiskies and their other products (like their dill pickle vodka) are made very well. As I do like my gin, I thought I'd see how it stacked up - it is a juniper heavy gin with 4 other botanicals including cardamom and pepper, made to be in a classic dry style. It is made in honor of Colin Schmidt's grandmother, who likes gin "not too florally". She likes her gin and sodas (I do too! 3 soda:1 gin with a citrus twist is my preference).


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2018

I am actually quite a fan of juniper focused gin, as we are here – but also with some nice coriander and dried citrus peel. It is a really nice, rich nose. The palate starts with juniper, and ends with citrus – dried orange and grapefuit peel.  There is a terrific lemon edge to the whole thing, and the finish is light and has a nice spicy edge to it, alongside citrus and pine. The base to the gin is light, and not too heavy – which I like. Fairly light finish, but slightly drying and very pleasing.

It’s more in the style of a traditional dry gin, but I tend to quite like those styles.

Assessment: Recommended.


Review: Macaloney's Twa Cask Series Caol Ila & Bunnahabhain Blended Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of  Victoria Caledonian Distillers .
ABV
46%
Aging
Finished in Re-Toasted Red Wine Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Producer Victoria Caledonian (Victoria, British Columbia)

This is a blend of two casks from Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila (so...this is gotta be decent at the least!) - a "guest whisky" from Victoria Caledonian while they wait for their own spirit to mature. This was based on Graeme's optimal combination of two casks from the Scottish highlands, among the ones he has to work with. There are two versions of this - an ex-bourbon version and one finished in re-toasted red wine barriques (which is this version) - a favorite of Jim Swan, who consulted for Victoria Caledonian.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Interesting – there is a bit of a house style in all of these twa casks. All quite leafy, and influenced by that re-toasted red-wine barrique. Quite floral and smoky, with a nice smoky edge. Cinnamon, peat bogs, pear, clove, cinnamon, anise, and good oak influence. The palate has a very nice rising smoke to it, culminating together with Islay medicinal smoke and some red licorice. Nice deep finish, full of minerality, smoke, and dried fruit. My favorite of the Twa Casks – but the red-wine finished Twa casks are all quite good.

Also, I quite like most of what comes from Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila...

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

Value: N/A


Review: Macaloney's Twa Cask Series Blair Athol & Macduff Blended Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of  Victoria Caledonian Distillers .
ABV
46%
Aging
Finished in Re-Toasted Red Wine Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Producer Victoria Caledonian (Victoria, British Columbia)

This is a blend of two casks from Blair Athol and MacDuff - a "guest whisky" from Victoria Caledonian while they wait for their own spirit to mature. This was based on Graeme's optimal combination of two casks from the Scottish highlands, among the ones he has to work with. There are two versions of this - an ex-bourbon version and one finished in re-toasted red wine barriques (which is this version) - a favorite of Jim Swan, who consulted for Victoria Caledonian.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is dry and lightly smoky, with a good measure of dried fruit alongside red pepper jelly. Leafy on the nose, too, which I like and find unique. I find it does well with a bit of water in it – it brings things into balance nicely. The palate is full of leafy smoke, oak, spice, and more dried fruit – currants, prunes, and raisins.  A slight minerality, too, which is quite enjoyable - nice earthiness! A nice jammy, spicy finish. I do like the effect of the re-toasted wine cask – the tannins, fruit, and spice all work out very nicely.

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

Value: N/A


Review: Macaloney's Twa Cask Series Benrinnes & Glenlossie Blended Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of  Victoria Caledonian Distillers .
ABV
46%
Aging
Finished in Re-Toasted Red Wine Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Producer Victoria Caledonian (Victoria, British Columbia)

This is a blend of two casks from Benrinnes and Glenlossie - a "guest whisky" from Victoria Caledonian while they wait for their own spirit to mature. It is the product of Graeme Macaloney, who has a PhD in brewing/distilling and worked for 12 years in contract fermentation before working on his latest venture - Victoria Caledonian Distillery. While in Victoria, he tasked Mike Nicholson, Diageo master distiller, to help him out, and blended together two casks from three regions of Scotland - Speyside, the Highlands, and Islay. He worked back from about 30 cask samples to find 2 from each region that worked together. There are two versions of this - an ex-bourbon version and one finished in re-toasted red wine barriques (which is this version) - a favorite of Jim Swan, who consulted for Victoria Caledonian.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Like a meadow on the nose - floral and earthy - with heather, honey, wintergreen, blueberry bushes, ferrero rocher, and newly trimmed hedges. It reminds me very much of my childhood vacations to my Granny’s cottage in northern England. The palate is slightly sharp, with a nice ashy smoke to it, with burnt chickpeas, honey, pear, clove, and lots of dried fruit from the wine cask. Some leather, too – not something I find that often with younger whiskies. The spicy, fruity wine cask comes in at the end quite brilliantly – good movement within the whisky. The finish is spicy, oaky,  and lightly rumbling and smoky, with lots more of those meadow aromas and tannins from the oak. It has an interesting, old-scotch style to it which I find quite appealing – the mix of dried fruit and dry smoke, with light sweetness and oxidation.

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

Value: N/A.


Review: Mac Na Braiche Canadian Single Malt Spirit by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of  Victoria Caledonian Distillery .
ABV
50%
Aging
~18 months; Re-Toasted Red Wine Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Producer Victoria Caledonian (Victoria, British Columbia)

This new make is often spoken about, in part because it is often shared, and tastes good young. It is the product of Diageo master distiller Mike Nicholson and Graeme Macaloney, matured in re-toasted red wine barriques - a mark of the well-known whisky legend Jim Swan who consulted for Victoria Caledonian. Not a whisky yet, but coming along!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Cask 25

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Lots going on in the nose here – fruity, wine-like aromas, vanilla, beeswax, caramel and oak. I would say that the prominent orchard fruit is at the centre, but there is lots else going on. It actually has a tangy and earthy aroma very reminiscent of Shelter Point. Lots of soft fruit open with time. With time, the layers peel back and you see more and more of the barley – it’s a nice evolution.

The palate is full of freshly charred wood, dried fruit you often encountered with wine-finished whiskies, toffee, cinnamon, and lots of jam – apple, quine, peach, black currant. The finish is nice – balsamic reduction, clove, prunes, vanilla, peach jam, barley, and light earth. It’s rich and full – but still a bit brash and would come together much more nicely with some age, particularly as it is a bit heavy at times (but...heavy malts are nice too). That being said, for its age, very well done. I do love the spice and dried fruit integrated in here. Nice end of the day malt.

It is on its way to something quite nice.

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

Value: Low, for $90. But with age, it won’t be far from a better value category.


Review: Still Waters Small Cask Canadian Brandy by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Still Waters (Concord, Ontario)

Still Waters produced brandy from some sourced wine, and I always thought it tastes pretty good. For a craft distiller's take on brandy...not bad stuff. Too bad it's out of production now.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Oaky aromas. Light rancio, clean grape, and quite rich – I was fairly impressed with this fruity, woody brandy ever since I first tasted it. Some nice nutty aromas – but sadly my review sample is from an old bottle with a lot of air which has flattened the experience and brought in some bitterness with the oxidation. Lots of dried fruit here. The taste is slightly bitter, but with lots of rancio and a wave of dried fruit and raisin, balanced by tannin. A very solid first effort, with a wave of concentrated raisin, vanilla, and nutmeg on the finish. Honey and beeswax on the nose.

Assessment: Recommended.

Value: High. Quite a good price for this!


Review: Gin Twenty-One (Last Straw Distillery) by Jason Hambrey

Image copyright by Last Straw Distillery Corp. Used with Permission.

Image copyright by Last Straw Distillery Corp. Used with Permission.

ABV
46%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Last Straw (Vaughan, Ontario)

As with many micro-distillers, Last Straw is focused on whisky, but producing a number of other spirits on the side both because they are worthwhile and to help generate cash flow. This gin was created through extensive work.  A large number of gin recipes were tested, and, soon enough, the alphabet-designated gins had run past "Z" and the numbers began. After producing about 40 different recipes of gin, Last Straw decided to narrow down their decision to their 7 best gins. They sold tickets to a number of guests, who could come to the distillery over three days, taste the gins, and vote for their favorites over three days. On the second day, Brandon, the distiller, had just finished distilling another gin which he believed to be the best. After bringing out this eighth gin, Gin No. 21, it lead all the consumer voting even though it was only present at 2 of the 3 days of voting. Consequently, it was selected and has been a hit for the distillery, being their biggest selling product. Many of the customers of the distillery say that they prefer sipping this gin straight, without mixing it - telling you something of the quality of the spirit.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 1
  • Bottling Date: 2016
  • Bottling Code: N/A

Very soapy on the nose – cilantro, juniper, citrus, and a bit of spice too - but still grainy with notes of potato and oat cakes. The taste is clean yet in a full flavored style of gin, driven by juniper and lemon peel concluding in a citrus finish with lots of pine, coriander, and baking spice. I do like gins where the juniper doesn’t get lost, as in this one.

Over ice, this one actually brightens and narrows in focus – more leafy, and the pine, citrus, pepper, and juniper aromas all come into focus in a new light. I like it more in this fashion. But, it depends how you like to drink your gin, I suppose. It mixes well - pulling its weight more than many other gins because of the full flavor.

$40 dollars at Last Straw Distillery, 40 Pippin Rd #9, Vaughan, Ontario