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Review: Last Mountain 100% Wheat Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45%
Aging
~3.5 yrs; Used Bourbon Barrel
Recipe
100% Wheat
Distiller Last Mountain (Lumsden, Saskatchewan)

Last Mountain Distillery views wheat as the unsung hero of the grains, utilizing the abundant wheat in Saskatchewan to craft their whisky. They are now releasing their own wheat whisky after sourcing whisky to get them going in their terrific bottlings like Private Reserve. Now, they have their own.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Cask 13.08.01

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Very confectionary, in the style they have developed. Icing sugar, wheat – cream of wheat, wheat flour, and it is pretty clean – light spices and creamy oak in the background, a touch of orange zest, and barrel char – even at only 3.5 years, this doesn’t taste immature! The palate is loaded with fresh oak and light spices, cream of wheat, and a strong confectionary character as well. It perhaps is a bit less complex than the sourced/blended business (this is a single cask, mind you), but it is easy to drink and presents the wheat so beautifully! Light spices and dried fruit as well – some nice bourbon influence. The finish carries on with very light spices, lemon zest, light minerality, hints of bourbon, light oak, and of course, creamy wheat. It is, in fact, the finest wheat whisky I have tasted. Though complexity isn’t massive, the core of this whisky is just immensely pure and enjoyable.

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

Value: High (based on $50)


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Cask 14.06.02

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

This whisky was aged in 10 gallon barrels for 6 months before being put in once-used bourbon barrels for 51 months. That’s almost 5 years of maturation!

The nose leads with freshly sawn lumber, wintergreen, marzipan, and oaky spices. The palate is light, oaky, and with moderate complexity. Some bourbon nods, here – with good vanilla and light corn characteristics. The whisky itself is light and rich, but this has a bit of a different characteristic than the previous single cask I had. It’s cleaner, lighter, with a bit more ex-bourbon character and not quite as much wheat coming through. The finish has some berries and a nice tannic character. This is very easy to drink.

Also this whisky won a gold medal at the Canadian whisky awards, a blind tasting which occurs over 6 weeks with over 100 entrants – less than 20% of the whiskies entered get a gold, and this includes not only micro-distilleries but all the big industry players.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). I liked the previous cask a bit more, but this is still my favourite wheat whisky.

Value: High. Very good for the price.


Review: Last Mountain Wine Cask Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45%
Aging
3.2 yrs in used Bourbon Barrel; 6 months in wine cask
Recipe
100% Wheat
Distiller Last Mountain (Lumsden, Saskatchewan)

Here we have a different take on last mountain’s wheat whisky - a wine cask finish! A very different lens to Last Mountain’s wheat whisky (which is my favourite wheat whisky that I’ve tasted), Note that this is a pre-release sample as it will be released shortly, but the profile should remain very similar if not the same. The wine cask used was a Saury Oak barrel which had a Californian red wine in it.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

A soft, wine driven nose with loads of rich, dried fruits and spices typical of a red wine. Freshly sawn white oak, fruit gummies, black currant, cherries, rising cinnamon buns, and light toffee – but underneath, light sweet wheat and some clean oak. A bit of water to take it slightly below 45% reveals a lot of complexity but the oak is less dominant, which may or may not be preferential depending on taste – I like it with a drop of water. The palate is very interesting – very much driven by the cask – and very good – reminding me of many lighter port-finished whiskies. There is a really nice oiliness and the spices really bloom, but there is also a rich toffee middle to the whisky which bridges all the fruit from the wine to the oak, which creates a very nice contrast in flavour. The finish is lightly sweet and very fruity, with tannic red wine, dried apricot, blackberries, and freshly ground white pepper.

This is much more cask-dominant than the other stuff I’ve had from last mountain – but it’s still very good, and a very different lens to their wheat whisky. I’m glad, that, despite the big wine influence, it has gone towards the richer, deeper side of wine. I do think it squashes a bit of the complexity of the underlying wheat whisky, which is fairly light, since the cask character is so heavy. However, it’s still very good, and very clean and complex for a whisky this young.

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

Value: Average, based on $43.70/375 mls.


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: Dillon's Three Oaks Rye Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
3 yrs; New Ontario Oak, New American Oak, First Fill Bourbon
Recipe
100% Ontario Rye
Distiller Dillon's (Beamsville, Ontario)

Dillon’s splashed into the whisky market with a bang, immediately selling out of their two initial cask strength rye releases - and now they have released a new rye, at 43% in 500 ml bottles sold for $40. The whisky is made from 100% rye, 7 first fill bourbon barrels, 2 new american oak barrels, 1 new ontario oak barrel. The whisky was filled in 2013 and early 2014. Nice bottle, too. Dillon's often releases their whiskies in smaller bottles, which I like - it spreads out some good spirit and lets people taste it without having to lay out a lot of money.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 1

  • Bottling Code: N/A (Bottle 2110)

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Bright and fruit forward – green apple, apple sauce, pear- with some coconut, vanilla, sesame,

grassy, spicy rye, celery. Lightly creamy. Yeast and the grain character are shown through lightly as well.  Despite the new oak, it must not be that heavy of a char because this is quite distillate forward rather than being heavily focused on charred wood. The palate is terrific: creamy toffee and green apple lead into waves of incredible toasted grain and spice flavours. And some juniper and arugula as well, adding great structure. Great movement. The finish is moderately light, and maintains is lightly sweet, balancing the grassy rye, arugula, toffee, oak, and orchard fruits. Very easy to drink!

Really nice stuff. I still think at 46% this would go just a bit farther, particularly on the finish. Some people are disapointed that it isn’t CS, but I’m happy with that choice as the elegance of the whisky is probably better shown at this strength.

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

Value: High, for $60.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Develops beautifully. Apple juice, pineapple, fruit drops, again slowly developing to reveal very nice grain notes. Light rye bread, crusty brown bread, toffee, and pear. The palate carries all the fruit notes forward in terrific fashion alongside terrific rye bread notes and lots of spices and light arugula. The rye bready notes on the finish are terrific. Very nice!

Not quite as deep or as well integrated as batch 1, and doesn’t taste quite as mature, but still terrific and some of the best micro rye in Canada.

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

Value: High, for $60. It is just on the edge, though, this could nearly be in the average category.


Review: Glen Saanich Ancient Grains by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of De Vine Spirits.

Image courtesy of De Vine Spirits.

ABV
45%
Aging
~12 Months; New Quarter Casks
Recipe
Organic Barley, Einkorn, Kamut, Spelt, and Emmer
Distiller De Vine Vineyards (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

Last year De Vine Vineyards bought a farm to grow barley, and continues to develop whiskies which give homage to the impact of grain - much like Bruichladdich, where master distiller Ken Winchester apprenticed. This whisky is matured using new American oak quarter casks, and its youth allows the character of the distillate to come in without too much interferance from the cask.  There is malted barley in the mix, but otherwise the whisky is based on a combination of eirloom wheat- including einkorn (a wild wheat), kamut (khorasan wheat), spelt (dinkel wheat), and emmer (farro/hulled wheat). The grains are mostly from the northern Okanagan area.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2017

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

A rich nose laden with grain notes – lightly confectionary (icing sugar), toffee, red river cereal, granola, honey, vanilla, and baking macadamia cookies. This is doing exactly what I like from micro-producers – a unique whisky with a focus on terrific grain notes (and not a rough whisky, either!). The palate carries on all the honey and grain notes, with light pear, atop a rich, yet still light, toffee base.  The finish is a bit malty (like an English Bitter), with some maple and nougat. It’s nice at 45%, but I like to soften it with a touch of water – it really brings out all the notes.

You wouldn’t think this is so young, as with the other Glen Saanich spirits.

One of the few grain spirits under 3 years old that I would want to call a whisky...

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

Value: High. $80 is really not bad for this!


Review: Stalk & Barrel Rye Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
~3.5 yrs; Bourbon Barrels
Recipe
100% Rye (malted & unmalted)
Distiller Still Waters (Concord, Ontario)

This is the first rye whisky to be produced by Still Waters Distillery, a micro distillery in the Toronto area. As their new make is the best I’ve had, of all new makes I’ve tasted, I’ve been anticipating this release for a long time especially because I matured my own rye from their new make. These are single cask releases, with lower proof versions coming in at 46% and cask strength versions a bit north of 60%. At this point, the barrels have been first fill ex-bourbon barrels.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: Cask 17

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

This is just about 3 years old, having been barrelled at 62.6% on Oct. 16, 2011 and bottled on Oct. 25, 2014.

Nose: It still smells a bit young (which it is!), but this is less noticeable as it sits. Some brilliant and bright honeycrisp apple comes off at first, though soon it is overtaken by everything else – first some vanilla, a buttery note, and black tea notes (which I also find in the new make), along with a bit of a buttery note. There’s also a fair bit of hay notes as well – sort of a (positive) barn like note. Then there is a surprising amount of “green” notes like pine aromas, wintergreen, and some juniper which take some time to develop. These are wonderful, I think. There is a bit of fresh banana too. Then we have some freshly baked spice cake, butterscotch pudding, and some vanilla comes through also. Interestingly, some of the oily and hay notes remind me of their single malt. On successive nosings I have noticed different dominant characteristics, which show some of the complexity here.

Taste: There’s a nice buttery feel to this one! I also quite like the balance of sweetness, dryness, and spice. The green notes from the nose carry through, with some pine character to it, along with lots of spiciness – black pepper, clove, and then some spearmint on the end. Some of the bourbon from the cask is also lurking about….very nice. The dryness is balanced just about right for my liking, and it feels light but has a brilliant rich spicy and evergreen underbody – overall it feels pretty “fresh” – like it would be a very appropriate springtime dram – spicy enough warming comfort and fresh enough that it is somewhat refreshing. Very delicious.

Finish: Peppery, spicy, and even a bit tannic. It still has some black tea notes carrying through, and the pine notes almost take on a bit of a character like hops in this. A bit of the oak comes out, sometimes even with a bourbon note or too. It’s a bit dry, too. It’s also “self-cleansing”, where the finish itself lightens up and feels light and fresh in your mouth after a while, a characteristic I love in whiskies. I wouldn’t mind a touch more flavour, but it’s quite good, and it lingers quite well.

Conclusion: I like how the spicy, grassy, character of the rye has come out, rather than drowned out in oak. Though this is good, I’d love to see what some more age would do to this. The quality of the spirit itself is great, but it seems like it could take some more development in aging very well, and it might round out the flavours a bit more. I do really like the pine/fresh green notes in this, making it somewhat of a spring whisky, perhaps. I like this more than the single malt and it’s been the best product coming out of Still Waters that I’ve tasted to date, and I can see potential for some pretty breathtaking casks of this stuff.

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

Value: Average, at $70.


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: Cask 49

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Young, powerful, and spicy spirit which shows through some brilliant black tea notes, oily richness, pepper, dried apricot, dried blueberries, oak, and light bourbon notes with some nice spice on the end. Well balanced, and very intriguing. One of my favorite ryes, and quite unique among those that I’ve tasted.

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

Value: Average, at $70.