Maple

Review: St. Laurent Rye Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
3 Years
Recipe
80% Rye, 20% Malted Barley
Distiller Distillerie du St. Laurent (Rimouski, QC)

The second whisky from Distillerie du St Laurent, and this one hits home - a batch of rye whisky that was 2/3 matured in virgin oak casks and 1/3 matured in ex-whisky casks (re-fill). I really liked what they did on their three grain whisky, so I’m quite curious about this one - especially as this one is all about rye. Currently only available in Quebec.


Review (2022)

  • Batch: 001

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2022

Nice grainy notes on the nose, full of spice and barrel tones. The grain notes are just terrific - like wet, flavourful cracked grain. The oak is there but is pretty well integrated into this pretty bold style. Caramel, custard, fennel, green wood, rye bread, vanilla, pine needles, wet earth, and dried apricot. Great nose!

The palate leads with spicy grain notes, this time closer to a spicy herbal character (arugula) compared to the baking spice on the nose, which plays a backseat here. There is a really nice thread of toffee in the middle. Woodiness is present too - both in sweet vanilla and creaminess but also, and notably, in a sharp fresh woodiness that complements the spicy rye very well.

The finish is great. Spicy, woody, fruity and dry. Dried fruit comes out, as does cinnamon, a bit of orange peel, tobacco, and a touch of cacao. Dense and layered.


A really nice, complex whisky - not often is a second whisky release so impressive at this age. Remarkable since bolder whiskies are hard to balance. It’ll get even better with some age, which will round out the flavours a bit more and give some depth- but this is great stuff now. This is one of the best ryes you can get from a small producer.

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Pretty decent stuff for $55!


Review: St. Laurent 3 Grain Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Distillerie du St. Laurent. Photo credit to Bartolini productions.

Image courtesy of Distillerie du St. Laurent. Photo credit to Bartolini productions.

ABV
43%
Aging
3 Years
Recipe
75% Corn, 15% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Distiller Distillerie du St. Laurent (Rimouski, QC)

Distillerie du St Laurent makes this whisky from Quebec corn, rye, and malted barley. After fermentation, it is distilled in a copper pot still to about 70% ABV before being barreled in a combination of char #1 and char #5 casks (how often do you see that combo?). This batch was made with 6 barrels, with two of them losing between 15%-25% of their volume in three years! Non chill-filtered; 2100 bottles.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: 002

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2021

The nose is rich with lots of oak, nuts, and grain. Hazelnut, vanilla, corn husks, mixed grain porridge, charred wood, light smoke, spinach, brown sugar, and honey. Big whisky. The palate continues to be oaky, nutty, and full of caramel and dried fruits. There is a really nice contrast and interplay of grain, caramel, and nuttiness. The finish follows suit – but with a bit more focus on dried fruit. It’s compelling – and the more I drink it, the more I like it.

This is another one of the many young, cask-heavy whiskies in Canada these days – a challenging style to get right. They did it here. Nice stuff happening at Distillerie St Laurent!

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: What you would expect against the market for $60 (average).


Review: St. Laurent Acerum (Maple Spirit) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Distillerie du St. Laurent

Image courtesy of Distillerie du St. Laurent

ABV
40%
Aging
1 Year
Recipe
Distilled from maple sap
Distiller Distillerie du St. Laurent (Rimouski, QC)

Acerum is made from maple sap, water, and yeast (and nothing else). It is predominant in the biggest maple syrup producing area in the world (by far), Quebec. Distillerie du St Laurent ferments the maple sap for 7 days and then distills the maple wine twice in a Scottish copper pot still, before it is matured for a year in a combination of new and used oak barrels (virgin american oak of various char levels, ex-Buffalo Trace barrels, ex-bourbon toasted). No sweeteners or flavours are added to the distillate.

A whopping 25 litres of maple sap are needed to make a single bottle of this.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: 002

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2021

There is lots happening on the nose – freshly husked corn, green grape, a nutty character, dried peaches, figs, vanilla, and a mineral character. It’s also creamy – buttery, in fact. And we have citrus too – dried lemon and orange peel. There is a definite maple note on the palate, supplemented by baking spices, vanilla, oak, and spiced fruit. A lightest touch of acidity too. The finish is full of maple, light minerality, poached stone fruit, and some more butter.

The citrus in there was a surprise! This one is very different from another well-known Acerum, made by Distillerie Shefford – they both share an intriguing minerality but this one is much softer, citrusy, more maple forward, and not as nutty.

I’m glad distilleries are doing this. How often do you see spirits made from trees?

Highly Recommended.


Review: Acerum Brun (Maple Spirit; Distillerie Shefford) by Jason Hambrey

Shefford Acerum 2.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
Oak Barrels
Recipe
Distilled from Maple Sap Concentrate
Distiller Distillerie Shefford (Shefford, Quebec)

Acerum (latin for maple trees) is a product which is very geographically distinct - in fact, Quebec is perhaps the only place in the world currently making spirits from maple sap. Quebec is the powerhouse of maple syrup production - in fact, this province alone accounts for around 70 percent of the world’s production of maple syrup. So, it makes sense that it be distilled as a representation of the place. The spirit has a legal definition - it needs to be made solely from Quebec maple sap, fermented, distilled, and bottled at a Quebec distillery, and be at least 35% ABV. I’ve been waiting to try one for a while.

Of course, when one thinks of maple syrup, it’s hard to separate away the sweetness, which is removed in fermentation. So, spirits like this are fascinating. There are only a few distilleries producing Acerum (so far), including Distillerie Shefford, Distillerie du St. Laurent, and Domaine Acer. Distillerie Shefford was the first to make acerum, as far as I understnad.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2019

Maybe I should have gotten the white stuff to get a better sense of the spirit, but I prefer brown spirits, so..

The nose has a little oak, pear, clove, brown sugar, vanilla, and some leafy notes (like houseplants). The palate has caramel chocolate, oak, a light sweetness, and dark dried fruits leading to a finish which starts with cinnamon, clove, and fades very cleanly to vanilla syrup – at first. With additional sips layers are added to the finish – cinnamon, oak, flaked coconut, even oats.

 At first pass, I didn’t think there was maple – but, indeed, it shines on the finish. It isn’t sweet (other than a light sweetness from the oak), but this is similar to the finish of maple syrup itself once the sweetness has faded away. The mingling of maple and oak on the finish is quite nice.

But – the minerals! This is perhaps the unique point on this one. The finish is full of mineral notes (think mineral water), and this is very unique. This is my favourite part.

Not overly complex at this stage. It definitely has the characteristics of a young spirit with a bit of roughness – in fact, if I tasted this blind, I would probably assume this is young whisky without a lot of grain character. One of the most enjoyable spirits I’ve tasted recently (but not necessarily one of the “best”) – this, to me, reveals the faults of just going after high ratings.

Assessment: Highly Recommended, on the basis of uniqueness, which can be harder to find these days. Taste-wise, as they say: “neither here nor there”.

Value: To what do I compare this to? This type of spirit (unlike many “rare” spirits) is quite uncommon, indeed “rare”. $50/500 ml.


Review: Maple Squared Single Malt Canadian Whisky (Odd Society Spirits) by Jason Hambrey

Image Courtesy of Odd Society Spirits.

Image Courtesy of Odd Society Spirits.

ABV
46%
Aging
3 yrs; Maple Syrup Casks
Recipe
100% BC Malted Barley, smoked with maple wood
Distiller Odd Society (Vancouver, British Columbia)

Last year, Odd Society Spirits released two whiskies into their core lineup - a spicy rye (Prospector Rye) and a rich single malt (Commodore Single Malt). They’ve added to that now with a very innovative whisky, built around maple. Odd Society smoked their malt with maple wood before making the whisky distillate. Then, they aged the whisky in casks which had been used to age maple syrup. Here is something original!


Review (2020)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is sweet, woody, slightly smoky, and quite fruity. In other words: the nose has notes of oak, pear, brown sugar, clove, rich toffee, baking spice, brown sugar, light smoke, licorice, and walnuts.  It is still in the odd society spirits realm, but this is relatively rich in its woody character. The palate is sweet, rich, and full of woody notes, oaky spice, toffee, and a touch of smoke at the end. The finish is firmly focused on maple syrup, with a touch of smoke. I do like drying tannins in my whiskies on the finish, and this has lots of it.


Oh, I forgot to mention -  there is no denying the maple notes here (and that is a gorgeous flavour!). A touch syrupy, perhaps, but a lot of fun. On the flip side, too, the sweetness helps to round it out with the heavy wood influence.


Recommended (82% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). From a single malt perspective, this could age further, provided it didn’t get too woody– but that is perhaps not the point. This is unique, interesting, and I’ve quite enjoyed it.


Value: Average against the market, based on $76 for 750 ml. On the uniqueness side, though, this is a bit higher especially as the 375ml bottles come in at under $30.