Micro Distillery

Review: Shelter Point Single Cask Quail's Gate Foch Reserve Finish by Jason Hambrey

Shelter+Point+Foch+Finish+2.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
Finished in Quail's Gate Foch Reserve Wine Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

Marechal Foch is not a common wine for the table, but they grow quite a bit of it in BC. It is originally a hybrid grape variety originating in France, but it often has a really intense characteristic. It’s grown in Loire, in France, but you see it more often in North America and there are a number of BC producers. I’ve had a few foch wines, and I often have thought that they might make good whisky casks. Well, here we are!

This was a limited single cask bottling, with only 228 bottles produced from the barrel and released in 2019.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Single Cask Release No. 2

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

At the nose – we have what is very much a shelter point single malt.  I do like what the wine casks do to the spirit. Brown sugar, blackberries, currants, black cherries – but also some dried peach, baking spice, and dried ginger. A nice dried cherry note, too. Relatively bright for a finished shelter point, with a softer fruit and oak character. It softens with time. The palate is full of fruit- almost “juicy” but also has toffee, dried ginger, brown sugar and a bit of wine tannins. Baking spice builds into the finish. Lots of spices on the palate.

It’s good both without water and with a drop or two. It softens and opens up, but loses a bit of its (nice) edge with water so it’s a tradeoff.

I can’t resist but compare to the double barreled with the pinot noir cask, which is a bit richer, darker and denser (not always a good thing). This is quite a bit lighter in colour. I find the double barreled oakier, spicier, and bigger with more of a dried fruit characteristic. This single barrel focuses more on lighter fruit – stone fruit and berries. Oddly enough, I would have thought the casks – pinot noir and foch, would have given the whiskies the opposite of the characteristics that they achieved.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). this is very nice, and a nice example of what a single barrel can do.

Value: Average. A pretty good price for a pretty good whisky, competing against all whiskies. If single malts are your thing, this is a better than average value buy in my opinion.


Review: Two Brewers Special Finishes 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
43-46%
Aging
7-8 yrs in first cask, finished for about a year in finishing cask
Recipe
100% Malted Barley - mostly pale malt
Distiller Two Brewers (Whitehorse, Yukon)

The abv above is because the first release was 46%, the second was 43%. Here we have the terrific Two Brewers single malt - but this time finished in a variety of different casks, depending on the release - they say they hope no two releases will be the same. It is worth noting that the finishing period here is longer than typical - most barrel finishes are quite short (more like an "infusion") as most of the liquid remaining in the finishing barrel is absorbed in 90 days or so. The amount of liquid soaked into a finishing barrel is significant - barrels have gallons of soaked liquid in them once they are finished maturation. Thus, most distilleries aren't doing a whole lot more in finishing than adding in another ingredient, in a way that passes as legal because it's soaked into a barrel. However, a longer finish means also that you get a bit of maturation from a second, different, barrel, which means it really is more of a finish. This year long period of finishing means we get to see some of the effect of that.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Release 02

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Distilled in 2009 and finished in PX sherry barrels, 46% ABV.

Very green, and interesting - unripe pear, unripe banana, unripe mango, black pepper, soy sauce, and some sweet grain. The palate brings in lots of pineapple, yellow ripe apple, and a decent strength leading into orchard fruit and light smoke on the finish.

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

Value: Average. Starts to compete with other $100 whiskies, which has quite a few of the best drams in the world.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Release 04

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Blended and finished in a bourbon barrel. 1440 bottles, at 43%.

The nose is vibrant and fruity with exotic fruit – guava, soursop – with some mint, vanilla, dried peach, sweet potato, and malt-driven beer notes. The palate has a sweet, malty core on top, middle fruit notes with peach and apple – all with an earthy, nutty edge to it. The end of the palate and finish is very vegetal – arugula and spice, reminding me quite a bit of rye. The finish is clean, spicy, and creamy with light earthy smoke, peach, almonds, and dried papaya.

This whisky is one with great texture, movement, and complexity – I highly recommend.

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

Value: Average. Starts to compete with other $100 whiskies, which has quite a few of the best drams in the world.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Release 09

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Finished in European PX barrels.

The nose is full of dried fruits – but more „standard” fruits for a single malt – raisins, prunes, dried apricots. Very sherry driven, with dried orange peel, sherry spices, and oxidized wine playing key parts in the nose. We also have rich grain, in the two brewers style, but it is subdued. Horseradish, too!

The palate is a bit less dominated by sherry, with a strong malty core and a classic spicy, grainy finish. It is still loaded with dried fruit – though the tropical fruits come through, too. The finish has rancio, dried fruit, and a sharp herbal characteristic – thyme and basil. And the herbal grain character comes through, too – I love it.

This is a nice whisky, but I think the cask dominates too much – the fruity, complex and tropical character of two brewers is taken over by a sherry cask which loads the experience with dried fruits, spices, and rancio – still very good, but I don’t think the best pairing for Two Brewers.

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

Value: Average. Starts to compete with other $100 whiskies, which has quite a few of the best drams in the world.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Release 15

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

Another sherry barrel finish. The nose starts with the typical bright fruit, notably peach this time, sharp grainy aromas, cinnamon, and rich and sweet stone-fruit wine notes. It has almost a dessert-like quality to it, but, oddly enough, it fits in really well into some of the earthy notes on the nose. The palate is rich, with oak coming in but offset against the grain and herbal notes. The finish has arugula, baking spice, and sherry.

I think this is probably my favourite of the sherry finishes to date. The nose, I find, is just about perfect and has a nice delicate balance between the components.

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, as above.


Review: Ploughman's Rye Whisky by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
43%
Aging
First fill ex-bourbon and sherry hogsheads; 3-4 years old
Recipe
100% Alberta Malted Barley
Distiller Eau Claire (Turner Valley, Alberta)

Eau Claire recently released a very nice single malt whisky - one of my favourites in Canada - so (of course) I was curious how the rye would turn out. This is horse farmed, notably - a distillery that really has done seed to glass. Neat. A limited edition.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 01

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Off the bat, I’m reminded how much I do really like rye, and off the bat this has nods similar to Eau Claire’s very nice single malt. Quite fruity – cherries, plums, dried cherries, dried blueberries – but also nice spice notes – fennel, clove, nutmeg, star anise – and spruce tips, fresh spinach, vanilla, oak. The palate is oaky, with loads of almond. We also have steel cut oats, toasted grain, and a really nice set of orchard fruit and stewed stone fruit. The finish is nicely spicy, with oak, mixed baking spices, toasted clove, mixed grain oatmeal, apricot crumble, cacao, and pear.

It does taste young, but this is very good as is. I’m really looking forward to future releases. I’m quite excited about what Eau Claire is doing.

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

Value: Average.


Review: Glynnevan Double Barreled Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
43%
Aging
Two casks
Recipe
N/A
Producer Authentic Seacoast (Guysborough, NS)

This whisky is sourced from the prairies and is partially matured at the Authentic Seacoast distillery in Guysborough, Nova Scotia.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose follows suit of a traditional younger Canadian whisky that has had a decent amount of oak extraction - pine, caramel, maple, burnt wood, brown sugar, toasted wood, raisins, cinnamon, intense woodiness, maple, and butter. The taste follows suit from the nose, but I also get some white chocolate and a growing piney wood character with tannins slowly building. The finish has a burst of vanilla, fading tannins, and some bitterness.

The balance isn’t great - it’s very woody and big, but lacks subtlety and doesn’t integrate the spirit characters in with the heavy barrel flavours. I like it with a touch of water.

Value: Low to Average. At $47, it’s not a bad price against whisky as a whole – but in the Canadian category you can do better. It’s still sourced distillate, which is slim pickings generally – I’m quite interested to see what their own distillate will be like.


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: Shelter Point Hand Foraged Botanical Gin by Jason Hambrey

Shelter+Point+Gin+1.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
None
Recipe
100% Canadian Malted Barley
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

Typically, distilleries release gins and vodkas before their whiskies - as they wait for the products to mature. Shelter Point did the opposite, only recently releasing their vodkas and gins even after their whiskies have been on the market for around 4 years. Shelter Point has been releasing terrific stuff of late, so I had high expectations for their gin.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

Immediately, this is quite nice! It has notes of nice bright and sharp notes- pine, honey, sharp coriander, a spicy wood character, and a bit of grain character. Other, complex notes too – like vanilla yoghurt, meyer lemon peel, mixed fresh herbs like thyme and marjoram, and freshly peeled oranges. The palate is full of spice and citrus – as one might expect – with a drying spicy character growing towards the finish.

I really like the mix of spices, citrus, and sharp distillate characteristic here. The grain character is big enough that it might be mistaken for a genever, which is a great thing in my books. It doesn’t reveal it’s full hand at once, but one card at a time as you nose and taste, with different cards coming on successive sips. Very well done. There is a real richness to it.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.

Value: Very good at $30.


Review: Park Distillery Glacier Rye by Jason Hambrey

Park Unaged Rye 1.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
None
Recipe
100% Alberta Rye
Distiller Park Distillery (Banff, Alberta)

Park Distillery is located in the beautiful town of Banff, alongside a restaurant. They are relatively new, so the whisky isn’t of age yet - but we get a preview in this unaged grain spirit.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2019

The nose has toffee, pine, rich spices, and an oily richness. There is a really nice grassiness and a bit of banana candy and vanilla. It’s a new make and is thus a bit rough, but not as rough as some. I think the underlying grassiness, woodiness, and spices might play out well as it sits in the barrel. The palate is sweet, with some dried floral notes and an oily grain character. The finish is a touch sour, with more pine notes, toffee, and hibiscus.

Interesting, with a nice complex base – but it’s not one I enjoy as is. But, I’m interested to see what some time in the barrel will do.


Review: Willibald Pink Gin by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
38.3%
Aging
Merlot and Pinot Noir Wine Casks; 1 year
Recipe
Triple distilled corn, rye, and barley with 6 botanicals
Distiller Willibald (Ayr, Ontario)

Another aged gin from Willibald, but with a bit of a different take than their big, oaky, and spicy new-oak aged gin. This is a slightly different formulation, with a bit less caraway and cardamom so that the fruit and floral notes from the wine cask wouldn’t get lost. The wine casks are sourced mainly from Palantine Hills - the gin also has a bit of honey (from the Willibald farm) added to it to round out the drink and give a slight sweetness.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Awesome! Nice licorice notes, intense juniper, baked arugula, berries, wildflower honey, and light oxidized wine. Not as oaky or quite as big as Willibald’s typical gin, but it still has the big spicy richness. The wine character is there, but it’s light. Slightly sweet on the palate, resulting in a bit of a different experience – and perhaps one which makes it even more drinkable: it is relatively soft, complex, and lightly sweet with more subtlety rather than big and bold, like the usual Willibald gin which is big, oaky, spicy, and rich. It is very much in the Willibald “family” (which I always appreciate from a brand) but it is a very different take, and a very good one. Worth a try, especially if you like bigger gins. Great on ice, too.

It isn’t as versatile as some gins in cocktails due to its bold character, which is fine because I think this is best drunk neat or a little chilled. Interestingly enough, if it’s too chilled I find the wine character dominates. Both Willibald gins have some of the best reception of any gins that I pour during whisky tastings to whisky enthusiasts and connoisseurs.

Assessment: Very highly recommended.

Value: High. I have no problem laying down $40 for this, as someone who isn’t eager to spend too much on spirits - in fact, it will likely become a regular occurrence.


Review: Niagara Falls Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Niagara Falls Canadian Whisky 1.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
4 years
Recipe
8 grains (see below), brand new American oak
Distiller Niagara Falls Craft Distillers (Niagara Falls, Ontario)

The goals of this whisky are similar to that of Niagara Falls first product, Barreling Annies - but this is markedly different in that it is their own distillate, even if the goals of this whisky are similar to Barreling Annie’s: to be an easy, light and great mixer rather than a connoisseur-style sipper. However, there is quite the mix going in here - 8 grains: Canadian barley, winter wheat, winter rye, toasted rye, flaked rye, and three other internationally-sourced grains.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose is pretty light, with dry oak, vanilla, prunes, clove, nutmeg – it has the light, sweet, and slightly spicy characteristic of many classic Canadian whiskies. The oak really is central. The palate has dried fruit, more light oak, vanilla, sugar caramel, maple, prunes, and even some bean sprouts which I find from time to time in some Canadian whiskies. The finish is clean, with light dried fruit and oaky spice. Slight tannins grow on the finish.

This is more in line with the lighter, traditional Canadian whiskies which are consumed readily the world-over: dry, lightly spicy, lightly sweet, fairly light bodied. It isn’t heavy on new oak influence. It may appeal less to those looking for big or more unique flavour characteristics. It is similar in style to Barreling Annie’s.

Value: Average. Not expensive at $33.


Review: Black Fox Oaked Gin by Jason Hambrey

Black+Fox+Oaked+Gin.jpg
ABV
42%
Aging
6-8 months, American oak
Recipe
100% triticale spirit with botanicals
Distiller Black Fox (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan)

This aged gin is sold as a single barrel product. The gin has a bit of a bigger profile, particularly with more anise, than the other Black Fox gins - this gives it a bit more body to balance out the oak. The distillery releases about 20 casks of this per year.


Review (2019)

  • Batch:

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The wood comes off initially – vanilla, caramel, dry white oak – but behind it we have spice, cucumber, sawdust, juniper, leather, and cinnamon. The palate has nice sharp spice, citrus, and floral characteristics embraced by sweet woody notes, vanilla, and structured with light wood tannins. Very nice! The finish has a bit more cucumber, caraway, dried floral notes, and almost a marshmallow-type wood characteristic.

For whisky enthusiasts, you might notice characteristics of a nicely toasted cask here – specifically the toasted, not charred wood characteristics. Excellent!

A very nice aged gin. It’s one that I like to sip neat. It’s good chilled – some of the complexity is lost and the woody notes come out at the core. Still quite good chilled, but I’d take this neat so as not to lost all the complexity and balance.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.