New Oak

Review: Willibald Pink Gin by Jason Hambrey

Willibald+Pink+Gin+2.jpg
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: Willibald Gin by Jason Hambrey

Willibald+1.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
6-8 Months; Virgin American Oak Char #4
Recipe
Triple distilled corn, rye, and barley with 6 botanicals
Distiller Willibald (Ayr, Ontario)

This gin stands out to me for a few reasons. First, it’s the flagship gin of the distillery and it’s aged - they don’t even have a white version. Most distilleries focus on a clear, unaged version and then age it or create variations - not so here. It’s different to craft a gin to be aged in a barrel rather than bottled as a white spirit. Second, it’s made from three different grains - corn, rye, and barley - rather than a simple grain spirit. Third, they are using new oak, not used oak - not something that I’ve ever seen in Canadian gin yet - it brings in an intensity to the gin and not simply a complex subtlety. Fourth - it’s big and bold, which lets it remain a gin but compete a bit more fully in other cocktails.

It might not surprise you to know that the distillery is heavily influenced by American straight ryes and bourbons.


Review (2019)

  • Batch:

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The nose is very deep for a gin, perhaps due to the age of the stuff. There is a nice matching of oak to juniper, of sharp spice like fennel and earthy coriander to the bright citrus. I must say, it’s a rather impressive nose. The palate is rich in its woodiness – but the remarkable feat is that the woodiness balances all the botanicals, adds great grip, and great tannins. There is a nice bit of vanilla and sharp woody spices, earl grey, clove, and licorice at the end, and something like anise. Really nice finish, intense, and smooth – and very easy to drink!

 A bit elegant, almost some earl grey in there at the end. I really like to sip this one – it is very moreish. I like to sip gins, but this one is unique – it’s one I’m often in the mood for unlike many gins, which are much more occasional. Makes a great pink gin, too.

A highlight in my exploration of Canadian gins. It’s an aged gin that reveals that these aged gins have some great potential.

Assessment: Very highly recommended.

Value: High. I have no problem laying down $45 for this, as someone who isn’t eager to spend too much on spirits - in fact, it will likely become a regular occurence.


Review: Crown Royal Noble Collection Blender's Mash 13 Years Old by Jason Hambrey

Thanks to Crown Royal for the image. Note that this is the wine barrel finish - the bottle is the same as the blender’s mash.

Thanks to Crown Royal for the image. Note that this is the wine barrel finish - the bottle is the same as the blender’s mash.

ABV
45%
Aging
13 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
64% Corn, 31.5% Rye, 4.5% Malted Barley
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

This whisky highlights the column-distilled, rye-heavy mashbill that is matured in new oak which Crown Royal makes - the process is very much the same as that used to make straight bourbons, with a mashbill, a column still, and new white oak casks. This is an older version of the Blender’s Mash (“Bourbon Mash”) released earlier this year by Crown Royal.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Noble Collection 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Clean and fruity – with rich rye, corn, and oak notes. Much cleaner, richer, and tightly held together, and more elegant, than the regular blender’s/bourbon mash. The nose is surprisingly elegant – not many bourbon style whiskies are so. It also is closer to a bourbon in taste profile than the blender’s mash.

Back to the nose…brown cardamom, clove, rich oak, dried chilli, cacao, corn husks, maple sugar, and ketchup chips! The palate has rich corn and wood, and has a sharp set of spice. Also there we have rich oak, prunes, dried apricots, clove, toffee, creamy oak, and fall marshes. Caramel and toffee really grows. As does oak and char.

The finish has a bit of tobacco and is drying. Lots of dried fruit, oak, and baking spices, too. Brilliant whisky.

Ever so slightly tannic, but I quite like it. I like it when whiskies play close to the line of too much bitterness and tannin for balance.

Easily on my favorite of the year list. Last year’s release was also exceptionally good (as was the year’s before) – great! If anyone thinks Crown can only blend whisky of different mashbills, they are missing this. But they are continuing to get a bit better…one of my favourite Crown Royals ever.

I’ve had this mashbill at cask strength – it is absolutely awesome. If they released a cask strength version at this age I’d be over the moon. If I’m on a wish list, I’d also take a few vattings of their favorite barrels of coffee rye at cask strength too!

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). Just an awesome whisky. My second favourite of over a hundred whiskies that I judged blind this year at the Canadian Whisky Awards (behind Wiser’s 35).

Value: Very high, based on ~$82.


Review: J.P. Wiser's One Fifty Commemorative Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Wiser's 150.jpg
ABV
43.4%
Aging
16 Years
Recipe
Corn and Rye Whiskies
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

Released to commemorate Canada's 150th Anniversary, Wiser's is continuing their impressive roll with this release - a blend of corn and rye whiskies which have been maturing since 2000 and before, split between new oak casks and refill casks. The base whisky was double distilled, with a small amount of column distilled rye which adds the underlying spicy character. One bottle was made to commemorate each week of Canada's 150 year history, with each bottle having a unique number and listing the week it is commemorating. A total of 7,827 bottles produced.

The whisky is made from 100% non-GMO Canadian grain. According to Wiser's, the 43.4% is selected to represent the strength of whiskies in the mid to late 1800s where the ABV was higher to prevent the un-chill filtered whiskies going cloudy (they go cloudy because fats can dissolve in alcohol. Thus, at lower strengths (or temperatures) these fats can precipitate out of the spirit and make it cloudy in appearance.)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L17066EW1121 (bottle 6713, Week of Feb. 19 1996)

  • Bottling Date: ~2017

This is interesting – a classic spicy, woody Wiser’s nose – but also clean and light with a good kick of vanilla and char influence from the New Oak. It is similar in that regard to Wiser’s Union 52, and makes me wonder if Wiser’s limited releases are headed more in this particular direction – clean, spicy, slightly sweet, with lots of new oak (I would say Canadian new oak, it’s not like a bourbon oak overload). Somewhat of a cross between Wiser's Small Batch and Union 52, if you have to make a comparison. But, a crude comparison.

Anyway, to the tasting – pine, clove, cinnamon, vanilla, barrel char, mint, and some light earthiness. The grain notes play through nicely in this, and some nice porridge-y notes. We have some fruit too – sharp orange and some stewed apple and pear. The palate is sweet, oaky, spicy – lots of wood notes with cedar, pine, oak, and sandalwood – and mixed baking spices with old clove prominently. The finish is full of vanilla, oak, nutmeg, baking spices, and corn husks. Remains interesting, complex, and easy. Brilliant.

A great whisky, particularly for those that don’t know the category that well. It reminds me a bit of Wiser’s small batch, but a bit older and with more oak influence. A nice blending of the old with the new – fitting for Canada’s 150th!

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

Value: High. Against the market, a great whisky for $50.