Review: Sivo Le Single Malt Whisky by Jason Hambrey

New European Oak; Sauternes Barrel Finish
100% Quebec Malted Barley
Distiller Maison Sivo (Montérégie, Quebec)

Sivo Le Single Malt is matured at first in new oak and then finished in Sauternes casks, giving a rich and developing fruitiness to the whisky. It’s in high demand, and in Sivo’s own words - they can’t make enough of it. At present, it is only available in Quebec. I’ve tasted a number of cask samples from there - they have some interesting casks going, including an incredibly honeyed beer barrel.

Review (2019)

  • Batch: 2019; Finished in Sauternes Casks

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Sharply nutty and full of quite intense grain – like buckwheat soba noodles, but also pain thinner and sharp rye sourdough. Very sharp and unique, but still could use a bit more barrel time – much like le rye. Dried, sweet, fruit throughout, too – dates, raisins -  with a growing sense of roasted grain on the palate and a lot of woody – oak, maple, and chestnuts. There is a nice charred and smoky note – a bit like cacao – towards the end. Nice medium bodied, mixed grain finish with dried fruit, cacao, oak, and oaky spices. It has a terrific finish with a great balance between the dryness, sweetness, and tartness. The finish makes the whisky very moreish – it is having me come back and back.

It is sharp and nutty much like Le Rye – but the palate is softer and lighter. In terms of 3 year old single malts, this is pretty good. The grain character is not too heavy/rough (though it is sharp) - it  works well. It doesn’t have the spicy or tea notes of the rye, but it isn’t as rye. I like it more, but it isn’t as interesting. They are both whiskies to watch as they continue to develop and age.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). It still has the harshness of youth and heavy oak, but this is very interesting and carries spicy, earthy, wine, and grainy notes really well.The finish is just awesome, and it really draws you in. It is very complex, and worth trying. Notably, it’s a touch better and more balanced than the first batch I tasted.

Value: Average. Exactly in the middle of the category too. Notably, cheaper than most craft distilled single malts at $55 and this had a sauternes finish to boot.

Review: Hillrock Estate Distillery Solera Aged Bourbon (Sauternes Finished) by Jason Hambrey

~6 yrs; Charred virgin oak, refill oak, and sauternes casks
Bourbon (37% Rye)
Producer Hillrock Estates (Ancram, New York)

Hillrock Estates is in the Hudson Valley in New York State, and certainly "craft” – they grow their own grain, do their own floor maltings, and are doing some creative things – they are using a solera system (the only bourbon I know of to do this) which is a process coming from sherry production where barrels are never fully drained – only part of the barrel is drained and new spirit is added to mature. Thus, a solera spirit has a variety of ages in it – all the way to a minute percentage of the original batches. Glenfiddich 15 Year Old does this with Scotch, and has achieved quite a wonderful product in doing so. This whisky is also sauternes finished – at the least, all of this leads me to be very intrigued! Dave Pickerell, notable distiller of Makers Mark and establisher of Whistlepig, is now at the helm here, too. Hillrock started out with sourced bourbon, and I am not sure if this is produced or sourced – likely sourced, for now, as it smells quite mature.

Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2016

The nose has sweet notes of corn, rye, dried apricot, marshy earth, white grape, pear, and lots of spice. A rich, complex, buttery sweetness comes out too – likely from the sauternes – and it does a wonderful trick. The spices almost seem to be in the category of tequila – very interesting. I find bourbon to be a bit of a limited category because of the regulations, and consequently I find it often cannot rival the complexity of Scotch of Canadian – but whiskies like this tend to expand that category. A remarkable nose. The palate is complex, combining earthy corn, spicy rye, oak, and loads of spices - roasted jalapeno, clove, sharp cinnamon – along with milk chocolate, caramel, and a bit more pear. The finish is buttery, yet full of spices and grain notes and light woody incense. Wonderful stuff – this is a micro-distillery product that competes with some of the best of the big guys!

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

Value: Low, at $137.

Review: Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or Highlands Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

12 years; Finished in Sauternes Casks
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenmorangie (Tain, Scotland)

This whisky was aged in a bourbon cask for 10 years before being put into Sauternes (a sweet white dessert wine from Bordeaux in France) casks for 2 years. It is my favorite of the finished Glenmorangies, as I think Sauternes complements Glenmorangie’s profile beautifully.

Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2012

Nose: Light bourbon influence, some good barley, white grape (as seen in the original glenmorangie), some floral characteristics – both as seen in some sweet white dessert wines and also the retained delicate floral nature of Glenmorangie, dried apricot, mango, oak – it comes more alive the longer it sits, seemingly.

Taste: That sauternes cask fits so beautifully into Glenmorangie – it adds some fruity complexity to what Glenmorangie generally offers, and it is just a wonderful match. Knowing what Glenmorangie Original tastes like only makes this one more compelling, really – just because you see the match work out so well. It is a bit more woody, with some more tannins and spice on the end, but there is some wonderful tropical fruit and grape added overtop of the light barley of Glenmorangie. There is so much to search out in this one…

Finish: Nice, enduring finish – it does quite well – but it does lack flavour at times. Slightly nutty on the end too, with some dried apricot…creamy on the end as well.

Just about a perfect finish - the sauternes fits in very nicely without taking over the show, as if it’s filling in a hole that you didn’t see before. And it’s not too sweet, to boot. Delicious.

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

Value: Average, based on $123.