Shelter Point

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: Shelter Point Single Cask Rye Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Shelter+Point+Rye+Single+Barrel.jpg
ABV
59.7%
Aging
~10 yrs
Recipe
100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

This whisky is about 10 years old, originally distilled in Alberta (not at Shelter Point) and brought to BC in 2011. It is a distillery-exclusive, single cask release, 100% rye, with only 206 bottles - and will not be a regular release. For you Shelter Point fans, this is a good one.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Distinctly shelter point with the oily notes, but still very different – marshmallow, sharp flowers (lilac and lavender), clove, white pepper, dark chocolate, and even some pepper. Sweet vanilla, and a nice bracing from the oak too. There is a nice spicy edge to this one, throughout - The palate remains sharp, with a rich oily core and loads of floral notes, finishing with lightly bitter spice. It has a really nice middle, and isn’t too spicy at cask strength. The finish is sweet, with vanilla, custard, some dried fruit, and a nice oiliness. Baking spice and tannin, too. The sweetness nicely balances the alcohol strength, and it has enough richness to do well at 60%.

I really like that it’s bottled at cask strength – I quite enjoy this. I love the continued exploration of rye in Canada. My favourite way to drink it is neat, at cask strength, in a cognac snifter.

Highly Recommended (49% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, but nearly in the average category at $110.


Review: Shelter Point Distiller's Select Cask Strength Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Shelter Point Cask Strength 1.jpg
ABV
58.4%
Aging
First Fill Bourbon Barrel; Finished in French Oak
Recipe
4 casks single malt + 1 cask rye
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

That's right, Patrick Evans is a fan of rye, and decided to throw in a cask of rye with some of Shelter Point's single malt and release it at cask strength. This is now their second whisky release, and has been available only recently at the distillery for $69. It is an odd mix, a vatting of single malt and rye, then finished in French Oak - but I must say after this Shelter Point is quickly moving into competition with Still Waters for my favorite Canadian micro-distillery producer...


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 2016

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

The nose has much of the standard single malt notes – fruity, with apple and cherry, oak, buttery pastry, icing – but with absolutely terrific cereal notes too, good earthiness, and some nice stewed apricot too. Diluted down to a similar strength as their single malt, it is richer and more complex but not quite as lively. Nice spices develop with time. It’s still young, as with the other Shelter Point I have had – but the youth doesn’t come through as much on the palate as with the other one. The palate has some creamy grain, but an incredible vegetal spice grips the palate towards the end leading you into a very rye-laden finish. Quite fascinating in fact – the malt leads you gently in, and the rye boldly ushers you out. Definitely more complex than the standard single malt, and the rye provides wonderful intrigue.

Drinking at cask strength, it really is upped in flavor compared to the diluted version of this whisky, with almond and coconut seeming to come out more. The rye comes into its own with complex vegetal and spice notes particularly on the finish. Not quite as graceful as the inaugural release single malt, but more interesting and more complex. I like it more, but not quite enough to bump it up a percent.

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

Value: Average, based on $80.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Five casks of single malt whisky were combined with one cask of rye whisky to make this limited run of 1200 bottles. They were all finished in a French oak cask.

Vanilla, oak, crème brulee, unripe pear, nectarines, stewed fruits, dill, strawberry, and a light floral character. There’s a nice, subtle, candied element to the nose. The palate is big, full of toffee and dried fruits and finishing with spices, mint, and dried apricot. The dried apricot is just remarkable. Big finish – lots of complexity and spice. Lots of nuts, throughout, and nice complexity even if a bit brash at times.

This was one of my top 25 whiskies in the Canadian Whisky Awards in 2017. And for good reason - it’s big, complex, and interesting.

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

This is big, and full of rich grain. It’s quite something – sharp toffee, hazelnut oil, a light grain characteristic, and light spice – but with a comfortable bracing of oak. The palate is sharp, rich, intense – lots of flavor from spice, nuts, oil, and loads of fruit. There is a spicy grain character at the core which I just cannot help but love – and the finish is loaded with dried fruits, umami, and light pepper notes. Very nice…

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

Value: Average, at $86, against other whiskies at this cost.


Review: Shelter Point Montfort DL 141 Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Shelter Point Distillery.

Image courtesy of Shelter Point Distillery.

ABV
46%
Aging
Various
Recipe
100% Unmalted Barley
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

The Montfort DL 141 indicates where the barley was grown (at shelter point) which makes up this whisky. Interestingly, it is made completely from unmalted barley - a fairly rare style of whisky. Though a limited release, the barley itself was grown by shelter point and is the start of the exploration of terrior by the distillery, which will be a focus.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Aged 4.5 yrs in American Oak.

A lot on this nose: dried chanterelles, bready notes, vanilla, green hard pear, banana, dried apricot, pineapple, oak, coconut and gentian. The palate has coconut, green pear, and a plethora of grainy notes with a rich middle. The finish is nicely balanced, with vanilla, malty notes, dried apricot, and nutmeg. Almond throughout, espcially on the finish, which is quite nice.

More crisp and condensed than the standard Shelter Point, and not as fruity. Still a bit young which would round out quite well, I think, with age. That’s really all it is...needs more time in the cask. There’s some wonderful stuff underneath.

Doesn’t quite have the complexity, balance, or breadth of the standard shelter point – but it offers something different, with more oak and a denser flavour profile which unfolds in a slower, different way (i.e. it is less apparent on first sip, and requires a bit more study to understand). A very nice addition to the lineup, and I like what they are doing...

I do really like the compactness of the grain in this and the tannic grip it has. It’s a bit hard to talk about. Really nice, and a ton of potential – I think score would significantly jump at 8 or 10 years – it is a great direction.

Value: Low, based on $80. A very unique product though - the next year’s batch is much better, in my view.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 2018

  • Bottling Date: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 2018

This has more French oak than the previous bottling and was aged a year longer than the batch above. It seems to pay off:

Quite fruity –peach, sour pear, vanilla, custard, and light black pepper – yet also having a growing toffee and sugar characteristic, and, with time, an earthy cigar characteristic. There is a beautiful grain character present, with flour and nut oil notes richly present in the middle. Also, great berry notes – blackberry tea, raspberry – and a great earthiness in the middle. This whisky is about terrior – and I find in this a much deeper earthiness than in the standard shelter point – unique and awesome.

This is quite an improvement over last year’s bottling, and seems to have started to gain quite a following!

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

Value: Average, based on $80.


Review: Shelter Point Canadian Single Malt Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
~5 yrs; Bourbon Barrel
Recipe
100% Canadian Malted Barley
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

The first whisky from Shelter Point Distillery, one of the first micro-distillers in Canada, established in 2010, has arrived - not at at the minimum age of three years but at nearly double that age, 5 years. Shelter Point has patiently waited on this single malt until this year, and they are reaping good rewards.

Part of the barley used in this single malt was grown directly on the 330 acre farm (of which 250 acres are barley) surrounding the distillery. Much of the rest has been used to farm a cash crop, raspberries, to support the distillery. Patrick Evans, the owner of the distillery, is a farmer by trade, which has given him a knack for details. From cycling through various yeasts to use during the fermentation (some of which, in his words, produced aromas like "used diapers") - settling at last on a Belgian yeast -  to the grain and casks used - care is not lacking in every production of Shelter Point Single Malt. A number of future vintages will be released, showing the effect of each season on the grain grown, and, consequently, the whisky produced.

This whisky is double distillled, and is the start of a terrific set of releases from Shelter point. They have been working on a number of new and different whiskies, particularly some triple distillled unmalted barley whiskies, much in the style of the Irish.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Inaugural Run

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

It is surprising that for all of the Canadian single malt whiskies I have tried – Glen Breton, Still Waters, and this – they fall broadly into the same style of a grassy malt. However, this is my favorite distillate of the three, being a bit more grain led and complex. Very creamy-nutty – and lots more - golden delicious apple, granny smith apple, banana, lots of lightly earthy and nutty barley, peaches, apricot, almonds, vanilla, orange candies, and light oak all combine on the nose with light malt loaf and buckwheat. The mixture of the light and medium fruit notes with the heavier barley notes work very well together. The palate surpasses the nose, with terrific mouthfeel, and a creamy and peppery effect with the grain, oak, and fruit all held together well in balance, finishing with creamy barley, spice, and apricot. The finish is lightly drying, with good feel and body, balancing cereal, fruity, and vegetal notes. I'm very impressed with this, one of the best micro-distillery productions I have tasted. If the nose did a bit more work, this would be pushed even higher.

Also, the glass stopper on the bottle is amazing. I’d be interested to continue to look at this as it matures some more, as it would benefit- but as it is, terrific, particularly on the palate.

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

Value: Average, at $70.


Review (2018)

·         Batch: N/A

·         Bottling Code: N/A

·         Bottling Date: 2018

Pineapple, tropical fruits, banana, pear, almond, strawberry, and ripe yellow apple – bright and youthful. There’s also vanilla and a light set of clean oaky notes underneath, alongside a light set of spice note. This is quite a nice SM! This bottling continues to impress me. It sometimes has a bit of a strong yoghurt characteristic, but there is some pretty awesome inherent complexity.

The longer you let this sit, indeed, the longer the bottle is open – the better it gets.

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

Value: High. I think this is a great buy for $66.


Review: Shelter Point Avant Garde Barley Single Malt Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
57.3%
Aging
~5 yrs; Ex-Blackberry Wine Cask
Recipe
100% Canadian Unmalted Barley
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

Now here is a whisky -a single cask ex-blackberry wine cask, filled with 100% unmalted barley for 5 years and bottled at cask strength. I have always thought Shelter Point did really well in the ex-blackberry wine casks - this is no exception. 120 bottles produced.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: “Avant-Garde Barley” for the Strath, distilled 2013

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Quite a savoury whisky – umami, coconut oil, spice, dried apple, and banana. Broad and complex – a terrific nose which improves significantly with time – but, as good as this whisky is, I think it could continue to improve with time! The palate is a surprise – it brings in sharp arugula and spicy herbal notes like watercress. It’s fascinating, especially when paired with all the berry and berry bush notes (think berry leaf tea). The strength is perfect – it really highlights the breadth, and depth, of the whisky. A hit of dried peach at the end. Just awesome! Shelter Point has been making some excellent whisky to date, and this is the best of them- in terms of uniqueness, depth, and even breadth. One of the whiskies of the year for me.

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

Value: Average (based on $110).


Review: Shelter Point "Classic" Canadian Single Malt Whisky (Strath Liquor Store Exclusive) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
57.3%
Aging
~7 yrs; Ex-Tennessee Whisky Barrel
Recipe
100% Canadian Malted Barley
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

This whisky, distilled in 2011, is a cask-strength exclusive for the Strath whisky store in Victoria. It is a single cask….and it is rather excellent. 120 bottles produced.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: “Classic” for the Strath, distilled 2011

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Interesting – spicy, grainy, with nice dried fruit integrated throughout. This is so rich, one of the richer Shelter Points I’ve tried – and one of the better ones. It’s quite refined, bordering on elegance - and big.  The dried fruit just blossoms in the glass as it sits, but with other fruits coming forward too – apple juice, strawberry and black currant too. The palate is loaded with spice, fruit, and brown sugar.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). Just terrific stuff…perhaps my second favourite Shelter Point to date (after the Strath’s other whisky, Avant-Garde Barley).

Value: Average. Very nice whisky, but still at a price ($110).


Shelter Point Seems to Get a Bit Better Every Year by Jason Hambrey

Shelter Point 1.jpg

I’ve now judged the Canadian Whisky Awards for 4 consecutive years, and it’s always very interesting to see how the landscape of Canadian whisky is evolving. This year, there was a bit of a change – micro-distilleries are starting to challenge the big producers in a way I haven’t seen before. In my view, Two Brewers (Yukon) started to do this since they emerged, but some other distilleries are really catching up – foremost, perhaps, is Shelter Point, whose products seem to improve every year.

When I rate the Canadian whisky awards, I rate with an average of around 83 usually – so with well over 100 whiskies in the past year that means half of the whiskies get in below 83. I only rated 10 whiskies this year 90 or above. Shelter Point entered 6 whiskies, and I scored them an 85,85,87,89 and 89. This means that Shelter Point occupied 3 of my top 20 whiskies that I judged blind - it’s very impressive. They’ve scored reasonably well in the past during previous competitions, but not this well, where they showed up in a rather impressive way and presented very interesting, complex whiskies which took their place in the upper echelons of the whiskies entered even after two or three tastings. The two bottlings for the Strath liquor store - the “classic” bottling and “avant-garde” barley really stood out as cask strength, complex bottlings. Montfort Dl 141, a single malt bottling distilled from a particular lot of barley near the distillery, was much better this year in my opinion - though it was distilled the same way, it had an extra year in the barrel and a bit more French oak.

The other remarkable thing is that it is clear to me that they will continue to improve with age, if they can get there. This means there could be lots more to come…

In the meantime, there’s some more shelter point reviews coming up.