Single Malt

Review: Benromach Peat Smoke Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Benromach Peat Smoke 1.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
9 Years; First fill ex-bourbon
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Benromach (Forres, Scotland)

It’s difficult to find more heavily peated non-Islay malted whiskies. I suppose Talisker might be one (malted at glen ord) or Ardmore, perhaps the classic highland peated whisky. Benromach, as far as I can tell, is peated from a local peat source – and I assume local is more local than Islay. The reason that is significant is Islay peat has such a unique characteristic with the heavy marine and medicinal aromas. Other areas of peat are composed of other vegetation – so from a perspective of peat “terrior” it’s always interesting to see different regions. It’s peated to 67 ppm, which is quite a punch of peat – that’s more than Ardbeg!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Distilled 2008, Bottled 2017

  • Bottling Code: 3/5/2017

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Creamy bourbon aromas on the nose, but also vegetal, woody smoke. Some pear and berry fruitiness on the nose, too, and notably – the nose develops with time – becoming more woody, earthier, and richer. The palate is lightly sweet, creamy, and becomes quite ashy – with a touch of tropical fruit on the end – quite nice! Milk chocolate, throughout, and flashes of rich nuttiness. The finish has a nice touch of smoke, ash, cacao powder, and perhaps smoked dried flowers – it’s a bit floral! Very pleasant, and easily begs for another sip.

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

Value: High, at $90.


Review: Kavalan Solist Port Cask Single Malt Taiwanese Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Kavalan+Port+2.jpg
ABV
58.6%
Aging
~7 years; Port Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Kavalan (Yuanshan, Taiwan)

Here we have a Kavalan Solist, fully matured in Port wine barriques.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Cask 0110112009A (58.6%)

  • Bottling Code: 2018.09.20 11:37 HK

  • Bottling Date: 2018

That is a spicy nose! Licorice, clove, fenugreek, cacao, wet oak, prunes, wine gums, fresh cherry, currants, vanilla, and lots of citrus peel. The nose is slightly sour, but it is fabulous! The palate is sharp and textured, with a rich undercurrant of sweet, rich oak. The oak is fascinating – it is huge, integrated, and it isn’t over-oaked. The finish is sweet and sour, with prunes, dried cherry, sultana raisins, and clove. And some more currants.

At cask strength, this is huge and muscular. It drinks really well with water, and opens up, but the palate is unbelievable at cask strength. The oak, fruitiness, and spiciness are balanced – and very warming as it does down! This one is very easy, and makes you want a second without any effort! Very balanced, and dangerously drinkable especially at a near 60%.

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

Value: Low to Average, depending on buying price. If you get this for around 100$ CAD (it is possible in places) then it has decent value, but if you are looking at $200+, there are better value options.


Review: Caol Ila 18 Years Old Unpeated Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Special Release 2017) by Jason Hambrey

Caol+Ila+18+2.jpg
ABV
59.8%
Aging
18 years; Refill American Oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Caol Ila (Port Askaig, Scotland)

An 18 year old Caol Ila, unpeated - different from their typical releases. I’ve liked these in the past - I always like trying these.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Special Release 2017

  • Bottling Code: l7079cm000 51690150

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is awesome - rich marine malt, apple, sea salt, oak, grass, hay, spices, pineapple, and light vanilla.  Great nose. The taste has loads of hay, sweet light oak, mixed orchard fruit, clove, and a touch of chilli-type spice. A touch of tannic textre. Some rich leather-like aged notes too.  The finish is light, with oak, orchard fruit, toffee, and green wood.  Barley comes in nice at the end. It’s very rich! A nice deep malt.

It’s quite nice with water – it really shows off the depth of caol ila’s malt, even without the peat.

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

Value: Low. A pretty expensive bottle of whisky.


Review: Bunnahabhain Ceobanach Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Bunnahabhain+Ceobanach+1.jpg
ABV
46.3%
Aging
>10 Years; Ex-bourbon casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bunnahabhain (Port Askaig, Scotland)

As with all Bunnahabhains, a non-chill filtered and natural colour malt. This one is heavily peated, though, and a limited edition - this batch 03 is the last of it, and it came to Canada! It sold out quickly, but was a very nice pickup for $100.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: no. 03

  • Bottling Code: P0 0 28L3 …17144

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose is smoky and a bit zesty, with a light touch of cacao, rockpools, straw, dried apricot, and lemon zest. The peat here is intense and very attractive – there is a dense peatiness about this. And to round it out, there is a nice sweet oakiness, mixed nuts, and malt. The palate has sea spray, smoke, earthy peat smoke, vanilla, light woodiness, and lots more minerality. There is a gentle sweetness to round out the taste, too. This really is up my alley…

The finish is long, smoky, and earthy. It has a nice briny component to it, also – capers and a touch of black olive. It’s more on the smoky side of peat, thoughout – but I like how the brininess and earthiness grows on the finish. The finish, too, is slightly sweet and dry which really balances out the experience. Lovely!

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

Value: Average at $100. If Scotch was the only whisky category, this might be higher against the market, and it’s certainly good against peated whisky options.

 


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: Two Brewers Innovative Yukon Single Malt by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

ABV
43%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Two Brewers (Whitehorse, Yukon)

Two Brewers has an innovative line, alongside their classic, special finishes, and peated lines – in this line of products, they bring their brewing expertise to the table to generate unique expressions through the use of special brewing techniques during fermentation.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Release 5 (Sour Mash Single Malt)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

This batch is the first in the innovative line, and it is brewed using a sour mash – where the spent mash (the remains of a previously fermented mash) is poured back into the fermenters of the next batch to increase the acidity in fermentation – originally done to help the yeast do their job better and sometimes to create sour taste profiles in beer. You see this everywhere with Kentucky bourbon, but rarely with single malts (at least I haven’t heard of any doing this) – so this is indeed unique.

Vibrant fruit, and very reminiscent of the Two Brewers style. Interesting, though, with cinnamon coming in amidst the over-ripe banana, pineapple, guava, orange, and raspberry (yes, this is fruity!). Sweet roasted red pepper, dill, acacia honey, and even a light mineral backbone. The palate is surprisingly malty, but also with some spicy vegetal notes – dill, water cress, and arugula. Creamy porridge, too, with lots of cereal notes – which also I find all over the nose after I’ve taken a sip. Lightly sweet, but nicely balanced. The finish is lightly spicy, oaky, and still carrying sweet fruit notes. Another winner from Yukon!

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

Value: Average. Really good whisky, but at $100 it starts to compete against other possibilities in the $100 range.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 08 (Hopped)

  • Bottling Code: L1 50781D 17/11/2017

  • Bottling Date: 2017

I’ve been eager to try this one. It’s from the Yukon distillery, but this time they used hops in their mash and distilled the hopped distiller’s beer. I asked Bob what hops he used, and he said "I think cascade – but it was so long ago that I don’t remember!”. Pretty rare to hear a micro distilery say that!

At first, you get all the broad and rich Two Brewers fruit notes – mango, apple, pear, banana – but this has some unique and lovely notes to it. Pine, cedar, vanilla, baking bread, rich barley, anise, a slight marshmallow character, with more pear and a bourbon-like dried fruit character arising with time. The palate starts sweet, but, as usual, there comes a great Two Brewers roasted grain character alongside a saccharin sweetness. It has a great edge to it, between the sharpness of the grain and the light piney bitterness of the hops. There’s also a bit of szechuan peppercorn, here, too.

The palate comes through with great grain, and on the end there’s a very nice bitter touch from the hops. The finish is quite reminiscent of when you drink beer and whisky together, the hop notes staying in the background but full of the fruity character of the whisky. Lots of rich grain notes, a bit like a rich stout. I like the bitterness and it has a pleasant drying sensation.

In some ways I like it more, but it is not quite as bright as some other releases. The hops work well - it is the best hopped whisky I’ve tasted, and it is unique.

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

Value: Average. Really good whisky, but at $100 it starts to compete against other possibilities in the $100 range.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Release 11 (Munich Malt)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

This is a Two Brewers, but made with Munich Malt, a malt known for bringing in a rich grain characteristic to beer.

The nose is rich, very much Two Brewers but with a richer and deeper grain characteristic. We have honey, rich mixed grain, light woody spice, and lots of fruit: peaches, plums, and mixed tropical fruits. The grain blossoms on the palate right through to the finish, which is still grainy, lightly sour, and herbal. The tropical fruits remain, and we get a typical hit of arugula in the middle. – but the fruit continues, and we get a nice hit of milk chocolate towards the end. Terrific! The finish is lightly sour, lightly herbal, with oaky vanilla and baking spice with touches of tannin. Quite different than the sharp and piney spiciness in the last innovative release, the hopped single malt. This is really good, the best of their innovative line so far, from a taste perspective.

I just love the stuff Two Brewers is putting out – this is perhaps my favourite of their categories because of the uniqueness each batch brings.

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

Value: Average. Really good whisky, but at $100 it starts to compete against other possibilities in the $100 range.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Release 14 (Roasted Malts)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

Dragonfruit, caramel, custard, fresh baking bread – a really nice set of baking spice aromas. Two Brewers really does such a nice job with all their whiskies- the bright fruit so uniquely woven into the rich grain character. The roasted malts here assert their presence more than they did with the munich malt or other releases, and there is a really nice elegance to this whisky especially as it sits out. The palate has roasted grain at the centre, with a very pleasing, almost gritty grain character at the end which is fantastic. Fruit, oak, and dessert notes are present throughout the palate, well balanced and full of intrigue. The finish is grainy, and lightly fruity. Not as much is going on the finish as on the palate, but it’s still very pleasant. The 46% pays off, especially on the finish.

The grain character here is slightly bigger than the other Two Brewers releases, where grain still plays a significant role. Very nice.

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

Value: Average, at $100. This is about what you should expect from a whisky (or Scotch) which you pay $100, and this is better than most Scotch whiskies that cost $100.


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: Fils Du Roy Appalachia New Brunswick Canadian Rye Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
2.5 yrs Ex-bourbon; .5 yrs Virgin Oak
Recipe
60% Malted Barley, 40% Malted Rye
Distiller Fils du Roy (Petit-Paquetville, New Brunswick)

The first rye from Fils du Roy - a fantastic distillery - so I’ve been looking forward to a taste for some time! This is produced using a low temperature fermentation and distillation only of the liquid components of the wash (i.e. no solids). This is matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and char #3 virgin oak. Three barrels were released in 2018, yielding 1000 bottles. There is more coming in 2020, but the focus at Fils du Roy is single malt so it is relatively limited.

However, of interest is that Fils du Roy is preparing some maltings to peat their own rye with New Brunswick peat. A 30 acre field of rye has already been earmarked for the project this fall.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Lots of grain, with a thick, almost porridge-like grainy characteristic – it’s quite nice. This is balanced against a clean, light oak and mixed orchard fruit. Broad, pleasant, and interesting on the palate with a rich grainy character with a nice touch of dried citrus peel in the middle. This is quite impressive, and a step above the other stuff that Fils Du Roy has produced. It’s full in flavour and balanced, and it really has a nice middle to it.

There is some nice rye spice to it, over and above what is present in their single malt – but it still has a lot of the richness which is present in a lot of Fils du Roy whiskies.

This whisky was tied for my 20th favourite whisky (of well over 100) in the 2019 Canadian Whisky Awards, tied with whiskies like Lot no. 40 (which isn’t what it used to be, mind you). That says something.

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

Value: N/A. I’m not sure what this costs. I’d see if you can try before you buy and form your own opinion on if it’s worth purchasing!


Review: Fils Du Roy Single Malt Homage at Congres Mondial Acadien 2019 by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
3 yrs
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Fils du Roy (Petit-Paquetville, New Brunswick)

Another Fils du Roy single malt, specially released for the 2019 world acadian congress, composed of two barrels. It was aged in a combination of ex-bourbon casks and char #4 American oak. 415 bottles were produced, each numbered with a date from 1604 (when Acadia was created) to 2019.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

A nice wheatiness to this one – cream of wheat, but also orange, clove, and coconut. But more – pastry creams, pistachio, caramel, and vanilla. The palate is clean, light, with a slight dried fruit zestiness and a rich graininess towards the finish. A nice kick of oaky vanilla, just at the end. The fruitiness is quite vibrant here. Young and complex.

This is worth trying, but it still has more time to go.

Value: N/A. I’m not sure what this costs, and is probably not very available given the limited nature of the bottling.


Review: Fils Du Roy Single Malt Homage a Richelieu International by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
2.5 yrs in Ex-Bourbon Barrel, 0.5 yrs in Virgin Oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Fils du Roy (Petit-Paquetville, New Brunswick)

Another Fils du Roy single malt bottled for Richelieu International, with 500 bottles produced only available to members of the organization which celebrated its 75th anniversary this month. Richelieu International is a Francophone organization which helps youth and children in need.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Rich baking spices, red river cereal, anjou pear, cinnamon, earth– and a striking combination of spice and grain, like a particularly spicy mix of lightly roasted grain. The fruitiness is quite vibrant here, and there is a deep set of fermentation flavours. Young and complex. The spices bloom on the palate with a rich roasted graininess, dried apricot, dried peach, and even a bit of dried mango. The fruitiness really builds towards the finish. The finish is full of light grain, vanilla, and white pepper.

A nice rich grainy palate, which does a nice trick. I really like the spiciness. The best single malt I’ve had from Fils du Roy.

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

Value: N/A. I’m not sure what this costs, and is probably not very available given the limited nature of the bottling.