Single Malt

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 Classic 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
46%-58%
Aging
7-8 yrs
Recipe
100% Malted Barley - mostly pale malt
Distiller Two Brewers (Whitehorse, Yukon)

Two Brewers is an interesting distillery because they started (as in the name) in brewing, so they had expertise in that important flavor generating part of the whisky making process. Their whiskies are about 7-8 years old, very mature for a micro distillery compared to most which are releasing their product as soon it is legal to do so, after three years. They also run with four different streams of single malt - "classic", "peated", "special finishes" and "innovative" whiskies. Each release has about 800-1600 bottles per release, and they use different malted and roasted grains along with varying fermentation techniques and a mix of barrels to get the sort of flavors they want. It's about time for a taste!


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Release 01

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

A Yukon-only release. Earthy, and lightly smoky, with apple, pineapple, pepper – the earthy and smoky elements of the nose lifts off with time leaving heavy fruit and porridge behind. The palate continues on with some very interesting elements – vegetal notes, yet still holding on to tingling spice and earthy grain. Nicely done!

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

Value: Average.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 06

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is incredible. Remarkable fruity – loads of ripe yellow apple, ripe pear, pineapple, guava, custard – and yet full of underlying spicy bready notes. There’s a bit of sharp grassy spice and some unripe green pear, as well as hard banana candies. It’s quite complex and very well integrated. It doesn’t nose or taste immature at all. The palate is gorgeous – it has some vanilla but finishes with some rich, dark, roasted malt. Great underlying grain and earth, too. The finish, then, maintains all the fruit but is loaded with roasted malt notes and light spice and oak. Figs, too. Brilliant!

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

Value: High. This is just good enough to scrape into a high value category, even at $100.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 10, 58%

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Our first cask strength two brewers!

This is what you might expect – a solid two brewers classic single malt, but with a much bigger paintbrush. Apple juice, apricot jam, tropical fruits, and all the beautiful grainy notes. It smells much like a bourbon cask – creamy, herbal, and lightly oaky. On the palate – it’s awesome. Big, creamy, with tropical fruits balanced by oaky spice, rich grain notes, and sharp spice. The finish comes out even bigger at cask strength, as might be expected. Lots of tropical fruits on the finish, too.

Not necessarily a better spirit than previous batches of the „classic” single malt, but it really gets carried through nicely at cask strength. It retains all the key notes, but adds some – the oaky spice and vanilla and caramel are front and center here, while they play a backburner at lower strengths. Well done – very well done.

As usual, the upped ABV reallly does well on the finish. I need to find a bottle of this....

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

Value: Average. Really good whisky, but at $130 it starts to compete against other possibilities in that range.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Release 13

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

What a nose! This is loaded with caramel and vanilla, but still offset with light stone fruit, pineapple, banana, vanilla, and oak. The palate is creamy, rich, and with a very nice kick of spicy greens (arugula, watercress) before a drying finish which remains slightly sweet and fruity. Earthiness grows on the finish, still being offset by a bright fruitiness and spice. Compared to other batches, I find this has a huge degree of caramel and toffee, and a light elegance to it.

I loved batch 10, which was really big – this is perhaps a bit broader and richer, but not bigger.

Is this the best single malt in North America? Perhaps…

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 16

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Sharp, grassy notes lead the nose, which is a bit closed at first. The nose is quite spicy and herbal, but it opens up with peach, dried apricot, and over-ripe plum. There is a slightly smoky oak aspect to it, and it becomes quite buttery as it sits. As much as I like the uniqueness in all of the Two Brewers “streams” I think the classic remains my favourite. It is just so wonderfully balanced between distillate and cask. The palate starts out sweet, with stone fruit, vanilla, and butterscotch growing before a herbal finish with baking spices and light wood tannins.

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

Value: Average, at $100 - really high quality stuff at a moderate price point.


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: Bowmore 12 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Bowmore 12.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
12 years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bowmore (Bowmore, Scotland)

Bowmore is on the island of Islay, renown for its quality and often smoky and peaty malts. It is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, having been around since 1779. They also contain a malting floor which they use – one of only a handful to do so. It's a nice bottling because it is one of the cheaper good Islays.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Smoke! There’s a nice edge of vanilla and apples, with even a bit of orange peel and a slight floral nature. The smoke has much the character of ash, and the peaty note is a slight bit medicinal as well. The smoke is a bit dry on the nose, and at times seems to have either too much or too little dominance, being not perfectly integrated. There’s a slight spicy edge too of red chillies and black pepper. There’s even a bit of dried apricot in the mix, too.

Taste: Comes in with a moderate citrus and light vanilla pudding and caramel background before giving way to smoke and some black pepper. There’s a bit of smoked meat in the smoke, as well. I hope for just a bit more body to balance out the smoke in this one, and perhaps just a touch more sugar to balance out the salty tinge.

Finish: Smoke, mixed with a light fruity character, including even some pomegranates, and some light vanilla and caramel. At this point, the smoke seems to separate a bit too much from the rest for my liking. I get some artichokes and some of the medicinal and iodine-like character of the Islay peat. I find more apples and slightly more sweetness comes through as the finish starts to break down and develop. I find the finish improves as it changes in the mouth.

Quite a nice dram, though in this tasting less impressive than I remember. I wish for a bit more of a full-bodied nature in the body surrounding the smoke, and a touch more sweetness. However, still a nice introduction to the smoky Islay malts.

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

Value: Average. It’s really not bad for a peated Islay, but not quite to the level you can get for the price in the broad whisky category in terms of depth and complexity.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Light, grassy aromas – dried fruit – and lightly medicinal peat. Rich tobacco drifts through – very nice. The palate is lightly smoky, but full of lots of fruit – raisins, currants – and red pepper jelly. The finish is lightly smoky, but with a nice nuttiness (hazelnut skins) and dried chickpeas. This is a classic Islay whisky – probably the best peater you can get cheaper than a Laphroaig, if Laphroaig is your thing or perhaps Caol Ila 12. Too bad this doesn’t sit at 43% or 46% – this is more watery than I would like.

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

Value: Average. It’s really not bad for a peated Islay, but not quite to the level you can get for the price in the broad whisky category in terms of depth and complexity.


Review: Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban Highlands Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
12 years; Finished in Port Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenmorangie (Tain, Scotland)

Like the other core finished whiskies at Glenmorangie, a 10 year old whisky is dumped into a finishing cask for 2 years – in this case a port pipe. Quinta refers to wine houses, and Ruban is the gaelic word for “ruby”.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2012

Nose: That is some sweet goodness! Fruitcake, caramel, cinnamon, clove, vanilla – still holding that key Glenmorangie light barley characteristic, and the port you can actually smell lightly here too. Dried fruits come out as well with a decent kick of dryness too. I can smell the light bourbon influence as well…

Taste: It’s not quite as fruity as the nose let on, but it still has a good kick of fruitiness around it. Quite dark – fruitcake, cherry, raisin, cinnamon, cacao…There’s a bit of a port-fruit and oak explosion towards the end as well. Cinnamon – a very nice whisky in fact. I think it’s very enjoyable – it is quite a bit heavier than the Original or Lasanta as well.

Finish: Light oak, cinnamon, clove, and some other light vegetal notes like sundried tomatoes and some malty notes after some time. Drying, with a reasonable amount of tannin. Long, and not unpleasant, but more mediocre in flavour than intriguing or delicious.

This is quite nice – a very nice twist on the classic Original Glenmorangie, though I like it less. It’s heavier, with a different showing of fruit – more on the fruitcake side. A bit less complexity from the original because of how the port shifts to take over some of the flavour.

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

Value: Average.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

A sharp fruitiness here, almost phenolic in its effect – dense dried fruit (currants, prunes) and nuts, alongside a light sulphur note which contributes some hot spice. The nose still has a rich barley characteristic underneath it all. The palate is oaky, lightly spicy, and full of more rich red fruit – cherry and red grape – and red wine gums. The finish is spicy, but with a nice hit of malt.

I’m not quite as hot on this one now as I was last time. Not a bad whisky, but there are better ways to explore port finishes. The 46% is nice, and suits Glenmorangie pretty well.

Value: Low. You can do better in the category of port finished single malts, and I’m not too hot about this one anyway.


Review: Glenmorangie Lasanta Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
12 years; Sherry Cask Finish
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenmorangie (Tain, Scotland)

This whisky is aged for 10 years before being put in sherry casks for the final 2 yeras, resulting in a 12 year old finished whisky. Glenmorangie pioneered cask finishes, among the first to do so. Lasanta means “warmth and passion” in gaelic. This review, it should be noted, is from the 46% version – Glenmorangie has since dropped the abv on this whisky and the recipe is now slightly different too.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date:~2012

Nose: Malt, raisins, a struck match, vanilla, green apple skins – apple juice is still there as well. A bit of sherry rancio, with some earthy touches too. Ever so lightly astringent.

Taste: Quite sweet and raisin-y, with the whisky taking some time to develop. The sherry definitely controls too much of the beginning of this one…halfway through the palate it starts to resemble Glenmorangie Original. Light oaky earthiness and slight nuttiness too.

Finish: Fairly sweet, once again, with raisins, and a bit of oak and some fruity sherry notes as well. lightly spicy. A bit too much sherry and rancio in the finish, I think, for balancing purposes.

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

Value: Average, at $90.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Lots of light dried fruit – oranges, apricots- and baking spice and some rich barley. There is a nice oaky richness here, and the nose has a nice set of spices and a dense custard-like characteristic. The palate is lightly malty, with light threads of sherry and even a touch of leather! We have a wave of malt, light rancio/oxidized wine, dried fruit, nuts, orange peel, and dense baking spice. The finish is oaky and lightly spicy, with a touch of sulphur.

A “lightly sherried” whisky, which isn’t bad, but I still find the Original 10 year old outshines this, in my opinion.

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

Value: Low. A good whisky, but you can do better for the price.


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.