Single Malt Whisky

Review: Benriach 12 Year Old Sherry Wood Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Benriach+12+Sherry+2.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
Oloroso and PX Sherry; 12 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Benriach (Moray, Scotland)

Here, a heavily sherried single malt. I quite like Benriach, a speysider with a nice line of peated whisky (see my review for Curiositas here).


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 2012/06/18 10:46 LF30548

  • Bottling Date: 2012

This definitely has a “sherry matured” as opposed to “sherry finished” (or “flavoured”?) – there is a certain richness that the sherry finishes don’t capture. Brilliant dried fruit, dates, cinnamon, clove, , red pepper jelly, and a light sherry roughness. There is some nice sweetness and jamminess on the nose too, I assume from the PX. The palate is rich, lightly sweet, and dry – with a spicy, oaky finish. Slight tingly spice on the finish. A really nice finish - full, rich, and lightly dry – with raisins, more spice, tannic oak, and apple seeds.

A nice, sherry forward single malt.

Recommended.

Value: Average. It’s not pricy for a single malt, and it is nice in the category. But nothing special on the value scale.


Review: Pemberton Apple Brandy by Jason Hambrey

Pemberton+Apple+Brandy+2.jpg
ABV
44%
Aging
Depends on Cask
Recipe
100% Whole BC Apples
Distillery Pemberton Distillery (Pemberton, BC)

Apples have been used to make spirits since at least the 16th century in France. In Europe, Apple Brandy is still commonly made, in both aged and aged forms - most notably in the region of Calvados which is famous for its aged apple brandies. Pemberton Distillery uses whole BC apples, distilling them and aging them in oak casks.

This is made in a very similar process to a Calvados, distilling the apples whole rather than just using part. As a part of the Calvados regulations, up to 30% of the base can be pears - in Pemberton’s case, they use 10% pears. Where possible, Pemberton tries to get as much diversity as possible from the apples and pears, using 8 varieties of apples and 3 types of pears. The cask type is different between the batches, from French oak, new American oak, ex-bourbon, and Canadian oak but the distillery is settling on using Canadian oak for the initial aging and ex-bourbon casks to finish. This batch is made completely from Canadian oak.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 2017 Harvest, Aged 14 Months

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

This reminds me quite heavily of Pemberton’s single malt, interestingly enough (not very surprising, though - most distilleries have a style between the stills, barrels, and yeasts). However, it is very different from Pemberton’s whisky.

The nose is rich in apple aromas, with applesauce, apple seeds, apple skins – but also hazlenuts, green pear, white pepper, vanilla, and even light over-ripe berry notes. I quite like the combination of the nuttiness with the apples. The palate is dry, full of apple sauce and light tannin, a touch of acidity, and more nuttiness but on the softer side like macadamias and almonds. There is a light bitterness which I quite like on the palate. The finish is slightly sweet, with vanilla, light oak, and more apple sauce. The hazlenuts are back on the finish. Baking spices come through on the finish, which is very complex especially as the spices make their way in. There’s even a nice herbaceous character subtly present throughout - but especially in the finish.

This is quite different than any other Apple Brandies I’ve had (which isn’t many). It is much heavier-bodied and nuttier and spicier, with more bitterness. If you read much of my reviews, I favour the unique and interesting – this is like that, for the spirits enthusiast. At first I didn’t know what I thought of the bitterness in the middle, but as I drink more of it and it combines with the spices and tannins, I love it.

Assessment: Recommended.


Review: Last Mountain Canadian Single Malt Whisky by Jason Hambrey

IMG_1006.JPG
ABV
45%
Aging
~3.5 yrs; Once used bourbon barrel
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Last Mountain (Lumsden, Saskatchewan)

A release from last mountain in 2018, this time a single cask bottled at 45% instead of their cask strength vatting from 2017. The barley was sourced from BC, but in the future all grain is coming from Saskatchewan for the distillery.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Cask #14-09-02 (46 months old)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Light, and loaded with green fruits – pear, apple – and other stone fruits, peach, apricot, and yellow plums – and yet with a light oily, grassy spice. Slightly creamy, with the oak coming in at the perfect point on the palate bringing in caramel, cream, and ferrero rocher. It’s rich with oak – and has a rich, grain-derived earthiness. Quite nutty, too – very much so – like freshly ground peanut and almond butter. Mint at the end. The finish is spicy and very grainy.

The whisky feels young, yet, it doesn’t carry a lot of the harshness often found in single malts. I really like how grain-forward this is – and it almost seems as though you can taste the earth of Saskatchewan! Very unique, and I’m looking forward to how this shapes up as it continues to age. Between the rye, wheat whisky, and this single malt, Last Mountain has a diverse and well-crafted set of whiskies coming along!

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

Value: Average, based on $43.70 per 375 mls.


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.

Review: Pemberton Valley Single Malt by Jason Hambrey

ABV
44%
Aging
Depends on Cask
Recipe
100% Organic Malted Barley
Distillery Pemberton Distillery (Pemberton, BC)

This whisky is presented beautifully, a perfect craft presentation, I would say - cask, bottle, materials, distill date, bottling date, and the distiller. The whisky is pot-distilled, and aged in a full size bourbon barrel. I’ve had two casks of these, and they were very different - one 3 years old and one 8 years old.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: Cask 1 (3 years old)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Lots of cherry - cherry pits, cherry liqueur, cherry beer - fighting some oily grain. Grassy, herbal, and spicy underneath it all as well, with linseed oil and nectarines adding complexity to the mix. On the palate, some apples come into the mix with some buttery oak as well emerging to some light sour spice on the finish. Cherries stay in the mix throughout.

Value: Low, at $90. It hasn’t come together and even at a much lower price I wouldn’t buy this.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Cask 3 (44.2%), 8 years old

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

This is made from organic pale malted barley and 4% peated malt, matured in an ex-bourbon barrel. This is aged 8 years, so it’s quite a step from the whisky reviewed above.

The nose is sharp, grainy and interesting – pear, oak, toasted grain, caramel, dried apricot, soba noodles, and hay. The grain is very rich in character on the nose – this has come leaps and bounds beyond what I tasted 3 and 4 years ago! There are some really nice barley aromas here – spice, rich earthiness, pine, and a bit of broccoli. A relatively dry nose too – very good.

The palate is rich, spicy, and grainy with a nice mouthfeel and a nice mix of spice notes, vegetal notes, and caramel. The finish is dry, carrying on with pear, dried apricot, white pepper, a touch of grapefruit zest, almonds, and a bit more fresh broccoli.

This certainly shows what time in a barrel can do!

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This is very unique stuff that has come together quite nicely. Most single malts from small distillers in Canada go the fruity route, this is more towards spicy and earthy – which I quite like. I quite enjoyed this!

Value: Average. About what you’d like to expect if you are spending $82.


Review: Lagavulin 12 Year Old Limited Edition Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Lagavulin 12.jpg
ABV
~56%
Aging
12 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Lagavulin (Lagavulin, Scotland)

This whisky is a limited release, but it comes around every year, so it's not very rare. It usually clocks in at a higher price than the 16 year old - this is because of the cask strength and limited nature of the release. Lagavulin is a terrific distillery for just about all their releases - I really quite like what they do.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 2012 Release (56.1%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2012

Big, slightly sour peat. Smoke, vanilla, tar, gooseberries, smoked paprika, stewed peaches, grape, vanilla, lots of minerality, smoke, soot, seaweed, cucumber, earthy, marula, a bit briny, …terrifically complex and interesting. It’s voluptuous and creamy, with lots of peach here too. The palate shows tar, slightly burnt lentils, terrific minerality, bonfire, smoking dried leaves, tinned and fresh peaches, custard – all with perfect tannic grip. Earthy peat, too – but this doesn’t dominate. The finish is fabulous: smoking leaves, freshly baking bread, charred chickpeas, strawberry jam, vanilla, custard, brine, dried peaches, lime, cilantro, and light tannins. Top notch stuff – and the tannins are just perfect. Incredible whisky. This is the biggest, and most muscular between the regular (terrific) releases of the 16 year old and distiller's edition. It’s just so big…if this wasn’t at cask strength it would be a 92 – but the cask strength shows through so well, particularly the finish.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Very High. For a terrific batch of this, $130 was not a bad price to pay.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2017 Special Release (56.5%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Smoldering smoke, saltstone, lightly sweet, raisins, cacao butter, slightly farmy and peppery too. The palate is buttery, full of wood smoke, also including rich cacao and lots of earthiness – brilliant. Sweetness is perfectly balanced. The finish is beautiful, and rich – including roasted malt, woodsmoke, white pepper, peppery radish...dries to heather brush.

Very peppery – more than I remember. Brilliant. I’d call this one cloying, in a positive sense, with all the sweetness – but I suppose it’s never used in a good way, eh? I guess we’ll settle for "syrupy” or "syrup-laden” or something...

They are pricy, but they are good! Likely my favorite regular Islay, though I do like the Ardbeg 10, too.

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

Value: Average. Great whisky, expensive price.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 2018 Special Release (57.8%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

I do love trying these! It’s very much in line with the above releases - though it seems a bit sweeter and a touch less rich. Burning leaves, oil, tar, marine notes, lemon, and a light waxinesss too! Spicy and smoky finish. These things are such classics. Wonderful at cask strength.

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

Value: Average. Great whisky, expensive price.


Review: Bruichladdich The Organic 2009 Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Bruichladdich Organic.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
Ex-bourbon and Ex-tennessse barrels
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This was made from organic barley farmed at mid coull cross farms in daltross, from a 2008 harvest (crop rotation means this farm only produces it every 7 years!). It was matured for 8 years before its release.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 2009

  • Bottling Code: : L/161658 17/333 2017 1115 15:55

  • Bottling Date: 2017

    Very creamy – with some nice corn notes....seems there is some first-fill bourbon in this one. Very raw, oddly, it is sharper and feels more raw than the 2009 islay barley release which is 2 years younger. Fresh, sharp pear and banana, green grass...doesn’t have the same raw earthiness and farmy nature of the Islay Barely 2009 (I am tasting them side by side) but still has a very nice nutty grain nature to it. The palate is big, still with quite the influence of bourbon, slightly salty, earhty, and nutty, and some dried fruit – the finish is very earthy, with light vanilla, oak, custard, and pear coming in at the end. Very nice! I like it with just a touch of water, to dilute down to 46-48%.

    I quite like it, although I do tend to like the less bourbon-cask driven Laddie’s – a bit less sweet, more earthy, and less dessert-like. I love the whisky, but do prefer Bruichladdich’s Islay Barley style more (if you don’t know what I mean, think of first-fill bourbon scotch whiskies like Balvenie single cask – speaking of which, if you like that, you’ll probably like this...). There is a slight bit of dissapointment that they aren’t done quite the same way so I can compare the barley more one-to-one, but I guess I’d need new make to do that...

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

    Value: Low, at $110.


Review: Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2009 Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Bruichladdich Islay Barley.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
6 yrs; American Oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This is a 6 year old product from the Craggan, Cruach, Island, and Mulindry farms on Islay - matured for 6 years and now released. The barley was publican and oxbridge, not the best yielding, but used for flavor.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 2009

  • Bottling Code: L/160404 16/176 23 08 16 12:02

  • Bottling Date: 2016

    Earthy, farmy, and clean – nicely grain driven as are the best bruichladdich whiskies. Sharp marine and salt notes on the nose, lemon peel, vanilla, root beer...the palate continues in the same way, farmy, earthy, sharp, and salty with dried pineapple and clove. Magnificent stuff – complex, interesting, rich, full. Quite unique in the whisky world, in my view – this profile – earthy, barley driven, with fruity and an incredible marine essence to it. Finish is very biscuity, roasted malt type finish.

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

    Value: Average. But on the high end of average at $85.


Review: Fettercairn Fior Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
42%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Fettercairn (Fettercairn, Scotland)

Fior means pure/true. This whisky is composed of some age of 15% heavily peated whisky matured in first-fill ex-bourbon barrels, alongside with a portion of 14 and 15 year old spirit (sherry? I would assume from the taste).


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Complex – a sharp mix of sherry and smoke and peat, with some raisin, pencil shavings, a light floral nature, tangerine, almond and walnuts. The palate is quite fruity, yet also showing a good bit of malt and still balanced out with peat. There's more - almond, red licorice, cacao, toffee. Very lightly creamy. The finish is lightly dry, with smoke coming through alongside fennel, some fresh vegetal notes (parsley), brown cardamom, dried apple, and dried cherry. Some nice stuff!

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

Value: Average, based on $192.


Review: Teaninich 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Flora and Fauna) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
10 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Teaninich (Allness, Scotland)

Major player in blending – indeed, my interest in tasting Teaninich is because Compass Box uses them, I love Compass Box, and I want to understand why Mr. Glaser blends the way he does. Most of the whisky goes straight into blends, so bottlings are not easy to find. The aim of the distillery is to produce a green and oily profile for blending. Interestingly, they are the only scotch whisky distillery to use a mash filter instead of a mash tun.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Green tea, lemongrass – grassy indeed! It’s not malty, but the barley is firmly there and there is a good dose of earth in the nose too. Floral – daisies, hay – and some green pepper. Baking bread. Green…that is for sure.

The palate remains grassy, and is lightly sweet with the barley holding the central portion of the flavor – but not with malty or cereal aromas. Rather, that earthy and grainy “edge” of the barley, as we also see, in, say, Auchentoshan. Vanilla, cake batter. A clean, light earthy finish with light spices, nuts, and baking bread. This is fabulous for what it does. It’s still a bit untamed – perhaps the point – but I’d be interested to see this at another two years in oak to round things out a bit more.

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

Value: Low, based on $100.