Single Malt Whisky

Review: North of 7 Single Malt Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

5 Years; Ex-Four Grain North of 7 cask
100% Malted Barley
Distiller North Of 7 (Ottawa, Ontario)

It has been a pleasure of mine to follow this particular cask of single malt now for 3 years. I tasted it when it was just over 3 years of age in 2020, again at 4 years of age in 2021, and now at 5 years of age. This is North of 7’s first barrel of single malt, matured in an ex-four grain barrel (indeed, matured in their first cask of mature whisky, a four-grain cask 1).

While still young for a single malt, it has changed in some very dynamic ways over the years – being very bright and unbalanced at first, to still having sharp pear and an oily character with some dried fruit emerging, to this year – still fruity and bright, but with a much richer and more integrated cask character with more vanilla, oak, and nutty and roasty grain notes (from the cask). It’s odd since the cask character seemed to have come out more in the past year than the previous – not that it wasn’t present before, but it is further to the forefront.

Review (2022)

  • Batch: Barrel 48

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2022

Very fruity and bright, with green pear, blackberry candy, white pepper, cinnamon, prune, fresh hay, and earth. The character of the four grain is definitely present with roasted grain notes and a nice touch of nuttiness. The oak is present but quite subdued. On the palate, it is quite viscous in body (very nice) with vanilla, a sharp thread of clove, blackberry candy drops, hay, fresh apples that have peachy tones to them (like pizzaz or, less so, royal gala), and with a flourish of fresh peach, pear, and white pepper leading on the finish. It has some decent grip and character to it – and it’s very interesting – big, but not dominating, cask character, very bright (almost piercing) fruit – berries and orchard, and yet a fairly narrow but focused array of spices. A pretty good effort for a first single malt from North of 7!

The character is fairly fruity and grassy, so, while still firmly in the single malts class, it’s a style that isn’t as prominent in Scotch single malt as other styles.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This will continue to improve with age, but it’s still fairly unique – and very interesting in terms of different flavours juxtaposed, while not clashing.

Value: Low at $60, especially when you compare to the four and three grains that sit at the same price and are at a different level of maturity (even if younger). Pretty high value for a craft/micro distilled single malt, though.

Review: Waterford Ballymorgan Irish Single Malt Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

4 years 1 month 2 days; Multiple casks
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Waterford (Waterford, Ireland)

Waterford distillery is a single malt distillery in Waterford, Ireland that is focused on terroir - the land where the grain is grown - more than any other distillery in the world. They are a connoisseur’s dream. Every single thing you could think of - down to when the grain was harvested, and by whom - you can find out on their website for each bottling that uses barley from a single harvest of a single farm. It’s brilliant - you can even listen to the sounds of a typical day at the field where it was grown! For instance, enter in the code on my bottle - F013E01-02 and have a blast at .

People, unsurprisingly, are all over this new distillery. I myself have tasted bottles from a number of different farms/releases - they are all different, and have barley at the core. How is this one?…

Review (2019)

  • Batch: Ballymorgan Edition 1.2

  • Bottling Code: teireoir code: F013E01-02

  • Bottling Date: 2020

The nose is just incredible – sharp, rich barley – in every crevice. On the nose, it’s immediately a connoisseur dram. It is such a pure display of barley, and there are some incredible farmy notes which are very attractive – think fresh hay, also wet hay, earth wet with rain, and the rich round notes from fermenting malt and bread. There is light fruit, too – pear, peach, yellow apples – and some nice notes of clove. If you aren’t sold on the complexity of the nose, just add some water. The palate follows on form the nose, maybe with a greater emphasis on stewed stone fruit and fresh peaches than the nose. Great custard character and bright orchard fruit. The balance is impeccable, although it is still notably youthful and not quite rounded. The finish brings about a flourish of tannins, white pepper, pears, and baking spice. And so much barley!

It is no wonder that connoisseurs are going nuts over this stuff…a real connoisseur’s dram if you like barley.

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).
Value: Average against the market for $100. Actually, right on. My score considers an “average” rating for a $100 whisky as 90/100 which gives it an average score. But, this is pretty unique for an “average” value whisky - I must say.

Review: Inverleven Lowland 1990 Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Gordon & MacPhail) by Jason Hambrey

Inverleven 1990.jpg
15 Years
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Inverleven (Dumbarton, Scotland)

This distillery was once known as Dumbarton and was a massive distillery complex which fed the Ballantines blends. It still distills grain whisky for ballantines, but, at one time, it had a pot still and a lomond still which produced single malt. However, the distillery stopped making malt whisky in 1991, so this is right near the end of that production.

Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2005

The nose has dry malt, apple, vanilla, and a bright earthiness (like a hardwood forest in the summer). The palate is dry, light, sweet, and soft – with lots of pepper and fruit. The finish has lots of earthy barley, with some British bitter style hops (like east kent goldings) and dried fruit take the finish. The oak really builds towards the finish.

Quite good, but nothing spectacular.

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

Value: N/A

Review: Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Cask Single Malt Taiwanese Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Kavalan Solist Bourbon 2.jpg
First Fill Bourbon Barrels
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Kavalan (Yuanshan, Taiwan)

This whisky, similar to the Fino cask I just reviewed, is Kavalan matured in an ex-bourbon barrel, bottled straight from the barrel.

Review (2016)

  • Batch: Cask R061113041

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2012

The nose, indeed, has rich bourbon aromas - and is immediately complex, one of those noses that you know you can find much in if you take time to look. Brilliant oily corn, bourbon nuttiness, sour raisin, buttery vanilla pudding, earthy oak, nutmeg, dried mango….

 The palate has coconut, pear, peach crumble, corn, dried apricot, dried mango, banana cream pie, icing sugar dusted pastries (though this is not overly sweet) – and it’s not even very hot at 56.3%, and brilliantly syrupy.

Big and sweet finish. Some spice – and deep caramel toffee. Drying in the way that makes your mouth water a bit, which always makes you want to keep sipping.

Once again, not that great watered down, like the Fino cask - but I like it quite a bit more.

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

Value: Low, at $225.

Review (2020)

  • Batch: B141217065A (173 bottles) 58.6%

  • Bottling Code:  2019.07.03 13:45 CA

  • Bottling Date: 2019

So, this whisky is just over 4.5 years old. It yielded only 173 bottles, so that’s an evaporation rate of about 10.4% per year! My last sherry cask from Kavalan sat at about 5% per year – but it is a bigger cask (which means less evaporation) and may have been in a part of the warehouse with different maturation conditions.

The nose here is creamy, filled with apricot, peach, custard, spice, vanilla, corn husks, sharp and rich baking spice, and dried durum pasta. The palate is sharp, rich, sweet – with a light grainy character, more dried pasta, dried stone fruit, fresh apricots, and woody spices. The custard is just so nice at cask strength – creamy and big, backed by woody spice and alcohol heat. The finish has a custard character, stone fruit, apple cider, and a bit of tobacco – too. Some nice woody notes on the end – sandalwood, I think.

Really an enjoyable dram, but not a transcendent cask or quite as good as the above. Still…very good.

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, based on $180.

Review: Bruichladdich Bere Barley Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Bruichladdich Bere 1.jpg
9 years; Ex-bourbon
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This is made from Bere Barley - a strain of barley which has significantly less yield compared to most commercial varieties. Because yields are low, you get more barley flavor in a distillate. I always like it when distilleries experiment with grains like this, both from an agricultural and a consumer perspective. And, it seems, they are yielding good results.

Review (2019)

  • Batch: Barley grown on Dunlossit Estate on Islay, Vintage 2008 from grain grown in 2007

  • Bottling Code: L/161885 17/334 2018 0123 15:48

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Very vibrant on the nose. Pear, orange peel, clove, nutmeg (quite spicy), vanilla pudding, milk chocolate, and stewed apples. Nice graininess, and a bit piney. It really opens with water, or time. The palate has chocolate, clean oak, a light smoky/earthy character, and fantastic mouthfeel. It feels quite distillate driven. Finish has dried fruit, spices, vanilla, oak, and some more citrus.
It really opens up nicely with time – it becomes incredibly grainy and creamy, and it just comes together really well. If you have this, set it aside for 20-30 mins and then come back to it. It’s almost a completely different whisky….

I’m quite partial to the Islay Barley bottle from 2009 that I reviewed a few years ago. How does this compare? That one is much more earthy and bright, but not as grainy. This one is softer. I like the style of Islay Barley more, but this one has a bit more depth and develops more but doesn’t quite have the depth on the nose. I do like the centrality of grain here.

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average against the market for $110, in terms of what I’d expect/hope.