Stalk & Barrel

Review: Stalk & Barrel Single Malt Canadian Whisky (Cask Strength) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
~62%
Aging
Ex-bourbon casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Still Waters (Concord, Ontario)

This is the cask strength version of the Stalk & Barrel single malt, available from their distillery. Quite similar in profile to their regular single malt, only this is, as expected, a bit punchier at cask strength.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: Cask 1

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

This cask was filled December 1, 2009 (at 60.6%), into a new oak cask. On April 4, 2012 it was moved to cask 40 for finishing (first fill ex-bourbon). It was at 61.7% at this point. It was bottled April 16, 2013 (at 62.3%), producing 209 bottles. (As an aside, the still waters website has lots of cask information).

Nose: At times, unfortunately, there’s a bit of that nagging staleness with this one. I find this one has a bit more oak than the other expressions, and with that, more caramel and a bit more of a “stewed” character – the apple and pear seem to come in the form of apple or pear crumble, with notes of apricot and raspberry jam. Interestingly enough, though this one spent the least amount of time in a bourbon cask, I find the corn and bourbon notes the strongest in this one – but they still only play second fiddle. A bit of a bakery in here – banana bread, gingerbread, with a slight sour character a bit like the tartness of plum jam. And, I think, it’s a bit more earthy on the nose than the others.

Taste: I find the flavour is better at cask strength, I think – the vanilla, and creaminess come through more and it develops a bit better. On a continued tasting of this one, I noticed more bourbon and an earthy character that the others do not have. It’s quite rich, I find – which is nice, with all the dried and baked fruit notes and the nuttiness. But, there’s more corn here from the bourbon than elsewhere – and the earthiness seems to be springing out of that. Of the three, this one is the “darkest”, and heaviest, and I think I like it the most.

Finish: This one definitely has dried fruits (raisins and apricot) to a capacity none of the others do. There’s also vanilla in larger degree than I saw in either the nose or the palate, and even a bit of spearmint! And oak and apple come forth…amazing the oakiness here in a three year old whisky. The finish is much bigger in the cask strength expressions, I find, and this is the best of the lot.

Of the first three reviewed here, I think this is my favourite – though I might even say that cask 11 is more complex and cask 8 is a bit better balanced. Cask 1 is more woody, and, carries a nice earthy bourbon character to it that I really like. The fruitiness tends more towards dried rather than fresh or candied, which is also a component I like.

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

Value: Low. A bit much at $100 for this.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: Cask 11

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

This cask was filled November 15, 2010 and bottled June 20, 2013 (3.6 yrs) at 62.3%.

Nose: Of the three, the fruit seems the freshest here – fresh apple, fresh banana – this one also has perhaps the most creamy texture of the three (though I wouldn’t call it that creamy) – and some of those banana notes start to morph into banana pudding if you stick to it. Some of the fruit is a bit candied – but still not as much as cask 8. Beneath it all, there’s a good bit of malt – I think it’s more noticeable than cask no. 1 but not as much as cask 8. Also, I think, it’s the nuttiest of the three – roasted cashews (primarily) and almonds (secondarily) are definitely in the mix, and from time to time I find myself thinking of nutella. And, as I mentioned the creaminess earlier – there are notes of a vanilla buttery-ness to this one too (this one has the most vanilla on the nose). And, breezing in and out of this one, from time to time, is some bourbon.

Taste: Sweeter, I think, than cask 1 – and has quite a complex and slightly less character, which is also longer. There’s more maltiness here than cask 1, and there’s a slight spicy nutmeg note, and a bit of dryness and the lightest touch of bitterness. The most vanilla of any of the palates is present here, and the nuttiness is very rich. It’s a bit lighter, fruitier, with a bit more malt character than cask 1. There is a bit of a candied fruit note, as seen from time to time on the nose, and some of the tannins in the oak effect quite a bit of “texture” to this palate.

Finish: A bit of sharp apple, I think, with a good kick of spice. also a bit of an effect similar to baking soda in feel, which is a bit unfortunate. However, it’s of decent body and..sure enough, once all else fades, you realize you are left with oak.

Conclusion: I think this one is a bit more malty, with a bit less caramel than cask 1. I think it is the most complex on the nose, and the fruit is just brilliant in this..altogether I find it is a whisky I am wanting more and more of.

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

Value: Low. A bit much at $100 for this.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A, 60.2% ABV

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Complex. Banana, grassy spice, tea, oak, vanilla, marmalade, dried thyme, milk chocolate – expressive and very interesting. Creamy, spicy, fruity, grassy – what breadth, and what balance on a whisky with a beautiful, rich middle. The palate is rich, with brie, apples, oak, bean sprouts, snap peas, apple seeds – finishing with oak, tannins, spices, and more snap peas.  The herbal and brie notes are new to me – maybe I didn’t notice them, or maybe they are cask specific – but they are interesting!

These casks have been getting older, coming now up closer to 5 years than the original 3, and it's showing!

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

Value: Average, at $100.


Review: Stalk & Barrel Rye Canadian Whisky (Cask Strength) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
~60%
Aging
~3.5 yrs; Bourbon Barrels
Recipe
100% Rye (malted & unmalted)
Distiller Still Waters (Concord, Ontario)

This is the same rye as their 46% bottlings, except undiluted from the cask. I love their standard rye, so the cask strength offering is certainly also appealing!


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Cask 34, 61.4%

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Some confectionary sweetness, pine, coconut, marshmallow, and a layer of complex spices and some nice spice. Dill pickle is prominent. On the palate – big and enveloping, with lots of oak, vanilla, dill, apple, and light bourbon notes and terrific tea notes. Finishes with marshmallows and rising spice. I really like this stuff. Terrific!

Score: 88/100

Value: 63/100 (based on $100)


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Cask 56, 60.2%

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Anise candies, white pepper, mint, vanilla – quite sweet, in fact, on the nose. Oak, also, is present in greater quantity here. Some vegetal aromas like celery, too. Lightly earthy. Coconut. When diluted to 46%, it’s softer and more creamy and oaky than the two barrels I’ve tasted at 46%.

The palate is a lot softer than expected – but lots of spices still. The barrels I have tasted have been vibrant and spicy, so I figured this one would be that, only more amped up. Not so. Lots of cloves and cinnamon, black tea, and a bit of bubblegum too, which also comes through on the palate. It is young, but this is such quality distillate that it isn’t bad. Nice spice on the end too. Granny smith apples. Surprising amount of bubblegum. Some deep vegetable notes too…particularly on the finish. And honey, too.

Though I quite like it at cask strength, this one is not quite the quality of the previous two barrels I have tasted – not quite as complex. Still, however, terrific. I’m amazed, frankly – if someone were to tell me whether I would enjoy a 3 year old rye, matured in ex-bourbon barrels, at cask strength – I’d likely answer no. The distillate is just so terrific at Still Waters, though, that this one works out very well.

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

Value: Average (based on $100).


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Grassy spice, oak, long-brewed black tea, icing sugar, and sharp pepper.  The palate is big, full of caramel, light corn husk notes, blueberry, black tea, and a tangy, spicy character. The finish is big, with spices and sweetness doing a bit of a dance. Brilliant spices, and lots of douglas fir notes – I love it, as usual. I rated a cask strength single malt higher this year, but I still like this style more.

The fir/pine notes are amazing, along with the grassy spice and the tea notes. At times, they almost leech to a tropical fruit like lychee. It’s remarkable. This is one of the most special and unique ryes I’ve tasted, and, frankly, I’m fascinated (which doesn’t happen often with me and flavor!).

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

Value: Average (based on $100).


Review: Stalk & Barrel Red Blend Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Blend of Canadian Whiskies
Distiller Multiple (Canada)

The higher end blend from Still Waters, coming in at 43% and $40, containing more of their whisky relative to the sourced stuff.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Vanilla, caramel pudding, apricot, pine, and a nice rye heart. Oh, and lots of milk chocolate – it’s quite impressive.  Vanilla wedding cake, lilacs, and light oak come in as well. With time – cookie batter, cinnamon, and lots of milk chocolate. The palate is creamy and clean, balancing well the spicy rye and the sweet oak. At times, youth is felt – but it is all coming from the terrific young Still Waters product which I still find so appealing.

Brilliant spices, complexity, and balance. I am partial to their rye, but this is still a very worthwhile whisky. What I like about all the new two blends from Still Waters is that the blends are different from what they have made in the past, but they are have the distinct Stalk & Barrel style, which is a good one.

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

Value: High (based on $40).


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Apple, apple juice, oak, lilac, and some toffee, oak, and grassy spice underneath. Lots of vanilla! The nose grows beautifully with time. The palate has a delicious, tangy and tannic structure on which apples, pears, grassy spice, clove, and vanilla sit. The finish fades out with gorgeous spices and light tea notes. Terrific!

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

Value: Average (based on $40). lower than above because I didn’t like this one quite as much, but it’s close.


Review: Stalk & Barrel Blue Blend Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Stalk & Barrel Blue.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Blend of Canadian Whiskies
Distiller Multiple (Canada)

Still Waters distillery recently released two new blends through the LCBO – a blue blend and a red blend which includes a blend of sourced whiskies and their own whiskies. I like the blends – they very much show their house style through the blends, which wasn’t seen in their original blend, 1+11. The names Blue and Red simply come from the names given to the candidate blends as they decided on their recipes. Notably, this whisky comes into the LCBO at a price of $33, meaning it is really the first micro distillery product in Canada able to come in close to $30 and compete with some of the lower priced big distillery products (which range up from $26 at the cheapest).


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Some nice rye notes at the centre here, with brilliant tea, clove, and supported with light stone fruit, apple, oak, charred wood, and wooden pencil shavings. Again, the palate has nice rye at the centre and is still very clean – I say this because many products coming out of micro distilleries are not. Lightly creamy too, with some good vanilla, chocolate, and apricot on the palate. A bit watery in places - it seems something like a whisky with a terrific superstar (the rye) but no supporting cast. Light jasmine on the finish, alongside mixed nuts and the brilliant grassy spices that tend to come out of Still Waters distillery.

Terrific blending by the Still Waters fellows. They still haven’t made a whisky that has failed to engage me as a whisky lover.

As an aside, I like this, and it is sweet enough at the beginning of the palate but not quite enough on the end or finish for this. My solution is to add a drop of bourbon (or a sweet rye, but you don’t want to mask the brilliant rye notes already in here!), which does the trick beautifully as long as it’s not too much. I like something between 8-15% added, i.e., about ½ - 1 tsp of bourbon per oz, depending on the bourbon. It brings out some beautiful notes in the blend, actually.

Value: Average. Par for the course at $33.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Bright, creamy, with lots of oak. Rich, integrated fruit too. The palate is full of very creamy oak, vanilla, dried apricot, white pepper, and lightly drying spice on the end with a touch of molasses and drying oak.

Value: Average. Par for the course at $33.


Review: The Toasted Old Fashioned (Barchef Project) by Jason Hambrey

Barchef Project 2.jpg
ABV
38.9%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Stalk & Barrel Red Blend, Bitters, Maple Syrup
Producer BarChef (Toronto, ON) & Still Waters (Concord, ON)

BarChef is my favourite cocktail bar in Canada. Just take a look at the pictures and descriptions of the cocktails that they offer, or take a perusal through the cocktail book "BarChef" and you'll know exactly what I mean. Some years ago, I took a month completely off whisky, locking up my cabinet, metaphorically - and I found myself discovering complex cocktails, for the first time. I picked up Frankie Solarik's (incredible) cocktail book BarChef and within 2 years I had made every bitter, syrup, and cocktail in the book, certainly not my typical pick and choose process. It lead me right into using dry ice, foams, alginates, soils, snows - all the best of molecular gastronomy- in my cocktails, now a go-to.

So when I saw BarChef partner with Still Waters, one of my favourite distilleries, I'm intrigued. They've together bottled a toasted old fashioned, a cocktail they serve at the bar - but as an all-in-one. It's a cocktail which is made by combining hand toasted chamomile, toasted until brown (hence, "toasted") which brings out and changes the character completely, with an assortment of spices (saffron, cardamom, and a variety of other components) to infuse in Stalk & Barrel Red Blend. Then, this is blended with more Stalk Barrel Red Blend with some maple syrup for added richness and flavor, and bottled (or served as a cocktail in the bar).

Dangerously drinkable, if you like cocktails...


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2017

Rich, honeyed, and spicy on the nose. Chocolate, clove, honey, cinnamon, and star anise lead a spicy, rich, creamy nose - but the palate brings in even more spice, with more honey, daisies, maple, cinnamon, licorice root, fennel, and a wonderful finish of cacao, clove, cinnamon, star anise, and maple. It grows and grows, and you get a touch of the grassy still waters spices. A phenomenal balance of spices, whisky, and syrup - incredible complexity and very intriguing. Maybe I didn't elaborate enough - brilliant mix of spices, and they shine beautifully.

Throw in an orange peel, or better yet, a flamed orange peel, and there's little else to be desired in a winter cocktail. A way to experience one of the best cocktail bars on the planet away from Toronto...

Highly recommended. Definitely a cocktail, and amidst the best old fashioned you'll taste...

I'd be tempted to rate this, if I had anything to compare it to. But you don't see bottled cocktails that often (yet?)...


Review: Stalk & Barrel Canada's 150 Blend Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Stalk & Barrel 150.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
4-5 years
Recipe
Blend of Corn, Rye, and Malted Barley Whiskies
Distiller Still Waters Distillery (Concord, Ontario)

This whisky is built around a 5 year old corn whisky, which was found to be a rich terrific base when the distillery was moving around some barrel stocks. To this, single malt and rye whiskies were added to round out the whisky - a blend of 100% Still Waters matured whisky.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: #Canada150

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is rich and full of great grain notes – corn and earthy barley – alongside grassy spice, pear, caramel, coconut, peaches, white chocolate – and slightly creamy. The palate is rich, with dried apricot, vanilla, clove, white pepper, white chocolate, chocolate and a plethora of spicy tea notes – lots of complexity. The finish is dry and spicy, with notes of clove, oak, green apple, and nutmeg – and the grassy spice from the rye shines through. Light bourbon undertones throughout. A nice whisky – the best blend I’ve seen coming from Still Waters (I am still partial to their terrific rye). As my friend Blair Phillips, the Canadian Editor of Canadian whisky says – "tight and modern”. Indeed. Easy and very moreish, and not hot at 50%. Brilliant drying spice and oak on the finish. One of the best micro-distillery products I have ever tasted – the combination of good spirit and terrific blending pays off. Well done.

Get some, before it is gone.

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

Value: High, at $45.


Review: Stalk & Barrel Rye Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
~3.5 yrs; Bourbon Barrels
Recipe
100% Rye (malted & unmalted)
Distiller Still Waters (Concord, Ontario)

This is the first rye whisky to be produced by Still Waters Distillery, a micro distillery in the Toronto area. As their new make is the best I’ve had, of all new makes I’ve tasted, I’ve been anticipating this release for a long time especially because I matured my own rye from their new make. These are single cask releases, with lower proof versions coming in at 46% and cask strength versions a bit north of 60%. At this point, the barrels have been first fill ex-bourbon barrels.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: Cask 17

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

This is just about 3 years old, having been barrelled at 62.6% on Oct. 16, 2011 and bottled on Oct. 25, 2014.

Nose: It still smells a bit young (which it is!), but this is less noticeable as it sits. Some brilliant and bright honeycrisp apple comes off at first, though soon it is overtaken by everything else – first some vanilla, a buttery note, and black tea notes (which I also find in the new make), along with a bit of a buttery note. There’s also a fair bit of hay notes as well – sort of a (positive) barn like note. Then there is a surprising amount of “green” notes like pine aromas, wintergreen, and some juniper which take some time to develop. These are wonderful, I think. There is a bit of fresh banana too. Then we have some freshly baked spice cake, butterscotch pudding, and some vanilla comes through also. Interestingly, some of the oily and hay notes remind me of their single malt. On successive nosings I have noticed different dominant characteristics, which show some of the complexity here.

Taste: There’s a nice buttery feel to this one! I also quite like the balance of sweetness, dryness, and spice. The green notes from the nose carry through, with some pine character to it, along with lots of spiciness – black pepper, clove, and then some spearmint on the end. Some of the bourbon from the cask is also lurking about….very nice. The dryness is balanced just about right for my liking, and it feels light but has a brilliant rich spicy and evergreen underbody – overall it feels pretty “fresh” – like it would be a very appropriate springtime dram – spicy enough warming comfort and fresh enough that it is somewhat refreshing. Very delicious.

Finish: Peppery, spicy, and even a bit tannic. It still has some black tea notes carrying through, and the pine notes almost take on a bit of a character like hops in this. A bit of the oak comes out, sometimes even with a bourbon note or too. It’s a bit dry, too. It’s also “self-cleansing”, where the finish itself lightens up and feels light and fresh in your mouth after a while, a characteristic I love in whiskies. I wouldn’t mind a touch more flavour, but it’s quite good, and it lingers quite well.

Conclusion: I like how the spicy, grassy, character of the rye has come out, rather than drowned out in oak. Though this is good, I’d love to see what some more age would do to this. The quality of the spirit itself is great, but it seems like it could take some more development in aging very well, and it might round out the flavours a bit more. I do really like the pine/fresh green notes in this, making it somewhat of a spring whisky, perhaps. I like this more than the single malt and it’s been the best product coming out of Still Waters that I’ve tasted to date, and I can see potential for some pretty breathtaking casks of this stuff.

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

Value: Average, at $70.


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: Cask 49

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Young, powerful, and spicy spirit which shows through some brilliant black tea notes, oily richness, pepper, dried apricot, dried blueberries, oak, and light bourbon notes with some nice spice on the end. Well balanced, and very intriguing. One of my favorite ryes, and quite unique among those that I’ve tasted.

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

Value: Average, at $70.


Review: Stalk & Barrel Single Malt Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

This single malt was the first whisky produced out of Still Waters distillery in Concord, and each batch is released as a single cask whisky at either 46% or cask strength (usually around 62%). So far, as Still Waters is still quite young, most of their whiskies have been between 3 and 4 years old at this point. The whiskies bear that age pretty well, tasting older than that. Before this whisky, Ontario was not producing a single malt that consumers could buy.

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Review: Stalk & Barrel Special 1+11 Blend Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

This whisky is produced by Still Waters distillery, in Concord, Ontario. Still Waters distillery only started distilling whisky around 4 years ago, and, as with most distilleries when they start – cash flow is difficult at first as the whisky has to age for at least 3 years in Canada. Still Waters did something interesting – they purchased whisky, mostly 4-6 years old, from other distilleries and blended in some of their young spirit was well to produce a blended whisky. In Canada, legally, you can include up to 1/11 of either young spirit (at least 2 years old) or wine and still legally call the product Canadian whisky – according to Davin DeKergommeaux’sbook Canadian Whisky, this regulation originally sprung out of large tax breaks that the US gave to Canadian producers during a time when there was surplus American spirit due to crop failure – but this also helped Canadian producers compete with American producers, who were using neutral, unaged spirits, as significant or primary components of their blend. Consequently, Still Waters is able to include spirit at least 2 years old as part of this blend.

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