Two Brewers

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 (2020)

  • Batch: Release 18

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

Another cask strength (58%!) from Two Brewers - this time with an age statement! It is from two seven year old barrels, a combination or first fill ex-bourbon and new barrels. Non-chill filtered, no colour added - what we like to see! It’s the first age statement, but it isn’t the oldest. Two brewers batches have a range of ages, typically - for example, a recent release was 5-9 years old, and pretty evenly spread across the range. Each batch has a different formulation depending on what they are trying to achieve. So, how does this taste?

The nose is very buttery and creamy – in fact, it almost has an Irish whisky nature to it. It’s a very compelling whisky with green wood, baking spice, custard, vanilla, oak, orchard fruit, grassy spice, baking sourdough, and a light vegetal characteristic. It develops, slowly, with time. More of a spicy and custard characteristic than most two brewers, and it is a bit more oak forward – indeed, I didn’t even recognize this one blind as a Two Brewers in a recent blind tasting – but I scored it very highly. The shape of the whisky is quite different than most Two Brewers – but it is excellent! It takes water very well – in fact, I think I prefer this with a drop or two of water.

The palate is creamy, buttery, and rich. What fantastic whisky! Tremendous stuff. Coconut, custard, clove, banana cream pie, tannins, pear, and nutmeg. The finish is long, creamy, and sweet. Great oak. There is a really nice vegetal, umami character that emerges too – it’s really great. And a beautiful cedar note to look for.

I guess all the new oak really shifted this whisky a bit further outside the boundaries compared to most Two Brewers– but it is very good and surprisingly (to me) different. Very well balanced, still. I think my second favourite two brewers, after batch 10…

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

Value: Average, but towards the higher value end of the category. Relatively expensive at $125, but also very good…


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Release 23

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

This single malt is a lightly peated single malt matured in ex-bourbon, then finished in both sherry and port barrels. So, intensive on the finishing time now! Something a bit new.

The nose is very two brewers – tropical fruit, rich grain character – but also smoky, oaky, and winey. It’s quite a mix of flavours here – bright port, rich sherry, sharp peat, and vibrant spirit. A fascinating, layered, nose with lots going on. The sherry has a really nice binding effect on the whisky.

On the palate, a classic rich grain character comes in sharply before sherry softens it out into a sweet, very fruity finish. Not your classic two brewers fruit (lighter orchard fruit and tropical fruit) – but candied orange, prunes, currants, berries, and fruitcake. The peat comes and outlasts the fruit on the finish. You can taste all the components – the sherry, the peat, the port, and the spirit. I always like that.

One of the richer two brewers, I think. A fantastic mix of flavours, but they aren’t quite as clearly balanced as some of their other whiskies. But can I complain? No. Excellent stuff.

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

Value: Average based on $100.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Release 23

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

This release was made from two brewers single malt, finished in sherry seasoned oak casks. The nose is very nicely balanced, bright, and complex – tropical fruit – mango, papaya, and even a bit of lychee - grassy spice, white pepper, baking spice, nutty sherry, orange peel, raisin, toffee, and jammy citrus, stone fruit, and berry notes. And it all works. The palate starts with vanilla, toffee, honey, and fruit before building to those great spicy and herbal grain alongside a lot of toasted nut. You’d think it was all over – but then you get a whole second defined wave of flavours on the finish! It builds to an incredible rancio note. It’s just awesome – nutty and fruity, but interspersed with the herbal and spicy grain character from Two Brewers. Some nice malty notes on the finish also. Great stuff. My favourite sherry finish of theirs, and one of the better two brewers overall – to my taste.

The quality of this cask is quite good. The impact it has on the whisky reminds me of Westland’s sherry casks (take the whisky part aside, and just compare the sherry).

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

Value: Average based on $100.


Review: Two Brewers Peated 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%
Aging
7-8 yrs
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Two Brewers (Whitehorse, Yukon)

A bit of a rarity- you don't often see Canadian peated whisky! This, however, gets its smoke from UK sourced peated barley. Canadian peat has been used in quite a few distilleries in the states, but for now it seems Canada is still looking to the UK for their peating demands.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Release 03

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

1750 bottles released. Fruity, and rich – guava, candied apple and pear – and still a bit of a spicy background alongside cacao, smoke, peat, leather, and dried apricot. Lots of pear. Develops a bit more broadly with time. On the palate, continues with pear, smoke, peat, cacao, dried apricot and peach - but arugula and spice start to sweep in! It finishes with more candy, caramel, smoke, and spice.

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

Value: Average. Good whisky, but starts to compete with the other best $100 whiskies.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Release 07

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The only gold winning medal from a micro-distillery at the Canadian whisky awards. Quite remarkable!

The nose is smoky – lots of it - with some nice minerality and medicinal notes – while also being bright with terrific earthy notes. Vegetal and rich – dry straw, white pepper, ripe yellow apple, young leather...

The palate starts with limestone and rich orchart fruit – apples, pears, and ripe peach - closing out with smoke and a burst of wet earth. The finish remains on the earthy, smoky notes with some roasted malt too. Eventually it fades to malt and the enduring fruit – pear, apple, pineapple. I don’t know if I’ve ever encountered a peaty whisky which integrated such bright fruit. Impressive.

It has just a terrific collapse of smoke, minerality, and peaty earthiness with an earthiness from the barley malt. Just terrific. Smokier than batch 03.

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

Value: Average. Good whisky, but starts to compete with the other best $100 whiskies.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Release 12

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

An earthy nose which has smoke, spicy earthiness, vanilla, and dried fruit. The palate carries through the peat, but offsets the flavour with some rich grain (think whole, mixed grain cereal like red river) and dried stone and tropical fruit – dried peach, papaya, pineapple, and prune. Rich, but not quite as bright or balanced as release 07 which was rather fantastic. However, this has a strong and dry earthiness which isn’t in release 07, so from a peat perspecitive, this is a bit stronger, but it isn’t quite as balanced. Nonetheless, it’s still terrific!

Highly Recommended (48% 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 (2020)

  • Batch: Release 19

  • Bottling Code:  N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

I really liked batch 12 (my second favourite whisky from my judging in last year’s Canadian whisky awards). The peat is big here, and slightly medicinal – smoky, briny, woody, peppery peat combined with herbal grain, bright fruit, and white pepper. Great tension. The palate is smoky at first, then medicinal, and then woody with tropical fruit (some papaya even), ash, and black pepper. This is really good.

Maybe not quite as intriguing as Batch 12, but this is the most well rounded of the peated batches, in my opinion – and the most medicinal. The Two Brewers Peated releases are really hitting their stride.

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

Value: Average at $100


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Release 25

  • Bottling Code:  N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2021

They do it again – full of that glorious bright, tropical Two Brewers fruit with a smoky, ashy tinge. The core of these whiskies are so similar (and of incredible quality) that there isn’t too much point in repeating my previous reviews, rather, we can focus on the variations around the theme.

This one isn’t as smoky as some of the previous releases, but, with that, it’s brighter in terms of fruit and it’s spicier.  It has a biscuit-like character that hasn’t been as prominent in previous releases, (at least, I haven’t noticed it before) and notes of apple juice really pop out in this one.

Highly Recommended (48% 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: 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 (2020)

  • Batch: Release 21

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

It’s hard to believe that I’ve reviewed 21 batches of Two Brewers (or that we’re already at 21!). The nose is sweet, fruity, herbal, lightly sweet- classic. Baking spices, banana, tropical fruit, sharp grain, sweet oak, and toasted notes all find their place in a round and integrated single malt.

It isn’t as rich or dynamic as some others, and the oak takes more prevalence – but this is still absolutely fantastic single malt.

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

Value: Average at $100


Review (2021)

  • Batch: Release 24 (58%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

A 58% bottling, 11 years of age, single barrel (s?) - the oldest two brewers to date. And it’s been on quite a journey! It spent its first 5 years in an ex-bourbon cask, then 7 months in a PX sherry barrel, then more than 2 years in an independent stave company char number 2 reserve barrel, and then 3 years in a reused independent stave company char number 1. That’s a lot of work to go into this!

A very complex nose – lots of sherry, rich oak, mixed roasted nuts, almonds, prunes, baking spices, rancio (amazing here), white pepper, and some mossy oak. The sherry, combined with some of the oak, creates a balsamic or sherry vinegar type of character on the nose (flavour, not the sourness). With time, vanilla just grows and grows on the nose. The palate is lightly sweet, and full of dried fruit, rancio, and spices. It almost has a vermouth-like quality to it, in terms of the flavours that are in the whisky: maple syrup, cloves, licorice root, fennel, and lots of herbaceous and oxidized wine notes. The finish is lightly oaky, syrupy, full of raisins, cloves, maple, and white pepper. Fairly sweet throughout – no surprise, I suppose, given the PX.

I like the big rancio hit here but I still tend to favour the ex-bourbon over the sherry cask – generally. However, it’s nice to get a cask strength version out for the sherry fans.

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

Value: low, at the price ($130). I think this will be just up the alley of certain people, though, and it isn’t too expensive, relatively, for what it is!


Review: Yukon Brewing Small Batch Artisanal Gin by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Yukon Brewing.

Image courtesy of Yukon Brewing.

ABV
42%
Aging
None
Recipe
Spirit and Botanicals
Producer Yukon Brewing (Whitehorse, Yukon)

It is no secret that I love the Two Brewers Single Malt, produced at the distillery. I think it’s the best single malt in Canada. So, of course, if they are producing gin - I want to try it! The distillery started with beer - it was opened in 1997 and then distilling equipment came a few decades later. This gin recipe was refined over several years, but is just now coming to market.

As for the production: the gin is made from a sourced wheat spirit and a mixture of botanicals: Juniper, Lemon Peel, Orange Peel, Corriander, Angelica, Cassia bark, Licorice Root, Orris Root, Nutmeg. The botanicals are incorporated into the gin through a variety of methods - ethanol soaking, boiling/infusing in water, and added to the pot still prior to distillation.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

Rich juniper and coriander on the nose – it’s very clean and refined much like many of the large producers - on the nose, that is. As soon as you sip it, you are greeted with a rich mouthfeel with a great pop of spiciness, wood, and juniper. The end builds into big citrus (particularly lemon), a light earthiness, and loads of spiciness. Very enjoyable stuff.

Fits nicely into a bold London Gin style.

Assessment: Highly Recommended.


Review: Two Brewers Classic Keno Single Malt Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Two Brewers.

Image courtesy of Two Brewers.

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

Two Brewers did a special bottling for the 100th anniversary of Keno, Yukon. Two Brewers made 300 bottles of this to celebrate, and thought through ways to honour the city from the inception of the concept a number of years ago - like sticking a barrel of whisky down a mine shaft, but, needed to come up with a more feasible (and legal) way to honour the city. They instead deproofed the whisky with water from Erickson Creek near Keno, right at the beginning of spring while the water runs clear. The whisky comes out of the barrel at about 65%, so the 80 litres of water collected from the creek ends up being about 1/3 of what is inside the bottle.

To hear more, there’s a great interview on CBC.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Keno

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The whisky is very, very bright on the nose – and quite complex. Banana, caramel, pineapple, baking spice, custard, sweet oak, mixed stewed fruits, apple pie, coconut, arugula, and a light touch of earthiness. It lends some piney, hoppy notes too. The description I just gave may lead you to think that this is just a fruit bomb – but that is not true. It is balanced really well with grain and spice. The palate starts with fruit and custard, with the custard fading to caramel as malt takes which then fades to clove, arugula, and a tinge of metallic notes. And we have, at the finish, baking spices, malt, and a slight bitterness – a bit lager-like. A “liquid party” indeed!

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

Value: N/A