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Review: Shelter Point French Oak Double Barreled Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Shelter Point Distillery.

Image courtesy of Shelter Point Distillery.

ABV
50%
Aging
6 yrs; American Oak; Wine Finish
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

Shelter Point double barreled some of their whisky in French oak wine casks - here is something unique! This was after about 6 years in American oak.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Finished in blackberry wine casks.

Coconut, vanilla, caramel, pineapple, and rich orchard fruit and sharp baking spice. Big on the palate – spicy, rich, and full of grain and milk chocolate notes even amidst all the fruit sitting overtop. Lots of rich dried fruit, particularly apricot – frankly, it’s remarkable how well the apricot fits in. The finish rides on a wave of vanilla. My favorite Shelter Point to date. It doesn’t have the finish of some of the artisanal cask finishes but it brings a whole lot to the table…

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

Value: Average, based on $80.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 2018

  • Bottling Date: 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Finished in blackberry wine casks.

Toffee, broad grain notes, marzipan, and apple juice – yet still with lots of oak, dried fruit, and berries. There is a really great nuttiness shining through, complemented nicely by the oak. It is sweet, easy, and fruity – both fresh fruit and dried fruit, with a bit more emphasis on dried fruit – both stone fruit and raisins and currants. Excellent, and even a touch better than last year!

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

Value: Average, based on $80.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 2018

  • Bottling Date: 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Aged for 5.5 years in American oak before being finished for 335 days in quail’s gate pinot noir casks - we’re now not in blackberry cask territory.

This whisky opens with a terrific nose - really nice rich, fruity notes, raisins, red currants, cardamom, sour notes, green apple, baking spices, and great oak. Light shelter point barley characteristics. Lightens up nicely with time. Really opens up with water. The taste is slightly salty, with currants and loads of fruit and tannins – but there are some really nice malty and toffee notes as well. It is very savoury. The finish is winey, thick, and spicy – with some roasted grain notes. Nice body on the finish.

I really like it! It is a departure from before – it has more wine, fruit, and richness. The blackberry releases previously were a bit spicier. I like this version even more.

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

Value: Average, based on $80. But it’s above average if we’re just looking at Canadian single malts.


Review: Shelter Point Distiller's Select Cask Strength Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Shelter Point Cask Strength 1.jpg
ABV
58.4%
Aging
First Fill Bourbon Barrel; Finished in French Oak
Recipe
4 casks single malt + 1 cask rye
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

That's right, Patrick Evans is a fan of rye, and decided to throw in a cask of rye with some of Shelter Point's single malt and release it at cask strength. This is now their second whisky release, and has been available only recently at the distillery for $69. It is an odd mix, a vatting of single malt and rye, then finished in French Oak - but I must say after this Shelter Point is quickly moving into competition with Still Waters for my favorite Canadian micro-distillery producer...


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 2016

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

The nose has much of the standard single malt notes – fruity, with apple and cherry, oak, buttery pastry, icing – but with absolutely terrific cereal notes too, good earthiness, and some nice stewed apricot too. Diluted down to a similar strength as their single malt, it is richer and more complex but not quite as lively. Nice spices develop with time. It’s still young, as with the other Shelter Point I have had – but the youth doesn’t come through as much on the palate as with the other one. The palate has some creamy grain, but an incredible vegetal spice grips the palate towards the end leading you into a very rye-laden finish. Quite fascinating in fact – the malt leads you gently in, and the rye boldly ushers you out. Definitely more complex than the standard single malt, and the rye provides wonderful intrigue.

Drinking at cask strength, it really is upped in flavor compared to the diluted version of this whisky, with almond and coconut seeming to come out more. The rye comes into its own with complex vegetal and spice notes particularly on the finish. Not quite as graceful as the inaugural release single malt, but more interesting and more complex. I like it more, but not quite enough to bump it up a percent.

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

Value: Average, based on $80.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Five casks of single malt whisky were combined with one cask of rye whisky to make this limited run of 1200 bottles. They were all finished in a French oak cask.

Vanilla, oak, crème brulee, unripe pear, nectarines, stewed fruits, dill, strawberry, and a light floral character. There’s a nice, subtle, candied element to the nose. The palate is big, full of toffee and dried fruits and finishing with spices, mint, and dried apricot. The dried apricot is just remarkable. Big finish – lots of complexity and spice. Lots of nuts, throughout, and nice complexity even if a bit brash at times.

This was one of my top 25 whiskies in the Canadian Whisky Awards in 2017. And for good reason - it’s big, complex, and interesting.

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

Value: Average, based on $80.


Review (2019)

·         Batch: 2018

·         Bottling Date: 2018

·         Bottling Code: N/A

This is big, and full of rich grain. It’s quite something – sharp toffee, hazelnut oil, a light grain characteristic, and light spice – but with a comfortable bracing of oak. The palate is sharp, rich, intense – lots of flavor from spice, nuts, oil, and loads of fruit. There is a spicy grain character at the core which I just cannot help but love – and the finish is loaded with dried fruits, umami, and light pepper notes. Very nice…

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

Value: Average, at $86, against other whiskies at this cost.


Review: Shelter Point Montfort DL 141 Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Shelter Point Distillery.

Image courtesy of Shelter Point Distillery.

ABV
46%
Aging
Various
Recipe
100% Unmalted Barley
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

The Montfort DL 141 indicates where the barley was grown (at shelter point) which makes up this whisky. Interestingly, it is made completely from unmalted barley - a fairly rare style of whisky. Though a limited release, the barley itself was grown by shelter point and is the start of the exploration of terrior by the distillery, which will be a focus.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Aged 4.5 yrs in American Oak.

A lot on this nose: dried chanterelles, bready notes, vanilla, green hard pear, banana, dried apricot, pineapple, oak, coconut and gentian. The palate has coconut, green pear, and a plethora of grainy notes with a rich middle. The finish is nicely balanced, with vanilla, malty notes, dried apricot, and nutmeg. Almond throughout, espcially on the finish, which is quite nice.

More crisp and condensed than the standard Shelter Point, and not as fruity. Still a bit young which would round out quite well, I think, with age. That’s really all it is...needs more time in the cask. There’s some wonderful stuff underneath.

Doesn’t quite have the complexity, balance, or breadth of the standard shelter point – but it offers something different, with more oak and a denser flavour profile which unfolds in a slower, different way (i.e. it is less apparent on first sip, and requires a bit more study to understand). A very nice addition to the lineup, and I like what they are doing...

I do really like the compactness of the grain in this and the tannic grip it has. It’s a bit hard to talk about. Really nice, and a ton of potential – I think score would significantly jump at 8 or 10 years – it is a great direction.

Value: Low, based on $80. A very unique product though - the next year’s batch is much better, in my view.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 2018

  • Bottling Date: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 2018

This has more French oak than the previous bottling and was aged a year longer than the batch above. It seems to pay off:

Quite fruity –peach, sour pear, vanilla, custard, and light black pepper – yet also having a growing toffee and sugar characteristic, and, with time, an earthy cigar characteristic. There is a beautiful grain character present, with flour and nut oil notes richly present in the middle. Also, great berry notes – blackberry tea, raspberry – and a great earthiness in the middle. This whisky is about terrior – and I find in this a much deeper earthiness than in the standard shelter point – unique and awesome.

This is quite an improvement over last year’s bottling, and seems to have started to gain quite a following!

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

Value: Average, based on $80.


Review: Prospector Canadian Rye Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Prospector+2.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
Virgin Charred American Oak
Recipe
100% Unmalted BC Rye
Distiller Odd Society (Vancouver, British Columbia)

This new 100% rye whisky is going to be one of the core whiskies produced by Odd Society, along with a continual set of experimental releases. It is 100% rye, matured in new oak - so expect this one to be a big, flavourful whisky.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 1

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

A rich, spicy, woody nose – cedar, oak, balsam – but loaded with baking spices, black tea, mixed grain porridge, brown sugar, and more. I do like rich, dense noses – and the cedar in this is awesome. Further, there is a good kick of dried fruit – apricot and peach, here – and some deeper, intriguing notes of sundried tomato and hibiscus. Some of the fruitiness and sweet toffee character are similar to Commodore – but this is very spicy and woody in comparison. The palate is rather pleasant, with loads more wood notes, tea notes, spice, and dried fruit – with a very agreeable level of tannin. The finish is spicy and dense, with wood and more dried fruit unfolding. Very nice! It opens up nicely with time, with more floral notes emerging.

I love to see the diversity of rye whiskies being released by Canadian producers. This is a completely different take on rye compared to Stalk & Barrel, Dillon’s, North of 7, or any of the big producers.

A nice release beside commodore! I like them both. This is more up my alley, to my preferences, and has a bit more complexity to it, but with that comes a sharper set of flavours and astringency so many might prefer Commodore. This, also, doesn’t show its youth as readily as commodore.

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

Value: Average. Another nice take on Canadian rye!


Review: Commodore Canadian Single Malt Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Commodore+2.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
56 litre first fill ex-bourbon
Recipe
100% BC Malted Barley
Distiller Odd Society (Vancouver, British Columbia)

This is made from 100% malted BC barley, and will be one of the core whiskies going forward. Odd society has lots of experimental whiskies which will be released in 500 ml bottles. This is matured in a 56 litre ex-bourbon barrel. Previous releases were in 30 L ex-bourbon or ex-rye casks. Slowly graduating to larger barrels, and releases are expected to continue to get older as aging time increases.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 1

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

This has a richer oak characteristic than the previous single malt from Odd society (to my memory) – hazlenuts, green pear, caramel, and a slightly dusty baking spice characteristic. The “texture” on the nose is fairly dry and spicy, but a creaminess emerges with time. A nice deep nose – the youth is felt but the aromas are vibrant. The palate is loaded with sweet wood – caramel, toffee, creamy vanilla – but we still have a spicy woodiness, pear, honey, and light tannins directing the show. Slightly tangy, for a good effect. The finish is slightly sweet, creamy, and has a nice kick of cinnamon. With time, the finish develops into a more complex set of spices – coriander, light cumin, and white pepper – and some dried coconut.

I like this quite a bit more than the Odd Society Single Malt I tied last year. The BC distillers are really coming along!

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

Value: Low. It’s not expensive as far as micro-distilled single malts go, and it’s nearly in the “average” category - but not quite. If you’re wanting to explore some of the more handcrafted/unique single malts, this is not a bad place to start.


Review: Queensborough Omakese Japanese Style Gin by Jason Hambrey

Queensborough+Omakese+Japanese+Style+Gin.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Central City (Surrey, British Columbia)

“Omakese” refers to “chef’s choice” in Japanese - and this is Central City’s choice for a different take on gin - it is distilled with sansho pepper, yuzu lemon, cherry blossoms and Japanese tea alongside more traditional gin botanicals. I quite like gins with sansho pepper - they add a nice spicy kick at the end which adds, both in sipping and mixing. This gin is quite different in style and even body (lighter) than the standard Queensborough gin.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose has intriguing coastal notes – dried seaweed, rock pools – but also light floral notes, pepper, spice, and even some light woody notes like menthol or eucalyptus. Nice, rich tea notes. The palate is dry, rich, and has a very nice spicy character – with the building sansho pepper at the end and mixed, tannic teas in the middle. I quite like sansho pepper in my gin – it adds a real spicy richness. And as you keep drinking, the spicy character continues on and on…

Make sure that you have a full go at this, as the combination of the spice and the tannins from the tea make an incredible combination in the mouth with additional sips.

Assessment: Recommended.


Review: Queensborough Dry Gin by Jason Hambrey

Queensborough+Dry+Gin.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
None
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Central City (Surrey, British Columbia)

This gin is made in a more traditional fashion, with juniper starring in the show - with Central City macerating the juniper rather than distilling through it to get a heavier juniper character (they also distill through other botanicals in a basket in the still). It is bottled at a higher than usual percent (43%) and uses Rocky Mountain juniper and spruce tips, among other botanicals.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

I quite like the juniper forward nature of this one – it is forward and rich. My own preference is to favour juniper and I like it more than many of the modern, lighter botanical (and not juniper) forward gins. But, some prefer the more modern, lighter style of gins. But I like this – rich and thick. Rich, woody, spicy, and citrus aromas on the nose lead into a palate with light vanilla, buttery spirit base, and light mixed spices including coriander and a hint of nutmeg. The finish is full of juniper, citrus, and a bit of lemon. I quite like this!

It is incredibly drinkable, and I like the clean yet heavy character of the gin. A nice find!

Assessment: Highly Recommended.


Review: Lohin McKinnon Tequila Finished Single Malt Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Lohin McKinnon Tequila Finished.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
Ex-bourbon and Tequila barrels
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Central City (Surrey, British Columbia)

This is a Lohin McKinnon which has been finished in Tequila casks which were described by the barrel broker as “Mexican Heaven” barrels. This is the only Tequila finished whisky that I know of, certainly the only one in Canada. I know Wiser’s has experimented with Tequila finished whisky but they haven’t bottled any. This is one of the annual special releases from Lohin McKinnon (last year we saw the excellent chocolate malt).


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is spicy, intensely grainy, and full of rich earthy notes: roasted root vegetables, orange, cacao, toasted coconut, and pear. There are some nice floral notes, too – which sit on top. This would be an example of a nose that I would call “layered” – the floral notes sit on top, with citrus and plum beneath, then some sweet spice and a touch of tequila, and then earthy notes at the bottom. Quite a nice, rich maltiness with this one.

The palate has dark brown sugar, a mild oakiness, vanilla, a touch of jalapeno, oat cakes, rich honey, and a bit of sour agave just towards the end. The middle of this whisky is so rich – it’s quite fascinating. It still sits a bit “heavy” as if from youth, or maybe that comes in from the barrels. I like how the whisky has a tequila characteristic, but it isn’t dominated by it.

I’ve found that I’ve liked Lohin McKinnon more and more as I’ve tried more of it.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). It’s very rare to find Tequila finished whiskies – in fact this is the only one I know of which has been bottled (I’ve tasted some which weren’t bottled), so on a uniqueness scale, it’s up there. It’s a fun one for blind tastings.

Value: Average. It’s pretty unique, and is on the cheaper side of micro-distilled single malts in Canada (70$).


Review: Odd Society Spirits Single Malt Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
3 yrs
Recipe
100% BC Malted Barley
Distiller Odd Society (Vancouver, British Columbia)

The start of more single malt coming from Vancouver, aged in small (30 L) casks. The distillery just opened in 2013, so this is the beginning - sometimes I hesitate to review the initial stuff because it may not be indicative of the future and older stocks, but I can't resist looking into what new distillers are starting to do...


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Vibrant, and a very fruity and spicy nose – pears, apples, tangerines, guava, mango nectar, fruit drops – yet also with porridge-like grain notes, coconut, molasses, and baking spice. The palate is peppery and young, leading with big fruitiness, clean grain, and spice. Some pleasing coconut at the end.

The longer it sits out (even 30 mins!) the better it gets. It has some really nicely cut out elements, but still has a way to go yet. 

Value: Low. Generally, it is hard to compete with massive distilleries when you are a young and small distillery with a young whisky (especially one from malted barley). However, if the price holds and the distillate gets more mature, there is potential for this one to become a better value buy.


Review: Lohin McKinnon Chocolate Malt Single Malt Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Lohin Mckinnon Chocolate Malt.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
Ex-bourbon and Sauternes wine casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley (85% pale malt, 15% chocolate malt)
Distiller Central City (Surrey, British Columbia)

This whisky is made from a portion of chocolate malt - heavily roasted malt which is used to create stouts and porters. As the chocolate malt imparts a rich dark character to the whisky, it was partially matured in the dessert wine Sauternes casks to create a rich, decadent almost dessert style whisky - however, I definitely would not characterize it as a sweet whisky, as far as sweeter styles of whisky go. As with their peated whisky, this was carefully distilled and "pushed" farther than typical to capture all of the roasted malt notes. 


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

A very impressive nose. It has that characteristic root vegetable earthiness, but with a sweet white raisin like sweetness. Prunes, caramel, maple, toffee, The nose is one thing – the palate another. It is a fascinating single malt. It starts earthy and then a rich toasted malt wave rides into the nutty finish which features sesame, milk chocolate, raisin, and vanilla. Terrific! A winner, especially for lovers of roasted malt beers like stouts or porters – the characteristic really comes through. This is a classic!

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

Value: Average. The best value of the Lohin Mckinnons, but that’s because it’s been my favourite to date. It’s almost in the high category for value, since I quite like it, but it isn’t quite there. This is a unique malt, so if you like those, it’s worth seeking out!