Virgin Oak

Review: Method & Madness Single Grain Irish Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Method & Madness Single Grain 1.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
Ex-bourbon casks; Virgin spanish oak finish
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Midleton (Midleton, Ireland)

Method & Madness is a very interesting brand coming from Midleton, taking a creative and innovative angle on Irish whisky doing all sorts of interesting stuff like finishing in cherry wood and chestnut. This one takes what is known as a “single grain whisky” in Scotland and Ireland- essentially, a whisky made from a grain different than malt. Typically corn or wheat is used, because they are cheaper grains and they are distilled to be very light in character - to be a base for blends. So finishing in virgin oak will amp up oak characteristics, dissolved into the whisky, without a long maturation in new oak.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L919931457 07:24 18/07/19

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose is very light, but very woody. If anyone is curious what European oak tastes like – this is a good picture of this. It is very familiar with virgin oaked finished Canadian whiskies – no surprise there – because most virgin oak finished whiskies mostly have a light corn base. Pencil shavings, rose, mixed baking spice, dried mixed flowers, vanilla, and some potpourri. Pleasant, but not a lot of character behind the oak, which dominates this one quite a bit. It isn’t too much wood (it isn’t bitter or overoaked) but I would say that the wood dominates in a way where the spirit isn’t present much, and therefore – to me – it’s missing the element of balance between spirit and cask which I desire in whiskies, particularly finished whiskies.

The palate is very thick – woody, oaky, vanilla, with a light floral characteristic and lots of confectionary characteristics (like icing sugar). The finish is all European oak and some light sweetness, with vanilla. Baking spices and toasted oak, with a rich spicy character – all there.

I’m so-so about this one. If you haven’t had a “light expression” with lots of oak, this is a very different. If I compare to a whisky which I find better balanced between virgin oak and a light spirit (like Pike Creek 21 European Oak finish), then it doesn’t have nearly the same complexity or intrigue.

But, I also can’t say there are any real negatives here, and it’s enjoyable as a casual dram.

Value: Nothing special, but not bad for $65. You can certainly do better these days, but if you are interested to explore a bit of a different take on Irish whisky, it’s not a lot to spend against the market.


Review: J.P. Wiser’s Alumni Series Dave Keon Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Dave Keon 1.jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
14 Years; Refill, Ex-Bourbon and Virgin Oak, and Speyside Malt Casks
Recipe
Blend of Corn, rye, and malt whiskies
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

This whisky - another of the alumni series - sets out to honour Dave Keon - aged 14 years in honour of his jerset number 14. Bottled at 45%, also, as a nod to Keon’s 45-point first season. It’s a mix of single column distilled rye, column and pot-distilled rye, single column distilled malt, and double distilled corn. And, it’s aged in 4 different casks (one for each of Keon’s cup wins)- reused Canadian whisky casks, ex-bourbon casks, new white oak casks, and Speyside malt casks. It will launch in Ontario as early as next month, but release date is still not certain. As with the other alumni series releases, 50% of the profits go to support hockey initiatives and the retired player community.

So, how does it taste?…


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 2019-2020

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

Now I really like this! What a nice nose – rich wood notes, dried fruit, spices, old mossy oak (a bit bourbon-y), lilacs, roses, vanilla, clove, and dried apricot. The palate is sumptuous. A nice, thick body with a really nice set of flavours – black tea, lilac, molasses, dried apricot, prunes, red currants, rose, anise – it is just delicious! The feel of the palate, too, is great – nicely structured with tingling spices and drying tannins. The finish has lots of dried fruit, oak, rose, floral rye, hazelnut oil, and apple seeds.

This is a really nice blend. Just terrific. My second favourite of the Alumni series so far – behind Clark – but this is just a really nice whisky and it sits at a great price. Go try some, when it comes around.

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

Value: Very high. Great stuff for $45!


Review: J.P. Wiser’s Alumni Series Yvan Cournoyer Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Yvan Cournoyer.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
12 Years; Refill, Ex-Bourbon and Virgin Oak Casks
Recipe
Blend of Corn, rye, and malt whiskies
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

This has two types of rye whisky in it - a single column distilled rye and a column and then pot-distilled rye whisky (i.e., Lot no. 40), alongside double distilled corn and column distilled malt. It was aged for 12 years - in honour of Cournoyer’s jersey number 12. It’s only bottled at 40% unlike many of the alumni series which come in a bit higher - but this is still a very nice whisky and, after reviewing it - probably my third favourite of the alumni releases behind Wendel Clark and Dave Keon. This is launching in Ontario and Quebec sometime this winter. As with all alumni series whiskies, 50% of the profits are going towards hockey initiatives and the support of retired players.

Interestingly, this recipe is inspired by the 1972 recipe for Carleton Tower, an old Hiram Walker blend. Why? Again, a nod back to Cournoyer - who was playing at the peak of his powers at the time for Canada in the 1972 Summit Series.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 2019-2020

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose has a really nice mix of rich rye notes and corn notes – dried corn, prune, dried flowers, dried apricot, lilac, new oak, and pine. It develops as it sits – particularly the floral notes, with rosebushes coming through quite nicely.  The palate has sweet corn, rye notes, pine, orange, and some mixed grain porridge. It has a really nice balance of flavour – fatty corn, floral rye, dried fruit notes, and spices. It’s just very enjoyable. The finish has some baking spices, mixed citrus pith, dried fruit, lilac, and orange. Very nice – probably my third favourite of the alumni releases.

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

Value: High. Great stuff for $45.


Review: Willibald Pink Gin by Jason Hambrey

Willibald+Pink+Gin+2.jpg
ABV
38.3%
Aging
Merlot and Pinot Noir Wine Casks; 1 year
Recipe
Triple distilled corn, rye, and barley with 6 botanicals
Distiller Willibald (Ayr, Ontario)

Another aged gin from Willibald, but with a bit of a different take than their big, oaky, and spicy new-oak aged gin. This is a slightly different formulation, with a bit less caraway and cardamom so that the fruit and floral notes from the wine cask wouldn’t get lost. The wine casks are sourced mainly from Palantine Hills - the gin also has a bit of honey (from the Willibald farm) added to it to round out the drink and give a slight sweetness.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Awesome! Nice licorice notes, intense juniper, baked arugula, berries, wildflower honey, and light oxidized wine. Not as oaky or quite as big as Willibald’s typical gin, but it still has the big spicy richness. The wine character is there, but it’s light. Slightly sweet on the palate, resulting in a bit of a different experience – and perhaps one which makes it even more drinkable: it is relatively soft, complex, and lightly sweet with more subtlety rather than big and bold, like the usual Willibald gin which is big, oaky, spicy, and rich. It is very much in the Willibald “family” (which I always appreciate from a brand) but it is a very different take, and a very good one. Worth a try, especially if you like bigger gins. Great on ice, too.

It isn’t as versatile as some gins in cocktails due to its bold character, which is fine because I think this is best drunk neat or a little chilled. Interestingly enough, if it’s too chilled I find the wine character dominates. Both Willibald gins have some of the best reception of any gins that I pour during whisky tastings to whisky enthusiasts and connoisseurs.

Assessment: Very highly recommended.

Value: High. I have no problem laying down $40 for this, as someone who isn’t eager to spend too much on spirits - in fact, it will likely become a regular occurrence.


Review: Willibald Gin by Jason Hambrey

Willibald+1.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
6-8 Months; Virgin American Oak Char #4
Recipe
Triple distilled corn, rye, and barley with 6 botanicals
Distiller Willibald (Ayr, Ontario)

This gin stands out to me for a few reasons. First, it’s the flagship gin of the distillery and it’s aged - they don’t even have a white version. Most distilleries focus on a clear, unaged version and then age it or create variations - not so here. It’s different to craft a gin to be aged in a barrel rather than bottled as a white spirit. Second, it’s made from three different grains - corn, rye, and barley - rather than a simple grain spirit. Third, they are using new oak, not used oak - not something that I’ve ever seen in Canadian gin yet - it brings in an intensity to the gin and not simply a complex subtlety. Fourth - it’s big and bold, which lets it remain a gin but compete a bit more fully in other cocktails.

It might not surprise you to know that the distillery is heavily influenced by American straight ryes and bourbons.


Review (2019)

  • Batch:

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The nose is very deep for a gin, perhaps due to the age of the stuff. There is a nice matching of oak to juniper, of sharp spice like fennel and earthy coriander to the bright citrus. I must say, it’s a rather impressive nose. The palate is rich in its woodiness – but the remarkable feat is that the woodiness balances all the botanicals, adds great grip, and great tannins. There is a nice bit of vanilla and sharp woody spices, earl grey, clove, and licorice at the end, and something like anise. Really nice finish, intense, and smooth – and very easy to drink!

 A bit elegant, almost some earl grey in there at the end. I really like to sip this one – it is very moreish. I like to sip gins, but this one is unique – it’s one I’m often in the mood for unlike many gins, which are much more occasional. Makes a great pink gin, too.

A highlight in my exploration of Canadian gins. It’s an aged gin that reveals that these aged gins have some great potential.

Assessment: Very highly recommended.

Value: High. I have no problem laying down $45 for this, as someone who isn’t eager to spend too much on spirits - in fact, it will likely become a regular occurence.