Whisky

Review: North of 7 Three Grain Canadian Whisky ("Trad") by Jason Hambrey

Image copyright by North of 7 Distillery. Used with Permission.

Image copyright by North of 7 Distillery. Used with Permission.

ABV
45%
Aging
~5 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
70% Corn, 25% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
Distiller North Of 7 (Ottawa, Ontario)

This whisky was filled into a barrel at 57% in March 2015, and bottled in November 2020, so about 5.7 years of age. I was able to taste it at cask strength in November as part of a private barrel selection, and it was my second favourite barrel of the ten we tasted so I’ve been waiting for it to come out.

Unlike most of North of 7 virgin oak casks, which are heavily toasted and lightly charred, this one is heavily charred which lines it up closely by recipe and by cask to the most popular bourbon brands.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Barrel 14

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

Quite different in profile to North of 7s other products, but still very rich in both oak and grain character. Caramel, corn husks, baking spice, oaky astringency (slight), dill, stewed peaches, vanilla, coconut, charred oak, fennel seed, dried hibiscus, lemon peel, and some lilac. The palate follows, starting out with loads of rye flavour before some rich corn character, breadiness, and milk chocolate emerge in the middle and the finish is full of spices – baking spices, dried chilli, milk chocolate, dried apricot. The chilli is great. Very nice finish.

Definitely mature whisky, this – reminiscent of some rye-heavy bourbons like four roses single barrel, but altogether different with a sharper oak character and not as much corn coming through.

I tasted it a few months ago and it’s come along further since then. To my recollection, this is only the second “trad” that they’ve released but the recipe shows a lot of potential. I’ll be looking forward to the later barrels.

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

Value: high at $60


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Barrel 28 (58.5%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2021

This was the barrel selection from 2021 for me and a number of friends, from a selection of 6 casks. This one went into the barrel at 52.8% in January of 2016 and came out at 58.5% in October of 2021 (close to 6 years old). We loved it when we tasted it.

It has a rich, oaky nose. It ticks all the boxes - caramel, toasted baking spices, toasted fennel seed, dried apricot, dried peach, buttery caramel, and clove. A touch of dill too. Thick on the palate, with lots of spice. Good fruitiness and spice, and very well balanced. The finish is spicy, full of corn, and baking spice. The spices are surprising on the finish. It is very pleasant at around 45%, but this is just wonderful at cask strength.

Critically, it isn’t as good as cask 16 (our four grain pick from last year from the distillery) but I find it’s way easier to drink, in a way where I will rarely reach for 16 if it beside 28. Critically better doesn’t always mean more crave-worthy. Just awesome stuff. The closest big comparator I have is some of the “OB”, high rye recipes from Four Roses, but it’s still quite a bit different.

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

Value: High at $70.


Review: North of 7 Canadian Whisky (Four Grain) by Jason Hambrey

Image copyright by North of 7 Distillery. Used with Permission.

Image copyright by North of 7 Distillery. Used with Permission.

ABV
45%
Aging
3 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
51% Corn, 26% Wheat, 12% Rye, 12% Barley
Distiller North Of 7 (Ottawa, Ontario)

An Ottawa whisky (I am an Ottawa native, so I'm interested!) - made in a bourbon profile - made largely from corn, matured in New Oak, and using a four grain mash bill. North of 7 was perhaps the last craft distillery to get a contract with Independent Stave Company - the renowned maker of barrels for renowned Kentucky Distillers like Buffalo Trace, Jim Beam, and Heaven Hill. Because of the whisky boom, they won't take any more clients! All that to say, North of 7 has some pretty good casks...


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Cask 1

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose has a nice grainy base with lots of caramel and a grassiness reminiscent of spicy pot still Iriish whisky. Vanilla, anise, methol, sharp new oak, corn husks, butterscotch, cucumber, and lots of grain notes – wheat flour, nutty grain, polenta, and light grainy earthiness. Surprisingly wheaty – cream of wheat comes through quite clearly. The youth of the nose is present, with a bit of rawness on the otherwise pleasant and grain-forward nose. The palate is corn and oak forward, with a light caramel rumble before a spicy and grain-laden finish. The anise is present throughout, and the spicy finish is lightly creamy with butterscotch – for good effect. They emphasize their casks, from Independent Stave Company (who also supply Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill, and most of the other successful distilleries in Kentucky) – and for good reason. These casks will treat this whisky well, given a few more years.

Based on the mash bill and how it is matured, you might be expecting a bourbon. It’s reminiscent of the style – but it’s not. Either it is simply not warm enough in Ottawa, or it needs more time – but that is of no matter. A thoroughly enjoyable whisky, this, and shows lots of potential as the years will add on.

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

Value: Average (based on $60)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Cask 2

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Centred on grainy notes, reminiscent of spicy mixed grain porridge, yet still with quite a bit of orchard fruit – peach and pear. Wheat really comes out. Tangy, too – the light bits of menthol, pineapple, and oak that play in nicely. Maltesers, milk chocolate, vegetal cacao, and a touch of green cardamom too. The oak and the grain are both so rich with this one – nice…

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

Value: Average (based on $60)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Cask 3

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

This now has more prominent notes suggesting wheated bourbon, which I didn’t get in the previous cask. Corn, vanilla, confectioner’s sugar, grape, light floral rye, clove, pear, toasted hazlenuts, blanched almonds, green tea, and a grainy, porridge-like character. There’s a sharp yeasty note too.  It really has come on – it makes me quite interested to know what this will taste like at 6+ yrs. The palate is lightly sweet, with a toffee backdrop with the grainy notes, coconut, and ripe banana on top. The finish has prune, cacao, lots of nuts, clove, and other baking spice. Lightly earthy, too, on the finish – nice touch.

There are still a few harsh notes which I expect to get ironed out as it gets older – but this is coming along well! These also lift off as the bottle is open a bit.

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

Value: Average (based on $60)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Cask 6

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Dried tarragon! Interesting that on this pass of the North of 7 whiskies there are more dried herbs coming out.  Oak, milk chocolate, vanilla, pineapple juice, caramel, macadamia, dried mint, freshly sawn pine, hazlenuts, fennel seed, toffee, and lemon. There’s corn, too....it might sound a bit diverse but it’s integrated together well. A nice nose! Perhaps the best I’ve had yet from the distillery. There is one note which I don’t quite know what to do with – a slightly sour, almost yoghurt like quality. It’s quite savoury, and I can’t tell if I like or dislike it.

The palate is full of mixed cereal, fresh oak, and sharp spices on the herbal side like fennel. Oak is present, but isn’t at the center – it seems to contribute quite a bit of structure and tannins, though. Dried fruits too – the usual suspects – apricot, peach, pineapple. It has a light-medium creaminess. The finish is drying and tannic, with spices, dried fruit, hazlenuts, and a spicy character like the feel of cayenne.

Better than the batch above but not quite enough yet to bump it another point. Its youth still shows through, and as this mellows out more I imagine it’s not far off an upgrade...

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

Value: Average (based on $60)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Cask 8DB

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

This one’s quite a bit different – it’s the four grain recipe but it’s been matured for 6 months in new oak. If the standard north of 7 is like hazlenuts or almonds, this is like decadent pecan in terms of nutty richness. Rich oak (think oaky bourbon), pine cones, celery seed, and toasted fennel seed. The usual complexity is very much so masked by oak. North of 7 makes whisky in the bourbon style, but it doesn’t taste like bourbon – the oakiness of this is approaching bourbon, but it is still quite grain (other than corn) centric.

The palate is oaky and tannic. Mixed porridge, dried apricot, rich fresh oak, light wood smoke, pencil shavings, and a bigger oaky creaminess. The oak is a bit too much here, with the tannins and a slight astringency taking it past a point of balance, but just a bit. Drying spices taking the finish, accompanying white grape, dried apricot,

The oak is the centre, here, and no sufficient counterbalance is offered – and the rich grainy character from the distillery is lost. That being said, I like the extra oak and probably a bit less time in the second barrel would have done a trick.

I actually like to mix this one with barrel 6 to tone down some of the oak. I like a ratio of 25% barrel 8 to 75% barrel 6. I find the mix better than either on its own!

Value: Low. All their other casks are better, and this is a bit much for this unless you really like oak!


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Cask 5

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

It’s coming up on 5 years of age now, and this is delicious!

Lovely dried fruits have come out, and it is very much a corn forward whisky with a balance of grain, berry notes, brown sugar, toffee, honey, and oak. The oak is beautifully integrated. It also grows quite nicely with time in the glass.

The palate is sumptuous, and this makes it very easy to drink. Again, there is a nice bright, berry-like fruitiness which contrasts with the corn and oak which grows through the palate. There is a really nice earthiness which is present through the whisky too – brilliant. It really seems to have come of age. The finish is sweet, easy, with oak, grain, a touch of toasted fennel, wet hay, and dark toffee. It has rounded out quite nicely and gained a lot of depth compared to my most recent batches.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). One of the best Canadian whiskies I’ve tried this year from a small distiller, and the best I’ve had from North of 7. . It’s perhaps a little too easy to drink…

Value: High. It’s very rare for a small distiller to break into this category, but this in my opinion is a great whisky for $60.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Barrel 7

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

This barrel has a bit more oak than most of their releases (well, it was nearly 6 years old). Really nice notes of caramel, baking spices, and it has these really nice whiffs of nutty barley. The palate is oaky, and a light vegetal, spicy character really shines alongside some oily corn. The finish is lightly tannic and oaky, with a bit of dried oak on the finish. Comes together well – mature and rich but not as complex as some of the other barrels (I may be a bit biased, after barrel 5 which was stellar).

Still, very good. I find this mashbill rather fascinating – across different barrels, for whatever reason, certain grains stand out more. Here is a bit more corn and malted barley than I typically notice.

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

Value: high at $60


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Barrel 29

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

If the last barrel was a bit more prominent against the average with corn and malt, this one has rye at the centre! It picks up with sharp vegetal notes and light rye, waxy notes, orange juice, rolled oats, cinnamon, and sugar caramel. With time, dried corn husks seem to rise increasingly from the glass. The finish is clean, lightly oaky.

A pretty good barrel! I really like the waxy character, but there is a bit more bready character than some other barrels which I preferred.

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


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Barrel 16 (74.5%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

This barrel isn’t available for purchase, as it was part of a cask selection process I did with a number of Ontario connoisseurs. This was the leading vote-getter out of 10 casks. It was filled in April 2015, bottled September 2020 (5.4 years old). It went into the barrel at 68.8% and came out at a whopping 74.5%. The barrel yielded 172 bottles (so, nearly 8% loss per year). That’s a fair bit of angel’s share.

The nose is rich and oaky, with dried apricot, prune, caramel, hazelnut, milk chocolate, stale cinnamon bark, vanilla, corn oil, and even a touch of incense. The palate has lots of toffee, but is balanced with a spicy grassiness, clean corn, oak, brown cardamom, and clove on the finish. A fairly big finish, with a nice balance of buttery sweetness, oak, and dried hibiscus flowers. Pretty spicy, too.

Best North of 7 to date, I think. The sweet spot for me on this whisky is in the high 50s in terms of ABV. The trend line continues upward!

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

Value: Very high at $70 (we got a good deal!)


Review (2021)

  • Batch: Barrel 23

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2021

These four grain barrels are all consistently good and similar in character, yet there is enough interesting variation within them to make them a very interesting whisky to follow. This one leans towards herbal notes – mint, dill, and even a touch of tarragon and epazote (a Mexican herb a bit like oregano). The new oak character is present on the nose, and the grains are present in a way reminiscent of whole grain porridge. Lots of bright herbs on the palate, and lots of mint/wintergreen – but also a good dose of caramel, barrel char, and corn. The finish is quite bright, accented with a mint and sweet, charred oak. Mint isn’t the dominant flavour by any means, but it’s definitely the dominant accent. Very easy to drink, but lacks some of the depth that some of the other barrels do. Nonetheless, still very good. Very pleasant!

I happened to have had a taste of this at cask strength and it was really excellent. But, we have the 45% version here.

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

Value:  Upper end of average at $60.


Review: North of 7 Rye Canadian Whisky (North of 7 Distillery) by Jason Hambrey

North of 7 Rye 1.jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
3 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
100% Rye (95% Unmalted, 5% Malted)
Distiller North Of 7 (Ottawa, Ontario)

This is North of 7’s rye whisky, matured in new oak. One of the owners, Jody, was telling me that the whisky tasted terrible a few months short of three years and has drastically improved (to which I attest) as it gets to a number of months beyond three years. It is a combination of 95% unmalted rye, with 5% malted rye - matured in nice casks sourced from Independent Stave Company in Kentucky/Missouri.

All the grain, notably, is from Against the Grain farms, a neat local farm which works extensively with heirloom varieties.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 1 (Barrel 10)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

This noses like a sharp rye – frankly, I’m surprised, given the age and that it's the first rye product from the distillery. Loads of sharp floral and spice notes, alongside cola, toffee, vanilla, charred wood, and grassy spice. Lilac, baking bread, fennel, mint – it is remarkable that they have managed to attain such a sharp rye character and yet such a broad grain characteristic, in the same whisky. There’s one or two off notes – but it gets better in the glass.

 The palate brings in more grain character and some milk chocolate, but still carries the sharp spices in tow. The finish is grain-driven, but also carrying fruit. Without some of the off-notes, this would creep up a bit higher.

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

Value: Average (based on $60)


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Barrel 18

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Sharp, woody, spicy aromas on the nose. Very appealing, particularly if you like rye. There is some really nice dried fruit here – currants, prunes – and also some red pepper jelly, white pepper, cedar, pine, and toasted multigrain bread. The woody, piney characteristic is very nice.

The palate is sharp and spicy, with a nice character which is quite reminiscent of oat. A really nice woody edge, to all of it. The grainy character in North of 7 is so central, and I quite like it. The finish is slightly dry, with more oats, sweet oak, clove, and some woody cinnamon. Nice!

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This one has come together better than the other batches I’ve tried. It’s quite good – although I would still be interested to see it with a bit more age on it, and a higher ABV.

Value: Average, but we are nearly at the high value category here.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Cask 28

  • Bottling Code:  N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

5 years old now! It certainly has come along. I recently tasted this in an online virtual tasting. We did a word cloud – there wasn’t too much time so it didn’t get populated in too much detail, but here are your crowdsourced tasting notes:

N7 Word Cloud.png

I think the results were pretty spot on. This whisky also, I would note, evolves very well in the glass as it sits. Even after about 2 hours you have a very different whisky – the sharpness softens, the cask comes to life, and the richness of the rye and pepper is still there, but softened – very much like a big, tannic red wine. With younger whiskies, often, if it sits out it’ll improve.

On the nose - sharp wood, pepper, caramel, oak, black pepper, baking spices, and a bit of pear roll into a rich, intense palate where the sharpness of the rye intensely battles the oak for control. The finish is rich, spicy, and herbacous. Even at 5 years now, I still think this isn’t quite there – but it’s the best rye I’ve had yet from North of 7. Their whisky continues to get better.

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

Value: Average, but we are nearly at the high value category here.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Cask 37

  • Bottling Code:  N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

North of 7 usually releases a rye around Christmas-time, and this year is no exception! There is quite a demand for their rye, so it still tends to sit around the 4-5 year mark to appease the masses. The ryes from North of 7 are really rich and intense – but I still think there is so much left to unfold that I hope they continue to age them longer. It is for this reason that some friends and I bought a cask of the rye to let age for longer (going on 6 years now and growing!).

This one is intense – herbal and spicy, with a huge assortment of spice notes – beyond just the clove but getting into star anise and licorice root. There are even some light aged brandy notes on the nose. And some cream of wheat. It becomes more grainy and toasted with air. I wonder if the sharpness and intensity of some of the spice and herbal notes might be too intense for some. There is a slight, pleasant astringency to it that reminds me of some bittering hops. On the palate, the oak is surprisingly present and there are some soft nutty notes – like cashews – alongside intense herbal notes and some pine notes. The finish is spicy with some sharper nuttiness. Great complexity!

My favourite rye so far that the distillery has released. I quite enjoy sipping it, but also the spiciness pops incredibly in cocktails. It really is an intriguing whisky – intense and with layered flavours that slowly unfold. It still isn’t quite balanced and integrated, but it’s close. I’m sure age will give some of this, but then again, you lose some of the intensity.

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

Value: Drifting into the high range here, at $60.


Review: North of 7 Canadian Whisky (3 Grain Wheated) by Jason Hambrey

Image copyright by North of 7 Distillery. Used with Permission.

Image copyright by North of 7 Distillery. Used with Permission.

ABV
45%
Aging
3 Years+; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
74% Corn, 21% Wheat, & 5% Malted Barley
Distiller North Of 7 (Ottawa, Ontario)

This is a single barrel, made from terrific ingredients - barrels from Independent Stave Company (which supplies most of the big Kentucky distilleries) and grain from Against The Grain, a local grain company specializing in heirloom grains. They use yellow corn, purple corn, wheat, rye, unmalted barley, and purple Ethiopian barley sourced from there - terrific stuff. The colourful grains often have more flavor.

This is matured in a heavily toasted, lightly charred barrel to give a rich set of toasted wood notes without being overly clean and caramel-laden.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Cask 26

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose is quite nutty and very oaky – with wood, caramel, charred wood, vanilla, roasted nuts, corn husks, mint, radish sprouts, green pear, fresh whole wheat flatbreads, fennel seed, and clove. The palate is thick, with a great kick of nuttiness and a terrific cask character full of white oak and rich toasted notes. The oak is sweet, rich, and spicy – quite deep. It has a real richness to it, with deep oak offset by corn and light dried fruit. Very nice to drink. I’m very eager to see what this is like in a few years – it’s already quite good. The finish is slightly sour, spicy, and oaky. The more you sip at this one, the oakier it gets. Works quite nice in cocktails – manhattans with a spicy vermouth, or it works well in an old pal. Very moreish.

It is not as far along, but I like this more than the 4 grain recipe, I think. Also, it’s a bit younger than the 4 grain stuff that’s been on the shelves.

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

Value: Average (based on $60)


Review (2021)

  • Batch: Cask 27

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2021

This wheated recipe is pretty awesome – it is incredibly nutty and is quite easy to drink. It is substantially better than the previous two casks that I’ve had – it’s softer than a lot of their whiskies but remains oaky and grainy still. Peppery, nutty, and oaky on the nose. There are some nice cream of wheat notes. The texture on the palate is great, and it is quite nicely balanced between grain and oak. The finish is sweet and cask-driven. One of the best casks yet! Dangerously drinkable.

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

Value: High at $60.


Review: Sons of Vancouver "Cigarettes on a Leather Jacket" Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Sons of Vancouver Whisky 1.jpg
ABV
56.7%
Aging
3-5 yrs; ex-peated malt casks
Recipe
90% BC rye, 5% BC wheat, 5% BC malted barley
Distiller Sons of Vancouver (Vancouver, BC)

This whisky was made from a 5 year old rye whisky and three year old wheat and malt whiskies, all matured in an ex-Westland peated malt barrel. The distillery uses a rum yeast to ferment the rye, since the characteristics of the yeast play well off the grassiness in the rye .

The grains are all from northern BC. There are more whisky releases on the way - probably one release this year and five the next - some of them will be pretty unique (in a good way - some exciting ideas there).


Review (2021)

  • Batch: Release #1

  • Bottling Date: 2021

  • Bottling Code: N/A

The nose is quite spicy, in a similar way, in fact, to some of the classic spicy/dusty Canadian whiskies which are quite rye-influenced. It surprised me at first – it’s a note/profile that I don’t find often (if ever) with small producers. But, beyond that – what can I say- “cigarettes on a leather jacket” is appropriate! It’s lightly smoky and ashy, with leather, dried apricot, apple juice a light nuttiness, clove, orange peel, coconut, and dry earth.

The whisky comes to life on the palate – starting with smoke (odd, since whiskies often end in smoke), mixed dried fruit, before jumping into some distinct “Westland” notes with that vibrant fruitiness and jasmine that is in their malt. The finish closes with a good dose of “dustiness”, baking spice, clove, and orange peel.

I quite like the spiciness, and the cask influence is terrific. One of the better Vancouver whiskies I’ve had.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). At the upper end of this category. Quite good.

Value: N/A. It is sold out and used variable pricing as part of a crowdfunded campaign