Whisky Review

Review: Spice Tree Extravaganza Blended Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
46%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malt Whisky (see below)
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

This whisky was a special release of 12,214 bottles to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Spice Tree, a whisky which was originally outlawed by the Scotch Whisky Association after its first release. This is a blend similar to the baseline Spice Tree, but it is much older. Based on the colour, it is certainly darker than the standard spice tree -there’s also more sherry in it. But, indeed, there’s some old whisky in here - compass box invites emails through their website if you want exact details.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L 38 01 16 3 10:08 88

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is extremely rich and inviting – apples, raisins, gooseberries, rich oak, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, almonds, blueberries, and mandarins. It gets spicier with time, with more and more peach and apricot.  The palate is just decadent – it is so full of dried fruit and oaky richness, with a flourish of dried fruit, spice, and tannin on the end. Remarkable! The finish develops, with lost of tannin and spice, which break down to citrus, nuts, cinnamon, and bean sprouts with time. And, eventually, rich cacao-laden chocolate cake.

I was surprised at how richly the palate jumped through. This really is jam-packed full of flavour – I imagine it would be too intense at cask strength to be properly enjoyed…

I quite like this, as I do the standard spice tree – this is a bit of a different whisky. But, with all things compass box, this is most excellent and a very complex and enjoyable whisky. I might like the standard spice tree more, not to say it is better.

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

Value: Low. This is a really nice whisky, but not quite enough to be worth the price for me.


Review: Compass Box No Name Blended Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
48.9%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malt Whisky (see below)
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

A limited release of 15,000 bottles - the peatiest blend ever released by Compass Box, centred around an Islay whisky from a Pier Road distillery (hmm…Ardbeg?). It is a bit pricy, but this had quite the buzz about it - Ardbeg from Compass Box!


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L 27 11 17 1 12:19 88

  • Bottling Date: 2017

What a nice, rich, nose! Lots of rich tarry notes, ash, smoke – but it’s very clean and well-put together.  Bacon, seashore, turf fires, smoke, clean dry oak, iodine, beeswax – quite nice stuff! It’s quite earthy – more earthy than I would associate with Ardbeg. The palate is full of rich smoke, but it’s tempered by a quite nice minerality, candle wax, and spice towards the finish, which is sweet, spicy, and smoky with some rich cacao notes too. Terrific stuff.

How does it compare to peat monster? Much deeper and more mature, with a much richer, clean cut taste profile. It really does outshine it in elegance, focus, and depth – but not in breadth.

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

Value: Average. This is a very nice whisky, enough to propel it into a decent value category if you like peat, despite the high price (~160$).


Review: Benromach Peat Smoke Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
46%
Aging
9 Years; First fill ex-bourbon
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Benromach (Forres, Scotland)

It’s difficult to find more heavily peated non-Islay malted whiskies. I suppose Talisker might be one (malted at glen ord) or Ardmore, perhaps the classic highland peated whisky. Benromach, as far as I can tell, is peated from a local peat source – and I assume local is more local than Islay. The reason that is significant is Islay peat has such a unique characteristic with the heavy marine and medicinal aromas. Other areas of peat are composed of other vegetation – so from a perspective of peat “terrior” it’s always interesting to see different regions. It’s peated to 67 ppm, which is quite a punch of peat – that’s more than Ardbeg!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Distilled 2008, Bottled 2017

  • Bottling Code: 3/5/2017

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Creamy bourbon aromas on the nose, but also vegetal, woody smoke. Some pear and berry fruitiness on the nose, too, and notably – the nose develops with time – becoming more woody, earthier, and richer. The palate is lightly sweet, creamy, and becomes quite ashy – with a touch of tropical fruit on the end – quite nice! Milk chocolate, throughout, and flashes of rich nuttiness. The finish has a nice touch of smoke, ash, cacao powder, and perhaps smoked dried flowers – it’s a bit floral! Very pleasant, and easily begs for another sip.

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

Value: High, at $90.


Review: Kavalan Solist Port Cask Single Malt Taiwanese Whisky by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
58.6%
Aging
~7 years; Port Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Kavalan (Yuanshan, Taiwan)

Here we have a Kavalan Solist, fully matured in Port wine barriques.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Cask 0110112009A (58.6%)

  • Bottling Code: 2018.09.20 11:37 HK

  • Bottling Date: 2018

That is a spicy nose! Licorice, clove, fenugreek, cacao, wet oak, prunes, wine gums, fresh cherry, currants, vanilla, and lots of citrus peel. The nose is slightly sour, but it is fabulous! The palate is sharp and textured, with a rich undercurrant of sweet, rich oak. The oak is fascinating – it is huge, integrated, and it isn’t over-oaked. The finish is sweet and sour, with prunes, dried cherry, sultana raisins, and clove. And some more currants.

At cask strength, this is huge and muscular. It drinks really well with water, and opens up, but the palate is unbelievable at cask strength. The oak, fruitiness, and spiciness are balanced – and very warming as it does down! This one is very easy, and makes you want a second without any effort! Very balanced, and dangerously drinkable especially at a near 60%.

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

Value: Low to Average, depending on buying price. If you get this for around 100$ CAD (it is possible in places) then it has decent value, but if you are looking at $200+, there are better value options.


Review: Caol Ila 18 Years Old Unpeated Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Special Release 2017) by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
59.8%
Aging
18 years; Refill American Oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Caol Ila (Port Askaig, Scotland)

An 18 year old Caol Ila, unpeated - different from their typical releases. I’ve liked these in the past - I always like trying these.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Special Release 2017

  • Bottling Code: l7079cm000 51690150

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is awesome - rich marine malt, apple, sea salt, oak, grass, hay, spices, pineapple, and light vanilla.  Great nose. The taste has loads of hay, sweet light oak, mixed orchard fruit, clove, and a touch of chilli-type spice. A touch of tannic textre. Some rich leather-like aged notes too.  The finish is light, with oak, orchard fruit, toffee, and green wood.  Barley comes in nice at the end. It’s very rich! A nice deep malt.

It’s quite nice with water – it really shows off the depth of caol ila’s malt, even without the peat.

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

Value: Low. A pretty expensive bottle of whisky.


Review: Bunnahabhain Ceobanach Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
46.3%
Aging
>10 Years; Ex-bourbon casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bunnahabhain (Port Askaig, Scotland)

As with all Bunnahabhains, a non-chill filtered and natural colour malt. This one is heavily peated, though, and a limited edition - this batch 03 is the last of it, and it came to Canada! It sold out quickly, but was a very nice pickup for $100.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: no. 03

  • Bottling Code: P0 0 28L3 …17144

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose is smoky and a bit zesty, with a light touch of cacao, rockpools, straw, dried apricot, and lemon zest. The peat here is intense and very attractive – there is a dense peatiness about this. And to round it out, there is a nice sweet oakiness, mixed nuts, and malt. The palate has sea spray, smoke, earthy peat smoke, vanilla, light woodiness, and lots more minerality. There is a gentle sweetness to round out the taste, too. This really is up my alley…

The finish is long, smoky, and earthy. It has a nice briny component to it, also – capers and a touch of black olive. It’s more on the smoky side of peat, thoughout – but I like how the brininess and earthiness grows on the finish. The finish, too, is slightly sweet and dry which really balances out the experience. Lovely!

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

Value: Average at $100. If Scotch was the only whisky category, this might be higher against the market, and it’s certainly good against peated whisky options.

 


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: High West Rendezvous Rye Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
46%
Aging
New Charred Oak; 2 and 16 yrs old
Recipe
Blend of 6 and 16 year old straight rye
Distiller Multiple (USA)

Perhaps the most well known product from High West, Rendezvous is a blend of 2 rye whiskies – a 6 year old and a 16 year old. 6 year rye from MGP (95% rye, 5% barley) and the 16 year old rye is from a mashbill of 80% rye, 10% corn, and 10% malted barley from Barton. This uses a large proportion of unmalted rye. Now, the 16 year old rye from Barton is being phased out, replaced with High West’s own rye.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 16E11

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

A nice, rich, oaky nose – full of spicy mint and some terrific underlying floral notes. A terrific nose – great underlying dried fruit, cherry, earth, brown cardamom, corn husks, and some light mineral notes. Much richer and broader than double rye – buttery, oaky, and full of such rich rye to boot. The palate is spicy, broad, and complex – with a contrast between the sweet oak, spice, and rye floral notes. And great underlying vegetal notes. I do love floral rye. The finish shows some dried apricot and toasted macadamia. Terrific!

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

Value: Average. Great whisky, but fairly pricy too.


Review (2019)

  •  Batch: 17C23

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2018

This rye is still using the 16 year old rye from Barton, but it’s one of the last batches to do so.

Loads of dill, sweet and sharp oak, vanilla, cinnamon, rich marsh, arugula, mint, mixed berries, and some toasted fennel. What a nice whisky! The palate is oaky, spicy, and lightly fruity. Chipotles, oak, dill, maple, charred oak, sorrel, and a touch of nutmeg. The finish has some nice dill, oak, and clove. A nice mix of leafy, spicy vegetables (radish sprouts, arugula), baking spice, oak, and sweet oak.

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

The taste is on the edge in terms of this rating category, but this is such a classic example of a deep, complex, and broad American rye – it really is quite unique. Furthermore, it’s not too oaky and has a nice elegant touch to it as well. It’s one of my favourite – if not my favourite – American rye that is fairly easy to find.

Value: Average. It’s a very nice whisky, and sits in the average price range for a whisky of this qu


Review: Wild Turkey Longbranch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
43%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
~75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Wild Turkey (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky)

This whiskey was produced in collaboration between Wild Turkey and Matthew McConaughey - it has resulted in a bourbon about 8 years old which is filtered through both american oak charcaol and texas mesquite charcoal to soften out the whiskey a bit.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose is spicy, with apple, oak, and corn – but it is quite clean and light for a bourbon. What glorious oak! It’s lighter than i expected for a wold turkey – which makes sense given the charcoal filtration. The taste is full of grain - dried fruit and rye, and nice vanilla laden oak, but also with light-spices  and dark fruit, and toasted notes. A very easy-going bourbon. The finish is oaky, with dried fruit. Lightly sweet. A very easy-going bourbon.

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

Value: Average, based on $60. But, in the bourbon category, below average.


Review: Jack Daniel's Barrel Proof Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

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ABV
66.65%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
~80% Corn, 8% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Jack Daniels (Lynchburg, Tennessee)

These are rather hidden secrets coming from Jack Daniel’s, not too hard to find and not too expensive. It’s certainly a much more refined, bigger, and expressive Jack!


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Barrel 18-0394 (bottled 1.11.2018, 66.65%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

This smells so much like Jack Daniels with the hit of spicy caramel, but it’s so much bigger, spicier, and rounded. Rich oak, caramel, toasted fennel seed, dried orange, clove, wood char, and dried berries. The palate has a depth of corn, with a touch of nice vegetal rye (arugula), spices, and loads more caramel. Lots of banana, too. The palate is so big and spicy, even if water is added! The finish is rich with corn, spice, and caramel notes. There is a nice kick of oak and tannin on the finish, too. Fantastic!

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This is pretty universally liked among my bourbon lovers who don’t like most Jack Daniel’s bottlings, so I suggest giving this one a try if you like big bourbons.

Value: Average. It’s not a bad price for a cask strength whisky of this calibre, but it’s still sitting around 65 USD.