Whisky Review

Review: Shelter Point Single Cask Rye Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Shelter+Point+Rye+Single+Barrel.jpg
ABV
59.7%
Aging
~10 yrs
Recipe
100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

This whisky is about 10 years old, originally distilled in Alberta (not at Shelter Point) and brought to BC in 2011. It is a distillery-exclusive, single cask release, 100% rye, with only 206 bottles - and will not be a regular release. For you Shelter Point fans, this is a good one.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Distinctly shelter point with the oily notes, but still very different – marshmallow, sharp flowers (lilac and lavender), clove, white pepper, dark chocolate, and even some pepper. Sweet vanilla, and a nice bracing from the oak too. There is a nice spicy edge to this one, throughout - The palate remains sharp, with a rich oily core and loads of floral notes, finishing with lightly bitter spice. It has a really nice middle, and isn’t too spicy at cask strength. The finish is sweet, with vanilla, custard, some dried fruit, and a nice oiliness. Baking spice and tannin, too. The sweetness nicely balances the alcohol strength, and it has enough richness to do well at 60%.

I really like that it’s bottled at cask strength – I quite enjoy this. I love the continued exploration of rye in Canada. My favourite way to drink it is neat, at cask strength, in a cognac snifter.

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

Value: Low, but nearly in the average category at $110.


Review: Fils Du Roy Appalachia New Brunswick Canadian Rye Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
2.5 yrs Ex-bourbon; .5 yrs Virgin Oak
Recipe
60% Malted Barley, 40% Malted Rye
Distiller Fils du Roy (Petit-Paquetville, New Brunswick)

The first rye from Fils du Roy - a fantastic distillery - so I’ve been looking forward to a taste for some time! This is produced using a low temperature fermentation and distillation only of the liquid components of the wash (i.e. no solids). This is matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and char #3 virgin oak. Three barrels were released in 2018, yielding 1000 bottles. There is more coming in 2020, but the focus at Fils du Roy is single malt so it is relatively limited.

However, of interest is that Fils du Roy is preparing some maltings to peat their own rye with New Brunswick peat. A 30 acre field of rye has already been earmarked for the project this fall.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Lots of grain, with a thick, almost porridge-like grainy characteristic – it’s quite nice. This is balanced against a clean, light oak and mixed orchard fruit. Broad, pleasant, and interesting on the palate with a rich grainy character with a nice touch of dried citrus peel in the middle. This is quite impressive, and a step above the other stuff that Fils Du Roy has produced. It’s full in flavour and balanced, and it really has a nice middle to it.

There is some nice rye spice to it, over and above what is present in their single malt – but it still has a lot of the richness which is present in a lot of Fils du Roy whiskies.

This whisky was tied for my 20th favourite whisky (of well over 100) in the 2019 Canadian Whisky Awards, tied with whiskies like Lot no. 40 (which isn’t what it used to be, mind you). That says something.

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

Value: N/A. I’m not sure what this costs. I’d see if you can try before you buy and form your own opinion on if it’s worth purchasing!


Review: Fils Du Roy Single Malt Homage at Congres Mondial Acadien 2019 by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
3 yrs
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Fils du Roy (Petit-Paquetville, New Brunswick)

Another Fils du Roy single malt, specially released for the 2019 world acadian congress, composed of two barrels. It was aged in a combination of ex-bourbon casks and char #4 American oak. 415 bottles were produced, each numbered with a date from 1604 (when Acadia was created) to 2019.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

A nice wheatiness to this one – cream of wheat, but also orange, clove, and coconut. But more – pastry creams, pistachio, caramel, and vanilla. The palate is clean, light, with a slight dried fruit zestiness and a rich graininess towards the finish. A nice kick of oaky vanilla, just at the end. The fruitiness is quite vibrant here. Young and complex.

This is worth trying, but it still has more time to go.

Value: N/A. I’m not sure what this costs, and is probably not very available given the limited nature of the bottling.


Review: Fils Du Roy Single Malt Homage a Richelieu International by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
2.5 yrs in Ex-Bourbon Barrel, 0.5 yrs in Virgin Oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Fils du Roy (Petit-Paquetville, New Brunswick)

Another Fils du Roy single malt bottled for Richelieu International, with 500 bottles produced only available to members of the organization which celebrated its 75th anniversary this month. Richelieu International is a Francophone organization which helps youth and children in need.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Rich baking spices, red river cereal, anjou pear, cinnamon, earth– and a striking combination of spice and grain, like a particularly spicy mix of lightly roasted grain. The fruitiness is quite vibrant here, and there is a deep set of fermentation flavours. Young and complex. The spices bloom on the palate with a rich roasted graininess, dried apricot, dried peach, and even a bit of dried mango. The fruitiness really builds towards the finish. The finish is full of light grain, vanilla, and white pepper.

A nice rich grainy palate, which does a nice trick. I really like the spiciness. The best single malt I’ve had from Fils du Roy.

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

Value: N/A. I’m not sure what this costs, and is probably not very available given the limited nature of the bottling.


Review: 100 Bushels Single Malt Rye Whisky (Sperling Silver Distillery) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
Ex-bourbon barrels
Recipe
100% Malted Rye
Distiller Sperling Silver Distillery (Regina, Saskatchewan)

Here, another malted rye - this time a whisky - from Saskatchewan’s Sperling Silver Distillery.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Bright, fruity, and sharp – very bright. Apple, pear, beeswax, bubblegum, red twizzlers, and even some rather tropical fruit – think soursop, pineapple, and dragonfruit – and light spices. Tons of fruitiness, and it keeps evolving…the finish and palate explode with fruit, spice, and a gripping texture. Unique, and very intriguing! Very fruity. Grainy notes emerge more with time.

If you want a whisky which is more unique and displays some unique tropical fruit – I recommend. It’s very interesting. But, it’s still “not there yet” – I hope this continues to get a bit more maturity under its belt, then we might get some really interesting stuff! Fairly clean too – perhaps helped by their filtration process.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This one presents a rather interesting mix of tropical fruit, oak, and spice. As I spent more and more time with it, I found it continually grew on me.

Value: Average, based on $60.


Review: Golden Stagg Blended Rye Spirit (Sperling Silver Distillery) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Sperling Silver Distillery (Regina, Saskatchewan)

I haven’t had much whisky from Saskatchewan, beyond Last Mountain’s (very nice) stuff. This is a single malt rye, made from malted rye - it’s not something many small or large producers are doing these days and the character is quite different than unmalted rye - a bit more vegetal without as clean of a grain character. This is a “blended rye spirit - so I assume it is less than three years, but I know very little about it - other than the taste.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Light spice, rich rye, orange, and pine in the mix. Floral, earthy, oaky, fruity – there is a broad array of flavour here. This is loaded with juniper and light coriander - almost as if someone used a gin barrel to mature the spirit! To be a bit more cohesive – the nose has vanilla and oak combined with a light floral, spicy edge and a light roughness. The rye-like character reminds me a bit of MGP rye, in fact. The palate is light, slightly spicy – with lots of vanilla offset by light spice and slight oak tannin. And a bit of patchouli, and with slight tropical fruit character. The finish is sweet, spicy, and fruity – more on the side of berries than orchard fruit.

Quite decent, and clean, with a complexity which is quite decent – but it’s still a bit rough and young. It is also a bit sweet for my liking – I would like this a bit more if it were dryer. I like 100 bushels a bit more, I think, which has some similar characteristics.

Value: High. This is good stuff for $25!


Review: Bearface Triple Oak Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Bearface 1.jpg
ABV
42.5%
Aging
7 Years; Ex-bourbon, French Red Wine, and Virgin Hungarian Oak
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Canadian Mist (Collingwood, Ontario)

Canadian whisky is an incredibly diverse style of whisky, with flavour shaped by a combination of grain, stills, yeasts, enzymes (such as malt), and barrels. Canadian whisky uses multiple types of each of these to create flavour – but Bearface whisky is doing something rather unique. They are using an intense blending process that is focused around the impact of multiple types of wood on a relatively light corn whisky. Bearface is all about what happens after distillation and initial maturation, and it is therefore a bit different than many brands. Many brands are working with finishes, but there isn’t a small brand I’ve come across focusing on as intense of a finishing process in Canada, particularly one which uses a blend of finishing barrels so meticulously. Some of the big producers do this, but it’s rare to find a small producer taking such a complex approach to finishing. I wanted to give a picture of what they are doing.

Bearface is shaped around a 7 year old light corn whisky which is a “canvas” in the words of Andres Faustinelli, the master blender for the brand. The finishing process is all about filling in the gaps of the corn whisky, using all the nuances created by different casks.  It’s not a linear process. While there might only be two “stages” of finishing, each stage has different casks involved that are eventually blended together. The first stage is based on wine casks and the second is based on virgin Hungarian oak.

The whisky, at 76% ABV, is placed into a mixture of French oak and American oak wine casks: the French oak for vanilla, cranberries, and apricot and the American oak for vanilla and coconut. It comes out of the cask rich in wine colour and with an infusion of oaky wine notes. The wine casks are chosen carefully with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot used for the whisky. Other varieties are available, they don’t suit the desired flavour profile. After 90 days in these wine casks, the mid-palate (lacking in the original whisky) is now full of dried fruit and a dry finish to beg another sip after the first finish.

The second stage of finishing is used to round out the whisky. It is put into powerful Hungarian oak which is toasted, not charred – to give rich toasted and woody notes. Much thought is given to these Hungarian oak casks. Andres uses 3 different types of Hungarian casks to create his desired profiles: a medium toast, a “medium+”, and a heavy toast barrel which is close to a charred barrel but without the damage on the surface that a charred cask would have. The staves which make up the Hungarian casks are all seasoned for 3 years in Hungary. The seasoning process breaks down the tannins in the wood and creates a complex set of flavour characteristics while reducing tannin levels. This last set of Hungarian casks builds up the spicy finish in the whisky and reinforces the structure of the whisky.

The different Hungarian casks give different notes to the whisky – the medium toast lends tannic astringency and a dry finish, the “medium+” gives lots of spice and the heavy toast lends a lot of savouriness, bacon fat, and fattiness – but without the tannin and spice. This second finishing process is only 2-3 weeks, depending on taste.

The Hungarian casks are only used three times, with the best extraction coming on the second use. All three barrel types, with the three refill numbers, are blended together – each batch comes from about 100 barrels. At the end of the life, the casks become solera casks.

Complicated enough? I’d say so. After the time in Hungarian oak, Andres spends about 2 days tasting through all the casks and separating them into flavour “families”. The rest of the week preparing his blend.

It’s quite an oaky whisky – but it’s where the palate is focused these days. The whisky has been received well, winning one of the 25 gold medals at the 2019 Canadian whisky awards. My review is below.

For more info, I highly recommend Mark Bylok’s interview with Andres on The Whisky Topic.

I’m making a bit of an assumption that Canadian Mist is the distillery, given that it’s the only major distillery on the Georgian Bay, as the label states…

On an “interest” note, I’m a bit surprised the LCBO stocks the whisky- they are pretty bullish on not having any danger associated with alcohol (as a “bear” or scars might). I know a few brands who have had their label shot down as it “implied danger”. From my end, nothing against the branding, on my end - I think the bottle is great!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

First time I smelled this, I thought – nice corn whisky! And indeed – nice creaminess, light corn husks – but lots of oak: cinnamon, pencil shavings, clove, and charred oak. The wine influence might not be what you expect – it’s more on the line of blackcurrants, red pepper jelly, and currants. Lots of varied dried fruit. Despite all the oak, the distillate character is not lost…

The palate has a rich oily body, with some nice corn at the centre – both kernel and husk. The palate has a nice “zing” to it with oaky spice, dried fruit, and tannins playing off one another. There is a core of sweetness which works well. The finish has charred oak, cherries, cinnamon, even some gooseberry (without the tartness) and apple skin. It reminds me a bit of the oiliness in Forty Creek whiskies.

I quite like that despite all the oak, the distillate is not lost. Also, not too winey – which is easy to do – it comes out on the nose and on the finish – but not too much, but it adds quite well to the whisky with the spice, fruit, and lightly oxidized set of flavours.  Intriguing, moreish, and a great addition to the Canadian whisky landscape.

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

Value: High. $40 combined with the quality of this means you can’t do a whole lot better for the price.


Review: Last Mountain 100% Wheat Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45%
Aging
~3.5 yrs; Used Bourbon Barrel
Recipe
100% Wheat
Distiller Last Mountain (Lumsden, Saskatchewan)

Last Mountain Distillery views wheat as the unsung hero of the grains, utilizing the abundant wheat in Saskatchewan to craft their whisky. They are now releasing their own wheat whisky after sourcing whisky to get them going in their terrific bottlings like Private Reserve. Now, they have their own.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Cask 13.08.01

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Very confectionary, in the style they have developed. Icing sugar, wheat – cream of wheat, wheat flour, and it is pretty clean – light spices and creamy oak in the background, a touch of orange zest, and barrel char – even at only 3.5 years, this doesn’t taste immature! The palate is loaded with fresh oak and light spices, cream of wheat, and a strong confectionary character as well. It perhaps is a bit less complex than the sourced/blended business (this is a single cask, mind you), but it is easy to drink and presents the wheat so beautifully! Light spices and dried fruit as well – some nice bourbon influence. The finish carries on with very light spices, lemon zest, light minerality, hints of bourbon, light oak, and of course, creamy wheat. It is, in fact, the finest wheat whisky I have tasted. Though complexity isn’t massive, the core of this whisky is just immensely pure and enjoyable.

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

Value: High (based on $50)


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Cask 14.06.02

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

This whisky was aged in 10 gallon barrels for 6 months before being put in once-used bourbon barrels for 51 months. That’s almost 5 years of maturation!

The nose leads with freshly sawn lumber, wintergreen, marzipan, and oaky spices. The palate is light, oaky, and with moderate complexity. Some bourbon nods, here – with good vanilla and light corn characteristics. The whisky itself is light and rich, but this has a bit of a different characteristic than the previous single cask I had. It’s cleaner, lighter, with a bit more ex-bourbon character and not quite as much wheat coming through. The finish has some berries and a nice tannic character. This is very easy to drink.

Also this whisky won a gold medal at the Canadian whisky awards, a blind tasting which occurs over 6 weeks with over 100 entrants – less than 20% of the whiskies entered get a gold, and this includes not only micro-distilleries but all the big industry players.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). I liked the previous cask a bit more, but this is still my favourite wheat whisky.

Value: High. Very good for the price.


Review: Last Mountain Single Cask Rye Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Last Mountain Distillery

Image courtesy of Last Mountain Distillery

ABV
45%
Aging
~3.9 yrs; Once used bourbon barrel
Recipe
100% Saskatchewan Rye
Distiller Last Mountain (Lumsden, Saskatchewan)

A release from last mountain in 2018, this time a single cask bottled at 45% instead of their cask strength vatting from 2017. I love rye, and last mountain is one of my favourite distillers in Canada, so I’m always eager to try this stuff. The rye is from Deer Valley.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Cask 14-09-02 (Aged 46 months, 50 gallon ex-bourbon barrel)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

This has a nice ex-bourbon cask characteristic to it. The nose is earthy, and incredibly floral with bright characteristics like sweet white grape and elderflower. It is very unique for that! We also have The palate is lightly tannic and spicy, with more elderflower, rich oak, nutmeg, and clove - there is a nice kick of vanilla in the centre. The finish is spicy and has a nice mix of spicy and floral characteristics. Very nice!

Good oaky undertones, too.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This is a very unique rye, and the complexity is very interesting. It straddles this category and my recommended category, but it gets the nod on the merit of uniqueness.

Value: Average, based on $43.70/375 ml.


Review: Last Mountain Canadian Single Malt Whisky by Jason Hambrey

IMG_1006.JPG
ABV
45%
Aging
~3.5 yrs; Once used bourbon barrel
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Last Mountain (Lumsden, Saskatchewan)

A release from last mountain in 2018, this time a single cask bottled at 45% instead of their cask strength vatting from 2017. The barley was sourced from BC, but in the future all grain is coming from Saskatchewan for the distillery.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Cask #14-09-02 (46 months old)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Light, and loaded with green fruits – pear, apple – and other stone fruits, peach, apricot, and yellow plums – and yet with a light oily, grassy spice. Slightly creamy, with the oak coming in at the perfect point on the palate bringing in caramel, cream, and ferrero rocher. It’s rich with oak – and has a rich, grain-derived earthiness. Quite nutty, too – very much so – like freshly ground peanut and almond butter. Mint at the end. The finish is spicy and very grainy.

The whisky feels young, yet, it doesn’t carry a lot of the harshness often found in single malts. I really like how grain-forward this is – and it almost seems as though you can taste the earth of Saskatchewan! Very unique, and I’m looking forward to how this shapes up as it continues to age. Between the rye, wheat whisky, and this single malt, Last Mountain has a diverse and well-crafted set of whiskies coming along!

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

Value: Average, based on $43.70 per 375 mls.