Whisky Review

Review: Wolfhead Craft Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Wolfhead distillery.

Image courtesy of Wolfhead distillery.

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Producer Wolfhead (Amherstburg, Ontario)

This whisky is produced by Wolfhead distillery, using sourced corn and rye whisky which they blend together to create their own house style. However, they are working on their own whisky which has already been aging for 4 years. It’s due to be released in the coming months, at a very respectable 5 years. (….in my opinion, when distillers are willing to wait beyond the minimum requirement of 3 years of aging, the results pay off).


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2021

There is some nice oak here on the nose – sharp, spicy, smoky but not overpowering. There is a really nice bright grain character underneath that is very focused: it isn’t like some of the broad, porridge type characters of some of the smaller distillers. This is sharp, like the smell of whole grain kernels. There is also orange peel, vanilla, prune, mixed floral notes, and baking spice.

The palate brings forward some toasting grain, a bit of rye, and sweet wheat. The rye notes mingle with the sharp oak towards the finish in a very appealing manner. The finish is slightly oaky, citrusy, and spicy. There are some really nice background threads that run through the whisky - a really nice, dense dried fruit character and a light earthy character.

I find that many of the craft distillers tend to be light without being subtle, or are big, bold, and full of all sorts of flavour. Here, something I don’t see too often – subtlety and balance while maintaining a very clean and focused whisky. I also quite like how this tastes Canadian in profile – but with a few tweaks that are very modern. Nice stuff!

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

Value: High at $32.


Review: Shelter Point 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 (2019)

  • Batch: 2019

  • Bottling Date: 2019

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Finished in Quail’s Gate foch wine casks.

Raisins, vanilla, hazlenuts, some really nice floral notes (geranium!), clove, orange peel, and that slightly tangy character in shelter point malts. The nose opens nicely with time – it rewards patience, and more complexity slowly seeps out.

The whisky has a nice body on the palate, with orange and a nice mix of dried fruit, sweetness, and spice. A nice savoury character on the palate, too. I like this with a few drops of water. Opens up some of the dense character. The finish has nice oak, vanilla, dried fruit, baking spice, and pearl barley.

Compared to last year’s pinot noir cask, this is spicier, nuttier, and oilier and isn’t quite as well rounded. It tastes a bit harsher. The last three double barrels have been really good – from blackberry, to pinot, to foch. If anyone chances to have all three, it would make for a great side by side.

Highly Recommended (50% 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 (2021)

  • Batch: 2021

  • Bottling Date: 2021

  • Bottling Code: N/A

This is my favourite “standard release” of Shelter point that’s been around for a while (this is now the fifth release). They are all a bit varied but all of high quality – I think it’s one of the best single malts in Canada, as far as regular releases go. The single malt is aged for 6 years before being finished for 99 days in blackberry casks.

The nose is rich and spicy: cacao, hibiscus, dried berries, cinnamon, cardamom, prune, dried cherry, berries, apples, wine gums and sharp oak.  The palate continues with the richness – big fruity and oaky character but also some sesame, dried peach, and wet earth. There is a light acidity that really accentuates the flavours. The finish is big – first spicy, then fruity, then oaky. Slightly oily, in a very appealing way. Lots of movement on the finish.

Nice to see another blackberry cask. I did like some of the pinot noir finishes they did, but I really like how the blackberry meshes with Shelter Point’s whisky. Excellent stuff.

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High at $85.


Review: Two Brewers Peated Yukon Single Malt Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

ABV
43%
Aging
7-8 yrs
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Two Brewers (Whitehorse, Yukon)

A bit of a rarity- you don't often see Canadian peated whisky! This, however, gets its smoke from UK sourced peated barley. Canadian peat has been used in quite a few distilleries in the states, but for now it seems Canada is still looking to the UK for their peating demands.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Release 03

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

1750 bottles released. Fruity, and rich – guava, candied apple and pear – and still a bit of a spicy background alongside cacao, smoke, peat, leather, and dried apricot. Lots of pear. Develops a bit more broadly with time. On the palate, continues with pear, smoke, peat, cacao, dried apricot and peach - but arugula and spice start to sweep in! It finishes with more candy, caramel, smoke, and spice.

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

Value: Average. Good whisky, but starts to compete with the other best $100 whiskies.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Release 07

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The only gold winning medal from a micro-distillery at the Canadian whisky awards. Quite remarkable!

The nose is smoky – lots of it - with some nice minerality and medicinal notes – while also being bright with terrific earthy notes. Vegetal and rich – dry straw, white pepper, ripe yellow apple, young leather...

The palate starts with limestone and rich orchart fruit – apples, pears, and ripe peach - closing out with smoke and a burst of wet earth. The finish remains on the earthy, smoky notes with some roasted malt too. Eventually it fades to malt and the enduring fruit – pear, apple, pineapple. I don’t know if I’ve ever encountered a peaty whisky which integrated such bright fruit. Impressive.

It has just a terrific collapse of smoke, minerality, and peaty earthiness with an earthiness from the barley malt. Just terrific. Smokier than batch 03.

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

Value: Average. Good whisky, but starts to compete with the other best $100 whiskies.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Release 12

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

An earthy nose which has smoke, spicy earthiness, vanilla, and dried fruit. The palate carries through the peat, but offsets the flavour with some rich grain (think whole, mixed grain cereal like red river) and dried stone and tropical fruit – dried peach, papaya, pineapple, and prune. Rich, but not quite as bright or balanced as release 07 which was rather fantastic. However, this has a strong and dry earthiness which isn’t in release 07, so from a peat perspecitive, this is a bit stronger, but it isn’t quite as balanced. Nonetheless, it’s still terrific!

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

Value: Average. Really good whisky, but at $100 it starts to compete against other possibilities in the $100 range.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Release 19

  • Bottling Code:  N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

I really liked batch 12 (my second favourite whisky from my judging in last year’s Canadian whisky awards). The peat is big here, and slightly medicinal – smoky, briny, woody, peppery peat combined with herbal grain, bright fruit, and white pepper. Great tension. The palate is smoky at first, then medicinal, and then woody with tropical fruit (some papaya even), ash, and black pepper. This is really good.

Maybe not quite as intriguing as Batch 12, but this is the most well rounded of the peated batches, in my opinion – and the most medicinal. The Two Brewers Peated releases are really hitting their stride.

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

Value: Average at $100


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Release 25

  • Bottling Code:  N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2021

They do it again – full of that glorious bright, tropical Two Brewers fruit with a smoky, ashy tinge. The core of these whiskies are so similar (and of incredible quality) that there isn’t too much point in repeating my previous reviews, rather, we can focus on the variations around the theme.

This one isn’t as smoky as some of the previous releases, but, with that, it’s brighter in terms of fruit and it’s spicier.  It has a biscuit-like character that hasn’t been as prominent in previous releases, (at least, I haven’t noticed it before) and notes of apple juice really pop out in this one.

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

Value: Average. Really good whisky, but at $100 it starts to compete against other possibilities in the $100 range.


Review: The Famous Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Famous Grouse 1.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Scottish Malt and Grain Whiskies
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

The “Grouse Blend” was originally produced by Matthew Gloag, a grocer and wine merchant in Perth, Scotland. The blend was created in 1897, slightly after the big explosion of blends in Scottish whisky history. The blend became so popular that shortly it was renamed “The Famous Grouse”. Originally, it was likely supplied to sportsman who came to Glasgow to hunt. Now, it is the biggest selling blend in UK. It is produced by the same company that owns Macallan and Highland Park – who are big users of sherry casks, which does show up in this blend.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Lots of malty fruit, caramel is present, along with more malty notes and slightly sour notes reminiscent of irish pot still whisky. It’s also quite creamy and buttery, which I mainly noticed it while tasting alongside some others. I get aromas of tea as well (black pekoe) , a touch of cucumber, honey, light heather, orange, and some medicinal smells reminiscent of some peat, although I don’t smell much peat here.

Taste: Quite sweet, malty, and smooth with a surprising bit of prickly heat on my first sip. Malt seems to play center stage here, however – the backdrop is not so bad– some dried fruits (apricot and lots of raisin), slight spice, toffee, and a touch of salt. The sweetness carries on throughout the taste. The raisins seem to build and build. Peat comes in at the end (not smoke, but peat) and adds some earthiness and moss. Quite light – there’s some slight heat but not really much in the way of spices attached to it other than a touch of black pepper at the end. Additionally, the buttery-ness from the nose is here.

Finish: Malty, light, and sweet with a touch of dry-ness and slight fruitiness as well. The malt remains but isn’t that present, and there’s just a touch of spice and vanilla.

Has some good uses...I infused orange peel into this which mixes quite well.

Value: Low, even at a relatively low price. you can do better at bottom shelf prices, especially in North American whiskies.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

I really never understood this one, or it’s popularity – until cocktails. What happens with ice – orange kick and the weaknesses get lost – or even add subtelty – amidst the other strong flavours in the cocktail.

The nose is a bit rough, with lots of nutty spirit that is youthful and a bit unpleasant (this is why I don’t return to this one often to sip) – but it does present some nice orange peel, heather, light touches of baking spice, orchard fruit, and mixed stone fruit. The palate has more orange peel, lots of honey, and a decent dash of malty notes. The finish sits with heather, honey, and orange peel – mainly. Short length, but longer than you might expect.

As you can see, I wasn’t too enthused to put together tasting notes for this, but I wanted to revisit it – this time, though to ask the question – what happens if you serve this straight up (chilled with a bit of dilution)? All of the sudden, the orange and honey intensify, and the weaknesses are muted into a light roughness which is appealing in a cocktail. The palate is focused on orange peel and nuttiness, and the finish is reduced to honey. It’s no wonder bartenders love the stuff – it’s pretty rare to have such an optimization happen with added ice, where the weaknesses fade and the strengths are enunciated clearly.

I often have a bottle of this, but not to sip – to mix. A penicillin cocktail is great with this, as are many old fashioned or sidecar variations.


Review: Shelter Point The Forbidden Single Malt Wheat Whisky by Jason Hambrey

The Forbidden 1 Web Size (002) white(1).jpg
ABV
47-49.8%
Aging
~5.5 yrs+; Ex-Bourbon Barrel
Recipe
100% Canadian Malted Wheat
Distiller Shelter Point (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

A single malt wheat whisky! I’ve had loads of whiskies and quite a few wheat whiskies, but this is the first single malt wheat I’ve had. It is named after a local landmark, the “Forbidden Plateau”.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: 1

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

A sweet nose, still with that characteristic shelter point complexity which is almost a bit sourdough-like. Honey, grass, peaches, vanilla, oak, nutmeg, apricot, hay, and light bourbon notes. With time, I find butterscotch grows.

The palate is very clean, with a really nice, light, sweet oak background, with mixed wildflower honey, baking spices, and vanilla. A bit of oatmeal here and there, too. The finish is decent in length with fresh and dried peaches, light tannins, oak, vanilla, and a touch of notes reminding me of a stony mountain stream (I know…).

Quite delicious. I like it with just a touch of water.

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

Value: Average, nearly high, based on $68.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: 2

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2021

This is made just like batch 1, but it is a year older.

Immediately complex and deep off the nose - and the barrel character is really well balanced with the spirit. On the nose there is oak, coconut, spices, melon, yellow apples, cantaloupe, dried pineapple, and touches of honey. The palate is very easy, with sweet wheat, light bourbon notes, and some nice baking spices. The wheat character does come through (think of the sweet, wheat note as you bake with flour. Some nice touch of dried fruit – apricots and peaches too. The finish is slightly sweet and oaky

This goes down very easy…maybe too easy for a casual dram. I like it more than the first batch, which was also great.

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

Value: Par for the course, in terms of what you are looking for quality-wise at $80.