Wine Cask

Review: Last Mountain Wine Cask Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

3.2 yrs in used Bourbon Barrel; 6 months in wine cask
100% Wheat
Distiller Last Mountain (Lumsden, Saskatchewan)

Here we have a different take on last mountain’s wheat whisky - a wine cask finish! A very different lens to Last Mountain’s wheat whisky (which is my favourite wheat whisky that I’ve tasted), Note that this is a pre-release sample as it will be released shortly, but the profile should remain very similar if not the same. The wine cask used was a Saury Oak barrel which had a Californian red wine in it.

Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

A soft, wine driven nose with loads of rich, dried fruits and spices typical of a red wine. Freshly sawn white oak, fruit gummies, black currant, cherries, rising cinnamon buns, and light toffee – but underneath, light sweet wheat and some clean oak. A bit of water to take it slightly below 45% reveals a lot of complexity but the oak is less dominant, which may or may not be preferential depending on taste – I like it with a drop of water. The palate is very interesting – very much driven by the cask – and very good – reminding me of many lighter port-finished whiskies. There is a really nice oiliness and the spices really bloom, but there is also a rich toffee middle to the whisky which bridges all the fruit from the wine to the oak, which creates a very nice contrast in flavour. The finish is lightly sweet and very fruity, with tannic red wine, dried apricot, blackberries, and freshly ground white pepper.

This is much more cask-dominant than the other stuff I’ve had from last mountain – but it’s still very good, and a very different lens to their wheat whisky. I’m glad, that, despite the big wine influence, it has gone towards the richer, deeper side of wine. I do think it squashes a bit of the complexity of the underlying wheat whisky, which is fairly light, since the cask character is so heavy. However, it’s still very good, and very clean and complex for a whisky this young.

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

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

Review: Crown Royal Noble Collection Wine Barrel Finished Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Thanks to Crown Royal for the image.

Thanks to Crown Royal for the image.

Finished for 6 months in Californian Cabernet Sauvignon Cask
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

This whisky is a crown royal finished in cabernet sauvignon casks - the second in their "Noble Collection" after last year's Cornerstone. This whisky is finished in freshly emptied, medium toast Cabernet Sauvignon casks from the Paso Robles region of California for 6 months.

Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: Lot 0100-43-B1245

  • Bottling Date: 2016

I’m getting interesting notes on the nose. Canadian whisky is becoming really interesting – expanding, yet still within its own style. Hats off to the team at Crown Royal.

New oak, superposed on rich grain (bourbony notes and some rye) with lots of fruit – prunes, dried peaches, dried apricots, along with typical wine notes of cassis, black currant, and then we have clove, green cardamom (French oak, perhaps?), mixed baking spices, cola, licorice, and pine. Buttery and creamy, with all of that oak influence. It really evolves, with rye notes emerging more with time. And, underneath, beet root! Some blending magic at work.

The palate is full of new oak and toffee, yet those cassis and blackberry notes continue. Lightly herbal, with mint, tarragon, arugula, and dried corn husks. Also, lots of custard (quite clearly so). I don’t know if I’ve ever had a whisky display custard so prominently. The finish continues with custard and spices – nutmeg, clove, and green cardamom. And a splash of rye, coming out more clearly as you drink it. Very complex, as a whole.

Wiser’s isn’t the only one continuing to push Canadian whisky forward. I like this more than last year’s release. The thing I like the most about this is where the rye sits – underneath it all – and I didn’t notice it at first, but it starts to emerge as a backbone of the whole blend. I do like rye a bit more forward, but it is still impressive to be able to merge the fruity and creamy style with the herbal rye. Also, it’s not overtly winey - which I like – it is subtle and very well integrated.

Since tasting notes can be confusing to interpret, here is how I would describe this whisky relative to others – it is somewhat of a cross between the fruity style of a cognac finished crown royal (think XO or Cask No. 16), with the buttery, creamy style of the softer crown royals, and the softer new-oak influenced wiser’s whiskies like One Fifty, Union 52, or Red Letter (but not as spicy as Red Letter). It has similar notes to last year’s Cornerstone blend, in terms of the rye notes – but it is very different in focus. Some marvelous blending at work here.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). An exceptional work of blending - balanced, broad, complex, deep…

Value: Very high. I think this is a stunning whisky, and 70$ for that is a bargain.

Review: Forty Creek Evolution Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Forty Creek Evolution.jpg
3 years; blended & redistilled; cabernet sauvignon casks for 9 years
Blend of barley, corn, and rye whiskies
Distiller Forty Creek (Grimsby, Ontario)

This year, the limited release from Forty Creek is called “Evolution”.  Evolution is the 8th limited release from John Hall, whisky maker at Forty Creek. John Hall was originally a wine maker, and made his own Cabernet Sauvignon at Kittling Ridge, and, thus, in theory, had easy access to wine barrels. This release is roughly 12 years old, though it has a bit of a journey – 100% corn, 100% barley, and 100% rye whiskies, in the Forty Creek style, were aged in white oak for three years and then these aged whiskies were re-distilled to concentrate flavours, as John Hall often does at some stage with his premium releases. They were then re-barreled into French Oak Cabernet Sauvignon casks where they were aged for an additional 9 years. A few other of John’s “favourite barrels” were also added to balance the flavours. The name, evolution, is to signify the whisky’s capacity to change over time. A fitting name, perhaps, too, because John Hall used a wine cask now to house whisky not wine, a sort of evolution in itself. And, on another level, Forty Creek was bought out by Campari last year which may allow a lot more opportunity for growth in the brand and production as well.

On a side note, after leading a few tastings with this one – you need to sip it slowly. Otherwise you are just tasting cinnamon hearts and you miss the whole thing if it is gulped down. Also, as with other whiskies – if it is coming off bitter try refreshing your palate with black coffee and give it another go…

Review (2014)

  • Batch: Lot 2014

  • Bottling Code: 15G14 09:41:10

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Nutty, with some fruit chocolate aromas – raisins, dried currants, milk chocolate, toasted oak, olive oil, green bell pepper (as in the wine!), and some ruby port-type rich fruitiness and the oxidized notes of tawny port or sherry. It does have quite a bit of a wine edge to it – the tannic edge of red wine is in this one, and there is indeed some earthiness in the mix – like rooty, dark, damp soil . The olive oil is interestingly present and quite a significant portion of the nose, and they seem to develop into slightly earthy black olives. I find dates start to emerge, and I am just full of images of brandied fruitcake and fig and date bars. Light vanilla is present in the background, which is nice because it would be out of place otherwise. Terrific balance, and, indeed, it evolves – but, at least to my nose, not primarily in the earthy ways described by John Hall. However, one can think a bit of chocolate and nuts with port before getting distracted and chewing on some olives and then to dates and figs before finally settling down with some fruitcake. The spices seem to come, oddly, the most present at the end where we seem to get everything – some cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and gingerbread. A bit of a different egg coming out of Forty Creek this year. This is multi-dimensional, and quite a bit different, and very intriguing – the dried fruitiness has been elegantly balanced beside the interesting vegetal notes, nuttiness, and all the other flavours that stop along the way. I spend nearly an hour nosing this on my first sample, and kept discovering new things and “pairings”, indeed, that come in the nose. Upon successive nosings, I think this noses better in a glencairn glass than a wide-mouthed glass as it allows the development to happen a bit more slowly.  There is very little else I could ask for in a nose - this is one of the best I've ever come up against.

Taste: Surprisingly sweet, with lots of raisins, dates, and chocolate notes before some toasted oak, nuts (roasted cashews and peanuts), spice (cinnamon and nutmeg), and vanilla waves and a lightly tannic finish. Despite everything going on, it somehow works, and well, at that! The tannic edge on this just gives it a wonderful edge and shape that is little short of fascinating, and elevates the whole experience – and the toasted oak just works brilliantly with the rest. Absolutely wonderful!

Finish: Cinnamon, tannins in a bit of the mold of a tannic red wine (though they’re not, of course, that intense), dates, lovely tawny port oxidized notes, and a resilient browned butter note all of the sudden.

Liquid fruitcake? I love fruitcake, port, nuts, and just about all that this whisky is about. I absolutely love this stuff.  It is a brilliant whisky to analyze, but isn’t perhaps as approachable or as good of a casual sipper as, say, Forty Creek Confederation Oak, as you need to take some time to fully appreciate its brilliance, and you will probably enjoy this more if you like fruitcake and some of the tawny port notes.

To further state my enjoyment of this – my reviews usually consist of three reviews, each of which are usually 20-40 minutes. An ounce of this held me to nearly two hours on my first review! An absolute class act from Forty Creek, once again.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Very High. One of my all time favourite whiskies; I’d have no problem paying 70$ for it.

Review: Crimson Rye Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

This whisky is produced at 66 Gilead Distillery – a rye whisky finished in wine casks, most of which are pinot noir. As 66 Gilead is in wine country, wine casks are pretty accessible. The whisky itself has a light reddish-brown hue from the casks, and it comes without added colouring and is non-chill filtered. The whisky is about 3 1/2 years old.

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