Review: Forty Creek Evolution Canadian Whisky

40 Evolution 1This 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.

Kittling Ridge CabIt was only last year that Kittling Ridge Estates and Spirits finally made the full transition to spirits and moved out all of their wine gear, the wine portion of Kittling Ridge bought out by Magnotta wineries. As far as I understand, the basic production and sourcing regions for the wine are similar. For the fun of it, I bought a bottle of Kittling Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, assuming it is of roughly the same flavour profile as the wines originally in the casks used by John Hall for this whisky.  to see how it was relative to the whisky which I reviewed further down.

Very briefly, some notes on the wine:

Nose: raisins, blackberries, black currants, green bell peppers, and dark cherries – it’s very brightly fruity, and there are very gentle wafts of light vanilla and oak

Taste: Raisins again are quite present, and it has a slight oxidized flavour with medium tannic levels and some light oak creaminess and a touch of bitterness. Lightly acidic but not as much as I often find in Ontario reds.

Finish: light and short, with a slight bit of fruit and a small tannic pull.

Now, on to the whisky!

40 Evolution 2bBottle+Presentation: 5/5. The bottle, as usual, is fantastic and I like that the date has been added to this release. I wonder if Campari has given them a bit more of a marketing budget because this is the best box yet, I think. There is even a theme of film (I think?) as if this one tells a story.

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. 28.5/30  (95%)

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! 28.5/30 (95%)

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. 14/15 (93%)

40 Evolution 3Conclusion: Is this a whisky or liquid fruitcake? Also – 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! Frankly, I resisted rating it so high especially as it was going to surpass my rating for Heart of Gold, the special release last year, which I also absolutely loved. Also,  generally, wine cask finishes in whisky (though this is much more of a maturation rather than a finish) aren’t my choice. But, the rating just kept creeping up and over my hours with the whisky went from a 91 to a 95, and the whole next morning I was still daydreaming about the whisky. Also, as a side note, this one makes an intriguing pairing with cheese. An absolute class act from Forty Creek, once again. 19/20 (95%)

Overall Score: 95/100

Review: Canadian Club Chairman’s Select 100% Rye Canadian Whisky

CC 100%This whisky, it seems, took most people by surprise. I don’t usually get surprised by a new whisky release, but this one I didn’t see until it just about hit the shelves. Though it is Canadian Club, it is not actually distilled at the Hiram Walker plant in Windsor (like the rest of the Canadian Club line) – it is actually distilled and bottled in Alberta, from Alberta Distillers. However, they’re both owned by Beam-Suntory so some stock-swapping isn’t as difficult as it otherwise might be, and it makes sense to sell Alberta rye from a marketing perspective because Canadian Club has a much bigger brand name.

This whisky is about 7 years old, and is, apparently, targeted to the young crowd to get them interested in high quality whisky. Of course, it is also targeted to be a good mixer and comes with cocktail suggestions as well. Alberta Distillers, it seems, is an ever-ending source of new rye whisky brands when the rest of the world has no rye left to offer. For more on this whisky, check out this excellent article over at whisky advocate. Additionally, this is described as the “Chairman’s Select”, which (perhaps) begs the question – who is the chairman? Check out these clips:

Marketing gimmicks, perhaps, but I find it entertaining.

Bottle + Presentation: 4.5/5. For the price, it’s a pretty good bottle – I like the clear bottle and the green. However, the clearly over-caramelized liquid itself is a bit disconcerting.

Nose: If you’re familiar with the Canadian Club brand, you’ll know that this doesn’t quite follow suit. Lots of fruit – orange and guava – amidst a rich and slightly sour background of dusty rye and spices. Of all the Alberta rye I’ve had, this seems to have the brightest fruit character. There is a light oak tannin (I say tannin because it gives me the impression/feeling of a very dry characteristic) note as well in the background. At times the fruitiness is a bit too medicinal for my liking – and the orange shifts from a nice candied citrus peel to cough syrup. Interesting, though, in the context of Alberta rye where I often find a very slight medicinal edge – much like you find sometimes with the peaty Islay Scotches. But, in the case of Alberta rye, I have always found it to be more on the spirity medicinal side like turpentine. This time, however, it’s more in the cough-syrup mold. The oak, and in fact the rye, along with vanilla and a slight buttery-ness emerge a bit more as the whisky sits. Also, I find the fruit keeps growing too, such that I can’t really understand how it can get any bigger in magnitude. While, on one hand, this is nice, I find the sweet candied fruit and the dry and spicy rye and oak compete for the spotlight in a matter that is a bit discordant. Nonetheless, a big, complex nose – and very interesting. 25/30 (83%)

Taste: The fruit leads on the palate as well, bringing in some woody notes with a surprising amount of sweetness before the oak and tannins take over, drying the feel slightly before some spices (clove and cinnamon) and, surprisingly, a bit of maltiness remain. It is quite rich – fruity, woody (sometimes with a bit of earthiness integrated), and a bit spicy (in “feel” as well as “flavour”, though more on the flavour side). Additionally, the vanilla is so well integrated into this one I almost missed it! It isn’t so much it’s own flavour but very much part of the background mix. I very much like this one. The oak is nicely judged on this one – it is close to being too bitter – but it is just right so that it has a great edge of tannic oak. 26.5/30 (88%)

Finish: Orange, light oak, a few sour prunes, a touch of mint, cinnamon, almond and some very light arugula (which I often find in 100% ryes) from time to time. The fruitiness finally dies, and a good bit of oak and cinnamon remain with some orange notes from time to time. It has a nice effect of growing as you drink more of it. Fairly tannic and dry as well. 13/15 (87%)

Conclusion: A most excellent whisky! Richly woody, with a shocking amount of fruit, and some nice oak and spice to frame the whole thing. I am glad for the release and think it is an excellent addition to the Canadian Club line, and hopefully they can expand it so that more people can have access to it. I am glad that the palate and the finish both balanced the fruitiness, spiciness, and oak unlike on the nose. It is somewhat natural to consider how this one compares to Alberta Premium (AP), both Alberta Distillery 100% Rye, but both very different whiskies – in terms of rye, AP has a dry, rye-flour sort of presentation that is quite grain driven as opposed to the load of fruit in this Canadian Club. In terms of spice, Alberta Premium is more in the mold of a light cayenne spice, whereas Canadian Club is more in a cinnamon and dry ginger mode. In terms of oak, AP has notes of light toasted oak while this Canadian Club has big, caramel-y oak. Beyond that, Alberta Premium is more buttery and toffee driven while Canadian Club is big, driven by fruit and oak. In one sense, Alberta Premium is more traditionally Canadian in its presentation of rye and this Canadian Club has a bit CC 100% (3)more of an American rye style to it (though it’s hard to find a rye anywhere with so much fruit!!). This would have made it on my budget whiskies list if I had tasted it with the rest – Canadian Club has certainly done an excellent job crafting a good whisky at a great price. 17.5/20 (88%)

Overall: 86.5/100

Review: Caribou Crossing Single Barrel Canadian Whisky

Caribou 2 You don’t find many single barrel bottlings in Canada, but here is one. In 2010, Sazerac, owners of Buffalo Trace distillery (among others), set their sights toward Canada and bought 200,000 Canadian whisky barrels from which they produced two products – this bottling, and Royal Canadian Small Batch. This particular expression is a single barrel, bottled at 40%. It was quite difficult to find in Ontario originally, but now is coming in more frequently. It is bottled, I believe, in Kentucky though the liquid is sourced from Canada.

The bottling code on this particular bottle is B13 D60 16:37K.

Bottle + Presentation: 5/5. Excellent – the lighting wasn’t great for my photo so the quality isn’t great -but you get the idea. You don’t often see holographics on whisky boxes, but it is different and distinctive, and the bag that comes with the whisky is nice for the presentation as well. I was scared with the large mouth of the bottle it wouldn’t pour well, but it’s well designed and does its job well.

Nose: A grassy, pine-rich nose, with a hint of dry oak and a bit of an oily presence – the woody notes are pretty strong – oak, pine, and cedar. Some vanilla is present as well, with some corn chips, and hints of buttery caramel. Some nuts and spice come through – sharp cinnamon, allspice and pecans. There’s a bit of creamy fruitiness that comes in as well, a bit like some sort of pudding – that is quite nice. 24.5/30 (82%)

Taste: Nicely loaded with spices (cinnamon and a hint of allspice), while retaining a relatively light profile and good body. There are woody notes of oak, pine, and cedar and also maple syrup. There’s a nice development of rich, oaky vanilla in the middle too, which is quite nice – in fact, without it, the taste might be a bit boring. The mouthfeel is very nice, though, and this does elevate the drinking experience. It seems to start, and end, with wood – in fact, I think it has a bit too much. 25/30 (83%)

Finish: Cinnamon, a bit of a buttery flavour, and it is a bit nutty with some almonds on the end. A bit too much oak bitterness, I think, and quite dry…but it’s reasonably developed and involved. 13/15 (87%)

Conclusion: Enjoyable, but really not that great. It is similar in profile to Royal Canadian small batch, and, at least this barrel, in quality. The amount of wood influence in this one seems to be borderline…I am not sure what to think of it. Sometimes, it is too much, and sometimes, it is just heavy. I have also noticed that, as the bottle has been open longer, more prominent creamy and fruity notes than at first. 17/20 (85%)

As they are both Sazerac bottlings from the same stock of acquired Canadian barrels, it is natural to compare this whisky to Royal Canadian Small Batch (RC). On the nose, the bourbon influence seems stronger in RC – I think the RC nose is better, but in Caribou Crossing there are more prominent notes of pine and rum (though those are also present in RC). The mouthfeel in Caribou Crossing is a bit better and it is a bit more “patient”, with the spices developing more slowly and the finish developing longer, with a bit more of a dry character. It’s also moreCaribou 3 woody, and a bit over the top, at times, I think. RC is also a bit sweeter. Of course, as Caribou Crossing is a a single barrel, the profile will vary slightly from barrel to barrel. Also, all the pine and rum notes make me wonder if at leats some of the Sazerac stock was sourced from Hiram Walker distillery…

Overall: 84.5/100


Review: Ninety 20 Year Old Canadian Whisky

Ninety 20 (1)This is a product of Highwood Distillery, in High River Alberta, and is another in their line of fabulous 100% corn whiskies (joining Century Reserve Lot 15/25 and Century Reserve 21 Year Old). It is called a “rye” whisky in that “rye” also is the name for Canadian whisky because of its extensive use of rye to craft the flavour profiles of its whisky. The name, “Ninety” is due to the fact that this whisky comes in at 45%, or 90 proof – higher than the nearly ubiquitous 40% for Canadian whisky. Higher alcohol level means less water dilution from the cask (which is about 75% at Highwood), and thus, theoretically, more flavour.

Highwood isn’t built to distill their own corn whisky – it is sourced from elsewhere, but brought to Highwood for ageing. Bourbon barrels from either Jack Daniel’s or Jim Beam are used to mature their products. Though this whisky was released over a year ago, it has only just available in Ontario as a lot of distribution and production was put on hold due to some serious flooding, and the distillery has recovered well and has been back in full swing – and we are all grateful. I’ve been waiting for this to drift to the Ontario market ever since I heard about it…also, it’s another 20 year old Canadian whisky under $50 here – not something you will readily find in other markets. And on that note, to think…this was probably distilled in 1993 or 1994. Times of Windows NT, the opening of the Channel Tunnel between England and France, the Jurassic Park Movie, Phil Collins and Aerosmith. And then it just sits, sits, sits through everything since until it’s ready. It always baffles me, all the time it takes to produce these.

Bottle + Presentation: 5/5. The bottle grows on you, and the picture doesn’t quite do it justice. I was surprised how nice it looked – solid, with lots of glass – sitting on my table.

Nose: Vanilla, maple, and creamy nuttiness with an elegant feel. I am not quite sure how to describe “elegant” feel to it – but I find that it almost “feels” rich and buttery as I smell. There are notes of bourbon, but it obviously doesn’t smell like a bourbon because it is not aged in new wood (though there will be small bits of bourbon directly in the whisky from the bourbon casks). There’s a bit of light dried fruit – like prunes, but the nose isn’t sour. A bit of darker elements of earthy woodiness and molasses lurk under the surface too. And, there’s toffee too. The range isn’t huge – but it’s very well done. And, for a 20 year old whisky, there is surprisingly little oak, even with a cask that’s been used once before. 26.5/30 (88%)

Taste: A bit sweet to start, with a rich vanilla and maple undertow and fading to some drying spices (white pepper and some of the sharpness of clove) before being washed again with some creamy caramel. The palate lingers very well and the whisky flavour seems to keep developing uninterrupted once you’ve swallowed – which is very nice. The mouthfeel of the whisky is extremely nice – buttery and a bit viscous (though not too thick that it doesn’t slide down easily) – it slides down well, and I think the creamy notes on the palate also help the brain to perceive that it slips down even better. There’s a bit of an oaky rumminess and earthiness too, in the background – it’s quite nice, and enough for you to notice it, but not too much that it dominates over the softer and creamier primary flavours. There is also a light “rancio” note, like the oxidized nature of sherry or marsala – but this is light, and though I don’t like sherry or marsala much – it fits in very well here. 28/30 (93%)

Finish: At first the corn (in the dimensions of corn on the cob and cornmeal) seems to come out with vanilla before oak slowly starts to take the reins with a bit of cinnamon, dried ginger, and orange peel. Also, interestingly enough, it’s a bit sour on the finish in a way it wasn’t at any other point in the whisky. It’s also a fitting whisky for fall, with notes similar to the reeds in marshes as they die and start to decompose in the fall. 13/15 (87%)

Conclusion: A fitting fall whisky with the light earthiness and oakiness – yet it’s very elegant, easy to drink, and bright. Of all I’ve tasted out of Highwood so far, this is the best. The silkiness, richness, and depth is wonderful. The balance is good, too. A pleasure, for sure. The first thing I thought with this whisky is how it compares to Century Reserve 21 Year Old, another 100% corn whisky coming out of Highwood which is a bit older but similar in terms of age. The profiles are similar, bNinety 20 (2)ut Century Reserve 21 Year Old is a bit lighter and more floral while this one is a bit fruitier, and a bit more packed with flavour (particularly in the toffee department) and fruit, and the sherry-like note I mentioned earlier. Comparing it to Century Reserve Lot 15/25 (also with old stocks, and 100% corn) – there’s less vanilla, sweetness, and spice. But, they’re all very good – and particularly this one. 19/20 (95%)

Overall: 91.5/100

Still Waters Distillery, and Stalk & Barrel Single Malt Review

IMG_1510 In 7 days, Cask 17 at Still Waters Distillery will be 3 years old, and thus, legally of age to be called whisky. I believe it is coming out on the 25th of this month (about 290 bottles, at 46%), and I eagerly anticipate the release as their new make (the distilled product before put into the barrel) is the best new make I’ve ever had, and when I matured some of my own the result was great – and I can just imagine how much better it would be done properly in a good (full size) cask. The rye they make is from 100% Ontario rye, a mix of malted and unmalted. Expect it to be spicy!

IMG_1513Still Waters distillery was established in 2009, in Concord, Ontario – in an area you might not expect to find a distillery, that is, amidst industrial warehousing on the outskirts of Toronto. It was the  craft distillery in Ontario to start producing whisky, and the only current source of Ontario Single Malt. It was founded by Barry Stein and Barry Barnstein, and the distillery produces Rye, Single Malt, and Corn whisky – they have also put away a few barrels of wheat whisky to see what comes from that. Alongside this, they also produce an award-winning blended whisky, Stalk & Barrel Special 1+11 Blend, which has sold so well that they can’t keep up with demand (though, really, this is on the supply side rather than their side as the components of the blend are sourced.

Along with this, they also produce a gin for the Georgian Bay Gin Company, which is difficult to find at the moment but should become more available in Ontario soon enough. They also make an award winning vodka from single malt, and have also produced a brandy (which, though I am no brandy expert, tasted excellent and I am glad to have snatched up a bottle). All this comes out of their small 450 litre copper pot still – though they will soon add a stripping still as well. On another interesting note, they only use flour to create their beer to distill – no grist (“chunks” of grain). Their whisky is matured in ex-bourbon barrels.


Though this doesn’t look like copper – I can assure you it is. If any of you have dealt with any copper – you’ll know it is a pain to keep it’s colour preserved! If you visit it usually looks more copper-y than this.

Reviews: Stalk & Barrel Single Malt Cask 1, 8, and 11 Stalk & BarrelSo, on to some reviews. I got a bottle of cask 1 (62.3%) shortly after it was released, and recently was able to also pick up cask 8 (46%) and cask 11 (62.3%). I chose cask 8 and 11 out of a number I tasted, as I liked them. As the products are from the same family, and familiar, here are my general tasting notes for their product, followed by cask-specific tasting notes.They are made from 100% Canadian barley, and not coloured or chill-filtered (as can be expected from craft operations!).

Overall Tasting Notes

Bottle and Presentation: 4.5/5. I do quite like it, other than some of the writing on the back being difficult to read. But, it seems professional and yet distinctly craft – so it does its job well.

Nose: First, just as a note – it’s sharper at cask strength, and a bit more broad (well, based on my sample size of 3 casks). There’s a defining oily, and grassy floral character – a bit like the fresh cut grass notes you get in chamomile. The floral nature reminds me a bit of Glenora Single Malt, or Cardhu. A nuttiness comes through, mainly showcasing almonds. The fruit is largely apple, or pear – ranging from fresh and green to baked or boiled and mashed (i.e. applesauce). To varying degrees, spice is present – mainly ginger, but sometimes a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg. The maltiness in the nose is also present, though to varying degrees, and it seems to compete with the fruit for the backbone of the nose – but that depends on the cask, at least from these three samples. At times, too, it’s a bit buttery. I have also found that the nose improves as the whisky sits – both in a glass over time and in an emptier bottle – it lightens up a bit and the fruit becomes a bit more vibrant.

Taste: The oily, slightly floral quality definitely takes its place here, supported by the nuttiness and the malt, to varying degrees. Vanilla is present – but in quite varying degrees between the casks, and the sweetness level is also different between the casks. The bourbon is present, to varying degrees, and fruitiness – though a lot less than let on by the nose. That said, it isn’t difficult to think of baked apples stuffed with nuts and honey when you’re sipping these.

Finish: Spicy and a bit drying, with an impressive amount of oak for the age. It can be a bit dense, seeming like a concentration of wood notes and woody spices – but largely, the finish is quite different for the three casks reviewed here in terms of what stands out and what dominates.

S&B Cask 8 (3)Conclusion: These don’t seem like 3 year old whiskies to me – the wood has done good work in little time. The style, frankly, isn’t my favourite for malts – but as I’ve sampled these over the last two weeks they have certainly grown on me – especially as I have spent my time nosing them. The rich nuttiness, bourbon notes, and woody, spicy edge have done some of their magic on me and I took my first sips thinking these were low 80s but found that over my tastings the score has crept much higher than that.

I prefer them at cask strength – on the palate I find 46% decent, but I long for a bit more body as the spirit is somewhat light. At cask strength, it is bigger on the palate and the finish. However, I know whiskies at such high ABV are difficult for some.

Cask no. 1 Review

Stalk & Barrel Cask 1

This cask was filled December 1, 2009 (at 60.6%), into a new oak cask. On April 4, 2012 it was moved to cask 40 for finishing (first fill ex-bourbon). It was at 61.7% at this point. It was bottled April 16, 2013 (at 62.3%), producing 209 bottles. (As an aside, the still waters website has lots of cask information).

This cask is darker than cask 11, which isn’t surprising because it spent some time in new oak.

Nose: At times, unfortunately, there’s a bit of that nagging staleness with this one. I find this one has a bit more oak than the other expressions, and with that, more caramel and a bit more of a “stewed” character – the apple and pear seem to come in the form of apple or pear crumble, with notes of apricot and raspberry jam. Interestingly enough, though this one spent the least amount of time in a bourbon cask, I find the corn and bourbon notes the strongest in this one – but they still only play second fiddle. A bit of a bakery in here – banana bread, gingerbread, with a slight sour character a bit like the tartness of plum jam. And, I think, it’s a bit more earthy on the nose than the others. 24.5/30 (82%)

Taste: I find the flavour is better at cask strength, I think – the vanilla, and creaminess come through more and it develops a bit better. On a continued tasting of this one, I noticed more bourbon and an earthy character that the others do not have. It’s quite rich, I find – which is nice, with all the dried and baked fruit notes and the nuttiness. But, there’s more corn here from the bourbon than elsewhere – and the earthiness seems to be springing out of that. Of the three, this one is the “darkest”, and heaviest, and I think I like it the most. 26/30 (87%)

Finish: This one definitely has dried fruits (raisins and apricot) to a capacity none of the others do. There’s also vanilla in larger degree than I saw in either the nose or the palate, and even a bit of spearmint! And oak and apple come forth…amazing the oakiness here in a three year old whisky. The finish is much bigger in the cask strength expressions, I find, and this is the best of the lot. 13/15 (87%)

S&B Cask 1 (2)Conclusion: Of the lot, I think this is my favourite – though I might even say that cask 11 is more complex and cask 8 is a bit better balanced. Cask 1 is more woody, and, carries a nice earthy bourbon character to it that I really like. The fruitiness tends more towards dried rather than fresh or candied, which is also a component I like. 18/20 (90% )

Overall Score: 86/100

Cask No. 8 Review

S&B Cask 8 (2) This whisky was matured in first fill ex-bourbon, and bottled at 46%, October 3, 2013 (246 bottles).

Nose: The nose is definitely a bit more tamed (though it’s never that wild, I suppose) in a lower strength. This one carries some good nuttiness of roasted cashews, and the fruit is very candied – like banana laffy taffy and apple skittles. There is a slight bit of vanilla in the background – it is, perhaps, the best balanced nose of the lot. Vanilla comes out with a bit more force as it sits, and this sweetens it, but as it continues to sit I just notice more and more nuttiness. Along with the cashews previously mentioned, there is also nuttiness to it like ground raw almonds (so you know I’m not totally making this up…at Christmastime I tend to make my own marzipan, but I leave the skins on, and this smells like the mashed almonds), and pastry from pie that is getting brown. apple starburst. 26/30 (87%)

Taste: Fairly sharp, and a bit sweeter than let on from the nose. It has moderate “grip”, which I would attribute to it’s acidity and slight spicy undertone (though it’s not huge). A bit of bourbon appears at the end of the palate, with some grape, but it does seem a bit “untamed” to me- and young. Wood does some wonderful work to break down some bits that seem “oily” to me in new make spirit – and I think I would like a bit more time in wood for this one. After tasting with the cask strength expressions, though, it seems a bit watery…a few tastings into this I also found an intriguing cucumber note in this, which sort of lead into the green beans on the finish, as you’ll soon read. 24.5/30 (82%)

Finish: Some oak, with some caramel-accented malt coming through as well, and a bit of clove and some earthiness emerges out of nowhere! A bit oily, but of the kind I don’t like too much. It can seem a bit dense, too, with the spices – as if woody without specific woods coming forth. There’s also some green beans in the finish, oddly enough, in the finish, which I have found on repeated tastings. 12.5/15 (83%)

S&B Cask 8 (1)Conclusion: I would actually be interested to see how this one would fare in a sherry cask. A bit less vanilla would I think less bring out the floral nature, but some more raisin and spice notes typically arising in sherry casks might compliment the nuttiness and fruit in this spirit. However, I do wish for a bit more flavour in this spirit – at times it’s a bit simple. 16.5/20 (83%)

Overall Score: 84/100

Cask no. 11 Review

S&B Cask 11 (1)  This whisky was filled November 15, 2010 at 61.9%. I’m not sure when it was bottled.

Nose: Of the three, the fruit seems the freshest here – fresh apple, fresh banana – this one also has perhaps the most creamy texture of the three (though I wouldn’t call it that creamy) – and some of those banana notes start to morph into banana pudding if you stick to it. Some of the fruit is a bit candied – but still not as much as cask 8. Beneath it all, there’s a good bit of malt – I think it’s more noticeable than cask no. 1 but not as much as cask 8. Also, I think, it’s the nuttiest of the three – roasted cashews (primarily) and almonds (secondarily) are definitely in the mix, and from time to time I find myself thinking of nutella. And, as I mentioned the creaminess earlier – there are notes of a vanilla buttery-ness to this one too (this one has the most vanilla on the nose). And, breezing in and out of this one, from time to time, is some bourbon. 25/30 (83%)

Taste: Sweeter, I think, than cask 1 – and has quite a complex and slightly less character, which is also longer. There’s more maltiness here than cask 1, and there’s a slight spicy nutmeg note, and a bit of dryness and the lightest touch of bitterness. The most vanilla of any of the palates is present here, and the nuttiness is very rich. It’s a bit lighter, fruitier, with a bit more malt character than cask 1. There is a bit of a candied fruit note, as seen from time to time on the nose, and some of the tannins in the oak effect quite a bit of “texture” to this palate. 25.5/30 (85%)

Finish: A bit of sharp apple, I think, with a good kick of spice. also a bit of an effect similar to baking soda in feel, which is a bit unfortunate. However, it’s of decent body and..sure enough, once all else fades, you realize you are left with oak. 13/15 (87%)

Conclusion: I think this one is a bit more malty, with a bit less caramel than cask 1. I think it is the most complex on the nose, and the fruit is just brilliant in this..altogether I find it is a whisky I am wanting more and more of. 17.5/20 (88%)

S&B Cask 11 (2)Overall I have found, as I’ve sat more with Stalk & Barrel Single Malt and tasted more of it, that it has grown on me and I will enjoy my bottles all the way. I like the slight spiciness, with the light malt and the oily, buttery character – but overall this isn’t my favourite style of malt. It is really neat to taste from different casks and discern out the differences

Overall Score: 85.5/100

Review: Whistlepig 10 Year Old Straight Rye Whisky

Whistlepig 1 This whisky is somewhat notorious for trying to disguise both the source of its origin (Canada), and the fact that they don’t actually distill any of their product (yet). If you go hunting on the label, on the back, in the corner, is a small little statement “imported from Canada”. Dave Pickerell, the former master distiller at Maker’s Mark, a well known whisky consultant who has a love for rye, is at the helm of the Whistlepig operation – and this product has been a huge success. The hope of the Whistlepig farm (in Vermont) is to do a complete seed to glass process, growing their own rye, distilling it, and aging it. It’s a pretty neat vision. For now, however, none of their product is self-produced and has come from Canada – though that might change soon as they have now say they have some other sources.

This whisky is sourced from Alberta Distillers, like some other successful and excellent whiskies such as Masterson’s Rye. It is made from 100% rye, unmalted, I believe – and, as the Alberta distillery does – this likely went in the barrel just short of 80% ABV, and came out likely above 80% before dilution. This shows the quality of the stuff that goes into the blends in Canada – typically a process with a “base” whisky which provides the bulk of the body and profile, and then this is “flavoured” with a stronger, perhaps spicier, whisky such as this one. I wish, among many others, that these flavouring ryes would be released because of their incredible quality…but sadly most of them are not.

While it’s true that Canada largely keeps the best of its whisky to itself, in this case it’s not true. In Ontario, this bottle can’t be found and hasn’t ever been around, as far as I know (I picked mine up in Boston).

Bottle + Presentation: 5/5.

Nose: Oak, and rye – simple, and beautiful – strong off the nose, with some wonderful earthiness too. Caramel, orange, a bit of arugula…a very similar style to masterson’s. Lots going on – vanilla starts to emerge, with some canola oil, tabacco, caramel, mint chocolate, star anise, a touch of smoke, and butterscotch – quite a wonderful and wide array of buttery and caramel notes. A bit of fruit, but it’s not overly fruity – cherry notes are present. A few odd notes start to come out with time, which I don’t like much – reminding me of ketchup chips (quite unlike anything else I’ve nosed). But, overall, quite good. 26/30 (87%)

Taste: Fairly sweet, with a sharp arugula-laced rye body (the arugula is interesting – I find it strongly here, in Masterson’s, and in the Collingwood 21 Year old – all 100% ryes). There is a nice oaky underlying spice explosion (white pepper and cinnamon)- this is very, very enjoyable, and oak takes over towards the end. There is vanilla, too, wonderfully balanced in the palate. And, with all that, there are some nice, bright, floral notes hinting of lilac. 26.5/30 (88%)

Finish: Marmelade, caramel, black currant jam, cinnamon, and a bit of dry oak….and our arugula. It grows as you drink more, with more spice (cayenne pepper, clove) and more fruit (I find green apple comes out)…and then woody notes like cedar start to appear. Very good body, spiciness, and sweetness. 14/15 (93%)

Conclusion: This is very good. To be honest, it’s surprising to me how much it reminded me of Masterson’s, but I am not suprised – they are both independently bottled from the same recipe and age of the same dWhistlepig 2istillery. Whistlepig, though, is less intense – a bit woodier, and, perhaps darker – but less spicy, sharp, and refined with a bit less complexity and development. All that said – Masterson’s is among the best, and Whistlepig is still very good. This bottle will have no difficulty being consumed. 17.5/20 (88%)

Overall Score: 89/100

Review: The Peat Monster Blended Scotch Whisky

The Peat Monster

An image from the Compass Box Website

Compass Box is a company which produces a number of very well done blended Scotches, targeted at connoisseurs – their products are all non-chillfiltered (which means they still have some natural oily compounds in them from the maturation and distillation, providing a better body and flavour while also meaning that sometimes the product may be a bit cloudy in appearance). They also do not add caramel to their whisky, meaning it is generally a lot lighter than most Scotches that we come into contact with. The master blender himself, John Glaser, has been making quite a name for himself.

Compass Box makes a number of vatted malts (or blended malts), which are blended whiskies which only contain single malts (i.e. 100% malt whisky, though from different distilleries). This is different from normal blended scotch which contains grain whisky (whisky made from a grain other than barley, often corn). Many of the Compass Box products are very well known and regarded. And this is one of those – it is a marriage of Islay single malts and heavily peated highland malts, with an obvious focus on peat.

Bottle + Presentation: 5/5. How many bottles have a back that starts with “hello”? I don’t mind the touch.

Nose: Both medicinal, slightly funky Islay peat as well as the woody peat of the highlands – it is well balanced. dry smoked meat, tarry smoke, and even a bit of pine. It makes for a nice effect – rich, bonfire like woodsmoke with some seaweed thrown in….I do quite like what has been done with the peat on this one. It’s more smoky than earthy, though there is still some boggy earthiness which is quite nice. It’s still impressively light, with a lemon-like citrusy character which lifts the whole nose up, I find. Some of the peat is a bit sooty too – I am spending so much time just slowly unpeeling the peat on the nose. Impressive. 28/30 (93%)

Taste: It’s largely smoke, with a nice level of underlying sweetness, and a slight creaminess and caramel note and a slight spicy tinge. I think, perhaps, that it does lack some body that I hope for. It does have a fruity character to it underneath, along with some maltiness. It starts with smoke, and then ends with smoke as well, with a good level of underlying sweetness and some vanilla. There’s an interesting note of milk chocolate as well in the midst of all the smoke, and at times the cacao comes forth a bit more and brings in some bite more akin to dark chocolate. In my previous tasting of this with a friend some time ago, I found that this whisky had lots of smoke without the body I desired – but I am not finding it so on this round- It has some decent support for the peat. It could use a bit more – but this is well done. 26.5/30 (88%)

Finish: It’s not bad on this one! Certainly long, and reasonably deep. Some pepper comes out with the smoke, alongside vanilla and honey, some apple notes and some malt. The oiliness of the whisky is shown here, and there are some notes of mustard as well. It has reasonable body and sweetness, both of which are good in finishes. 13.5/15 (90%)

Conclusion: It could use a touch more body, I think, around the peat – but I am thoroughly enjoying this. The way that the peat has been blended together, and the way that the complexity is showcased in the peat – it is brilliant. Compass box certainly produces some exceptional whiskies – and this is one of them. 18/20 (90%)

Overall: 91/100