The WhiskyWorks kit, available at Still Waters Distillery
In the spring, Still Waters Distillery released their first matured whisky – a single malt aged about three years. For those of you who don’t know, they’re a new micro-distillery up just north of Toronto and they have been producing some fabulous whisky (and some neat things on their website, check it out: https://www.stillwatersdistillery.com/). They have produced a malt vodka, and a fabulous blended whisky called “Special 1+11 Blend Canadian Whisky“, in which they blended some of their young whisky into a blend of other matured whiskies (they added 1/11ths of their own, hence the name). They have some rye on the way, and also some corn whisky somewhere down the road. Based on tastings of their new make, I am really looking forward to seeing the rye come out.
I went up to pick up a barrel of their single malt (called “Stalk and Barrel”) from cask no. 1, and while I was there noticed they had small 1 litre barrels for purchase with which you can mature your own whisky. Naturally, I was inclined to buy a barrel and also took some of their new make rye (spirit right off the still, which hasn’t spent any time in wood) with me. So now, after curing my barrel, I am ready to start aging my own whisky. I will post brief tasting notes week by week as I sample it to see how it matures (according to the pamphlet, it says often 4-6 weeks is fine). As the surface area to spirit ratio is much higher than in larger casks, you need far less time in the cask for the whisky to age. It is overall a very exciting journey. If you are interested, and able, to do this, I highly recommend it.
I also bought some New Make from Buffalo Trace (Mash #1), so I have some room to play with my whisky creation. As I have not done this before, I have a rough plan of what I am wanting to create, but certainly will have a fair bit of flexibility depending on what is happening. My plan, so far, is to age the rye almost fully in the new wood (it’s American Oak), and then mature the bourbon fully in the rye cask. Following that, I’ll put the rye back in for a double barrel matured whisky (unless it already tastes so great that I don’t want to mess with it!). We’ll see how it goes. I want some of the new oak flavours to go to the rye but do not want it to become overwhelmed by the oak or be too bitter from the wood, and I am hoping the bourbon can help increase the complexity, bring in a few sweet notes and smoothness. I do want some of the nice new oak spices and vanilla flavours to be captured by the rye, though, which is why I am putting it in first, but I also would like a bit of the honey from the bourbon cask. We’ll see how it turns out.
The Cask: American Oak, Medium Char, Thousand Oaks Barrel Company, 1 litre capacity
The barrel smells brilliant, particularly after I filled it with boiling water to cure it. Woody, creamy oaky notes (no suprise here), with a strong scents of vanilla and touches of cinnamon. It also smells almost sweet and honeyed, but perhaps this is my excited brain dreaming of bourbon as I am reminded of it. Regardless, I am excited to see what this produces. I also tasted the water coming out from the curing, and noticed the following: strong, oaky vanilla dominating with a touch of sweetness and a surpising linger of flavours.
Tasting Notes: Still Waters New Make, 50%
First of all, my brain loves new makes to analyse and think about them, but my palate generally does not. It’s amazing what wood does to the harshness of new makes. This new make is made from close to 95% percent rye, from what they told me in the shop. It is the best new make I’ve tasted (though I’ve only had a handful), perhaps because I prefer my rye to my corn in a new make.Here are the tasting notes based on a small sample:
Nose: sharp, spicy rye with a distinct green woodyness to it and a bit of brown sugar and black tea leaves. the nose is a little harsh.
Palate: thick and spicy at the front before spreading over the tongue with that green woody-ness and finishing in some rising, spicy, rye heat.
Finish:lingering, fresh and crisp.the spices and rye remain.
I also might just say that I really like the bottle – it is clear, round, but with sharp edges, unlike the Stalk and Barrel bottles which are rounded, a near metaphor for the transformation of distillate to whisky.
I am really excited for this. Into the barrel it is going, and time and wood will do its work! As it is quite humid here in Ontario, sadly, more alcohol will likely evaporate than water – I would rather the proof increase than decrease. As I have a hydrometer, I’ll be able to check when I’m done! I will post updated tasting notes based on a small sample each of the following weeks. I have measured in about 755 mls of new make into the barrel, and now, I wait…
(To see the next stage of this process, click here.)