This is the first rye whisky to be produced by Still Waters Distillery, a craft distillery in the Toronto area. It is just about 3 years old, having been barrelled on Oct. 16, 2011 and bottled on Oct. 25, 2014. The whisky is 100% rye, a mix of malted and unmalted, and it was put into an ex-bourbon barrel at 62.6%. As their new make is the best I’ve had, of all new makes I’ve tasted, I’ve been anticipating this release for a long time especially because I matured my own rye from their new make. This is a single cask offering and there were only about 268 bottles produced, and it’s going quite fast or already gone.
Nose: It still smells a bit young (which it is!), but this is less noticeable as it sits. Some brilliant and bright honeycrisp apple comes off at first, though soon it is overtaken by everything else – first some vanilla, a buttery note, and black tea notes (which I also find in the new make), along with a bit of a buttery note. There’s also a fair bit of hay notes as well – sort of a (positive) barn like note. Then there is a surprising amount of “green” notes like pine aromas, wintergreen, and some juniper which take some time to develop. These are wonderful, I think. There is a bit of fresh banana too. Then we have some freshly baked spice cake, butterscotch pudding, and some vanilla comes through also. Interestingly, some of the oily and hay notes remind me of their single malt. On successive nosings I have noticed different dominant characteristics, which show some of the complexity here, and the depth is od. But, it’s a bit discordant at times and sometimes it works together really well and sometimes not. 25.5/30 (85%)
Taste: There’s a nice buttery feel to this one! I also quite like the balance of sweetness, dryness, and spice. The green notes from the nose carry through, with some pine character to it, along with lots of spiciness – black pepper, clove, and then some spearmint on the end. Some of the bourbon from the cask is also lurking about….very nice. The dryness is balanced just about right for my liking, and it feels light but has a brilliant rich spicy and evergreen underbody – overall it feels pretty “fresh” – like it would be a very appropriate springtime dram – spicy enough warming comfort and fresh enough that it is somewhat refreshing. Very delicious. 27.5/30 (92%)
Finish: Peppery, spicy, and even a bit tannic. It still has some black tea notes carrying through, and the pine notes almost take on a bit of a character like hops in this. A bit of the oak comes out, sometimes even with a bourbon note or too. It’s a bit dry, too. It’s also “self-cleansing”, where the finish itself lightens up and feels light and fresh in your mouth after a while, a characteristic I love in whiskies. I wouldn’t mind a touch more flavour, but it’s quite good, and it lingers quite well. 18/20 (90%)
Conclusion: I like how the spicy, grassy, character of the rye has come out, rather than drowned out in oak. Though this is good, I’d love to see what some more age would do to this. The quality of the spirit itself is great, but it seems like it could take some more development in aging very well, and it might round out the flavours a bit more. Though this has a decent bit of spice to it, I expected much more because my rye that I matured has so much bite to it you can’t really take it without water (granted, it is at 59%). I do really like the pine/fresh green notes in this, making it somewhat of a spring whisky, perhaps. I like this more than the single malt and it’s been the best product coming out of Still Waters that I’ve tasted to date, and I can see potential for some pretty breathtaking casks of this stuff (not that this one isn’t great itself!). Too bad the nose doesn’t carry this cask a bit higher though. Overall, though, dangerously drinkable. 18/20 (90%)
I had to compare this with my own rye which I developed in a cask which I also picked up at Still Waters. Of course, there are some big differences – the largest of which is that my whisky was aged in a small (1 litre) cask, with different wood (both new oak, some “bourbon” oak). Mine has more dense oak on the nose, but still much of the same tea and hay character as Cask 17 but misses all the fresh spice cake notes. On the palate, my whisky has much more intense vanilla ,caramel, and woody notes, and some incredibly spicy notes, with a similar “self-cleansing” finish – though with a bit more oak and vanilla. But it certainly doesn’t hold the complexity and balance of cask 17, nor any of the pine and mint flavours.