Eau Claire Single Malt Batch 5 review

Located in the heart of Turner Valley, Alberta, Eau Claire Distillery is part of the distilling revolution that is spreading quickly through Alberta. Open since 2014 and originally focusing on white spirits, their single malt whisky has generated a cult following among Canadian whisky fans. Their farm to glass philosophy allows them to showcase the very best ingredients that Alberta has to offer.

Now in its fifth release, this batch is a blend new Hungarian oak, ex-Sherry and ex-Bourbon barrels. There is no age statement, but has to be at least three years old and is bottled at 43% with no chill filtration or added color.

Nose: The orchard fruits stand out straight away. Fresh cut red apples mostly, but also a slice of pear. There is also a dominant, grain-forward note that reminds me of a young Irish single malt. I get a touch of barley sugar candies along with that. There is a light honey note that has settled into the background as this sits in the glass. There’s some orange in here, but it’s more like a mandarin rather than a navel orange. Ginger and cinnamon are the only spices I get. I’d say the vast majority of this whisky matured in ex-Bourbon, but there is enough of that Hungarian oak to tingle the nose a little. I can’t say I am getting any ex-Sherry influence at all.

Palate: The one thing I notice right away is how creamy this feels right off the bat. One of the creamiest mouthfeels I have had in a long while. It’s creamy honey poured over apples and pears on the entry. That stays on the palate for the whole experience. The development is all about the grain and oak. Malted cereal and barley sugar dominate initially, but then the Hungarian oak kicks in. It’s not overpowering and there’s a nice balance between the wood, the sweetness and the grain. Clove joins the ginger and cinnamon.

Finish: The Hungarian oak is nicely balanced by the lingering sweetness in a nice medium finish. Earthy nutmeg joins the other baking spices here, giving me an early Christmas vibe. As the finish progresses, I’m getting a cocoa powder note that actually builds rather than recedes. The creaminess hangs on to the end.

With water added…

The new Hungarian oak is much stronger now, as is the youthful grain note. This isn’t an issue for me seeing as I love young whisky when it’s presented like this. That barley sugar note is strong with this one now. The orchard fruits are still there, but are in the background now. The palate is still creamy, but the youthfulness of this whisky is really starting to show now. It’s too grain-forward and the oak is a little dominant for me. I’m missing a richness that I enjoyed without water being added. The sweetness barely hangs on during the back end of the development. With water, the finish is the best part of the experience. That cocoa note, which love, remains on the finish.

Conclusion

This was my first whisky from Eau Claire and I like what I see from here. The youthful maltiness and the choice of barrels really works. Too much ex-Sherry and Hungarian oak would have swamped the delicate character of this whisky. Also, I never would have guessed that this was only 43%. What surprised me the most was how creamy this dram is. I would definitely recommend this without any water added as the balance was thrown off a bit. Overall, this was everything that I love about a young whisky and can’t wait to try their next release.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Two Brewers Release 27 and 28 review

Two Brewers Release 27

Type: Innovative
ABV: 46%
Released: August 2021

It’s no secret that I have an immense love for all things Two Brewers. From the people behind the brand, to the always increasing profiles of their whisky, to the absolutely unique and interesting things that they continue to try with each release, it easily takes my top spot of all Canadian whisky brands.

Release 27 is exactly what I am talking about. If you know the story behind how Two Brewers started, and clearly by their name itself, it was started by the people who were already established in the beer business with Yukon Brewing. They took that background and absolutely shoved it into the formation of this whisky.

Release 27 has Vienna, Munich, Honey and roasted malts. These are all primarily malts used almost exclusively in the beer brewing industry.  Some of this whisky started out in virgin oak barrels to start, and then spent the rest of its time in ex-Bourbon barrels. They were married in ex-peated barrels for 19 months.  It has 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11 yr old mashes in it with roughly 1/3 being 10 years or older. Yup I’d say that’s pretty experimental and unique cask usage and now I will let you know what all of this ends up like in a finished bottle of whisky.

In the glass, this has the appearance of a lighter Red style beer (hehehehe) with medium to long legs that slowly fall down the glass.

Nose: This hits with malt up front. I guess that’s not a surprise knowing what’s making up the whisky. There is some nice honey sweetness. Almost like a raw honey type note. Behind that follows some vanilla and caramel. Funnily enough, as I start to pick up the wood/cask influence I also get a whiff of fresh dark roasted coffee. I swear I pick up that fresh virgin oak cask influence right at the end on a deep inhale. The nose on this whisky has me curious and very interested in diving in. 

Palate: First sip and immediately I get all that malt up front as well. Malt with a honey glaze over it. Like Honey Nut Cheerios with extra honey. There’s a slight tingle and even though it’s only 46% abv, it almost drinks heavier, which I am totally okay with. This whisky reveals layers upon layers as it moves back on the tongue. I swear I can taste a faint actual beer note on my tongue right now. Bourbon type notes pop up mid palate, some dark fruits mixed with a slight blood orange/mandarin taste and then that spice from virgin oak comes through. Cinnamon and clove and a slight hint of spiced up toasted coconut just as it starts to fade into the finish.

Finish: The finish on this beautiful whisky carries the spice notes through and the sweetness returns with that mandarin orange and cinnamon. This is the only time that I even slightly think I catch a whiff of any smoke at all, but it’s long after the swallow and it’s found on the residual flavours left in the mouth.

Conclusion

Wow. What a whisky. Layers, balance, beautiful cask usage, experimental malt usage. The proof is in the bottle. Literally for me as this one is being drank faster than most bottles I open. I am saying right now, this is my sleeper hit of the year in whisky. I love this bottle!!

Two Brewers Release 28

Type: Special Finishes
ABV: 46%
Released: September 2021

This one is a mix of 7 year old and 10+ year old mashes. All of the Whisky is a standard malted barley mash. It spent 5 months in virgin oak barrels, then it was moved to ex-Bourbon barrels. Finally, it spent 2 years in Hungarian oak sherry barrels. After spending 2 yrs in sherry barrels, it was blended with a standard 12 year old mash. Clearly this is NOT your standard sherry casked whisky.

In the glass this has a dark copper to light rust colour. Thin but long lasting legs coat the glass and clearly hint at an oily masterpiece awaiting me.

Nose: On the nose I am immediately hit with familiar sherry notes, but not at all a sherry bomb. This is dusty sherry spice-coated fruits with a nice malt backbone. Even the fruits aren’t the typical plums, raisins and prunes. Brighter fruits, more lush ripe juicy fruits. I even find a faint note of Nag Champa incense at the tail end of the nose. That sherry sweetness fills out the very end of the nose right before I take another whiff. I have no idea what to expect on the palate now but I am excited to find out.

Palate: Just a small sip to wet the palate and the beautiful sherry spice comes across strongest. Very mouth coating and viscous. A bigger sip and let it rest a bit and the fruity side of sherry comes through stronger. But again, I’m not finding the typical darker, drier fruits. Juicy almost sub-tropical notes of creamy ripe mango, like a mango milkshake. I also get that Hungarian oak spice with some added cinnamon. There is also a slight saltiness, which I can’t explain but it’s there, sitting right after the spice. There is a beautiful play between that salt and the sweetness and it’s gorgeous. As this starts to fade on the swallow, that spice and salt meld as they fade and turn into a salted dark cocoa/chocolate note. I find this as I chew on the finish and let it build up again.

Finish: The finish is long and bold and that dusty old style sherry finally shows right at the end and that cocoa/sherry is what carries on through the whole finish.

Conclusion

This one on first sip was surprising as it wasn’t at all what I expected from the sherry casking. I am so happy it isn’t a simple sherry cask whisky. This one you need to sit with and contemplate. This isn’t a background whisky at all. It needs your attention and demands it. Two Brewers shows, once again, why they deserve to be at the top of the Canadian whisky landscape. No one else is doing the things they are doing and we are the lucky recipients of release after release of absolutely stunning whisky. Look for a future review of release 29 which the cold northerly air has whispered to me could be even more special than normal.

Instagram: @seankincaid

Signal Hill Canadian Whisky review

Let’s talk about transparency in the Canadian whisky industry. Amongst the big producers, this term is used sparingly when critics are finding adjectives to describe them. There’s usually no mention of coloring or chill-filtration, whether their “rye” contains anything of the sort or what barrels are used to age their spirit. And that’s just the start.

With the massive influx of new craft distilleries from coast to coast, they are doing their part to change this trend. In many instances, they list some or all of this information either on their website and, preferably, the bottle as well. It is to these distillers that Canadians, and the world in general, should look to for greater transparency. Hopefully, as they gain a larger share of the domestic and international market, they can be our ambassadors of transparency, showing what their whisky is truly made of.

An East Coast distillery, Signal Hill, partially owned by legendary Canadian actor and comedian Dan Aykroyd, is helping to lead the charge on this transparency front. On their website at least, they tell you what grains go into the whisky (~90% Ontario corn and the rest malted barley) as well which kind of barrels are used in the maturation process (new white oak, ex-bourbon and barrels that used to hold Canadian whisky). It even says non-chill filtered on the bottle, which is a gutsy move for a mass-market 80 proof whisky. Less obvious is where this whisky was originally distilled or what its age is. A quick Google search (as well as listening to the “Lost in Dramslation” podcast episode where their national brand ambassador is featured) suggests that the whisky is between 3-5 years old and was sourced from Hiram Walker in Ontario. The whisky is blended and bottled in Newfoundland.

There. That wasn’t so hard was it…hint hint…Canadian Club…hint hint…Crown Royal?

Nose: This smells like your everyday 40% abv Canadian corn whisky in many respects. The big difference here is that the notes are darker. Sponge toffee instead of a light toffeed sweetness. Darker caramel instead of the light or artificial smelling kind. Certainly vanilla is in there as well. The different types of casks used to mature this are masking the corn sweetness, but after a while it wafts up in the form of some creamed corn. The spicing is gentle with a bit of cinnamon and clove. Although I’m getting notes from the various casks being used, I’m not getting much oak itself (if that makes sense). Maybe some water will coax it out.

Palate: OK. Here’s where the lack of chill filtration really makes a difference. The entry is quite oily from the very start. It’s not super mouth coating, but it’s way more so than mass produced Canadian whisky. What starts off as more of that cream corn, toffee sweetness rapidly evolves into something darker as this transitions into the development. I’ve had to take several sips to make sure my brain wasn’t tricking me, but I am definitely getting some dark molasses midway through the development, particularly when I smack my lips to let in some air. Combined with the clove, cinnamon and the emergence of dried ginger, this is drifting into ginger snap cookie territory for me. One would think the lack of rye and proof in this whisky would lead to no spice on the palate, but the new oak barrels start to make their mark towards the back end of the finish, leading to a mild spice kick.

Finish: The emergence of the oak at the end of the development carries over in to the medium finish. That is joined with a healthy dose of that ginger snap note and some sponge toffee. This finish is still way more sweet than bitter. It’s also just a tad drying.

With water added…

One criticism I have when sipping this one neat is that the nose and palate are kind of disjointed. With a few drops of water, they are now a little bit more cohesive. Yes, I am still getting caramel and toffee in abundance, but a bit more oak and some of that ginger molasses cookie note is starting to present itself. The entry is a little less oily now, but not overly so. I’m not getting that dark molasses note anymore. It’s more a warm ginger cake now and and the spicing is a tad stronger and comes on earlier in the development. The length of the finish has increased a bit and the baking spices, although still mild, last a lot longer.

Conclusion

To be honest, I was expecting a normal, run of the mill Canadian whisky when I first poured this into the glass, yet the folks at Signal Hill have left me pleasantly surprised. It seems that the careful choice of casking, even at only 80 proof, makes a big difference here. My personal opinion is that non-chill filtration also helps, especially in terms of the increased oiliness, especially during the development.

Signal Hill is pretty open about the fact that this is best used as a cocktail whisky, yet I would argue that this is also highly enjoyable on its own, both with or without water. Say hello to your new daily drinker!

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Value Dram Reviews – Forty Creek Copper Pot

When the reviews section of the Park Whiskey Society was revived this summer, I was pretty excited to review some of the new craft whisky coming into this province. I also wanted to highlight and review some of the fancier bottles as well. It certainly helps to draw clicks to the website. However, I also wanted this to be a space for the average whisky drinker as well.

By average, I simply mean an individual who is not constantly on the prowl for the latest release multiple times a week. Someone who actually has a low to modest budget and sticks to it. Something the rest of us should be doing these days. You know who you are. In fact, I would argue that all whisky drinkers should have a few of these on their shelves!

To that end, I’m going to start reviewing some whiskies that don’t come with a high price tag, but are excellent value for money. Some of these may be obscure blended scotches that have been collecting dust on store’s lowest shelves. Others may be mid-shelf offerings from big distillers that pack a ton of flavour. I’m setting a price ceiling for bottles I cover in this “Value Dram Reviews” series at less than $100 CAD in the province of Alberta, but many will be much less than that. You’d be surprised what you can still get for that amount of money!

The first one I’ll cover is a bottle that I am just about to finish off myself. Forty Creek Cooper Pot should be available pretty much anywhere, even in the United States. This is a traditional Canadian whisky made of corn, rye and barley. These are aged separately for at least three years and then blended together before bottling. Information on this whisky, like many Canadian blends, is thin on the ground. It is most likely coloured and chill-filtered and is bottled at 43%. This bottle is a step up from Forty Creek’s entry level Barrel Select offering. You should be able to find a bottle of Copper Pot for about $30-$40 CAD.

Nose: there are some pretty standard Canadian blended whisky notes here such as vanilla and caramel. The youthfulness shows up as a faint metallic smell. What sets this apart is the pretty hefty amount of orange I get off of this. It’s quite sweet though. Almost candied. As this sits for longer, a little bit of dark chocolate can be detected in the background. Apart from cinnamon, I don’t get any other baking spices. A tiny bit of oak rounds this off.

Palate: For a low proof Canadian whisky, this is pretty decently mouthcoating. The entry is very sweet with caramel, orange juice and vanilla cream with a hint of milk chocolate. It’s in the development when a slightly bitter, youthful grain note starts to come into play. The sweetness from the entry and the slightly sour note from the orange help to balance this out enough for it not to become too big of a problem. There is enough rye in the blend to tingle the tongue a little bit. Towards the end of the development I get some more baking spices in the form of cloves and just a tiny bit of nutmeg.

Finish: This is short, but well balanced. A little bit of oak. A little bit of sponge toffee. Some fading baking spices. Just a touch of cocoa powder in the end. Nothing fighting for dominance. The citrus note prevents this from being too dry.

With water added…

The sweetness is tamped down a little on the nose. I’m getting quite a bit more oak and cinnamon and less orange. The entry remains pretty much unchanged, but I feel the youthfulness is not as prominent as it was without water added. The amount of oak has increased in the later half of the development and that, in turn, has thrown off the balance on the finish. Not by much, but it is noticeable.

Conclusion

This one is probably best without water. It falls apart a bit on the development and finish. I think this would also make a pretty decent mixing and cocktail whisky, but I have always had this as is.

Budget Canadian whisky gets panned by many in the whisky world, but there are some hidden gems out there. I would put this in that category along with Eau Clair’s Rupert, Signal Hill, Last Straw Rye and of course Lot 40. We’ll be reviewing all of those on the website at one point or another.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Two Brewers – Classic Cask Strength Single Malt

The Two Brewers Cask Strength Single Malt was the first up in our tasting last Friday and representing our Canadian choice for the evening. At first sip it was received rather controversially across the room but as everyone dove into their second and third tries, this northern charmer started to win over some hearts. From expressions of perplexity turning to eyes assentingly looking to one another bringing a collective sigh of relive. It is unspoken but you can tell the prideful Canadian inside us all really wants our home country picks to succeed and stand up against the greats from around the world so its always nice when it comes to fruition like it had.

Two Brewers Whisky , distilled by a couple gentleman up in Whitehorse, Yukon who began their path brewing beer have now managed to put themselves on the map within the world of whisky. Although the climate up north there is not ideal for aging whisky Bob and Alan continue to maintain enough innovative forethought and unique fermentation techniques to consistently produce a good quality juice.

This particular release like the all their others is a limited one and Two Brewer’s first Cask Strength expression.

ABV – 58% / Age – 7-8 years / Mash – 100% Malted Barley / Region – Canada (Yukon) / Cask – New Oak

NOSE – A little rough and tumble on the nose which kind of stood in front of the sweetness which I would of liked more of. Trailing that initial youthfulness though was some nice hints of vanilla, malt and oily leather similar to the inside of a ball glove.

PALATE – Like I mentioned earlier, the palate for most of us really started to open up on the second and third sip. Very viscous on the tongue but displaying a nice salty sweetness once it rested the palate. As it hits the roof of your mouth, a peppery spiciness and more leather finishes it off. On the third go around most of us added a couple drops of water which really brought those sweet qualities to the top of the taste buds with notes of apple, toffee and vanilla while lessening the pepperiness.

Finish – A subtle sweetness slightly lingers before the peppery spice completely takes over. Medium in length but sits more at the roof of your mouth versus the back of your throat.

Adolescent in nature, this whisky was just less polished than those single malt scotches in its price range. Overall a decent pour though which has me rather excited to try some of Two Brewer’s other stuff.

My rating – 7.2 / 10

Member rating – 7.3 / 10

  • Review by Steven Shaw
https://twobrewerswhisky.com/

Eau Claire – Single Malt Whisky

With Batch 01 come and gone, Batch 02 of the first barrel aged single malt whisky in Alberta’s modern history was released in limited quantities just before Christmas along side the familiar signs of “only one bottle per customer” just to make sure the love is spread as far as possible throughout the local markets. This is very exciting for an Alberta born whisky man like myself and I have no doubt the community around me feels the same. Eau Claire Distillery who has already received international accolades for there spirit releases have demonstrated the same dedication to quality and workmanship into producing their single malt, made of 100% Alberta grown barley from the soils of the Turner Valley area. Southern Alberta is world renowned for producing some of the best barley and rye in the world which is why scotch makers purchase it for their own distillery’s, so as Eau Claire has so plainly put, “it is only natural that we turn that agricultural gold into fine whiskies.” Makes sense to me!

ABV – 43% / Age – 3~ years / Mash – 100% Malted Barley / Region – Canada (Alberta) / Cask – New Oak

Displayed humbly on their label is the use of a hand plow which I assume is to foreshadow their farming methods. There may be many variations of their motto, “From farm to glass” used by several distillers but Eau Claire uniquely embodies and encapsulates their beliefs and the true definition of what they stand for by that message. More specifically, for their rye and single malt whisky’s, Eau Claire’s farming operations actually use traditional horse farming methods to plant and harvest the grain. That my friend, is a true artisanal and organic approach to manufacturing, and whether its necessary or not, it is those kinds of efforts and ethics I can ride the bandwagon for.

NOSE – Hints of cheese, avocado and malt aromas near the start for me but quickly blossoms into floral and citrus with a subtlety of unripe banana and apple. The nose rounds off fairly nicely and comes together a little more the second time around with more of the sweetness and smell of alcohol coming through.

PALATE – The malt and fruity notes present themselves eagerly from the first drop with entries of vanilla, honey, butterripple and a trace of humus which gives a buttery or waxy like mouth feel. Overall, smoother and more flavourful than I expected finishing off creamy and citrusy but with a hint of banana again which my palate usually pulls out in younger whisky’s. A little more hearty oak influence will go a mile with its already good flavour profile.

FINISH – Light and gentle finish with a caressing sweetness and spice that linger on the back of the tongue.

Eau Claire’s passionate approach is clearly evident in this whisky they have created. From the nose to the finish, this single malt punches way above its weight class in every way. It takes real innovation and forethought to stand among the good single malts of the world, especially as a young three year old Canadian but in my eyes they have introduced themselves to the conversation and left behind a lasting impression. Reaching recognition is the hard part but they still have some road to travel. Some age will do wonders for this whisky helping it mature and balance the adolescence establishing it’s current ceiling.

My rating, which may be a little biased due to my desire for a local distiller like Eau Claire to succeed, is a 7.9/10.

  • Review by Steven Shaw

Gooderham & Worts – Eleven Souls

Peace Bridge, Calgary, Alberta

An inspiring release from Gooderham and Wort embodying the story of William Gooderham’s humanitarian act of caring for eleven orphans during their voyage to Canada. Part of the 2018 Northern Border Collection Rare releases Corby brings to us an intricate and very satisfying Canadian Whisky. They have some how managed to blend a composition of Brasetto Rye, Rye, Rye Malt, Red Winter Wheat, Barley, Barley Malt and double distilled Corn all marrying together to create a symphony of flavor.

ABV – 49% / Age – Blend of Casks / Mash – Wheat, Rye, Barley, Corn / Region – Canada (Ontario) / Cask – ex-Bourbon & New Oak

They have found a way to showcase the most desirable attribute of each grain, full in both body and flavour every step of the way.

NOSE – On the nose I get a spicy barbecued sweet corn, high-rye bourbon like scent similar to an Old Grand Dad or Basil Hayden’s. It’s a strong aroma finishing off with raisins, plums and some floral like notes. It presents itself a little differently each time it passes you nose though making it kind of hard to pin point some of its character.

PALATE – Less elusive than the nose, the palate’s complexity establishes itself with big flavour profiles from buttered Russian rye bread, rich oak and dark fruits to a pleasant finish of typical rye like baking spices and a coffee and cream like mouth feel.

FINISH – Along with those delicious creamy rye spices, was some bitter dried fruit, and a subtle sweetness resembling an almost honey nut cheerio (sweet, vanilla, and grainy) like presence.  

This pour is artfully ingenious and perfectly represents the creativity and innovation taking place in the world of whisky today. The second time around I put a couple drops of water in which opened it up quite nicely without disturbing the rye too much. I am not usually a fan of adding water but this particular whisky takes it pretty well. Very impressed all around and looking forward to try the rest of the 2018 collection from Corby. I just hope that Gooderham & Worts gets the recognition they deserve globally for this release.

RATING – 9.2/10

  • Review by Steven Shaw

Lot 40 – 11 Year Cask Strength

Nestled in the cold Alberta plains where rye is born, the next bottle to make our tasting line up is a Canadian masterpiece, Lot 40 Cask Strength, aged 11 years. This limited release cask strength is quintessentially Canadian and has become the country’s darling within the whiskey community. The 100% Rye, aged in new oak is once again receiving the highest of praise across the country and internationally. It’s 2017 predecessor is almost impossible to find only a year later and I can only assume this bottle will follow suit. Snag one while you can before its too late. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a few home grown beauties like this on the shelf to demonstrate some nationalistic pride. Canada still occasionally punches in a high weight class but never seems to get the attention it deserves in the whisky community.

ABV – 58.4% / Age -11 years / Mash – 100% Rye / Region – Canada / Cask – New Oak

With Scotch and Bourbon as kings, Rye whisky seems to patiently sit in the back seat waiting for its opportunity to shine. Problem is though, there is a lot of rye out there that’s kind of flat and boring outside of their typical spiciness. This particular release by Lot 40 though is so full of flavour and wonderfully well crafted that once you have warmed up your palate with a couple sips and ease past the cask strength rye spice, your tongue will roll with pleasure.

NOSE – A big bold portrayal of its flavour bursting with overwhelming rye spices with hints of apple, butterscotch, and a slight smokiness.

PALATE – The spicy boldness increases as the aromas transition to a savory blend of cinnamon, vanilla, pepper and a strong oak influence emphasizing the strength of this expression.

FINISH – Leaving a lasting impression, the high proof is quite evident. The palate carries itself through the finish with less spice and a very slight trace of menthol as it dries out before finally fading out.

This whisky will not be for everyone and will impress the connoisseur more than the casual carouser. Cask Strength whiskies can be a lot to endure and this rye is one of the more boldest I have tried. Spicier and stronger than it’s 12 year predecessor that was bottled in 2016, the 2018 release is still something pretty special so I am looking forward to the continuation on this series. My personal rating was 8.5/10.

Ratings varied across the group for this one which was kind of expected. With a heavy scotch influence among the boys, not many of them frequent a bottle of good rye. Collective rating for the bottle is 7.3/10.

  • Review by Steven Shaw