Hansen Distillery Distillers Edition Whisky #1 – French Oak x Port Cask

As Hansen Distillery’s signature rye has gotten older, founder and head distiller Kris Sustrik has started releasing one-off Distiller’s Editions which highlight unique cask maturations, finishes, and even new mash bills. These are for the hard-core whisky fans who have been waiting for these releases for a long time now.

This is the first of four reviews of Hansen’s limited editions, posted in the order they were released in. This bottle was loaned to me by Jonathan, who owns the long-running Whisky Neighbour YouTube channel. Based in the Edmonton area, Jon has posted hundreds of reviews since the fall of 2017 and is definitely worth a follow.

This Hansen Distiller’s Edition French Oak x Port Cask is made from 100% Alberta rye. The whisky spent 22 months in a French oak ex-red wine cask before being finished for 34 months in an ex-Port cask.  It was proofed down to 47% and was limited to an out-turn of 336 bottles.

Nose: Port finished whisky and I have a rocky history. Like wheat whisky, there can sometimes be this paint thinner note that can be difficult to shake. Thankfully, I’m not getting that here. There was a bit of a nose-tingling ethanol note when this first made its way into my glass, but that’s dissipated now.

This is dried red berries, toasted walnuts and dark chocolate straight away. Then the spices from the French oak really start to kick in. Allspice, clove and toasted cinnamon in pretty much equal proportions. Over time, this becomes faintly floral as well. The dark chocolate evolves into fudge of a similar hue, rolled in rich cocoa powder. Before I take my first sip, this is teetering into the dark edges of a fresh baked Christmas cake. Finally (I promise!), it’s a bit ashy.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this nose. However, the cask maturation is such that I would have a hard time guessing this is Hansen’s rye (or even rye, to be honest). I had a similar opinion with the Killowen/Belgrove rye review I published a while back. I did have a glass of Hansen’s five year rye for comparison. I was wanting those tobacco and grassy notes and they were nowhere to be found.

Palate: Right from the first sip, the distillate/cask balance I was looking for is making a little comeback, but it takes a while to evolve. Orange vanilla cream and toffee starts things off on the entry. This is followed by tart dried strawberries and a wave of dark chocolate. By mid-palate, this has become tannic, drying and spicy. Earthy nutmeg and cracked black pepper have entered the mix, overtaking the spices I got on the nose. It’s not till this whisky makes its way to the back of my tongue that I get that classic Hansen signature that I have been looking for. The tobacco and leather are clearly present. Mixed with the cask maturations, there’s a very strong fruit leather vibe going on as well.

Finish: That balance is in full swing now, and it’s a winning combination. That tobacco note continues all the way to the finish. It’s slightly ashy and quite tart as well. I love it!

With water added

In terms of balance, the nose is on a much more even footing now. The tobacco note that I’m getting is actually stronger than their regular releases. The casking is really helping to accentuate that. The rest of this is all Christmas cake. Spices, candied fruit, raisins and nuts. My quibbles sipping this neat are gone. The rye notes are shining through the oak. It’s spicy, sweet, citrusy, and slightly herbal. Even toasted rye bread makes an appearance at the end of the development. There’s still plenty of dried red fruit, the aforementioned cake, and bitter dark chocolate from the French oak and Port cask influence. The only thing I would have to say is that this is now a tad youthful.


This one definitely had a lot of character and the balance righted itself as the experience progressed. I’m actually glad that this release was proofed down to 47% because, if this was at cask strength, the distillate would probably have been completely swamped out. I think this was in the $80-90 CAD range, which is a reasonable price given what this was matured in. I’ve got three more special releases of theirs to review. On deck is the French Oak x Sherry Cask.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

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