Hansen Distillery Northern Eyes Rye – 5 Year

Image credit: Jeremy Pue (@jeremypue)

Being a reviewer as well as a mega spirits fan, it’s interesting to experience a distillery’s journey from its first release to the present day. Hansen Distillery, located in the west end of Edmonton, Alberta has been releasing their 100% rye whisky for a few years now as a 3 year, single barrel expression. Reviewed previously, it had all the notes of a very young rye, which I liked, but lacked some of the spice that I craved.

Now the whisky is being bottled with a five year age statement and a higher proof. Just looking at the colour, I can tell that the barrel has done its work. Speaking of barrels, Hansen has decided to let the wildly fluctuating Alberta weather do its thing when maturing their whisky. After a few months of sitting in the distillery, the casks are transported off-site and stored in a warehouse without any climate control. Given our dry climate, the “angel’s share” is probably pretty substantial, but the warm summers really help the whisky to expand into the wood, soaking up all those glorious flavours.

Over the next five Saturdays, I’m going to be taking a look at all of Hansen’s latest releases, many of which were pretty limited and are now long gone. However, this five year Hansen Northern Eyes 100% rye is available anytime you want it. Released over a year ago now, it has joined their three year in the core range. Like the three year, it’s made from 100% Alberta rye and has been aged in new American oak barrels treated with a #3 char. Finally, it’s bottled at 50% ABV.

Nose: The extra two years has been very kind to this whisky. Although the cask influence has definitely taken hold, the signature of the distillate has not been drowned out. The toast on the rye bread that I got on the three year is much darker now and it still has plenty of those grassy, herbal notes. Best of all, that tobacco leaf signature is still detectable, something that really endeared me to their original release. Where this differs, among other things, is this note akin to Tart n’ Tiny’s candy from my youth. It’s not super strong, but it is interesting, that’s for sure! This is not a fruity rye (possibly due to short fermentation times?), but I am finally getting some barrel spices. Toasted cinnamon, clove and even coriander. And then there’s the toffee. Lots of toffee.

Palate: The entry is a little slow to evolve, but it’s all uphill from there. Light vanilla and honey progresses through to toasted rye bread and a decent hit of cocoa powder and dark chocolate (quite light on the latter though). The char-grilled orange and dark sponge toffee is giving this a toasted sweet and sour experience. Towards the end, the toasted bread is teetering on the edge of burnt, but the toffee and citrus keep it in check. From the middle to the end of the development, the rye spice really starts to kick in. It’s very cinnamon-rich with black pepper and and a pinch of nutmeg thrown in for good measure.

Finish: Like the three year, the tobacco notes shine brightest here, but there’s much more toffee sweetness, which helps with the balance. The dark chocolate and sour citrus note really sticks around.

With water added

Leather, tobacco, and toffee. Together at last. There’s just a hint of dark chocolate and slightly charred raisins. There’s a decent amount of vanilla on the nose too. The honey from the entry progresses much further into the development on the palate. The cocoa powder and dark chocolate are much lighter now, but the spice remains. The finish is much drier, allowing those tobacco notes to come through, once again.


This Northern Eyes rye has really come of age now. With that extra barrel aging, the unique distillate is balanced out by the cask maturation, which helps to accentuate the notes of the three year, giving this a darker, richer tone. Keeping this whisky in mind, it’s going to be very interesting to see what founder and distiller Kris Sustrik has done with this as a base for his special releases. The next four weeks of reviews will be fun. Looking forward to it!

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Leave a Reply