The Black Bottle Showdown!

Black bottle Blended Scotch Whisky (NAS new bottle) – 40% ABV


This is the Black Bottle you will typically find on shelf at your local liquor store(and one you should definitely have on your bar at all times) It is simply a fine bottom shelf whisky that holds its own, neat in a glencairn, or even cooked up in your whisky cocktail of choice as well. Its been a bartender favourite for decades in the industry.

Nose

This one starts off sweet. Like burnt caramel or brown sugar on freshly made porridge. There is a slight maltiness. Some citrus notes are found but they are almost hidden behind the brown sugar notes. It reminds me of a young sherried highland malt.

Palate

Again starts off with caramel/brown sugar sweetness. It then ups the spice a bit, with some fresh baking like spices. Vanilla spread over a slice of wheat bread. There is a familiar aspect to this.

Finish

The finish makes me think of Bunnahabhain with that hint of smoke mixed with a nutty, and lightly spiced fruit. Like I mentioned, this is something everyone should have. It’s head and shoulders above most blends and for the price it is really hard to beat.

Black Bottle Blended Scotch Whisky (NAS Old bottling – green bottle) – 40% ABV


This is the fabled old bottle of black bottle. All but a ghost now. Said to be a blend of islay malts and mainland grains.

Nose

Anyone familiar with Islay blends will know this nose. The usual ashy smoke and brine hints are welcomed and prevalent. Followed by a beautiful sweet vanilla and honey note. A little further nosing finds light pear and green apple notes.

Palate

Starts with that ashy Islay smoke but lighter than most Islay malts. This quickly hands the torch off to orange peel and a lemon fruit note. A little bit of honeyed sweetness comes through just before the spice and heat from the peat comes back.

Finish

The finish is rather short but full of smoke and a nice lingering and pleasant peatiness. It was much lamented when the black bottle recipe changed from this blend to the current one which I can clearly understand why. This is a beautifully Islay influenced blend that is as balanced and good as most I have tried from the region but always at half the price. It sad to see these older bottlings work their way into extinction.

Black bottle 10 year Blended Scotch Whisky (2019/20 limited edition release) – 40% ABV

This was a surprise release when it came out, but for lovers of the cult classic, Black Bottle, it became a must have. Unfortunately for most, it was only released in the UK and a couple select countries.

Nose

The first element separating itself from the others is it’s age. There is oak in the nose that you didn’t get with the NAS releases, but not fresh oak, a rich soggy oakwood that been sitting next to a firepit all summer. Accompanying the oak, is a reduced brown sugar sweetness and floral honey.  A little bit of peat and smoke are evident as well.

Palate

This one has both the sweet and smoke, standing side by side. On the sweet side you have honey, vanilla, apple and sweet bready like notes. Like hot cross buns dripped with honey. On the other side you have some baking spices, fragrant peat smoke, and an almost gingerbread spice/sweet mix.

Finish

This one has that balance of sweet and smoke, peat and fruit. It’s a shame the stock was so limited and they couldn’t do a wider release. This shows just what a blend can do if left to age properly instead of being bottled as soon as it legally is allowed to be. A great dram if you can get your hands on it!

Conclusion
All three of these bottles are fairly different from one another. I wish it was possible for everyone to try all three but I know sadly, that is almost impossible. If you come across any of these bottles, do yourself a favour and pick it up. You will be hard pressed to find a better bang for your buck whisky on the market.

  • Review written by Sean Kincaid

Old Forester Prohibition 1920

This Old Forster 1920 is easily in my top 5 bourbons and checks off a lot of the boxes I love most when it comes to this category of whiskey. Old Forester has created this bourbon to best resemble the product they sold during prohibition as they were one of only ten distilleries legally still capable of producing whiskey for “medicinal purposes”. I can promise you though, it doesn’t taste anything like cough syrup, but… I bet it will sooth your scratchy throat over the course of the evening.

Until recently, Old Forester products have never been sold in Canada and it wasn’t until September 2019 that, friends of the club, Wine and Beyond made some room on the shelves for a singe barrel they selected the spring prior. A month following that, they stocked this 1920 expression. Although, the space it occupied the morning it was released, was once again vacant by the time the store closed that same day. Needless to say, we are pretty starved for new and exciting bourbons so I was not surprised at all to see that happen. Luckily for me, I frequent the liquor store enough that the Cheers theme song plays when the doors open, so needless to say, I was able to snag a hand full of bottles before it disappeared.

Here is the info from Old Forester’s website.

The Volstead Act of 1920 which initiated Prohibition in the USA granted permits to six distillers in Kentucky to continue to bottle bourbon for medicinal purposes. Through one of these permits, Old Forester continued to be produced as medicinal whiskey on Louisville’s famed Whiskey Row. It is the only bourbon continuously sold by the same company that has been available for sale before, during and after Prohibition.

During this time, all whiskies had to be bottled at 100 Proof. With a barrel entry proof of 100, the “angel’s share” would have created a 115 proof whiskey after maturation. To pay homage to this era, Old Forester presents 1920 Prohibition Style Bourbon at 115 proof to represent the rich flavor profile this bourbon had nearly 100 years ago.

Please check out the Old Forester Website for more info on this and the rest of their line up. Their product is truly quality through and through. Even their entry level bourbon, the 86 proof, is one of my favourite whiskeys to use for cocktails as it’s versatility shines with any flavour it meets.

ABV – 57.5% / Age – N/A / Mash – 72% Corn / 18% Rye / 10% Malted Barley Region – Kentucky Bourbon / Cask – New American Charred Oak

Nose

Not typically sweet like bourbon tends to be. Powerful aromas of charred oak and burnt sugar followed by some dark fruits, cocoa, and banana. It is a higher ABV so naturally the nose will present some ethanol as well.

Palate

Bold, rich, chewy and delicious! More of the char, caramel and burnt sugar along with some rich dark chocolate and heavily roasted coffee. Following that, some vanilla and nuttiness comes in to round it off and send it to the finish. I love how the char presents itself as a real smokiness and adds a nice edge to the rest of the flavours.

Finish

The transition from the palate to the finish is accompanied by some nice peppery spiciness. From there, it carries on and lingers for a while with burnt sugars and an aftertaste similar to a earthy dark roast coffee.

All and all, my kind of dram! I want a pour that humbles me and forces me to appreciate its brashness with edgy, smokey, and rich bourbon characteristics, and this 1920 delivers exactly that. If you live in a region it is readily available, I suggest you get it now. If you live in Canada, keep your ears to the ground and eyes open because it won’t sit waiting for long on the shelves after it arrives. Be prepared to snag yours up quick!

  • Review by Steven Shaw

Eau Claire Single Malt Batch 003

This is the 3rd single malt release from Alberta’s own Eau Claire Distillery. A distillery operating since 2014, located the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Turner Valley, Alberta. This single malt comes from 100% Alberta grown Barley and is aged in New European oak and American ex-bourbon casks. Non-chill filtered, natural colour and weighing in at 43% ABV.

Nose


A fairly subtle nose with nothing immediately jumping out. Digging a bit deeper though, there is some sweetness shining through. Red fruits and caramel sweets. Following that comes a rich, almost earthy note mixed with some woodiness. Almost like sawdust covering a fruit basket sitting on a warehouse floor. The youthfulness of this malt may be why none of the flavours immediately jump, but once you get your schnoz deep into the glass, you can pull out some wonderful notes from each cask types used in the aging of this whisky.

Palate


Surprisingly nothing too sweet right up front. Youthfulness again shows up but this time as a bit of heat. When the heat subsides an oaty semi-sweet note comes through followed by a hint of the caramel from the nose. Maybe even a bit of vanilla or possibly very light banana. That slight earthy note again comes up way in the back with some bitterness. A sweeter note shows towards the finish like a chalky sweet candy, similar to those rockets that come lined up in the transparent wrapper. As the finish goes on (medium to long) more of that caramel lingers with a bit of non-citrus fruit.

Impression.

After sourcing out a sample of Batch 001 and a bottle Of Batch 002, this Batch 003 offering is noticeably different. In a good way. It leaves me waiting impatiently to see what Batch 004 and 005 and 010 and 020 will herald. If the quality keeps increasing from Eau Claire and the kindness and hospitality from their people behind the scenes doesn’t disappear they are quickly going to ascend to the top of the Canadian spirits landscape.

– Reviewed by Sean Kincaid

Check out their website for more information on their distillery and all the quality spirits they have to offer.

Hansen – Northern Eyes Whisky

Something special and historic took place here on February 11th, 2020. Hansen, a home grown, blue collar distillery, has inspired an entire city by releasing the first Whisky ever distilled, bottled and labeled in Edmonton, Alberta. Prior to the doors opening, they held a VIP event to which we were humbly invited to take part in. Attendees of the event included family, friends, Mayor – Don Iveson, Media, local business owners, and members of the local whisky community which in retrospect, didn’t really matter. We were all just Edmontonians, anxiously nosing their whisky, soaking in the moment and admiring all the hard work and genuine passion present on Kris and Shayna Hansen’s faces. After a great presentation which included, honouring the City of Edmonton and Don Iveson with a couple of the first bottles filled, it was time to taste the goods but as everyone proudly held up their Hansen inscribed glencairn in an inaugurating cheers, you couldn’t help but notice a common look of trepidation across the room while everyone lowered their glasses from the air and slowly to their lips for that first sip. It didn’t take long to turn the anxiousness into excitement though because simply put… it was delicious.

Honestly though, I was already fairly confident the juice was going to be good as Kris seriously didn’t show a glance of nervousness during the entire presentation leading up to that point. If it was at all a question in his mind, I am confident he would have shown it. Now, I should have prefaced this though, it’s a 3 year old whisky, 100% rye, aged in new American charred oak barrels so it’s important to always judge according to its weight class. Because of this, I purposefully didn’t set my expectations too high. In fact, I kind of expected an edgy, unpolished young rye smelling like shoe polish and tasting of dry cereals, banana, unbalance spice and tannic oaky bitterness. Okay so, I probably set my expectations a little too low and should have given them a bit more credit than that but truth be told, I didn’t want it to disappoint considering the significance and what it represented.

Anyways, back to the first sip. It was surprisingly clean and carried a nice body for a young rye. It’s youthfulness didn’t present itself rigidly but rather in a spry and energetic way. I was very pleasantly surprised.

Nose

The nose is soft and youthful accompanied by some light fruity and caramel characteristics. After nosing off and on for like 20 minutes, a slight hint of the leather came through which is part of the profile Kris is going for.

Palate

Upfront, savoury rye spiciness, banana forward (typical of a young whisky), burnt sugar and a decent amount of sweet vanilla coming through which is a nice surprise as it usually takes a few more years of aging to really infuse the whisky with the oak’s vanillins.

Finish

A little sharp at the height of the finish but it calms down nicely with a fruity and peppery notes. Once the whisky is completely down, the char from the barrel and some very subtle tobacco slightly lingers. The finish is medium in length.

Overall, I enjoyed it. Not overly complex, but can you really expect that of a young, proofed down whisky? No, you can’t. The important thing here is, the profile Kris is aiming for is evident and the foundation is built. His vision is create “a real cowboy-style whisky” which I believe his on the path to creating. That hearty, spicy rye with the boldness to add some hair to your chest and the complexity to keep you continually appreciating its layers. It’s going to be an exciting ride for them and I am stoked to follow along.

Lastly, if you live in the area or ever visiting Edmonton, please go check out their distillery and take the tour to hear all about their heritage which ultimately led them to this destiny. Their family history is quintessentially Albertan and full of distilling tradition dating back before prohibition.

  • Review by Steven Shaw

Check out their website for their story and a ton of other great products.

https://hansendistillery.com/

Barrel Aged Old Fashioned

Dumping the Barrel to serve at our Club Tasting (Feb. 21, 2020)

How to age an Old Fashioned Cocktail in a Oak Barrel…? Good Question. I am by no means an expert but fortunately for me, my experience went great and the cocktail turned out to be maybe the best Old Fashioned I have ever had. So… that being said, I can certainly tell you how I managed to make that happen and try and help you out!

First thing first, I recommend you to read multiple people’s articles about different experiences because chances are, everyone’s barrel and ingredients are going to be a little different.

The Barrel…

So… To start off, I used a 8 Litre (2 gallon) Ex-Sherry Barrel. Reason being, ordering a new oak barrel to Edmonton, Alberta is not an easy task as there are no reputable manufacturers close so by the time it was shipped to me, it would have been past the tasting it was intended for and I was not that proactive and also have a tendency to procrastinate and to try and accomplish things last minute. Luckily for me, when I reached out to some friends, it just so happened my pal, Whisky Joe had just ordered a handful of smaller barrels for a crazy Tullibardine aging experiment (we will get into that story another day). Anyways, the barrel that I was able to get my hands on from Joe, like I mentioned, is ex-sherry and not new oak, but because it had to meet certain health codes prior to being shipped here, it had already been thoroughly rinsed and prepared. As far as I understand, this allowed me to skip an important step of having to clean the barrel beforehand but, I still filled the barrel with warm water, letting it sit for a few hours to make sure there wasn’t any leaks. If you are using a previously used barrel then please search around for cleaning and rinsing techniques prior to dumping in your ingredients. If you are using a new oak barrel then there will most likely be some simple preparation instructions that come with it.

The Cocktail…. mmmmm

When it comes to selecting your whiskey cocktail, you want to stick to the ones without any perishable ingredients that will go bad during the aging process. Personally, I love a good Old Fashioned so it was a natural choice for me. Other good options are, a Boulevardier, Manhattan, Vieux Carre, Sazerac, Rob Roy or similar. You also have to be careful with using simple syrup, especially if it home made as the shelf life at room temperature isn’t a long one. Store bought syrup tends to last quite a bit longer or using maple syrup which is what I did, works a lot better. I wouldn’t recommend aging the cocktail longer than 3 – 4 weeks though when there are sugars in the ingredients. Also, keep in mind, you don’t need to use as much syrup as a recipe normally states. You will draw sweetness and complexity out of the wood and you will not want to mask those flavours with the extra sugar. For mine, because it was an ex-sherry barrel, I used about 1/2 of the quantity I normally would, knowing that the sherry was also going to contribute to the sweetness. I also matched my syrup quantity with water, pouring in equal parts of both so that the cocktail wouldn’t become too concentrated after the aging process.

From there, it’s just a matter of picking your favorite lower shelf whiskey and your bitters of choice. Calculate the quantity of ingredients according to the volume of barrel and start pouring it all in!

Make sure to set the barrel in a place slightly cooler than room temperature and out of the sunlight and then make sure to be taste testing you cocktail every 4 or 5 days to make sure you don’t miss the mark and over age it.

The Pouring

The reason I decided to do this in the first place was to pour out for our Park Whiskey Society members at our most recent tasting. Usually I am making cocktails for everyone after the tasting with the help of my buddy David, but the idea of just pouring it all out into a dispenser and having everyone pour their own drinks for the evening was a pretty awesome one. I was pretty nervous at first but also confident because lucky for me, I consume a lot of cocktails and was relatively sure that, if it tasted good for me then it was going to taste good for everyone else. Lets just say… it was a massive success! Well… at least the fogginess and empty barrel can suggest so. Like I mentioned, one of the best Old Fashioned Cocktails I have ever had. The sherried wood lent such a beautiful character, creating a bold flavoured, yet very smooth cocktail.

This was seriously a ton of fun and something I definitely recommend trying and will be doing again!

If you have any questions please reach out and I’ll be glad to help! Cheers everyone!

Talisker 15 Year (2019 Diageo Special Release)

Diageo’s “Rare by Nature” 2019 special release. “Limited” to 42000 bottles worldwide and sounding like very few made it to Canada. “Natural Cask strength” at 57.3% abv. Matured fully in freshly charred American oak hogsheads and comes in a tin with beautiful art prints of oysters and seaweed as found near the distillery around the Isle of Skye.

Nose

While it has the typical notes of spice and herbs and brine that Talisker is known and loved for, the smoke is rather faint on the initial nose. Digging deeper though, the smoke starts to present itself more firmly but the drill sergeant here seems to be the sweetness. As a mixture of flame melted and burnt sugar hits the top of my sinuses, a faint citrus fruit note poke it’s way through. Citrus like orange peels, and a freshly peeled peach. The high ABV doesn’t really show up too much on the nose which I like as it allows a lot of time searching around for ever changing notes without tickling those nostrils with high alcohol.

Palate

Immediately rich and clingy in the mouth. Spices and herbs literally fighting their way to the tongue. A touch of the smoke clears the way. A nice campfire style smoke. A second sip and the sweetness shines through. Salted caramel without the crunch and a touch of the citrus arrives again. Lemon rind and brown sugar dance together, muddling the high ABV which is present, but not obnoxious at all. Maritime brine and seaweed round of the profile but again, that sweetness is surprising refreshing.

Finish

Not the longest finish and medium in length. Starts heavy on cinnamon and smoke and the “tongue tingle” copyright… sticking around for a bit as the finish fades from salty spiced smoke to more fruit and burnt sugar sweetness again.

Talisker for me is always a fairly consistently, decent to great distillery with very few misses, with a lot of releases I have really enjoyed over the years. This one particularly, while not as typical as some other releases, really impressed with its subtle differences. That sweetness is such a welcoming surprise, as I previously mentioned, which offers a beautifully balanced and complimentary quality to those maritime and peat notes Talisker has become known for. If you can find this bottle and like this style of whisky, do not hesitate to buy one. 

Outside of my recommendation to purchase this Talisker release, I have some other advice to share….

Please always wear socks when Steve asks you to come help him with a few photos, just encase he asks you to walk through waist high snow banks! I learnt my lesson.

  • Review by Sean Kincaid