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/

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