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/

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