Penelope Four Grain Bourbon

When I was asked to review a couple of samples from Penelope,I was excited.  I had been seeing these bottles all over social media and the first thing I was noticing was the eye-catchingdesign.  The bottle is a beautiful elongated design that is reflected in the simple and elegant foiled letter ‘P’ on the label. 

Just a quick foreword, I take a bit of a different approach when tasting a new whiskey and writing notes.  I do this as blind as possible.  I do not read up on the whiskey until I have captured my notes and had two different occasions to sit down and explore the whiskey in front of me.

Penelope Bourbon Four Grain 40%

This whiskey has a soft golden syrup color as I swirl the glass around. It is intriguing how golden the color is.

On the nose, there are those immediate soft hints of vanilla, straw, lemon, powdered sugar, and wax candy wrappers.  When I let this sit and come back an hour later, some faint oak notes had developed.

The palate is very surprising, having a hot and light spice to it with a dry snap. Not as sweet as you would expect with the nose. There are hints of warm strawberries in straw with a gentle citrus note. There is a lovely dry leather and dusty finish to the whiskey. Very unexpected and intriguing.

I tried this whiskey also in a rocks glass and found that there were additional cereal notes and tart green apples.  There was more of that corn sweetness when water was added to the whiskey.  The finish retains that dry snap on the finish.

Now the facts about this whiskey.  This is a blend of 3 bourbon mash bills comprised of 4 grains – corn (75%), wheat (15%), rye(7%), and malted barley (3%).  This whiskey has been aged 2-3yrs with #4 char on the staves, #2 char on the heads.

Penelope Bourbon Barrel Strength 58.3%

The color on this whiskey has a burnt orange quality, which has me thinking I will be greeted by some strong bourbon flavours.

On the nose, there is that immediate push of caramel, butter, and an interesting underlying mustiness that makes me think oak barrels and leather – that worn leather of horse bridle.  At the edge of the nose, there is a faint hint of menthol.  With some time, I get additional sweet notes of caramel popcorn and honey glazed nuts.

The palate for this whiskey I do find to be hot and with a dry note to it.  There are some sweet notes of candied fruit peels, citrus notes and some of that bitter of the pith from an orange.  On the finish, the orange notes becomes more pronounced with a medium-dry finish.

When I tried this whiskey in a rocks glass, I found that the nose did indeed go sweeter, with tones of Roger’s syrup and warm toast.  With a bit of water, there are some beautiful chewy leather notes and dark chocolate (92%) notes – that dry and bitter bite from the cacao.

Now the facts about this whiskey.  This is a blend of 3 bourbon mash bills comprised of 4 grains – corn (76%), wheat (15%), rye (6%), and malted barley (3%).  This whiskey has been aged 3-4yrs with #4 char on the staves, #2 char on the heads.

To catch-up on the idea behind these whiskies.

The back-story to this whiskey is rather interesting.  Two friends who had a passion for drinking bourbon and taking that passionand translating their knowledge of the restaurant industry, supply chain management, tech, and e-commerce into a brand.  Rather than building a distillery, they took the approach of working with established businesses to produce their product.  This includes sourcing their distillate from MGP Inc. and working with Castle & Key on the bottling and blending of their end product.  If you don’t know about MGP – do yourself a favor and go read up on them!  

Seeing the craft distillery explosion happening in Canada currently, we are seeing this start with the building of distilleries,so having a company develop a brand and sourcing each stage of their product from other producers is intriguing. Without a doubt, it will be worth watching how this bourbon develops further.

Review written by Nichole Olenek @blackcatwhisky / https://blackcatwhisky.com

Great Plains Craft Spirits Special Cask Finished Canadian Whisky – 18 Years Old / Finished in Brandy Casks for 12 Months

Today I review a local product from a spirits company located just down the highway from me, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. This product interested me a lot when I first came across it, because Great Plains Craft Spirits is doing something that I have always wondered why it hasn’t been done more often, especially considering the mature whisky stock that exists in this country. That is… source that well aged stock and use it for blending and finishing to create your own profiles. Why build a distillery when there is an apparent plethora of whisky amongst the distillers here already sitting in casks waiting to be transformed into something more interesting. In this case, Victor Mah, Vice President of Great Plains has done just that and acquired himself some 17+ year old Canadian corn whisky distilled in 2000 at the defunct Potter’s Distillery in Kelowna, British Columbia prior to being purchased by Highwood Distillers and moved to their Distillery in 2006 which is located in High River, Alberta. From there, they transferred this whisky from ex-bourbon barrels where it spent its entire maturation up to this point, into Brandy casks from Bodegas Osborne in Jerez, Spain and finished it for 12+ months. The reason I added the plus sign is because they experienced some delays in the labeling process that in turn extended the finishing time a few extra months. Oops… I don’t think it hurt any.

As excited and grateful to receive this whisky from Victor, some apprehension existed because no matter how patriotic I wanted to be, it still is Canadian corn based whisky. A northern grain that typically lacks depth unless it is really well aged and similar to Highwood’s brands, typically becomes a rather uninspiring product that falls rather flat. That being said, they typically proof everything down to 40% ABV, so seeing that Great Plains has bottled it at cask strength, this reinstilled some anxious anticipation. Don’t get me wrong here, there are some fantastic corn based Canadian Whiskies out there, especially those created by the Whisky Doc – Don Livermore out in Southern Ontario from Hiram Walker. Along side the Doc’s bottlings though, Great Plains found their whisky winning a Gold Metal at the 2020 Canadian Whisky Awards including the accolade of ‘Best New Whisky’. Some very high praise on the biggest stage here in Canada.

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Before I get rambling too far on a tangent, lets get back to the whisky I came here to review.

ABV – 54.5% / Age – 18+ years / Mash – 100% Corn / Region – Western Canada / Cask – 17+ Years – Ex-Bourbon & 12+ Months – Brandy Casks

My first impression of the this bottle was that the label is far too busy and I am afraid that someone who isn’t an enthusiast and is less knowledgeable or confident in what they are looking for might actually get intimidated at first glance. I quickly received affirmation on this theory when I set it out on the table at our last club tasting. It sat there as a pre-dram for the evening along with a few household names but was completely passed over because no one identified with it. It wasn’t until I was able to announce to everyone exactly what it was before it started to fill their glasses. I think a more inviting and simplistic label would help correct that.

Lucky for Great Plains though, the golden spirit inside is fantastic, and as soon as it was opened, I am not sure it was put down until it was killed that same evening. This tells me that those casks that once held Brandy for 15 – 20 years did their job nicely. Although, personally I would like to see it finished for an additional year, but that’s just me ;).

Nose

Right off the bat, it is very approachable for its proof and I get a bit of dustiness and old whisky qualities that I am not even sure what to attribute to. As I go back to it repeatedly, I enjoy it more and more, getting lots of wonderful oak and grain notes, sweet butterscotch, mandarin, and a creamy nuttiness. Long story short – very appetizing, nothing astringent, and ready to drink!

Palate

Remember before you take a sip, this is a cask strength whisky so if you don’t have a seasoned palate maybe have some water available. Just a couple drops can make a world of difference. For me, the stronger the better! At first sip, I get a tone of spicy oak and grain like qualities which most will identify as a ‘Rye’ characteristic. This is because our Canadian whisky brains have been brain washed over the years thinking we were drinking ‘Rye Whisky’ when in fact it was most likely a corn whisky. That’s a history lesson for another day though. After I swished this spirit around my mouth and went to my second sip, that’s where the qualities of the nose started to transcend nicely to the palate. Beyond that, subtle rancio and dried fruit notes show up as it rests in your mouth. With a couple drops of water, the sweetness was lost a little and the spice sharpens a bit, so I preferred it without.

Finish

The finish was really quite simple for me, basically going from dry spicy oak and grain to a light lingering sweetness from the brandy. Medium in length in the throat but unfortunately doesn’t hang around very long on the tongue.

Conclusion

This is very satisfying pour and one I will recommend to everyone looking to try something new. Even more so since its price point is only just north of $100 CAD. A great value.

Great Plains Spirits should be proud of themselves. They hit the mark nicely on their first release which has me really excited for the next one. As far as I know, they have even older whisky aging in both Cognac and Armagnac casks just waiting to be dumped and put on the shelf along side this one. Exciting stuff and I highly recommend!

Review by Steven Shaw

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Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique – Cask Strength, Single Cask

The KAVALAN DISTILLERY at the present time, is indeed a distillery you have heard of . It seems every few months this distillery is taking home major spirit competition top medals and accolades . or perhaps you simply know it because you are a whisky lover and enjoy the finer things and tastes , in life . Located in Yilan County, Taiwan , the terroir the Kavalan Distillery resides on , is sub tropical and humid, and accented by snow capped mountains. The days are stifling hot and the evenings are cool , cooled by mountain air which plays an integral part in the maturation of their whisky and the way it interacts with top hand selected casks. The mineral rich natural melt water is used in its Whisky production, is sourced from the Yilan snow mountain that co exists amidst lush, tropical land.
The area surrounding Yilan was formerly known as “Kavalan” which was named after the mystic indigenous peoples that were known to be warriors, the honorable name was granted to them by the Emperor of the Chin Dynasty in 1809. Kavalan Whisky made its first impactful statement amongst Whisky Enthusiasts in 2010 when it beat out Scotch and English Whisky on a Burns night in Scotland leaving the participants shocked !
In fact they were so shocked – they repeated the blind tasting one year later, and Kavalan came out on top and was chosen as number one again.

Kavalan Distillery History :
It took until 2002 for Taiwan to be a part of the WTO (world trade order) to be able to build a distillery creating spirits. The Kavalan distillery was established in 2005 and the first new make was poured and barreled in 2006 for maturation. Owned by Food and Beverage Conglomerate “KING CAR” in Taiwan, owner Mr. Tien- Tsai Lee Lee had been wanting to distill , create, and sell , fine spirits and alcoholic beverages since the KING CAR Group was established more than 40 years ago.
After 3 years of studying the art of Whisky making (2002 to 2005), The distillery was then built from the ground up in 9 months with copper pot stills that were brought in from Scotland . The distillery also adopted Scottish Whisky making and distillation processes. KAVALAN Distillery was a passion project for King Car owner Mr. Lee so once permission was granted to build the distillery he dreamed of for years prior, he comprised a group of experts together to travel parts of world (including Scotland and Japan). The group studied and adopted the BEST spirits making knowledge and equipment to bring Mr. Lee’s vision to fruition. There was no corner of the earth that the best practices for spirits production , went unnoticed or upturned.

The master group that studied whisky production along with Mr. Lee was former Master Distiller , Ian Chang , and the late Dr. Jim Swan who worked with the distillery until his passing . Cask selection and preparation :
The education , knowledge, and guidance taught to the master group by Dr. Jim Swan resulted in high, methodical production standards being practiced at the Kavalan Distillery. At the same time and synergistically , the highest technology available for distilling was also brought in by the King Car group creating one of the worlds most technologically advanced distilleries. This accolade stands to date and the Kavalan Distillery is one of the top 10 distilleries in the world today. Dr. Jim Swan also introduced the “STR” (SHAVE, TOAST, and RE CHAR”) process to the Taiwanese Whisky producers. The “STR” process is a beautiful to witness fire barrel craft . It is used exclusively for the production of the ever prestigious Solist Vinho Barrique, with the exception of a recent experimental fully peated
Kavalan Whisky, that was also matured in a cask treated with the “STR” process .

The VINHO BARRIQUE is the highest awarded Kavalan Single Malt Whisky at the distillery.

It is matured in hand selected American Oak Casks that formerly held both red and white wine , treated with the “STR” process , prior to maturation .
Each release is from a single cask yielding approximately 180-200 bottles of this exquisite Whisky , and depending on cask, can range from 54%-59.4% ABV. In other words , each release can be slightly unique from the next driving whisky enthusiasts to collect a variety of the same Whisky matured at differing times and lengths.
The Vinho Barrique is part of the Kavalan “SOLIST” series and possibly the most loved expression of this line up.


In 2020 alone it was awarded NUMBER ONE at the 2020 TWSC (Tokyo Whisky & Spirits Competition) that took place in June of this year in Japan.
128 single malts were blindly tasted and narrowed down to 14 TOP single malts. The “SOLIST VINHO BARRIQUE” was chosen as number one and awarded THE “BEST OF THE BEST SINGLE MALT (2020) AWARD . Kavalan also took home a total of 14 awards for its other loved Whisky expressions in addition , and won “BEST WORLD DISTILLERY of the YEAR award.
In September 2020 , The International Review of Spirits (IRS) Competitions took place in the US. and the “SOLIST VINHO BARRIQUE” took home a Platinum Superlative award and was noted as number one in the competition along side 3 other top Kavalan expressions. This award is superior to a gold award which were also awarded to several other Kavalan Whiskies. Being a lover and avid sipper of this expression, I can see how this single malt keeps coming out on top!


The Kavalan “SOLIST” VINHO BARRIQUE is a multi layered , sensational , single malt whisky , that boasts elegance and superiority you feel rush through your veins as you sip its majesty.

The Colour alone is entirely captivating ! Akin to a fine, richly mahogany deep color French Cognac – this pour is dark and mesmerizing. To note the whiskies from this distillery have no color added and are non chill filtered , resulting in killer legs in your sipping glass of choice and a rich mouthful of desirous esters and oils.

n the Nose are rich notes of tropical fruits , ripe mango, kiwi , chocolate , dates , fine tobacco , stewed fruit , brown sugar , berry compote and spice .


On the Palate are notes of black pepper spice , chocolate , melon , vanilla , cinnamon , dark dried fruits , toffee , and more lush tropical fruit . The mouthfeel is rich , thick , and velvety .

The Finish is long and luxurious, spicy and sweet, and simply sensational.
The Kavalan VINHO BARRIQUE is a beauty of a single malt, that all Whisky Enthusiasts should have the pleasure to savor. A whisky that will stop you in your tracks and seduce you to spend time with – exciting all your senses.

To note the bottling I am describing today is 56.3 % with cask no W130116019A . I know the the Kavalan fans obsessed with this whisky will appreciate that detail. ;-0 Personally, when it comes to me and the Vinho Barrique experience – I like to sip it neat, in a copita, in my fanciest dress and greatest smile , and in my highest heels .
Gan Bei ! “Kavalan – Pure Taiwan”

Yours truly , Lady Whisky Z

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