Woody Creek Wheated Colorado Bourbon review

Let’s take a break from the core range today and take a look at a Woody Creek special release. Wheated bourbons, aside from the Weller releases (if you can find them in your state/province) and Makers Mark, were a rare sight up until a few years ago. That has now begun to change. Alongside four grain bourbons (some with oats instead of wheat), craft distilleries are leading the charge here and the expressions offer something different from the mainstream bottlings…like this one!

This Woody Creek Wheated Colorado Bourbon has a mashbill of 70% corn, 15% wheat and 15% and has been aged for six years in new American oak. It is bottled at a healthy 47% abv.

Nose: The first thing that hit me straight away was the lack of a dusty grain note that I get on most wheated bourbons. It’s not that it isn’t there, but it’s just lurking in the background. What I do get is the sweetness that I normally find in this type bourbon. Werthers original candies for sure, but also a little bit of the sponge toffee filling in a Cadbury’s Crunchie bar. In that way, it’s sort of like a bourbon matured single grain scotch. Again, this being a bourbon, I would expect to see a cherry fruitiness, but instead I’m getting strawberries and a hint of blackberries as well. In terms of the spicing, I get the traditional cinnamon and a little bit of allspice. I’m expecting nutmeg and/or cloves to show up on the palate. I’m really not getting an awful lot of oak here. As I nose this over time, I am getting more of that grain note, like sweet feed that horses love, but should not really get too much of.

Palate: With all of that sweetness on the nose, coupled with the lack of rye in the mash, I was expecting this to be overly sweet the whole way through the experience. That is initially the case, but this whiskey has some surprises in store for me. The entry is quite sweet for starters. The vanilla custard note alone really coats the front of my mouth right from the get go and that continues through the development as well. Between the entry and the development, I get that Crunchie bar toffee note again mixed with red berries and peaches, this time slightly cooked down. What really surprises me is how spicy this bourbon is on the palate. It’s not super spicy, but certainly more so than any other wheated bourbon I have had. It’s almost effervescent on the tongue. Underneath that spice is more of that grain forward note that I usually see in wheaters. The back end of the development sees some nutmeg start to creep in as well as a touch of clove. I am getting some oak, but again, not a lot. I love the balance all the way through.

Finish: The early part of the finish has quite a bit of character. The oak and dark baking spices carry over from the development and are joined by a heavy hint of dark chocolate. That Crunchie bar vibe sticks around as well. It’s slightly drying, but not overly so. As the finish progresses to a medium/long length, it becomes more oak forward, but there is enough chocolate and toffee to prevent it from acquiring that wet oak feeling that can be a bit of a put off for me.

With water added…

I’m getting much more of the dusty grain bin note as well as some faint vanilla, which I was missing entirely on the nose without water added. I’m getting some light sponge toffee, but this is lacking that Crunchie bar vibe that I was digging earlier. Definitely more oak here as well. That subtle fruitiness has also faded. The entry still has that vanilla custard, but it is tinged with orange now and slightly sour. The development is just as spicy, if not more so than without water, and more oak forward. It’s not quite as sweet either. When I smack my lips to let in some air, I get a bit of roasted peanut now. The baking spices stick around for a lot longer on the finish and the dark chocolate has morphed into a cocoa powder note that I really love. This note actually pairs better with the oak at the backend of the finish than the notes I get without water being added.

Conclusion

As Sean Kincaid has noted in the first three Woody Creek reviews, this is a surprising set of whiskies thus far. They take what you might be expecting from a traditional bourbon and American rye and throw you a couple of curveballs to keep you interested. To me, this is the definition of the craft distillery ethos. Take what you already know from drinking “mainstream” whiskey and give you something familiar, but also slightly new. Still to come is the cask strength rye. You definitely will want to tune in for that.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Grain Henge – Meeting Creek Single Malt Whisky

Grain Henge is the brand name of the new whisky distillery from Troubled Monk, a brewery located in Red Deer, Alberta. This award winning team has been making craft beer using local ingredients since 2015. The name pays homage to the many functioning and abandoned structures littered throughout the Alberta prairie landscape that appear in photographs all over the world, helping to define our culture and identity. 

Following in the tradition of a craft beer maker, Grain Henge will be released in small batches with very limited availability. It is common practice for a craft brewery/distillery combination to share equipment in their processes, and whisky production is often planned around the brewing schedule. This means that each batch of whisky is a unique creation unto itself, and often produces exciting results. 

Meeting Creek is the first release from Grain Henge. Master distiller Garret Haynes used the mash bill from Troubled Monk’s Open Road American Brown Ale as inspiration for his first whisky release. The whisky is made with a similar combination of 2-row, amber, crystal, brown, and chocolate malts, but Haynes increased the quantity of specialty grains to accentuate the flavours he was hoping to bring forward in the spirit. The whisky was aged for 40 months in #2 and #4 charred New American Oak barrels, and bottled at 56.7%. 

In the glass: Deep amber. Appears thin, but actually coats the glass very nicely. 

Nose: Very inviting. Vanilla, with a hint of dark chocolate. Something tropical in there too. Even at 56.7%, you can bury your nose in the glass. 

Palate: The oak comes through first with a pleasant hint of almond. Caramel and vanilla too, with a touch of honey sweetness. 

Finish: Light spice from the barrel char remain. Sweet notes of honey cereal malt and chocolate linger for a long time. 

This whisky was one of the biggest surprises of 2021 for me. At 40 months old and a high abv, I was expecting something abrasive and unfinished. Maybe a good starting place for a new distillery, but nowhere near a finished product. Meeting Creek has is the opposite of all those things. It has a shocking depth of flavour and refinement, and drinks very easily without water. Pure chocolate malty deliciousness. I will be searching for another bottle of Meeting Creek (they sold out in days), and I’m very excited to see what Grain Henge produces in the future. Absolutely backup bottle worthy. I’m already on the mailing list for the next release!

Dave

Instagram – @woodley_dr

HAS BUNNAHABHAIN JUMPED THE SHARK

A Look At What The Future Holds For A Once Lauded Brand

Introduction

What happens in the whisky world when a brand we collectively sing the praises of, and
strive to have on our shelves, and in our glasses, starts to listen to their own press (or in
this case social media). Usually there is a marked increase in price, as well as a forced
scarcity for consumers which again hikes up, not only the price, but also the demand for
their particular brand. We have seen it happen time and time again. From The Macallan to
Ardbeg to Glendronach. One brand I fear is quickly joining this list is
Bunnahabhain. I will try to show you, the reader why I believe this is the case and hopefully
offer a solution or two as to how us consumers can fight this process.

The Past

When I first started my journey along the path of the water of life, I was lucky enough to
make some quick friends that were already ingrained in the Whisky Fabric. As any eager
new fan of whisky does, I would always ask what the next bottle I should look to acquire
should be. Almost unanimously I would hear the answer come back in the form of the
difficult to spell (and fearful to try and pronounce) name of Bunnahabhain and their twelve
year expression. It was quoted as a magical daily drinker at an almost too affordable price.
So of course, as a type of repayment of my dues, I too would offer up this bottle almost
without question as a great bottle that both beginners, and enthusiasts alike would agree
upon and enjoy all the same.
While my love for “Bunna”, as it is affectionately called, started with this twelve year bottle,
it only branched out from there. I soon found myself searching out ways to try as many
releases as I could. At the same time, Canada’s Bunnahabhain Brand Ambassador, Mr. Mike
Brisebois was admirably building up the awareness and profile of this brand. He did this
through criss-crossing journeys pouring for eager fans at whisky shows and tastings. One
benefit of these in person events is actual friendships were created and faces were put to
names and social media tags and collectively an army of Bunnahabhain lovers was created.
Obviously once the global environment shifted almost overnight, Mike was one of the first
to shift to being able to keep the profile of his brands and the love growing by creating
virtual experiences for fans new and established. It was through these virtual events that
more and more limited edition bottlings and rare releases were consumed and again the
folklore of Bunna grew at a rapid pace. This is what I like to call the “Brisebois Effect”.
Through Mike’s hard work and never ending passion and promotion of Bunnahabhain the
entire country has been collectively put under a sort of trance or spell. Now that Mike has
parted ways with the company tasked with representing Bunna in Canada, the current reps
are using his goodwill and results in hopes it will carry forward into the future. Time will tell
if the Brisebois effect wears off or remains constant.
One effect that this caused, was more of the limited and rare bottles were being tasted and
talked about, the word of Bunna spread and the FOMO also grew to points where people
were striving to obtain any release they could. The era of dusty Bunnahabhain bottles

sitting on shelves disappeared overnight. Every single new release was met with an
insatiable fervour to the point where no one really questioned anything when it came to
the quality of the products they were crawling over each other to get. This is seen with
quite a number of other brands currently and it makes myself and others shake our heads
when we see our friends and strangers alike posting their new bottles like trophies without
even ever tasting the liquid inside.

The Present

The present state of where Bunnahabhain stands, especially in the Canadian whisky
consciousness, is at a precipice as far as I am concerned. It’s a balancing act that I fear will
be tipping away from the general whisky drinker’s glasses and will fall more towards a
collectors shelf or bunker. Never to see a glass or even air through an open cork. We have
seen the entire whisky industry witness immense growth, both in demand from the public
as well as the wanted return on investment by the companies. Some companies definitely
seem to be pushing this more and more than others and it’s a scary time to be a whisky fan
as prices climb and quality is not keeping up. A big part of this is directly a result of the
lower demand 10 plus years ago when all these age statement whiskies were being
distilled. Now that demand has shot through the roof, the supply will not catch up any time
soon, and this will lead to higher prices throughout the industry. Obviously any
brand/distillery that has experienced an even higher rate of demand growth over the
industry average will fall victim to this quicker and harder than others. This is where I see
Bunnhabhain currently residing in terms of pricing. There are rumours aplenty (and proof
starting to show) that in my local jurisdiction as an example there will be a 30-40% increase
on the fabled 12 year old alone. One of the romantic notions about the Bunna 12 is the fact
it is available for a price that almost anyone has no issue paying for it. Its price is what
makes it a daily drinker for a lot of people.
This doesn’t even take into account the second issue caused by the higher demand than
production will see. That is the quality aspect of the whisky and releases. As demand has
skyrocketed, brands like Bunnahabhain scramble to have more releases available to satiate
the eager drinkers. What we see more and more of as consumers, are non age statement
releases replacing age statements on certain releases as well as regular releases that have
a lessened quality liquid inside due to the simple fact that there isn’t the same care and

time put into the casks during the maturation process due to the high demand. I am not
inferring that the quality has dropped beyond palatable in any means, only that there is an
undeniable effect that is bound to happen when demand for any product surpasses
availability. One side note that I must make here is that of the Independent Bottler sector
of the industry. They have been on the forefront of higher and higher prices for their
releases of Bunnahabhain into the market. Yes, they usually are single cask releases and at
cask strength, but they are also almost always still in sherry maturation and the ages keep
dropping lower as the prices grow higher. Maybe they are partially at fault for what is
happening currently in the same breath as the secondary market which is another beast on
its own…a beast that needs to be slain without mercy.
At time of writing, the disparity in pricing between provinces in Canada is laughable. Across
one single provincial line there is a $50 difference in price for a bottle of the Bunnahabhain
12 year. Will the powers that be behind the brand exploit this to justify a huge price hike in
the province with the lower current price? Will the price hike affect all jurisdictions across
the world? If so they will be pricing themselves away from a huge number of the people
that they built their current reputation on. We’ve already witnessed some divisive releases
and others that have been decent, but not mind-blowing, recently and these came with an
even higher premium priced bounty passed on to the consumer. With this all on the backs
of re-releasing previous (I assume un-sold) Limited Editions in other provinces but at higher
prices than the original retail cost, it’s becoming harder and harder to justify the battle to
acquire a new limited release. What does “Limited Release” even mean anymore? The
original releases that were deemed limited were all released under five-thousand bottles.
Now we are seeing way more than double or triple that in the Limited Releases. So was it
limited before or is it now? With triple or more bottles available and at a steep, and
continuously climbing price point, anyone can see what the end goal is. Yes, I understand it
is a business and the ultimate end game is making money, I just think there needs to be a
balance somewhere to include the maximum amount of consumers possible enjoying the
products. Alienating existing customers, especially loyal ones, is never a good move for a
brand in any industry. The whisky industry can be even more cut-throat against brands that
lose integrity in the customer’s eyes. I guess the big question is what will the customers
inevitably decide to do. Here in Canada we were already low on the list of locales to receive

allocation of these sought after bottlings. That occurs even when on a per capita basis
Canada is a leader in consumption of Bunnahabhain. So where does this end up?

The Future

What does the future hold in the grand scheme of the relationship between Bunnahabhain
and their dedicated following in Canada? There are two ways I can see this going. On one
side, you have the Customers seeing what Bunnahabhain/Distell and their reps on the
ground in this nation are doing and taking a stand against it. It can’t be one or two small
groups calling for action while the rest continue on the road already paved with greed and
FOMO. If real change in the attitude taken by Canadian supporters happens and their
overall sales start to plummet would the mother company notice? Would they even care at
all? These big brands make their living off the core range and entry level products that are
usually plentiful in shops across the country. If those core range products are price-jacked
and their sales drop off a cliff, will we see even less allocation for the higher demand special
bottlings? Will we be punished for finding other options to spend our hard earned cash on?
Does it matter all that much for those lucky enough to afford Limited Release after Limited
Release, when they can (in Alberta) order them directly from the distillery and when all is
said and done, shipping and duties paid, the overall cost is a mere ten bucks higher than
the shelf price of the limited quantity that do show up in stores six months to a year after
initial worldwide release? Time will tell what happens on the consumer side of this coin.
The Other side of the coin is the brand. The owners and reps count on the goodwill
previously established off the backs of a couple people to last through many years? Or do
they not even care, and will continue the attack on the consumers’ pocket books,
regardless of how many of their fans drop by the wayside? The recent push by the reps
across Canada to try to force a “grassroots” campaign in promoting the very lowest cost
and entry level releases by using….sorry paying influencers to produce ingenuine and
forced looking “ads” on their personal social media pages, all came across to many
observers, as a desperate attempt to spur a rush to stores to sell these products. Imagine if
they had a single sole person to do that for them in an actual genuine manner? Oh wait…..

When it comes to the future of Bunnahabhain in Canada, I do believe they will always be
here. There is a deep love amongst the whisky culture in Canada for their products. I do
also believe there will be an increase in price across the board for all their products and
that in my opinion will be a shame. I have stocked up on my favourites before the
seemingly inevitable rise happens. I also know that if they release something super special
or something that potentially would be right up my alley, I can turn to the distillery store
and have it shipped directly to my house. This by-passes multiple levels of price mark ups
and even paying asinine duties and shipping rates will still end up very similar to the shelf
price when they arrive in stores.

Conclusion

I recently made a post on my social media (January 19th, 2022) and posed a fairly similar
point for discussion. The return I received on that post was a very mixed bag and some very
hard stances from both sides of the discussion. Some said they would stay the course and
continue the undying support for Bunnahabhain, and I commend their dedication. Others
are playing a game of wait and see and will make their decision with every release that
comes and will possibly leave the core range alone as well with a significant enough
increase in price. Others still, were adamant that they have already seen the shark being
jumped and have moved on altogether, while still enjoying a core range bottle that’s on
their shelf already purchased at the long gone appropriate prices. I would absolutely hate
to see what was once said to be “an everyman’s whisky” turn into another “luxury” brand,
who only prides themselves on catering to the so called “elite”. Especially when they were
built up through the support of the everyday drinker. As for myself, I will leave you with
this. Maybe the water skis are on the feet and the tow rope is in hand. The boat is speeding
through the water and we all wait to see if Bunnahabhain does indeed jump the shark.

Slainte

Sean “The Dark Cloud” Kincaid

Glen Grant 15 – Batch Strength

Glen Grant is a Speyside distillery located near Rothes and the river Spey. It was established in 1840 by two brothers, John and James Grant. It was taken over in 1872 by James ‘The Major’ Grant, who was a legendary innovator. James Grant was the first man in the Highlands region to own a car, and under his management the distillery was the first to use electric lights and the tall slender stills that continue to define Glen Grant today. The distillery remained a family-run business until 2006, when they were purchased by the Campari group. Glen Grant continues to be one of the best selling single malts across the globe. The 15 year batch strength Glen Grant is aged in first fill ex-bourbon barrels and bottled at 50% abv.

In the glass: Light yellow-gold, appears thin. Doesn’t coat the glass, moves easily. 

Nose: Sweet vanilla and stone fruits, like peaches and cream. Soft and reminiscent of summer. Maybe a touch of lemony citrus. 

Palate: Surprisingly creamy mouthfeel. Honey and oak. Orchard fruits again, but more pear than peach. Something slightly bitter too, but not unpleasant. 

Finish: Oak and pear. Slightly drying, with an interesting pepper finish.

This whisky, on its own merit, is an enjoyable dram with some nice flavours. When you take into consideration the price of the bottle (~$85), it is almost a must-have. It is also bottled at 50%, which sets it apart from other 15 year old choices. This is an easy decision. The Glen Grant 15 deserves a spot on your shelf. It will have a spot on mine. 

Review written by Dave Woodley

IG: @whiskey_dr

Dram Mor Ben Nevis 8 year review

Dram Mor is an independent bottler located in Dumbarton, Scotland. The Macdonalds started their brand in 2019, and now ship bottles to over 24 countries around the world. The focus of this review is their 8 year old Ben Nevis expression. 

The Ben Nevis distillery is located on Loch Linnhe in the Highlands region at the base of Ben Nevis, which is the highest point on the British Isles. It was founded in 1825 by Long John McDonald, and was purchased by Nikka in 1989. The distillery focuses on 10 year expressions of its own spirit, and supplies whisky to many independent bottlers across the industry. 

This Dram Mor Ben Nevis release matured for 8 years in oak barrels, and then finished for an unspecified period in a very unique first fill white port pipe. This produced 169 bottles, and presents at a cask strength of 53% abv. This whisky is a pale yellow/gold, with a low viscosity that moves easily in the glass. 

Nose: Raisins, but not the dark sweet flavour normally found in a sherry finish. It comes across more like white wine to me.  There are undertones of milk chocolate, and some pepper in the background. 

Palate: The first flavour that presents is a salty sweet caramel. Very clear and bold, unmistakable. The white port influence comes through next. Some milk chocolate notes also, but they are quite subtle. Light smacking of the lips to allow in some air brings the chocolate to the forefront. 

Finish: The finish is more milk chocolate, creamy and sweet. There are some light oak notes too. The flavour that lingers on the palate at the end is pepper with a hint of ginger spice. 

With water added…

Softens the white wine on nose. On the palate, I get less obvious caramel and more nutty oak. The milk chocolate remains at the finish, but the pepper is muted. 

Conclusion

I am a big fan of Ben Nevis in general, and was really looking forward to trying this expression. It’s rare to see a whisky finished in a white port pipe. Unfortunately, I am not a wine drinker, and I found that the white port influences did not match my personal palate well. The milk chocolate notes that were present throughout the experience were delicious though, and the oak and pepper on the finish complimented those chocolate notes perfectly. While this bottle will not land on my own shelf, anyone who enjoys a wine or port cask finishes will undoubtedly love this release. It’s great to see independent bottlers like Dram Mor finding new and exciting ways to deliver whisky to the community!

Instagram: @woodley_dr

Eau Claire Single Malt Batch 5 review

Located in the heart of Turner Valley, Alberta, Eau Claire Distillery is part of the distilling revolution that is spreading quickly through Alberta. Open since 2014 and originally focusing on white spirits, their single malt whisky has generated a cult following among Canadian whisky fans. Their farm to glass philosophy allows them to showcase the very best ingredients that Alberta has to offer.

Now in its fifth release, this batch is a blend new Hungarian oak, ex-Sherry and ex-Bourbon barrels. There is no age statement, but has to be at least three years old and is bottled at 43% with no chill filtration or added color.

Nose: The orchard fruits stand out straight away. Fresh cut red apples mostly, but also a slice of pear. There is also a dominant, grain-forward note that reminds me of a young Irish single malt. I get a touch of barley sugar candies along with that. There is a light honey note that has settled into the background as this sits in the glass. There’s some orange in here, but it’s more like a mandarin rather than a navel orange. Ginger and cinnamon are the only spices I get. I’d say the vast majority of this whisky matured in ex-Bourbon, but there is enough of that Hungarian oak to tingle the nose a little. I can’t say I am getting any ex-Sherry influence at all.

Palate: The one thing I notice right away is how creamy this feels right off the bat. One of the creamiest mouthfeels I have had in a long while. It’s creamy honey poured over apples and pears on the entry. That stays on the palate for the whole experience. The development is all about the grain and oak. Malted cereal and barley sugar dominate initially, but then the Hungarian oak kicks in. It’s not overpowering and there’s a nice balance between the wood, the sweetness and the grain. Clove joins the ginger and cinnamon.

Finish: The Hungarian oak is nicely balanced by the lingering sweetness in a nice medium finish. Earthy nutmeg joins the other baking spices here, giving me an early Christmas vibe. As the finish progresses, I’m getting a cocoa powder note that actually builds rather than recedes. The creaminess hangs on to the end.

With water added…

The new Hungarian oak is much stronger now, as is the youthful grain note. This isn’t an issue for me seeing as I love young whisky when it’s presented like this. That barley sugar note is strong with this one now. The orchard fruits are still there, but are in the background now. The palate is still creamy, but the youthfulness of this whisky is really starting to show now. It’s too grain-forward and the oak is a little dominant for me. I’m missing a richness that I enjoyed without water being added. The sweetness barely hangs on during the back end of the development. With water, the finish is the best part of the experience. That cocoa note, which love, remains on the finish.

Conclusion

This was my first whisky from Eau Claire and I like what I see from here. The youthful maltiness and the choice of barrels really works. Too much ex-Sherry and Hungarian oak would have swamped the delicate character of this whisky. Also, I never would have guessed that this was only 43%. What surprised me the most was how creamy this dram is. I would definitely recommend this without any water added as the balance was thrown off a bit. Overall, this was everything that I love about a young whisky and can’t wait to try their next release.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Dram Mor Inchfad 14 Year review

Inchfad is the name of a certain style of release that comes from the Loch Lomond Distillery. It’s actually hardly ever used anymore and was only used by Loch Lomond for a brief time in the mid 2000s. It was always a heavily peated release that befit the Inchfad name and this one shows that side well.

This was brought to us by the independent bottler, Dram Mor, a company who have had their first outturn in Canada recently. Mostly young to teenaged whiskies, they are showing off some unique and interesting cask profiles along with some unique distillate character from a number of distilleries. I have been fortunate enough to have tasted through a number of previous and current releases from Dram Mor and one thing I can say is they always have interesting drams to taste.

This Dram Mor 14 year was finished in a first-fill PX cask and was bottled at 54.7%. A total of 274 bottles were produced with 42 of those making their way to Canada.

In the Glass: A darker maple colour, and a nice glass coating texture. A quick swirl reveals some slow legs that seem to hug the glass nice and tight. I am already getting a waft off the glass and I need to dig right in.

Nose: An initial note of peat smoke fills my nostrils. A smoke that seems almost like it’s coming from damp wood but not oceanic wood. Oh WOW, there is a funk on this nose as soon as the peat wafts and settles. An almost barnyard funk. Like wet hay after a rainstorm has passed and the sun is shining down and trying to dry out the bails. A slight touch of vegetal/barn funk as well. This is so intriguing and I wasn’t expecting it at all, but I love it. Bring me that funk!!! Digging down and now the sweetness shows up. Definitely PX sweetness showing through now. Syrupy caramelized apples, maybe a bit of raisins in a reduced brown sugar sauce, ready to pour over some sticky toffee pudding. Some toasted maltiness comes through near the very end of the nose. Man this nose has a bit of everything, the smoke, the sweetness and oh Billy that FUNK. I cant wait to start sipping on this.

Palate: Right from the start, it prickles the tongue in the way a peppered rim of a glass from a caesar would. Then surprisingly, the sweetness comes in full force. Orange peels and caramel come in, bringing along some tartness from a cherry-like note. The ABV does not show itself except for that initial hit. The smoke starts to come through and dances around the tongue with the sweetness, transforming into a touch of old leather. A bit of ginger and cinnamon shows up just as that peat smoke starts to awaken a bit more. The funk from the nose is tamped down a but, but shows up in a malty note, almost like an oatmeal with brown sugar dusted on top, but eaten next to the barn where the animals sheltered all night. The funk man….the funk. Upon a swallow, the cinnamon and malt notes stick around for a bit, I’d say medium to almost shorter, however that peat smoke and pepper cling on for even longer.

Conclusion

This one is interesting to say the least. I don’t think this one will be for everyone and definitely not for the faint of heart. That funk is everything special to me, in my heart, that I love finding in new whiskies. The nose and palate align but differ just enough to make this a thinker. A dram you wanna sit back with and sip over an hour or so with nothing on but some Righteous Brothers on the turntable and the lights turned way down. The dichotomy of that setting with this dram will awaken all the senses and truly let this wonderful whisky shine through.

Instagram: @seankincaid

Sazerac Straight Rye review

Sazerac rye, or Baby Saz for those that are lucky enough to get their hands on its higher age statement BTAC bigger brother, is one of those quintessential ryes that everyone says you have to put on your bar shelf. However, is that the case these days? With the rye revolution in the USA firmly underway, where does this one fit now? With so many micro/craft distilleries coming out with so many interesting new or revived takes on rye, where does this one belong?

Personally, I’ve always treated this as a mid-shelf daily sipper with all of the notes that you would expect of a low-rye rye and none that you don’t. But, is that the actually true? Let’s find out!

This being Buffalo Trace, the mashbill is officially unknown, but it is rumoured (and tastes like) their low-rye mash bill. This used to have a six year age statement, but that is now gone. It is rumoured to still be in the 4-6 year age range though. It is bottled at 45% abv.

Nose: This is about a classic a nose as you can get on a low-rye, high-corn rye (if that makes any sense). I find that Sazerac has always been very barrel forward for me and today is no different. Lots of cinnamon, of course, but also a pinch of allspice. Aside from the barrel notes, there’s a good dose of the flesh and zest of a navel orange. There’s plenty of caramel in here as well. As I nose this for longer I get just a hint of cherry. Not 100% sure about that though. I am confident that there is a bit of a roasted peanut thing going on in here. This is a whiskey that has 3-4 very dominant notes right up front and you have to spend some time with it if you want to get more.


Palate: This is like an orange creme brûlée on the entry for me. Some caramelized sugar, vanilla cream and a little bit of orange zest stirred in. As much as I got a good dose of the barrel on the nose, there is a surprisingly creamy mouthfeel right from the get-go. That sweetness carries over into the development and, with cinnamon, clove and a pinch of nutmeg, it’s giving me a nice spice cake vibe that I love. The oak starts to creep into the experience during the end of the development, but there is enough of everything else that it stays in the background. When I smack my lips a little to let in some air, I definitely get that peanut note I got on the nose.


Finish: This is a decent medium finish that manages to stay fairly well-balanced throughout. The oak becomes a little more dominant, but there are enough baking spices and sweetness from elsewhere in the experience to help to tamp this down a shade. The creaminess does start to fade here and it becomes a little more drying.

With water added…

As soon as I add water to this, I get a bit of a herbal note right off the bat. A bit of slightly stale dill and flat leaf parsley. It fades away significantly if given a few minutes to settle. Other than that, I find that there is less citrus and more oak and baking spices. The caramel seems creamier this time. Like those soft Kraft caramels from my childhood (are these still a thing?). OK. Right on the beginning of the entry, this is Kraft soft caramel city. The other notes take over quickly, but there is no mistaking it. After that, I’m getting a little bit of that creme brûlée that I got without water, but the increased and earlier presence of oak is drying the experience out a little. That spice cake note has gone, but I’m getting a stronger peanut taste, almost bordering on sweetened peanut butter. The finish is a bit more drying and I’m getting more nutmeg and even some cracked black pepper.

Conclusion

I have always treated this as a daily sipping whisky and have never really concentrated on the experience up until now. I was really expecting to just give this an average review and say that there’s better out there. I firmly believe that the latter is true, but there is nothing wrong with this dram. Because of its balance, I can see why it is so popular with bartenders as a base in cocktails. I will never be able to get my hands on “adult” Saz, but this “baby” is alright by me.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Cadenhead’s 7 Star Blended Scotch Whisky review

Type: Blended Scotch Whisky
ABV: 46%

The first thing I noticed about this was the retro-style bottle and label. That was interesting and turned out to be a premonition of sorts. The second thing I noticed was the Cadenhead’s name, which to me, and I know a fair number of fellow enthusiasts, is a sure sign of quality. The third thing I noticed was that the blend was married in Oloroso sherry casks. The last thing I noticed was the shop worker grabbing a mop for the drool pool quickly building at my feet (Ed. note…ewwwww). There has been a rumour whispered to me that Benrinnes makes up a portion of this blend as well. Hopefully they will release and confirm the parts that make up this blend.

In the glass it shows as a dark brown, almost the colour of cola with ice that has melted away. Medium legs initially both in width and length and coats the glass fairly nicely.

Nose: On the initial nose the sherry influence comes through. It shows up like musty/dusty style Oloroso. I get the scent of those 5 cent Cola bottle candies. The fruits start showing up a little deeper. Figs and raisins. The nose comes close to an almost Campbelltown funk. Not heavy at all, but a slight touch of smoke. Could be barrel usage but the nose is earthy, dunnage floor like. Maybe a bit of baking spice at the tail end of a big whiff. For a blend of grain and malt and at a decent price point this nose is very interesting and punches above its weight big time.

Palate: The initial entry is brighter than the nose foretold. Some grain showing through for sure. After a short bright burst it tames down a bit to get more of what’s expected after that nose. When the full palate is coated, the nutty side of sherry influence show up. A waxiness and heaviness is noticed and it almost turns into a really dank sherry whisky, but then the lighter side of fruits make their case. A touch of red delicious apples with peels on. Some cherry and sultanas with a bit of syrup coating on them. Even some chocolate and cinnamon on the roof of my mouth.

Finish: The finish on this one is intriguing. The spice and brightness perk up but once they start to fade, that nutty, fruity Oloroso is right there and clings for a while. It meets with the bit of spice kick and almost turns to a chocolate covered cherry. It sticks around much longer than I would expect and I am very happy with this surprise. It’s a sherry influence blend that avoids being over sherried and allows all aspects of the whisky to shine through at different times.

Conclusion

This is a blend that I will keep fully stocked in my cabinet as long as it’s available. It’s a delicious, interesting and fulfilling blend that punches above its weight and already changed by sipping it over the course of an hour. I can’t wait to see how it opens up with some time in the bottle. It’s reminiscent of some older style blends I have been lucky enough to try. Cadenheads revived the 7 star to showcase that a blend can be created using their vast array of top quality casks they have maturing in their warehouses and this one hammers the nail on that point. 

Instagram: @seankincaid

Two Brewers Release 27 and 28 review

Two Brewers Release 27

Type: Innovative
ABV: 46%
Released: August 2021

It’s no secret that I have an immense love for all things Two Brewers. From the people behind the brand, to the always increasing profiles of their whisky, to the absolutely unique and interesting things that they continue to try with each release, it easily takes my top spot of all Canadian whisky brands.

Release 27 is exactly what I am talking about. If you know the story behind how Two Brewers started, and clearly by their name itself, it was started by the people who were already established in the beer business with Yukon Brewing. They took that background and absolutely shoved it into the formation of this whisky.

Release 27 has Vienna, Munich, Honey and roasted malts. These are all primarily malts used almost exclusively in the beer brewing industry.  Some of this whisky started out in virgin oak barrels to start, and then spent the rest of its time in ex-Bourbon barrels. They were married in ex-peated barrels for 19 months.  It has 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11 yr old mashes in it with roughly 1/3 being 10 years or older. Yup I’d say that’s pretty experimental and unique cask usage and now I will let you know what all of this ends up like in a finished bottle of whisky.

In the glass, this has the appearance of a lighter Red style beer (hehehehe) with medium to long legs that slowly fall down the glass.

Nose: This hits with malt up front. I guess that’s not a surprise knowing what’s making up the whisky. There is some nice honey sweetness. Almost like a raw honey type note. Behind that follows some vanilla and caramel. Funnily enough, as I start to pick up the wood/cask influence I also get a whiff of fresh dark roasted coffee. I swear I pick up that fresh virgin oak cask influence right at the end on a deep inhale. The nose on this whisky has me curious and very interested in diving in. 

Palate: First sip and immediately I get all that malt up front as well. Malt with a honey glaze over it. Like Honey Nut Cheerios with extra honey. There’s a slight tingle and even though it’s only 46% abv, it almost drinks heavier, which I am totally okay with. This whisky reveals layers upon layers as it moves back on the tongue. I swear I can taste a faint actual beer note on my tongue right now. Bourbon type notes pop up mid palate, some dark fruits mixed with a slight blood orange/mandarin taste and then that spice from virgin oak comes through. Cinnamon and clove and a slight hint of spiced up toasted coconut just as it starts to fade into the finish.

Finish: The finish on this beautiful whisky carries the spice notes through and the sweetness returns with that mandarin orange and cinnamon. This is the only time that I even slightly think I catch a whiff of any smoke at all, but it’s long after the swallow and it’s found on the residual flavours left in the mouth.

Conclusion

Wow. What a whisky. Layers, balance, beautiful cask usage, experimental malt usage. The proof is in the bottle. Literally for me as this one is being drank faster than most bottles I open. I am saying right now, this is my sleeper hit of the year in whisky. I love this bottle!!

Two Brewers Release 28

Type: Special Finishes
ABV: 46%
Released: September 2021

This one is a mix of 7 year old and 10+ year old mashes. All of the Whisky is a standard malted barley mash. It spent 5 months in virgin oak barrels, then it was moved to ex-Bourbon barrels. Finally, it spent 2 years in Hungarian oak sherry barrels. After spending 2 yrs in sherry barrels, it was blended with a standard 12 year old mash. Clearly this is NOT your standard sherry casked whisky.

In the glass this has a dark copper to light rust colour. Thin but long lasting legs coat the glass and clearly hint at an oily masterpiece awaiting me.

Nose: On the nose I am immediately hit with familiar sherry notes, but not at all a sherry bomb. This is dusty sherry spice-coated fruits with a nice malt backbone. Even the fruits aren’t the typical plums, raisins and prunes. Brighter fruits, more lush ripe juicy fruits. I even find a faint note of Nag Champa incense at the tail end of the nose. That sherry sweetness fills out the very end of the nose right before I take another whiff. I have no idea what to expect on the palate now but I am excited to find out.

Palate: Just a small sip to wet the palate and the beautiful sherry spice comes across strongest. Very mouth coating and viscous. A bigger sip and let it rest a bit and the fruity side of sherry comes through stronger. But again, I’m not finding the typical darker, drier fruits. Juicy almost sub-tropical notes of creamy ripe mango, like a mango milkshake. I also get that Hungarian oak spice with some added cinnamon. There is also a slight saltiness, which I can’t explain but it’s there, sitting right after the spice. There is a beautiful play between that salt and the sweetness and it’s gorgeous. As this starts to fade on the swallow, that spice and salt meld as they fade and turn into a salted dark cocoa/chocolate note. I find this as I chew on the finish and let it build up again.

Finish: The finish is long and bold and that dusty old style sherry finally shows right at the end and that cocoa/sherry is what carries on through the whole finish.

Conclusion

This one on first sip was surprising as it wasn’t at all what I expected from the sherry casking. I am so happy it isn’t a simple sherry cask whisky. This one you need to sit with and contemplate. This isn’t a background whisky at all. It needs your attention and demands it. Two Brewers shows, once again, why they deserve to be at the top of the Canadian whisky landscape. No one else is doing the things they are doing and we are the lucky recipients of release after release of absolutely stunning whisky. Look for a future review of release 29 which the cold northerly air has whispered to me could be even more special than normal.

Instagram: @seankincaid