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

Kavalan Single Malt – Solist, ex – Bourbon Cask


I remember the weekend of September 28th and 29th, 2018 like it was yesterday.  I had the absolute pleasure of attending the very first Banff Whisky Experience in Banff, AB . The days were filled with amazing master classes and the evenings each hosted a grand tasting with 77 distilleries and a plethora or drams represented.  After an amazing Friday evening and night out in Banff with some of the grandest whisky personalities,  soon came a late Saturday morning rise for myself.  I am sure we can all relate to those nights when the morning had somehow slipped away, and well… waking at 11 AM, freaked out and realizing my first master class for the day was about to start at noon!!  I did what I do best and that’s pulling myself together, looking like I had all the beauty sleep in the world, haha.  Might have learned a trick or two about that over the years (yay for concealer !) .  
My first class that day was called “KAVALAN – The Single Malt from the other side of the world –  being presented by the late and great J. Wheelock.  God bless his soul!  As I settled into my seat and started gazing over a beautiful tasting mat of 8 whiskies, I quickly noticed the majority of them were Kavalan single malts from Taiwan.  The theme of the class was essentially de bunking non age statements whisky (N.A.S.) and to say the least, I was all ears!

 
Sitting before me along side the Kavalan spread was a large bar of dark chocolate bar and seeing that I kind of slept though breakfast, I was salivating at the idea of hammering it back. As noon swept across the clock though, and Jay’s introduction commenced the tasting, my eyes were quickly focused on the whisky in front of me. And then it happened… upon my first sip of this rich, deluxe, beautiful, viscous, and tropical whisky, I was sold!  It was love at first sip.

Kavalan is known to have one of the most comprehensive lines and offering of Sherry Whiskies , however there are a few that were matured in alternate ways. Kavalan “Solist” Ex Bourbon Oak is a cask strength whisky that was fully matured in fresh hand picked ex-bourbon oak Barrels by Kavalan’s master distiller, Ian Chang at the time.


Whisky romance 101: I am not sure about you, but when I am drinking a high end Whisky such as Kavalan – you better believe I am taking my time with it.  I am not afraid to say I love drinking whisky alone because it gives me some real one on one time to enjoy and unpack all it has to offer. A whisky date!, as I like to refer to it.

Tasting and Reviewing the Whisky

Upon pouring this whisky into a proper whisky drinking glass (in my case a copita), I see a bright shiny, viscous, and oily whisky that has legs for days, coating the glass and presenting a color that’s described by the distillery as “Cattle Egret” which is a Melanesian bird that dawns a beautiful golden colouring downs its neck and wings. The oily residue on the glass reminds moves around reflecting the light reminding me of a kaleidoscope… I am now extremely intrigued.

Nose

Lush tropical fruits, floral frangipani, blooming Jasmine mist and young coconut cream . One the second nosing I get kiwi, melon, green apple, with oak and vanilla.

Palate

The texture is rich, smooth and silky. I get lots of notes of vanilla and oak as well as the Kavalan signature tropical notes I mentioned above and also mango and pineapple. On my second sip the whisky tasted sweeter and I got a full essence of a vanilla ice cream cone with hints of ginger, nutmeg,  and woody notes.
With a couple of drops of water I got notes of white chocolate, raspberry and cream soda .  What a delight!

Finish

The finish is sweet and spicy like white pepper sprinkled on biscuits that lingers on the palate.

Conclusion 
For such a high cask strength whisky (58.6%) it is very luxurious , smooth and elegant, drinking well below it’s ABV.
This Taiwanese single malt cask strength whisky has won a ton of accolades – most recently including double gold at the international spirits challenge 2019 and gold at the San Francisco Spirits competition in 2019.

  • Review written by Zahara Amiri

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

The Whiskey Silk

The ‘Whiskey Silk’ is my first personal creation, using a Sweet Lemon Ginger shrub that is the key ingredient to this cocktail. Shrubs are typically created with equal parts fruit/spices – vinegar – sugar but that is merely just as suggestion because the possibilities are endless. They can be used to flavour your cocktail, mocktail, smoothie, soda water or any beverage for that matter.

Sweet Lemon Ginger Shrub

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • Chamomile tea bag
  • 1 cup raw sugar (or white sugar)
  • 2 lemons – cut in half inch cubes (approx 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup of fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar

Instructions

1. Heat up the water in a pot / sauce pan on medium heat and steep chamomile tea for 4-5 minutes.

2. After the tea is steeped, remove the tar bag and combine the remainder of the ingredients into the pot / sauce pan.

3. Bring the mixture up to a light boil for 1 minute, stir well and then turn the heat down to a low simmer.

4. Let the mixture stew and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Let cool for 15 min and then add the Apple Cider Vinegar.

6. Place the mixture into a container (mason jar) and then in the fridge for a minimum of 2 – 4 days, up to 7 days.

7. After that, use a fine strainer or cheese cloth and filter the contents so all you have left is the juice with no solids.

8. Ready to use for cocktails or mocktails!

Now, let’s make the cocktail!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 ounces Whisk(e)y
  • 1 ounce Sweet Lemon Ginger Shrub
  • Token Lavender Bitters and/or Aromatic Bitters
  • 1 egg (whites)

Instructions

  1. Crack the egg and separate the whites into the shaker.
  2. when a cocktail includes egg whites, always shake them on their own for about 10 – 15 seconds to get them nice and silky and frothy before adding the other ingredients.
  3. After that add the bourbon or any whiskey you desire, the shrub and the bitters.
  4. Shake all the ingredients together for 20-30 seconds, making sure the shaker is nice and cold on your hands by the end of it.
  5. Grab your Hawthorne strainer and pour into a low volume glass. I chose to use a coupe glass because they are a person favorite of mine.
  6. Enjoy like I know you will!
  • Cocktail created by Steven Shaw

Bardstown Bourbon Fusion Series 1

The Bardstown Bourbon Company is a compelling one to me. Mostly because of their willingness to be innovative and creative, and to explore and push the boundaries. In a vast world made up of numerous methodologies and inventive capabilities when it comes to distillation, blending and finishing, it is clear, Bardstown’s goal and passion is to light up the world and create a product that can effectively stand out in a saturated whiskey climate. I respect tradition but I am not a traditionalist when it comes to whisky. I am a huge advocate of being bold and daring when it comes to the creation of whiskey and love to see those who are willing to experiment and risk being criticized for their efforts. Its important for Craft distilleries maintain modern approaches and be the visionaries in order to keep the house hold names humble and in check. Needless to say, Bardstown is well on their way to effectively doing so and being recognized as a distillery people can rely on for a quality product.

A great example of the innovative minds behind the Bardstown brand is, they have become the first distillery to develop and offer a full Napa Valley style destination and experience providing an all-inclusive look into their genius on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. A place that sits firmly atop my list to visit when go!

Okay, on to the bourbon itself. The Fusion series as I am aware, would qualify as their entry level expression. It composition is made up of 60% of their own bourbon and 40% of a sourced bourbon from a fellow Kentucky distiller. Combined in the 60% are two bourbons; one of which is aged 2 years and 3 months, carries a mash bill of 68% corn / 20% wheat / 12% malted barley, and makes up 18% of the blend; the second is aged 2 years and 1 month, carries a mash bill of 60% corn / 36% rye / 4% malted barley, and makes up 42% of the blend. The remaining 40% which is a sourced bourbon is 11 years and 7 months old and carries a mash bill of 74% corn / 18% rye / 8% malted barley.

As I destruct everything Bardstown has blended here, it looks like they are combining some youthful bourbons to add some liveliness and edginess with an elder bourbon that can act as a back board, providing stability to the pour. The two different Bardstown mash bills are interesting as they have taken a decently high rye – bourbon which should bring a lot of spiciness to the table and a high wheat – bourbon to potentially tame it and provide some softness especially considering the 11 year bourbon is also a rye – bourbon. In my opinion, I might have gone a little higher with the Wheat – bourbon to increase the potential for softening the back of the palate where the pepper like spiciness usually lies the heaviest and adding a nice creamy sweetness to the fore palate. That being said… I am no expert so who am I to tell the experts what to do!

ABV – 49.45% / Age – 2 – 11 years / Mash – See above / Region – Kentucky Bourbon / Cask – New American Charred Oak

Time to taste the Bourbon!

Nose

A very soft nose with subtle notes of vanilla sweetness, wet leather and very light fruitiness. Honestly, very pleasant but not a ton there to unpack.

Palate

On entry, there isn’t a lot of present but quickly uncovers a little vanilla, brown sugar and tart cherry similar to that of a cherry simple syrup made with a demerara sugar. Now brace yourself because the palate drastically changes toward the back and into the finish with a punch of pure pepper which is what that 38% rye – bourbon is bringing to the table.

Finish

The finish is dry, oaky with pepper for days with a bit of bitter black tea. It is fairly lengthy but mainly because of the peppery spice.

Overall, its a perplexing pour. Youthful with a mix of distinguished behaviors coming from the elder bourbon. Not very complex but not a lot of Distiller’s entry bourbons are. I am curious to see how it performs in cocktails because I think that spiciness will provide some interesting character to classics like a Manhattan or Sour. The price is a little up there but what everyone needs to consider is that this is a craft distillery still in the infancy stages, and it is not cheap to build and run a world class facility so just like we support local boutiques, we pay a bit more to support the passion and potential Bardstown Bourbon Company represents.

This bourbon isn’t going to please everyone, but what does? I would recommend it because I believe in the brand. I have been closely watching Bardstown release all kinds of interesting expressions over the last while and to date, have only tried a couple different expressions myself, thanks to some samples from good friends. Its unfortunately not available in Canada which I really hopes changes in the future because I would really love to dive further into their products. Until then, samples will have to do!

  • Review by Steven Shaw

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