Showing posts with label Canada. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Canada. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Barrell Craft Spirits Gold Label Seagrass Whisky Review & Tasting Notes


In 2021, I named Barrell Seagrass the winner of my Best Blended Whisky Award.

 

“This is probably the most unusual whisky I’ve tried. It was sweet. It was spicy. It was earthy. The challenge became both exciting and a little frustrating. But, as I experienced the frustration, I caught myself smiling because the mystifying quality just worked for whatever reason.”  

 

Then, earlier this year, I tried the Gray Label Seagrass, made from 100% Canadian whisky aged at least 16 years. It was my first “win” for Canadian whisky. That’s important because I am not the biggest fan of the category. 


Now, Barrell Craft Spirits sent me a sample of its Gold Label Seagrass for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Whereas Gray Label was 16 years, Gold Label is 20 years. As you’d imagine, that comes at a price hike to $499.99 for a 750ml bottle.

 

“Gold Label Seagrass epitomizes our team’s expertise in global sourcing and blending, both in whiskey and finishing materials. This exceptional whiskey is remarkably flavorful, showcasing the best of the Seagrass profile in a whiskey that can only be made this complex and nuanced with time in the barrel.” – Joe Beatrice, Barrell Craft Spirits CEO and Founder

 

If you’re unfamiliar with Barrell Craft Spirits, that needs to change. Like anyone else, not everything is a home run, but much of it is. Barrell Craft Spirits locates whiskeys and rums from around the world, finds unusual cooperages, and creates only cask-strength offerings for the marketplace.

 

How does Gold Label Seagrass fare? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious, so let’s get that done right now.

 

Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this version of Seagrass looked like burnished gold. A micro-thin rim was formed, and it vanished into a curtain that instantly crashed back to the pool.

 

Nose: A bold fruity aroma of apricot, raisin, pineapple and citrus hid hazelnut and burnt sugar beneath. When I pulled the air into my mouth, there was a combination of stewed peach and apricot.

 

Palate: I encountered an oily, medium-weight texture indicative of its stated proof. The front of my palate discovered pineapple, honey, and maple syrup, while the middle featured hazelnut, molasses, and a burst of lemon juice. The back had flavors of leather, rye spice, and black pepper.

 

Finish: It was as if this whisky had caught fire. Clove became some of the hottest cinnamon I’ve had yet. Leather was next, and it all ended with apricot and lemon peel.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Let’s get something out of the way. As I have always stated, this is a review site for the average whisky drinker. A $500.00 whisky is typically outside the budget for most. Gold Label Seagrass is no different. However, it is an impressive whisky, well worth drinking, and the only reason it is limited to its Bar rating is due to the price. Like the Gray Label Seagrass, this is an excellent example of what a Canadian whisky could be.

 

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

 

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

 

 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Canadian Mist Blended Canadian Whisky Review & Tasting Notes


Let’s get something out of the way here. I’ve not tried Canadian Mist in probably the last dozen years. Why? Because the last time it passed my lips, I was in Orlando, and it was the only whisky poured at the event I was attending. It was hideous. Canadian Mist is the whisky that turned me off of Canadian whiskies.

 

I wasn’t reviewing whiskey a dozen years ago. My palate has refined significantly since then. With the whole #DrinkCurious mantra, I’m supposed to return to things I didn’t previously enjoy and give them second (and sometimes third) chances.

 

What is Canadian Mist? It is a blended Canadian whisky founded in 1967 by Brown-Forman. It is made from a mash of rye from Ontario and Alberta, corn grown from within 100 miles of the distillery in Collingwood, Ontario, and malted barley. Triple-distilled in a column still, Canadian Mist uses water sourced from Georgian Bay. It rested “at least” 36 months in used, charred oak barrels that formerly held “heavier whiskeys” in climate-controlled warehouses. Sazerac purchased the brand in 2020. You can expect to spend $9.99 for a 750ml, 40% ABV (80°) package.


I picked up a 50ml taster for $0.99 at some random liquor store. Let’s see if this is any better than I remember.

 

Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Canadian Mist was the color of yellow straw. A medium rim led to fat, sticky tears.

 

Nose: I smelled acetone, caramel, butterscotch, and something like synthetic citrus. When I brought the air into my mouth, it was kinda-sorta butterscotch.

 

Palate:  The texture was thin. The first thing I tasted was something chemical. It took a lot to get past it, but I eked out maple and a fake-tasting caramel. Please don’t ask me to break it up into the front, middle, and back because I can’t.

 

Finish:  Too long and bitter, Canadian Mist’s finish featured caramel and more acetone.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  My gosh, it all came back at me as I was smelling this. The only thing I can say that is attractive about Canadian Mist is it is dirt cheap. It is a palate wrecker. I can’t see attempting to salvage this in a cocktail, and I refuse even to try. Rating Canadian Mist as a Bust does a disservice to the Bust rating. Drink anything else.

 

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

 

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

 


 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Barrell Craft Spirits Gray Label Whiskey (2021) Review & Tasting Notes


I say this with pretty much any Canadian whisky I’m about to review:  I am on a mission to find a Canadian whisky I enjoy. So far, that’s been a losing proposition. There have been some that are stunningly horrendous and others that are tolerable. But, nothing to date has been good, let alone great.

 

I have high hopes for today’s pour. It is from Barrell Craft Spirits, and it has a long history of knowing what it is doing. It is called Gray Label Whiskey; this is its second release and is a 24-year blend.

 

“Gray Label Whiskey began with two selections of 24-year Canadian whiskey barrels: one set was fruit-forward and tropical, and one was woody, with a light floral aroma. A portion of the fruit-forward blend was transferred into Oloroso Sherry barrels and a portion of the floral and earthy blend was transferred into Armagnac casks. The remaining whiskey from the two groups was then combined to mingle. When the timing and flavor from the finishing casks peaked, the three components were carefully blended together.” – Barrell Craft Spirits 

 

Aging took place in both Canada and the United States. The final product was bottled in Kentucky at its cask strength of 60.82% (121.64°). In line with other Gray Label releases, you can expect to pay $250.00 for a 750ml package.

 

Based on everything I’ve read from Barrell, I still have high hopes. I love XO Armagnac. I enjoy whiskeys finished in Armagnac casks, as I do with Oloroso sherry butts. And, to my knowledge, I’ve not had a 24-year Canadian whisky before. The equation for success is there. Will Gray Label be my holy grail?  Before I #DrinkCurious, I appreciate Barrell’s generosity in providing me a sample for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

 

Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Gray Label Whiskey presented as the color of golden straw. I had to hold the glass at a weird angle in front of a light to pick out the fragile rim. The droplets that stuck to the wall like glue were much easier to find.

 

Nose: This is a 24-year whiskey, and for whatever reason, corn was the first thing I smelled. But, it was quickly subdued by apricot, citrus peel, ginger, fennel, nutmeg, and vegetal notes. When I thought I identified everything, crushed red grape and toasted bread grabbed my attention. When I drew the air into my mouth, I found vanilla.

 

Palate: The texture was thin and oily. I tasted melon, raisin, and vanilla custard on the front. The middle offered cherry and plum, along with oak. The back featured rye spice, fresh rosemary, and green pepper.

 

Finish:  The finish was earthy and consisted of walnut, ginger, mint, green pepper, a dash of oak, mushroom, and rosemary. There was some candied fruit that I could not put my finger on, try as I might. It was a long finish, with the mint and fennel lasting the longest.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’m at the point where I don’t even care what the price is. All I want is a good Canadian whisky. It was one of the more interesting Canadians I’ve tried, but I still can’t say I’ve found a winner. It is something I could see fans of Canadian whiskies enjoying. It just didn’t work for me, so I’m tossing a Bar rating at it. Cheers!

 

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

 

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

 


 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Crown Royal DeLuxe Canadian Whisky Review & Tasting Notes



I have been a man on a mission for the last year. I’m determined to find a Canadian whisky that I could enjoy and recommend. So far I’ve come up empty, but I have a number of them in my whiskey library just waiting to be sampled.


I know there are a lot of fans of Canadian whisky, and in particular, Crown Royal. I’m prepared to take some flak with this review, as even my friend Lew Bryson, who I deeply respect, said earlier this week, that he enjoys Crown Royal with his Thanksgiving meal, and then tossed a friendly barb at anyone who hated it. His statement was the driver for me to taste and compose this review in time for Thanksgiving.

 

What is Crown Royal? Aside from being the standard-bearer of what Canadian whisky should be, it was established in 1939 as a means to commemorate the arrival of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth I, the first British monarchs to visit Canada. The blenders at Seagram's Waterloo distillery sampled some 600 different whiskies in an attempt to create the perfect representation. They managed to whittle it down to 50, and it is aged in a variety of cooperages, including new charred oak, vintage charred oak, and French oak.  

 

A fun fact is that from 1939 until 1964, you could not purchase Crown Royal outside of Canada. The final result has remained mostly unchanged by design. It was originally owned by Seagram’s and then sold off to Diageo in 2001. 

 

Some of the blends are single grain whiskies, some of it is a mix of grains. Regardless, all of the grains are sourced from Manitoba and surrounding provinces. It changes in a quest to keep consistency year-to-year, as grains change slightly each growing season. The whiskies are aged at least three years to comply with Canadian regulations. One of the components could qualify as Bourbon if it was made in the United States! Once matured and blended, it is packaged at 40% ABV (80°).  You can expect to pay about $32.99 for a 750ml bottle.

 

I’ve tried Crown Royal before, and I wasn’t a fan. However, it has also been several years since I’ve tried it. As many of us know, our palates tend to change over time, so I’m willing to #DrinkCurious and give Crown Royal another chance.

 

Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this whisky appeared as the color of golden straw. I have no idea if e150a has been added for coloring, but I’d suspect that’s not the case considering how light it is. It formed a medium rim which released a huge, wavy curtain that dropped back to the pool.

 

Nose:  Corn was the first thing I smelled, which was joined by caramel, barrel char, floral perfume, and acetone. Yeah, I remembered that acetone from the last time I tried it. When I drew the air into my mouth, a soft vanilla flavor rolled across my tongue.

 

Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be silky with a medium weight. The front of my palate picked out corn and vanilla cream. Next up was a blend of brown sugar and rye spice. The back featured oak, nutmeg, and milk chocolate.

 

Finish:  Medium-long in length, what rounded out this whisky were pepper, dry oak, caramel, and milk chocolate.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The nose was not something I relished. If the acetone wasn’t there, it might have been decent. The palate was okay, as was the finish. The best part of Crown Royal is the mouthfeel. That’s not enough to garner a Bottle rating from me. In this instance, my coronation is a Bar.

 

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

 

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

 


 

Friday, July 23, 2021

WhistlePig PiggyBack 6 Year 100% Rye Review & Tasting Notes

 



I'm a big fan of Dave Pickerell and had an amazing visit with him here in Wisconsin at one of his last appearances before his untimely death.  If you're unaware, Dave was the mighty force behind WhistlePig as its Master Distiller. He didn't really do the distilling, though. That job belonged to Rick Murphy of Alberta Distillers


Alberta? Like Canada?  You betcha!  WhistlePig sources its whisky from our northern neighbor, ages it in Vermont, and fully discloses that. WhistlePig does have an operating distillery with a copper pot still designed by Dave. 


"WhistlePig began when we purchased our farm in 2007. After a few years of deep consideration and personal reflection we committed ourselves to crafting the world’s finest and most interesting Rye Whiskeys... [We] discovered and purchased an incredible stock of 10-year-old blending Whiskey in Canada that was being profoundly misused. That initial stock, for which we are forever grateful, is what kicked off our grand adventure." - WhistlePig


Today I'm reviewing PiggyBack 6.  As the name suggests, it carries a six-year age statement.  PiggyBack starts with a 100% rye mashbill from Alberta. It is aged in new, charred oak barrels to follow the American Rye whiskey regulations. It is also certified kosher. Bottled at 96.56°, you can expect to pay about $50.00 for a 750ml package.


I acquired my sample at The Malt House, a local bar located in Madison.  That explains the less-than-interesting photo, but the whole #DrinkCurious thing applies nonetheless. Let me get started.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, PiggyBack presented as pale gold in color. It made a thin rim that created a curtain of legs that crashed back into the pool of liquid sunshine. 


Nose:  Aromas of citrus, cinnamon, and caramel were fairly easy to pick out. When I brought the fumes into my mouth, a wave of vanilla flowed over my tongue.


Palate:  With a silky, medium-bodied mouthfeel, the first flavors I tasted included rye spice and cocoa powder. The middle was soft leather, and the back offered oak, vanilla, and white pepper.


Finish:  Medium in length, the oak and white pepper carried through, and vanilla was swapped out with cinnamon spice. 


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: As much as I respected (and still do) Dave, as much as I recognize his amazing talent, at the end of the day, PiggyBack is still a nondescript Canadian whisky that has been aged in the United States. If I was at a friend's house and was offered a pour, I'd drink it. But, I don't see myself laying down money for a bottle. Someone newer to Rye whiskey may find this very approachable. Because of that, I'm giving it a Bar rating. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Revel Stoke Blended Canadian Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

 



I am Whiskeyfellow. I drink whiskey and I know things. I love whiskeys from around the world:  The United States, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Israel, France, Sweden, India... you get the idea. But, there is one niche of whiskey I've not been fond of, and that's the stuff from Canada.


One of the first non-American whiskeys I tried was a Canadian. To my then untrained palate, it was horrible. I've tried a number of Canadian whiskies since then. I've had some that were upper-tier, such as from Alberta Distillers but there was never a wow factor to any of them. I know Canadian whisky has its fanbase, and I respect that. And, part of the #DrinkCurious lifestyle is the requirement to revisit stuff you didn't like in hopes that a more mature palate (your palate is always maturing no matter how experienced you are) might appreciate it more. To be perfectly frank, I'm looking for a Canadian whisky that will change my mind about Candian whisky.


Canadian whisky has to be mashed, distilled, and aged in Canada for at least three years in small wood barrels, must possess the aroma, taste, and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky, and, finally, can be colored and flavored with caramel.


I'm sure you've heard of Canadian Rye. That's a general term for Canadian whisky. Did you know that in order to be called Canadian Rye, there is no requirement for a single grain of rye in the mash?


After a fairly long hiatus, I'm back to trying something Canadian. In this case, it is Revel Stroke Blended Canadian Whisky. Named after the mountain resort Revelstoke in British Columbia, Revel Stoke is known for its various flavored whiskies. It is owned by Phillips Distilling Co. out of Minnesota. Phillips holds a lot of information close to its vest. The mashbill is unknown. The distiller is unknown. It makes no secret, however, that this is a blend of three-year and eight-year whiskies. A one-liter 80° bottle will set you back about $12.99, making it a very affordable choice.


While the affordability aspect is nice, what's more important is how it tastes.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Revel Stoke presented as pale gold in color. It formed a thicker rim that stuck to the wall while the watery legs raced back to the pool.


Nose:  The initial aroma was caramel, which didn't shock me considering the legally allowed caramel additive is a factor. Behind that was an ethanol punch. Once I got past that, I picked up a faint Jolly Rancher green apple smell.  I tried to pull the vapor into my mouth, but there was nothing.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was watery and light. It offered an almost immediate tingle to my tongue but left the hard palate alone. I picked up just two flavors:  corn and toasted oak. Try as I might there was nothing else to be had.


Finish:  The tingle continued into the finish, which was longer than I anticipated based upon the mouthfeel and palate. It consisted of toasted oak, clove, and raw almond.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This isn't the Canadian whisky to change my mind about Canadian whisky. What this really is is a mixer or something to slam as a shot. Or, it is a whisky to drink for someone who really doesn't like the taste of whisky because there's just nothing there whisky-like, at least in my opinion. I don't buy whiskies for the purpose of having a mixer. I'd rather use a good whisky to make good cocktails. Revel Stoke earns a Bust. You can do much better than this. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.



Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Barrell Seagrass Review & Tasting Notes

 



Barrell Seagrass may be the most unique whiskey I've ever tried. There, I said it!  When it becomes challenging for me to figure out just what I'm tasting, that piques my interest. Each time I took a sip, I was tasting something else.


Seagrass begins with a blend of Ryes from MGP of Indiana and an undisclosed Canadian distillery. They've been finished separately in some rather unusual barrels:  Martinique rum, Malmsey Madiera, and of all things, apricot brandy barrels. If you're trying to imagine what this would taste like, don't bother. I spent a week wondering about it. I was wrong.

 

"Seagrass stands alone as a whiskey, while also inviting the drinker to explore the multitude of influences created by a global approach to sourcing, finishing, and blending. It highlights the grassy oceanside notes we love in rye and the opulence and spice of finishing barrels." -- Joe Beatrice, founder of Barrell Craft Spirits.


If you're unfamiliar with Barrell Craft Spirits, they're blenders. There are good blenders and less-than-good ones. Barrell is in the former grouping. That's not to suggest everything they do is awesome, I've had some blends that have fallen short. But, I've enjoyed most of what I've tried.


Seagrass doesn't carry an age statement, and like everything out of Barrell, it is packaged at barrel proof. In this case, that's 118.4°. You can expect to pay about $89.99, which is about average for a Barrell expression. 


Before I get to the tasting notes and recommendation, I'd like to thank Barrell for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. With that, it is time to investigate this whiskey.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Seagrass was bright bronze in color. It made a thin rim and perhaps the thickest legs I've seen. They were heavy and crashed back into the pool.


Nose:  Here's where things got really different - dried apricot and plum were sweet notes, then brine offered a barrier of sorts, separating out the grass and mustiness on the other end of the spectrum. When I inhaled through my lips, coconut and apricot rolled across my tongue.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was full-bodied and weighty. The front of my palate found candied apricot, peach, pear, and pineapple. Rich, strong pineapple. The middle consisted of chocolate, almond, and caramel. On the back, there was a mixture of cinnamon, molasses, candied ginger, and the bitterness of walnut.


Finish:  Long and warming, the finish had plenty of wood tannin, salted chocolate, molasses, ginger, rye spice, apricot, and pineapple. Again, these are things that are difficult to imagine intermingling with one another. I did find my hard palate zinged quickly, but the sweetness mellowed out any burn the proof may have otherwise presented.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  As I said at the beginning, this is probably the most unusual whiskey I've tried. It was sweet. It was spicy. It was earthy. The challenge became both exciting and a little frustrating. But, as I experienced the frustration, I caught myself smiling because the mystifying quality just worked for whatever reason.  


If you're adventurous and want to really #DrinkCurious, I'm here to tell you this is going to stimulate the heck out of you. Of course, I'm in that camp, which means Seagrass grabs my coveted Bottle rating. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It