Danfield’s – Limited Edition 21 Year Old “Classy Hoser”

I know very little about Danfield’s 21, I do know that it was a brand that was once produced at the Schenley distillery (Diageo) in Québec and that it is now produced in Lethbridge Alberta at the Black Velvet distillery (Constellation Brands). It seems to be one of those classic Canadian whisky brands like Gibson’s Finest, which has been bounced around from home to home.

Black Velvet 2 LNN
Like many of the legacy Canadian distillers they have a lot of sleeping barrels aging on site.

This sample is courtesy of @paddockjudge, I had the pleasure of being the recipient of a small box containing a plethora of mysterious elixirs decanted by the man himself. Three of the whiskys inside had instructions concerning the drinking order, this is the first of those samples tasted blind.

Nose: Brown sugar, vanilla and a good dose of spices that seem to stem from the wood, in this case cinnamon and a bit of nutmeg. Loads of oak, like a carpenter’s shop, a little green bell pepper and paraffin, it’s quite a bit nippy.

Water softens the nose, bring in some honey and increasing the vanilla.

Palate: Oak & cedar, warm caramel with loads of brown sugar and baking spices. Grapefruit pith, white pepper and a touch of wax. Surprisingly hot for, 40%. Nice mouthfeel.

Water brings out cardboard, more spices, reduces the bitterness a touch.

Finish. Is medium length, that sweetness you can only get from corn whisky, some astringency from the oak, a little cardboard, and chili pepper not as sweet as on arrival,

Danfields cheese
Love the old school packaging

I feel like this is a perfect representation of a classic Canadian whisky, I found the bitterness a bit off putting at first but with time it seems to bring equilibrium to this blend. The wood notes are interesting because they push into the cedar/tobacco like territory. This isn’t my favorite Canadian whisky but it’s hard to deny that this is a well crafted gem in a style that doesn’t seem to be as popular.

Danfield’s 21 yrs Old

40%/ABV

88/100

 

Whistlepig – 10 yr old Single Barrel “Goin’ Whole Hog”

Late last year a friend offered to mule a few bottles from South Carolina if I had them shipped to his place in advance, I attempted to select bottles I knew I would be difficult to obtain in Canada.

In the end two of the three bottles he brought back contained whisky distilled in Canada (the other was a Crown Royal hand selected barrel), the other was this bottle Whistlepig store selection, a single barrel at 56.7% abv for Third Base Market & Spirits.

At this point it’s public knowledge that the 10yr old Whistlepig whisky is 100% rye sourced from Alberta Distillers Limited, a powerhouse of a distillery that has over a million sleeping barrels of some of the best rye whisky. Sadly it’s a whisky that we rarely see on our side of the border in anything but it’s adulterated form (cut down to 40% abv or blended in the case of Dark Horse) or sold back to us by US firms under the guises of brands like Masterson’s, Hochstader’s & Whistlepig. This was the first time I was able to get a taste of ADL juice at cask strength (or nearly).

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In good company.

Nose: Waxy, rising brioche dough, rye toast and orange peel. It has a floral cologne like note, a bit of sandalwood, there is oak but it’s restrained. There is an almost soapy note but it’s fresh and clean it works well. The payoff with this whisky is to let it air out and then it really opens up, a sweet maple syrup like note with that mineral tang. Fresh and fermented grain, coriander seed and mint finishing on a bit of prune, almost like in Armagnac (perhaps from oak?)

Palate: Dry & sharp, floral & aromatic, there is a slight heat reminded you that this is almost 57% abv. Then it bursts with rye bread, a touch of cumin, apricots, candy apple & butter tarts. Full bodied, earthy and sweet salted caramel & cracked pepper, after the initial tickle there’s very little burn on palate.

Finish: Creamy like eating flan or pannacotta, more oak, earthy sprouted rye and a slight chalkiness, green fresh coriander like feeling.

The Blab: This is a great full bodied dram, more of a winter whisky than a fresh summery one. The bottle is in it’s last third and It’s lost some steam on the nose, it’s a bit closed and lost some of it’s initial peppery-ness and full throttle in your face rye.

That said the palate has bloomed I don’t remember getting as much dried fruits at first. This is really a sipper it takes time to discover and let everything come into play, it has a pleasant mineral waxiness that goes well with the sweetness, no dill notes either… I wish I could get a group together to buy a cask of this stuff.

Whistlepig 10 yr old “Third Base Market & Spirits” store selection

56.7% ABV

88/100

Benromach 2005 Hermitage Finish

The Benromach 10 has earned it’s place among many folks’ cabinets, as a solid bang for your buck whisky but one with more dimensions that are used to seeing at this age. It has that rare chameleon quality, each time you have a dram it seems to have changed a bit, one day sherry focused, another more peat and malt forward.

This hermitage finish is part of what Benromach dubs their contrast series, these are various versions of their spirit, be it finishes or experiments to show against the standard line-up of  their 10-15 yr old whisky. It can be a smart way for a company that does not yet have many decades of stocks to draw upon, we’ve seen this used by Bruichladdich, Arran and many others but not always successfully.

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Enjoy this terrible photo of my bottle.

This bottle was purchased as part of our club’s selection on the strength of my experience with Ben 10, I wanted to use it as a contrast against some other sherry matured malts.

Nose: Spicy, paraffin, there is peat but it mixes with the fruits from the wine cask, it’s like smoked blackberries…alas I have tried this time+smoker=smoked everything. Green peppercorns, digestive biscuits, honey drizzled figs, there is some sulfur like a tinge of spent matches and ginger. The nose is pretty tame, I like the interplay between the waxy peaty side and the fruits from the cask.

Palate: Sweet, oily, malty, earthy and bitter on the first sip, almost like Amaro (don’t call me a hipster). Damp concrete basement, slight barn funk, apricot jam, wet grains, again that feeling of smoked berries from the nose.

Finish: Short, a mossy and sweet earthy taste remains, a drying astringency, vanilla and dark chocolate.

I found this pleasant but the sulfur has increased with time, I feel like the peat saves it from being OTT.  The Benromach spirit style takes well to sherry as we get from the regular editions, this wine finish shows some promise but it’s not entirely successful. I am unsure if it’s the style of wine used, the ABV or perhaps it would be better if they vatted some bourbon barrels in to bring equilibrium?  I like it but it lacks the superb blending of the Ben10.

Benromach 2005 Hermitage Wood Finish series 

45% ABV

83/100

Lagavulin 8, 200th Anniversary Edition “A Mezcaleria in Port Ellen” 

Lagavulin 8 “200th anniversary Editon”

48%/ABV

86/100

 

This whisky was released to much fanfare in the whiskysphere, with reason. There is so little lagavulin variety on the market, the masses are starved.

It provides things fans of the 12yr old love, little to no cask play (the color is like Sauvignon), it’s served at a decent proof (48%ABV) and lastly that resounding 8 yrs age statement all bold and brash youth instead of an NAS with a fairytale name.

We know from many other contemporaries that young Islays can be superb and explosive (if a bit narrow in profile at times).

LAg8

Nose: Mineral, green, diesel fumes, burnt hay, almond oil. Its very mezcal like, génépi, bakelite, ashy smoke. With time freshly shucked oysters, a smidge of powdered sugar and pears

Palate: Dark, sharp,oily, acrid smoke. Bitter plants and artichokes, toasted and salted marcona almonds and lovage.

Finish: Bitter, inky, wet wool and grapefruit pith, it’s medium in length very drying. The quality of the distillate is without reproach.

Somedays this is really superb, firing on all cylinders. Other days it’s kind of hangs on to one note and goes with it. I wasn’t crazy about this bottle at first. I didn’t gas it and I find the final half much better although I don’t think it’s changed dramatically. A good young uncompromising whisky. I’m not convinced this was only a cash grab.

That said, as many feared (or wanted) this has become part of the regular line-up. At prices like I’ve seen in some states (45-65$) I would buy this again. Locally it’s a 100$ at that price point it competes with many other whiskys and the 16yr old is 129$, I am unlikely to buy a replacement soon.

 

Franck

Kings County Distillery Peated Bourbon

KCD Peated Bourbon

45% ABV

74/100

I’ve been meaning to post my review of this whisky but never got around to it. The genesis of this recipe is that having run out of malted barley one day, they decided to use a batch of peated malt that was on hand for experiments.

The result was to their liking and original enough as few American distillers use peat, especially in a bourbon mashbill.

Nose: sweet caramel corn, the youth is reflected in the varnish notes, they do relent after some time. Fresh oak, faint smoke like the embers and ash of a campfire, then dusty spices and herbs.

Palate: Chewy and astringent, wood sugars, lemon pith, herbal cough drops (Ricola?), slight violets and soapyness. The smoke is faint and seems to integrate with the charred oak flavour.

Finish: short, mild astringence from the oak and there is a faint feeling of sandalwood or incense.

The intel I gathered from my distillery visit, is that their bourbon recipe is basically 75% corn, 25% malted barley (peated in this case) so there is no flavouring grain like wheat or rye.

Also the peated malt used doesn’t seem to be very heavy therefore don’t expect a smoke bomb. It’s more like a slight accent. It’s less prononced as the bottle airs out. I liked this but it’s more for passing around a campfire or the flask than for easy sipping.

*Side note, I had about 10% of this bottle left and it got lost in the shuffle, I finally got around to it and it does not take well to oxidation. The nose is all cardboard, and the palate fell apart and got violent. A case for drink em’ if you got em’

Franck

Amrut Fusion

Amrut Fusion

50% ABV.

72/100

amrut distillery

I believe at this point we are long past the era where the belief that good single malt whisky is the exclusive domain of the Scottish, the passion and craft of distilling this type of whisky has spread worldwide.

That said, there are still only a small number of distilleries who are producing malt of the caliber experienced consumers are expecting, thankfully those numbers are also growing.

One of the brands that was a catalyst for this movement is Amrut, while the company has a rich history of distilling spirits for their home market in India since 1948. Their jump to releasing their single malt whisky as a separate category was only done in 2004.

While the provenance of their whisky might once have been a barrier, imagine trying to convince hardcore Scotch drinkers to try Indian single malt, eventually it became their biggest asset. Since they have no SWA or equivalent governing body to deal with, they have been unrelenting in their experimentation.

The special releases came flooding in, Intermediate sherry, the Frankenstein cask experiment that is Spectrum, vatting malts from two different climates, adding oranges to sherry casks before refilling them with whisky, the list goes on.

Ashok
C’mon you can’t say these folks aren’t having fun. Here’s the brand ambassador Ashok announcing a new batch of Spectrum

This is without mentioning the effect of aging spirits in such a punishing climate. I dislike repeating the overused mantra of making the whisky age faster, as time is a factor unaffected by weather. It does indeed create an environnement with very active cask interaction and evaporation, which leads to young spirits with a profile and seeming maturity unlike that of their equivalent aged Scottish counterparts. You can compare the similar effect with island aged rum versus those matured on the mainland.

Most of whiskys I have tried from Amrut have left an imprint on me (I have vivid memories of a particular peated cask strength that balanced overripe tropical fruits and heavy smoke) it is why this particular bottle of Fusion has left me perplexed.

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Is that the only photo of our bottle? You betcha

Fusion is the one Amrut whisky that seems easily available in most markets, it is a mix of whisky from unpeated Himalayan malted barley and peated Scottish barley, no info is available on the actual proportion or age.

Nose: Dried ginger, spices (all spice, cardamom), dark fruits and the ethyl notes are very sharp. I’m not getting much on the nose, even with water and time it remains very closed.

Palate: Shellac, sandalwood, blood orange, a kind of dark bass note, tinned fruits and the oak is rather prominent. Water does it no favours, that dark peat thing becomes acrid and the sweet oak takes over.

I get the sensation that this weird dark note is perhaps the peat, like a feeling of burnt jam, also the alcohol is rather strong on the tail end.

Even after months being opened, the nose remains very shy, the palate hot and fussy, especially with water. If I had no experience with the excellent whiskys of Amrut I might have wondered what the fuss was all about. Batch variation is most likely to blame but without another reference sample I can’t say how much it accounts for. I recently shared a bottle of the standard issue Amrut Single malt at 46% abv with a friend and preferred it’s singular nose to this bottle of Fusion.

Franck

*Distillery  building photo and Ashok as 007 are credited to Amrut Distillery

 

 

 

 

 

 

Octomore 7.1 “Fernet Branca, benzene & charred Lemons”

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Octomore 7.1

59.5% abv

81/100

What can one say about Octomore that hasn’t been said before? Is this whisky all about muscular posturing (my peat’s bigger than yours)? Is it for peat nerds who must own every single edition (like Pokemon), overrated, one-dimensional, as close to a religious experience as possible, utter shite, delicious, overpriced swill?

As much as I love this whisky it’s retail price, especially in Quebec is hard to stomach, the standard .1 iterations sell for 230$ and the special editions (if we ever get any) go for upwards of 300$. It’s still only a 5 yr old whisky, chalk it up in part to the peat premium we see nowadays (anything with peat commands a higher price, add another premium if it’s Islay), we often get the argument of limited production but I mean really!

By now the standard bourbon barrel aged Octomore is in high demand, enough to have become something they can produce in sufficient numbers. It’s released at 5 years, it’s almost been that long since the Remy Cointreau buyout, they would have had enough time to adjust production volume for this. How much extra does it cost to overpeat the barley? I know it’s a long 3+day process but still, enough to warrant a 4 fold increase over the Classic Laddie edition, it hurts mommy!

Despite all this, it’s a very singular whisky, one I believe any whisky drinker must try at least once. The use of peat from the mainland (Bruichladdich doesn’t get it’s peated barley from Port Ellen malting unlike many of it’s Islay siblings) also helps inform some of the character of this whisky, lending to it perhaps less of that maritime, band-aidy funk…yes that’s an adjective. There’s also the tall Bruichladdich stills that probably come into effect.

I first tasted this whisky back to back with Octomore 6.1 so I will compare to it at times.

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Nose: Smoked buttermilk, acetone, tons of fermentation/baby-sick notes, more than the 6.1, dirty smoke with a slight rubbery edge. Fennel, oregano, peameal bacon, freshly stained pinewood, vanilla, charred lemons and burned corn husks.

Palate: Cola and Fernet Branca, sappy branches, really sweet marzipan and milk chocolate. Then it turns ashy and out comes the umami squad, cooked celery, lovage, black cardamom and aniseed, like danish licorice candies.

Finish is salty and sweet, ashy petrol smoke and tarred wet oak, hot cornbread, it lingers and sticks to your palate long after it is done.

If this is your first Octomore then, it gives you a good idea of the general profile of this series. In contrast to 6.1 or 5.1 I found it to be a bit too acrid and the butyric/lactic thing is too forward.

As discussed by chairman MAO in one of his reviews, it’s hard to see what each new .1 iteration brings to the table, other than a batch number and a slight tweak of ABV and/or PPM, I would love to see a priced controlled stable vatting or recipe released (yes wishful thinking I know). That being said, I think in the last few years we have a seen an effort to increase the offerings in the series. The 6.3 and 7.3 Islay barley variants are superb whiskys with depth and sharp definition.

On the experimental side of things there was Adam Hannet’s virgin oak obsession which played out in the 7.4  which despite the convoluted vatting, also bumped the age up to 7+years. Lastly there was the Laddie MP 6 session that was all Octomore single casks and the OBA web release which broke the laddie site temporarily, which is a black arts type vatting of different aged Octomore casks.

OBA

Franck

 

Nikka Taketsuru

Nikka Taketsuru “Pure Malt NAS”

43% Alc/vol

83/100

The craze for Japanese whisky is still in full swing, some blame Jim Murray’s 2014 proclamation that Japanese Whisky was the best in the world as one of the catalysts for this state of affairs, as much as he at times deserves the bashing, we can’t blame Sauron for everything.

sauron

The reasons are myriad, a burgeoning interest in world whiskys, the rise of whisky as an investment or flippers. I doubt many of these overpriced bottles of Yamazaki Sherry cask  or Karuizawa are actually being opened and enjoyed.

Whatever the reason the result is pretty much what one is seeing in Scotland but at an accelerated rate. Expressions losing their age statements but prices remaining the same, ABV’s being lowered, Increase of new NAS releases and special releases, an increase in the marketing of grain whiskys. With the added factor that anything Japanese that can vaguely be passed under the whisky category is instantly pushed onto the market, rice whisky & aged sochu and such,  I’m not against these but they are often shamelessly marketed with little regards to their quality. There are other effects and this post on Nonjatta gives you the news from the perspective of someone on the ground.

I know it sounds like a lot of nagging or nit-picking but sadly it’s just the facts.

On to today’s whisky I’ve had occasion to try this a few times and it scored very well with club members the first time around. It is a house blend of the different types of malt whiskies that are produced at both Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries…maybe.

y this dark photo of a bookshelf containing said whisky
I have no close-up picture of this whisky

Nose: Tinned fruits in syrup, there is a rounded malty side, coffee cake soaked in a sherry syrup. There is a dark note like charcoal and umeboshi, buckwheat honey, it’s got a oxidized/sulfury side a hint of a sherry influence.

Palate: Pickled ginger on arrival, sweet and creamy malt and in the background earthy peat (not at all Islay like). A bit of heat despite the low strength, complex sweetness like honey then mineral and slightly waxy, there is some tannic oak and again that feeling of tinned fruits from the nose.

The main tastes fade quickly from the tongue but there is a creamy sweetness that remains on the finish.

While the combination of flavors is somewhat singular it doesn’t dive deeply enough into those slightly exotic notes (rare woods and that weird pickled plum dark note) to make a lasting impression. I enjoy having a glass of this but could not see myself buying a full bottle, plus it’s a dreaded NASty release, transparency apostles may wish to abstain.

Franck

Aberlour 12

Aberlour 12

40% abv.

83/100

Other than the cask strength heavy hitter that is A’bunadh, the regular stable of releases from Aberlour tend to get shortchanged. It’s not a heavily marketed whisky but I know that it is a very lucrative operation for owners Pernod-Ricard

What is interesting about Aberlour is that along with Glenfarclas it is one of the distilleries that defines itself by it’s Sherry driven profile, some say this was done to appeal to the French Market. Nonetheless you would be hard pressed to find a fully bourbon matured Aberlour, they do exist, mostly from independent bottlers or as distillery exclusives. The house style if you will always includes a focus on sherry, whether that be in the form of a finish, fully matured whisky or as a flavour component in the vatting.

Aberlour 12 label 40

Despite the lack of sex-appeal and glamour the standard range of Aberlour is one of the remaining good values in Scotch, their prices and quality have remained stable over the years. The 10 year old offers great value and has been steadily about 50-55$ I have consumed many bottles of that over the years. Yes they sadly chill-filter and keep the ABV lower than I would like but there is a nice old school charm to their profile that can be appreciated if one takes the time to.

Aberlour Warehouse Willkommeninschottlan.com.jpg

Nose: Apples fresh and cooked in a copper jam basin, slight sulfur but it is restrained. Brown sugar, dusty oak, soaked dried fruits, white flower blossoms. There is a spirit kick to the nose despite being only 40%.

Palate: Over steeped tea, sweet, rich, creamy sherry depth, sticky toffee pudding, malt biscuits and vanilla. There are also bitter oak tannins, cooked apples, baking spices, dried fruits and bay leaves.

The finish is medium in length and is mostly on the sweet and tannic notes. A bit of water or ice loosens it up but it gets very sweet and muted if you add too much.

It’s well put together, a good malt to remember that there is still quality affordable spirit around and that the grass isn’t always greener on the next, new, rare release. A good choice to ease someone into Scotch, it’s very much in the line of Armagnac/Cognac.

Franck

Hakushu 12

Suntory Hakushu 12

43% ABV

84/100

 

telegraph

Yes the craze is still on folks!

That aside there is a lot to love with Japanese whisky, while they follow a lot of the Scottish tradition in their production methods, it’s the little differences that the magic is created. The market is dominated by two big players, Nikka and Suntory, who follow a similar structure, both produce grain and malt whiskies and release them as single and blended malts under different labels.

old school hakushu
Love this old school photo of the distillery

Unlike Scotland where there is a network of exchange and brokerage of single malts between companies or distilleries for blending purposes, the Japanese do everything in house. They use various yeast strains, fermentation regimens and the still houses contain a variety of still shapes and sizes to create different profiles of whisky. In their warehouses they go beyond the bourbon and sherry barrels everyone uses, sources state that some producers also use, plum wine casks, mizunara oak and other wood types that might be verboten by the SWA. This process creates an unprecedented palate of flavor to work with when assembling their products.

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A clear photo of the different pot still shapes and sizes

Suntory’s Hakushu is the less hyped, less in demand younger brother to Yamazaki, it just doesn’t seem to get the love and recognition of that whisky. The 12 year old is still relatively affordable in most markets. I think the boom causes some backlash towards Japanese whiskies because with these elevated prices/come elevated expectations that probably cannot be met.

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Nose:  Pears and ripe peaches, fresh cut flowers, it’s almost like good mead (I know some will say there’s no such thing), pine needles, grassy and lightly vegetal, but fresh like walking in the forest in spring. The peat on the nose is present, light and very well integrated it’s got this sweetness like marshmallows.

Palate: Porridge, malty, round and nectar, the bitterness kicks and then it’s all grassy. The peat is present but it’s like smoking conifers and juniper. The influence of the bourbon casks is present, oak and some vanilla, good honey and citronella.

Finish is medium length and drying, the sweetness and citrus is almost like old school barbershop aftershave and that discreet peat is lurking there. Sadly the texture is a bit thin and affects the length of the finish a bit.

Beyond the big flavors that hit first, there are lots of secondary notes and delicate touches. Some might find these too “crafted” or precise that is a complaint heard of Japanese whisky, it requires pause to appreciate these nuances and the work to achieve this result. I like this kind of profile, it’s perhaps not completely unique but worth seeking out.

Franck