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

Kavalan Whisky review part two: Solist Bourbon & Sherry

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Let’s return to part two of last Thursday’s SAQ tasting session. We move on to the big guns, the muscle if you will.

I will spare you a regurgitation of the Kavalan history or their press kit materials, I would rather give you food for thought.

Two points are of particular interest to me, the fact that Kavalan has been bombarding spirit competitions with their single cask releases and the massive expansion they’ve underdone. The former while not a concern for most malt geeks (maniacs, anoraks…no term is great) since they tend to put little weight in those type of awards is mostly about the kind of misleading marketing it can cause with the average consumer.

I’ll explain, all whisky is subject to variances, even with the best quality control lab and intentions. The Solist series are all single cask releases, therefore it allows Kavalan to cherry pick their best casks when sending them to competitions. Again, no one would be against the producer choosing their best product in order to enter a competition. The problem is unless the consumer is able to get the exact same barrel as the prize winning malt or the one you read that awesome review about, what you will end up buying is a veritable Russian roulette, a small matter but nonetheless a concern.

The latter is interesting because King Car Group (makers of Kavalan) is a family owned business, generally a good thing in this era of conglomerates, ostensibly it means a company with the right spirit (no pun intended) can focus on quality and not only the bottom line. They have just undergone a massive expansion bringing their output to somewhere in the vicinity of 9 million liters. That’s massive, Diageo huge, putting them in the big leagues, I don’t mean to say big is bad. What I’m concerned about is how are they going to get their hands on the volume of first fill ex-whatever casks required to cope with that without resorting to some sort of tomfoolery (see MAO’s Glendronach single casks issues for example). I wonder with that gigantic volume how much longer will they be able to resort to their scarcity/luxury pricing scheme, I know, they will do whatever the market will support and the whisky sphere certainly has a hard-on for Kavalan right now.

Nuff’ talk

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Kavalan Solist Bourbon: 58.6% abv. Cask#B111209009A

Nose: the nose is hot and pointy right from the gate. Apples, I get that weird copper note like on Glenfiddich. Pears, honey, sponge cake, creamy vanilla, a touch of bubblegum and gummy candies.

With water the sharpness of the nose becomes rounder, more honey and pastries.

Palate: Hot, creamy and sweet at once, the attack is pleasant. Coconut, beeswax, there are herbal touches floating in the middle, like fresh cut grass or plants then it extends into jujubes & grape gummies.

With water, sweet, kind of flat, honey, vanilla and more caramel, loads of waxyness

Grade: B+ This is pretty solid, I liked the Palate more than the nose

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Kavalan Solist Sherry cask: 59.4% abv. Cask# S081224022

Nose: Coffee, dates, burnt chicory, Alpine bitters. Grape reduction, slight balsamic edge, all things umami and it’s sharp. This isn’t a Christmas spice type sherry, it’s a dirty big bodied sherry. After a while there is dry cured ham and pepper.

Water brings sulfur forward on the nose, more coffee, wet wool. Lots of meatyness, the nose is big and really pleasant.

Palate: Oh! Sweetened coffee left out on counter overnight, date purée, ginger, gunpowder, an almost metallic, plastic note. It’s very much on tannic, oversteeped tea, stewed prunes. There is more traditional spices in the mouth, nutmeg and allspice. Very dark and extractive.

Palate with water is very thin, dates, plasticine, light roast coffees. Really all on chewy dates, spices and cake batter, you get more or that oxydized sherry nuttyness

The sherry lingers a long time. It’s big stuff, maybe even a little tiring in a way.

Grade: A The cask strength along with the extractive nature of high temperature maturing certainly creates a potent delivery

The Blab: Clearly the Solist editions are the ones to look out for. While that sherry cask haunted me for a couple of days, I’m not sure what I think about these whiskies, it seems that the casks (or the previous contents) are perhaps doing most of the heavy lifting. Oh and yes the price…just saying.

Franck

Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel 16-0259

Jack Daniel’s single Barrel 16-0259

47% Alc/Vol

Score: 79/100

 

 

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We are changing gears a little here with my first American Whisky review and it’s not bourbon strictly speaking it’s Tennessee Whisky giant Jack Daniels. I must preface by saying that bourbon/American whisky isn’t my preferred style (although I have had some very good ones) and Old No. 7 figures even lower on my list.

I can see the appeal of it, it has indeed become a very powerful American Icon, pretty much synonymous with rock & roll, motorcycles and the assorted trappings of that lifestyle. It is probably one of, if not the top selling American whisky in the world. After all it is also easy drinking thanks in part to the Lincoln process of charcoal filtering the whisky prior to barreling and is bottled at 40% alc/vol.

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That being said when my friend Emmanuel asked if I wanted to split a bottle of the single barrel for us to share during our office Christmas party, I figured why not? This kind of occasion isn’t one where you bring that bottle you’ve been saving, you need something that can be passed around in the hip flask. This bottle is from the standard single barrel range not the new barrel proof release.

Nose: Ripe banana’s, toffee apples, dark cherry, a bit of spicy rye,carpenter’s shop floor, those typical JD fermentation notes, some charred oak too.

Palate: muscular without being rough, red licorice, cherry ice cream, spicy, the oak is present but not dominant, warm caramel made with honey. You can feel the smoothness of the corn on the palate, it’s pretty sweet.

Finish:  return of the banana/ferment, vanilla, warm spices and charred oak. The mouth feel is well executed, slightly waxy and oily.

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I have to admit this was a surprise, I enjoyed the palate of this whisky, it has none of the notes of baby sick that are very prevalent in many of the batches of old No.7 I have tried. It was not as oak driven as is the case with many bourbons, the higher ABV helped carry the flavors across and sustain the finish.

If you are a fan of JD or this style, it’s definitely worth taking the step up to single barrel, It has me itching to try the barrel proof version.

 

Franck

The Balvenie 12 Single Barrel Review

 

English review further below:

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Balvenie 12 Single Barrel

47.8% Alc./Vol

Évaluation: 76/100 

Je ne suis pas très familier avec la gamme de produits de Balvenie, j’ai entendu de bonnes critiques, le master blender David Stewart à une réputation assez formidable. Une ou deux bouteilles s’est déjà présenté dans la liste de sélection de notre club mais ça n’a jamais été plus loin.

Donc lorsque une opportunité s’est présentée de tester ce nouveau single barrel lors d’une dégustation à la SAQ j’étais très intéressé.

Cette édition est un whisky de 12 ans vieilli en en fût de bourbon de premier remplissage. Il y a moins de 300 bouteilles par baril dans cette édition. J’ai omis de noté le numéro de baril et bouteille lors de ma dégustation. Il se détaille à 129$.

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Nez : Vanille, fleur fraichement cueilli, vomit de bébé, miel amère, une légère odeur de « Pledge » au citron. On ressent beaucoup la vapeur de l’alcool, un peu de brioche et crème anglaise. Après un temps, sucre d’orge, les bananes séchées et un peu les bonbons à saveurs tropicales.

Goût : Astringent, un peu vin blanc, toffee, tire éponge, toffee, bonbons aux citrons. Un peu épicé vers la fin, le chêne un peu fade et il laisse un résidu collants aux lèvres (c’est une première mais pas mauvais), je trouve l’ensemble un peu retenu.

L’alcool en bouche est beaucoup plus fort qu’en laisse croire le dégrée, il n’est pas très doux or particulièrement intéressant. Le manque d’équilibre et la finale courte laisse tomber rapidement l’intérêt du début.

À ce prix, surtout qu’il n’est pas à plein « cask strength », je ne suis pas vraiment certain de sa valeur. Ce n’est pas tout à fait le bourbon oak typique un peu « easygoing » auquel je m’attendais, ce n’est pas du mauvais jus, simplement pas très inspirant.

Franck

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Balvenie12yoSBFF

Balvenie 12 Single Barrel

47.8% ABV

Score: 76/100 

I’m not very familiar with Balvenie’s products,I’ve heard good reviews and master blender David Stewart has quite the reputation. We’ve toyed with the idea of getting some editions for club purchases before but it just hasn’t come about yet.  So when the occasion to try this new single barrel release during a tasting event organized by our liquor board stores (SAQ or nutSAQ I recently discovered that nickname to my delight) came around I was stoked.

This edition is 12 year old malt from a first fill bourbon barrel, less than 300 bottles are available of each barrel. I failed to note the barrel number on the bottle served. It’s only available in select stores and it’s priced at 129$

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Nose: Vanilla, baby sick, fresh cut flowers, sour honey, slight lemon pledge edge to it. Lots of alcohol on nose brioche/custard, banana chips and artificial tropical fruit candy..

Palate: Astringent, almost Sauvignon blanc edge, toffee, honeycomb, lemon drops. Slightly spicy finish, dry oak, it’s sticky on the lips but a bit shy.

The alcohol in mouth feels stronger than the ABV lets on. I did not find it very smooth or particularly interesting, it started off with promise but felt unbalanced and very short. At this price for something that isn’t cask strength either I’m not really sure who the target audience for this is, since it’s not quite the toffee/vanilla/bourbon cask easy-rider I thought this would be.  It’s not bad juice, just not very inspiring.

 

Franck