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Rye … oh My | Blog #83

What a spectacular Thanksgiving weekend. On the annual pilgrimage out to Lake Minnewanka and with a carefully concealed bottle of Stalk and Barrel Cask Strength Rye in tow to spice up our fall.

This is only the second year for us but our friends have been at it for 5+ years. Utilizing one of the Banff National Park huts and stoking the stove we get some meat of choice going and load up on the ample pot luck offerings.

With a balmy fall temperature of 11.5% C and glorious sunshine it was spectacular to say the least. What a perfect setting for my first taste of something I have been looking forward to for a long time.

You might recall my tasting notes on the Stalk and Barrel 46% 100% Canadian Rye in Blog #73

Having picked up Best New Canadian Whisky at the Canadian Whisky Awards in January their 46% rye has done well and is starting to be picked up by many consumers looking for awesome Canadian craft distilling.

Well, it’s hard enough to find many 100% rye offerings in the market let alone a cask strength version.

Stalk and Barrel 100% Rye Cask Strength

-Cask Number 34 (meaning the 34th cask ever that Still Waters Distillery has bottled)

-Bottle number 15

-Alcohol volume 61.4 aged in a first fill ex-bourbon American Oak cask.

This cask in it’s entirety is exclusive to Alberta and only 2 retailers. Keg N Cork in Edmonton and Wainwright Liquor and Cold Beer store in Wainwright.

Tasted in a unique Whiskies of the World glass from the festival of the same name in San Francisco. Interesting glass that will no doubt find it’s way into a blog down the line as I continue my search for unique whisky glassware and compare them with the same whisky like I did in blog #8 I chose this glass because of it’s ample opening as this whisky boasts a considerable strength.

Colour: Golden and tending towards Amber Maple (using a Canadian color analogy).

Nose: Sweet clove and honey with a slight medicinal character. Can’t quite wrap my mind around it…. like a floral infused antiseptic swab but in a good way. There is no doubt that this nose is powerful and I was careful to approach it very gently.

Palate: Wow, fairly bursts onto the scene packing big fruits like a drunken tropical fruit salad with everything thrown in. Papaya, Guava, Pineapple, passionfruit and banana laced with sweet tangerine pieces.

It’s like a complete Hawaiian cocktail in a glass thats dusted with a combination of sweet spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg and there is that clove again. Caribbean Allspice.

Finish: Lingering on there is an almost unending finish carried powerfully along all the way to your very core by the very pimped out cask strength ride.

Wow! … is all I can say. This is my first opportunity ever to try a Canadian 100% Rye at Cask Strength and it is amazing.

Water: Really softens the nose a lot and you can get a lot closer to the caged animal and almost rub it’s tummy. More vanilla notes at play here now and the medicinal character is gone. A much tamer beast like a carefully crafted culinary desert plate. I think I actually liked the big jumble of fruit character that the cask strength brought to the table today a little more but this more orderly display could easily seduce me to drink this watered more often than not.

Stalk & Barrel Rye Stalk & Barrel Rye

There are only 192 bottles of this available and I would highly recommend if you are a fan of Canadian Rye that this is a must for your back bar.

Well done Still Waters and congratulations on beating all comers as one of the smallest distilleries in the competition.

Cheers Eh!


Canada Rules | Blog #73

G’day Eh!!

Sounds weird for sure but an Aussie now converted into an Ausadian or Cantralian and I can tell you that with the receipt of my Canadian passport and going through the citizenship ceremony I see myself as 100% both (well maybe slightly always a little more Aussie).

So for this coming Canada day I have saved something new and awesome.

For those that have been following along and thanks by the way, You will have read a little about the trials and tribulations of Still Waters distillery in Ontario

Having been involved almost from the beginning in working with Barry and Barry to sell whatever it was that they were working on I have slogged side by side with them for over half a decade. It is really exciting for me now to be still working with them as they are starting to receive some accolades after releasing some excellent whisky.

Today’s blog is all about Canadian whisky and getting small and crafty with it. “Rye” is what most Canadians call Canadian whisky by default. Quite often it is a misnomer because the bulk of “Canadian” whisky has little to no rye at all.

Here we have an example of 100% locally grown Ontario Rye being distilled by 2 guys that have had a passion for excellence and have done the really hard yards in the face of massive obstacles to become craft distillers in the hugely government controlled province of Ontario. Before I even taste, there is a massive amount of kudos and hat dipping to both of them for sheer perseverance and love for whisky which I also share.

So on to the whisky – Stalk and Barrel Rye bottled at 46% and aged in 1st fill ex bourbon casks with medium to heavy charring. Cask No. 24 (they number their casks combined so this is the 24th cask of any kind of whisky that they have bottled) Bottle number 138.

Tasted in a Glencairn – I know I don’t use this glass often for reviews but I have had this whisky before and wanted to really have the nose accentuated for me. At 46% I also didn’t think that the singular delivery to the palate would be detrimental.

Nose: Sweet soft recognizable rye, almost cotton candy (fairy floss in Australian) very little spicy character that you would normally associate with American rye. Hints of butterscotch and toffee apple. Wow this nose absolutely shines in a Glencairn this is seductively sexy whisky and is very very pretty. Floral wildflower essence but not at all perfume like. A touch of Bourbon background and all stirred together with a Madagascar vanilla bean.

Palate: Amazingly easy on the palate for a whisky of only just over 3 years aging. The signature rye spice is there but is so soft and playful it literally caresses the buds, imparting palate coating mouth feel and complexity that belies its age. I am in agreement with Davin de Kergommeaux from canadianwhisky.org. The Barry’s hit this one out of the park for their first Rye outing.

I will drink this regularly and often. You might remember in Blog #70 that I used this in a hot toddy when I was under the weather. Well right about now I am thinking what the heck was I doing throwing whisky such as this into a hot toddy mix. In my defence though better cocktails and or toddy’s require better base spirits and this isΒ one of them.

Finish: Continues on the way it started with enveloping soft spice with the tiniest zip on the tongue that lets you know it is 100% rye at heart. Takes a really long time to dissipate and is a gorgeous sipper. I will be tipping this bottle a lot this Summer.

Please remember that as owner of Secret Spirits I represent this whisky. I wish I could tell you that I am just bias and trying to flog you a bottle of whisky that I will benefit from the sale thereof, but that would be a load of crap. This is really, really good whisky and fully deserves the recent award as “best new Canadian Whisky” at this years Canadian Whisky Awards.

Prove me wrong and grab a bottle. I would love to hear from anyone with a craft Canadian whisky experience as there are more and more small distilleries popping up to take on the big guys.

Happy Canada Day eh!

(Aussie/Canadian hybrid)

Whisky Truly is the Water of Life – Hot Toddy time! | Blog #70

So after several years of no doubt dodging many cold. flu and beastie bullets I finally succumbed to a Spring bug. Despite plying myself and my wife with oil of oregano, pro-biotics and many other good for you substances this particular bug was hitting us and hitting us hard.

Devoid of normal olfactory senses and those of my little buds as well who had all given up and were in hiding till it was all over I turned to one amazingly comforting and helpful drink.

The Hot Toddy…

Now there are absolutely a limitless number of concoctions that can be made and I have tried some amazingly delicious Toddy’s in the past that I had just because it was yummy with no need for any affliction to instigate the warm and soothing cocktail.

Here are a few variations that have been my best friends over the past few weeks:

The Manhattan Toddy

-1 teaspoon of Manuka Honey – Manuka Honey taken from bees that feed on tee tree blossoms is reported to have antibacterial qualities as well as being deliciously earthy with a heathery floral character.

-Juice from half a fresh lemon

-One ounce of Red Vermouth

-One ounce of any Rye or Bourbon that takes your fancy. My tendency was to go Rye as the warming spice was just the ticket. For this version I used Stalk and Barrel from Still Waters Distillery.

A dashe of Bitters or Fernet-Vallet which was used for this version. This aromatic bitter liqueur from Mexico is amazing and comparable with it’s more famous French cousin.

Pour hot water onto the honey and lemon and mix well then add the vermouth and whiskey of choice.

Get in a comfy chair snuggled up in your bath robe and then just relax as the steaming cup of goodness does its work.

For the sake of this blog I’m going to take one for the team and mix up the above mentioned Toddy and do some proper tasting notes πŸ™‚

Tasted in a hand made pottery mug from Barbados – If you are sick its nice to think about warm places, sunshine and crystal blue water.

Nose: Β  Β  Takes a little while but the warming vapour gives up a plethora of earthy sweet cinnamon and clove spices, some citrus does come through along with a herbal almost medicinal aroma. I can almost feel it warming me up already.

Palate: Β  Β  Bitter herbaceous notes wrapped warmly with earthy honey and lemon with a soft backbone of 100% Canadian Rye spice.

Finish: Β  Β  The Fernet really lingers on the finish and you can absolutely feel it all the way down to a tingly warm tummy. Pausing between sips allows a little lemon to finally break through as the last fleeting flavor.

This is a delicious remedy with just the right amount of counterbalancing flavors in the sweet earthy Manuka honey and the herbaceous Fernet wrapped around soft spicy Rye with a citrus twist. If this doesn’t warm you up then nothing will.

For another take that I slotted in every 2nd or 3rd Toddy (not on the same day)

The Scotch Benny Toddy

-1 teaspoon of Manuka Honey (these ingredients are vital if you are actually under the weather)

-Juice from half a fresh lemon (must have)

-One ounce of Benedictine

One ounce of whatever Malt you have kicking around in your cupboard – I chose a nice Highland with its floral and honey character as the perfect combo. Why not go Islay and really give your cold some grief.

Open up your whisky/ey cabinet and play around with combos as much as you like. Really the honey and lemon with hot water and any type of whisky is a winner.

Hope most of you avoided any of the Spring time bugs and are rearing to go for what I know is going to be an amazing Summer.

Stay well my friends.


A Midwinter Night’s Dram Straight Rye Whiskey | Blog #58

Happy New Year everyone and welcome to 2015! As promised in Blog# 27 I am starting a series of blog’s on some of my picks for drinking this Winter.

First whisky is the appropriately titled “A Midwinter Nights Dram” from High West Distillery in Utah.

A blend of Straight Rye whisky taken from their Rendezvous Rye stocks and finished in French oak and Port barrels, Straight Rye whisky is a designation that tells us it was aged for a minimum of 2 years. I do know however that this is a 6 year old Straight Rye Whisky as stated in the technical details on the High West Web Site

It is made up of 80% Rye which is a very high Rye content along with a splash 10% barley and 10% corn.

Bottled at cask strength of 49.3% this is an unusual bottling for American Rye as it is very hard to find anything not cut to some extent.

So on this my first blog for 2015 and with a balmy -10c and snow outside (better than -30c a week ago) it seemed the perfect time to get a fire going and jump into a Midwinter Nights Dram.

Thanks goes out to Jane my former business partner for the gift of this bottle….much appreciated.

Tasted in the 1st Edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar Spiegelau Whisky Tumbler

So lets delve in. Stunning colour deep reddish and amber hues.

Nose: Instantly recognizable as rye with spices that envelop and caress. Waves of soft mulling spice and fresh vanilla bean. Just the faintest hint that this is higher alcohol but never burning or overpowering. This is a wonderful nose and I could just sit and smell it for ages. I wonder if High West could come out with a range of car freshning Rye spice pouches…. I’d be a customer.

Palate: Cask strength comes through a little more at first sip and activates the entire palate with layers of dried fruits.

Finish: Drier than most rye I have had before probably thanks to the Port and French Oak finishing. Hints of caramel sweetness from the corn and a touch of the complex barley note complement the rye.

Water: I added the tiniest drops which seemed to heighten the Vanilla but brought out more of the vegetal rye characters and diminished the fruits. For this dram the cask strength is the way to go in my opinion.

David Perkins knows his stuff when it comes to blending and finishing great Rye and Bourbon. This is another delicious expression and it is a pity that it is not available for sale in Canada.

As a caveat I did used to represent High West which I unfortunately no longer do. I have found their Rye and Bourbon releases to be some of the yummiest I have had and this Midwinter Nights Dram would be something that I would encourage anyone travelling to the US to grab if you are a fan of Rye.

I am unashamedly an equal opportunity drinker especially when it comes to whisky. There is a lot of Scotch snobbery vs Bourbon or Rye but for me it’s all about Whisky or Whiskey in all of its amazing forms.

Next week I will grab another of my whiskies to try this Winter and I think I will be going for something extra special.

Have a fabulous week and stay warm!

“Swift as a shadow, short as any dream.
Brief as the lightning in the collied night …” – Lysander

As fleeting as true love can be as described in this quote from A Mid Summer Night’s Dream, so to can a dram of delicious whiskey disappear. Thankfully, I still have almost a full bottle.