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Rocky Mountain High | Blog #84

What an awesome couple of days at the recent Calgary edition of the Rocky Mountain Food and Wine show.

With Brian from Whistling Andy on site we were locked and loaded with an array of delicious whisky and a couple of additional treats.

For those of you that have never been to this event it was held at Stampede over 2 days with 3 sessions for consumers to choose from. 4 till 10 on Friday the 16th and 12 till 4 and 6 till 10 on Saturday the 17th.

Always enjoyable for me, I love the interaction and to get a chance to basically rabbit on about my passion for hours on end with an endless array of interested whisky lovers making the pilgrimage to our booth.

Sporting the kilt and with the addition of the amazing Angel’s Share glassware we were definitely a draw card for the whisky faithful throughout the show.

Brian from Whistling Andy distillery in Bigfork Montana was awesome and one of the most passionate individuals you could ever meet when it comes to high quality small batch distilling. In a future blog we will be sure to interview Brian to try and give you some insight into their amazing family story. Brian was pouring their Straight Bourbon, Harvest Select Whiskey, Cucumber Gin and Hibiscus Coconut Rum.

Whistling Andy Whiskey, Gin, Rum and Moonshine Whistling Andy Whiskey, Gin, Rum and Moonshine

Also on offer was the 3 great Stalk and Barrel whiskies from Still Waters Distillery. Their 1+11 Canadian Blended Whisky, The Single Cask 100% Rye and the Single Cask Single Malt. From A.D Rattray we had the Stronachie 10, Stronachie 18 and Cask Islay. Last but definitely not least was the silky smooth Hyde 10 Year old Sherry Finished Single Malt.

On display and for sale at the Sobey’s on site store was the 2nd Edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar and as a teaser we also had the prototype Collector’s Edition which stopped passing festival goer’s in their tracks and really helped to keep us extremely busy the entire weekend.

I would highly recommend going to one of these events for a great night out and the opportunity to try some really amazing products that you might not otherwise ever have in your glass.

One of the topics of discussion was the $ 7000 bottle of Ledaig being poured which had people searching all over the show trying to find the booth and ante up for this rare taste.

For whisky lovers, the Gold Medal table was again at it with a huge array of whisky from Gordon & McPhail, Benromach, Kilchoman, Springbank and Tullibardine.

If you live in Edmonton there is still time to get your tickets for the upcoming Rocky Mountain Show on the 6th and 7th of November. I look forward to seeing you all there. Please come along and say hi and grab a taste of something you have never had before.

A big thanks to Mike, Cathy, Nicole and the rest of the team for putting on another professional show. Tired and extremely happy with the response it was really fun to enjoy one of Calgary’s must visit late night eating spots at UNA Pizza on 17th.

There is nothing better than that first cleansing pint after talking non stop for 8 hours. Add prosciutto pizza drizzled with truffle oil and arugula and an amazing glass of Blue Mountain Gamay and the night is perfect.

Thanks for all your support and for making this whisky journey that I am on so interesting.


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 is 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)

Single Malt…….Vodka?? Blog # 71

With the market for small distillery hand crafted whisky at an all time high there are a lot of new start ups looking to ride the wave over the next 5 to 10 years.

Starting a distillery is an expensive prospect. 

Just the equipment alone demands hefty capital. When you throw in the minimum 3 year aging for Canadian whisky it becomes a waiting game while the distillery soaks up funds like a dry sponge.

Even with a passion and vision to make exceptional whisky many new distillers have to turn to another source of income generating spirit to keep things afloat and hopefully pay for their whisky aspirations.

The two most popular stop gap spirits are Vodka and Gin. Vodka is the easier of the two however in an effort to get that smooth clean vodka profile many rounds of distilling are in order.

With a big factory setup vodka can be distilled over and over in quick time. If you are a small distillery with one still then distilling a vodka 6 times is a lot of work.

Still Waters Vodka Still Waters Vodka

A good example of how tough it is to make money this way is Still Waters Distillery that was utilizing the same barley that was going into their casks of future Single Malt. Barley is a more expensive option for vodka given that anything that has sugars or starch to convert to alcohol will do. With a premium quality vodka on their hands and all capital tied up in equipment, barrels, ingredients and a number of really expensive safety compliance hoops to jump through there was little money left for marketing.

Hitting the shelves with a stock bottle and basic label is a tough road to the consumer when it comes to vodka. Flashy packaging and custom bottles are the norm along with heavy advertising budgets and discount programs all designed to get the consumer to switch their brand. When it comes to differentiating between one vodka and the next there are really only shades of grey.

Yes, premium vodka is less boozy a lot cleaner and can certainly be worth the extra dollars. It is just inherently difficult to woo the consumer when there is such a narrow range of flavor defining the category.

Gin on the other hand can be extremely unique and encompasses a lot more complexity and a vastly wider range of flavor profiles. The craft gin category has exploded in recent years as consumers look for something interesting and delicious.

Many whisky companies have turned their hand to gin making and some that I have worked with include Wemyss Malts, Duncan Taylor, The Malt Whisky Company and Whistling Andy. Flavor profiles ranging from Saffron to Cucumber to Pepper and more all built on the Gin staple ingredient Juniper.

If you love whisky and are crazy about awesome small company offerings then don’t forget to help support these fledgling brands by grabbing a bottle of their white spirit offering when you get the chance. You just might be securing an amazing whisky purchase for yourself down the road.

Getting back to the Still Waters story for a bit, we find that even though their bottled vodka was a tough sell, the quality of the drink itself meant that another small local Ontario company looking to fill a niche in the ready to drink category was keen to use it as the base for their new vodka soda.

Social Lite launched last year is at the moment the only pre-mixed drink on the market that does not include any sweetener. That means no sugar and no artificial sweetener of any kind. Throw in 100% all natural, Gluten free, low glycemic and the lowest calorie count for a full 355ml can and it’s easy to see why the brand has started to see some success in the Canadian market.

Proudly stating that their vodka is sourced from Still Waters Distillery, it is an all Canadian product that is bringing craft distilling to a wider audience.

It is fun to think that every can of Social Lite consumed helps fuel funds for more barrels which means more awesome Still Waters Stalk and Barrel whisky like their rye and single malt.

I know that once the Summer kicks in I will be working through many 4 packs of refreshing Social Lite in between whiskies.

It’s an exciting time for consumers who are looking for hand crafted spirits. The more we can support these great little companies the more interesting offerings we will see on the shelves.Have fun hunting down the cool and eclectic

Quick tasting notes on Social Lite:

Lemon Cucumber Mint – all cucumber on the nose and reminds me of cucumber water at the spa. Exceptionally clean finish with no real hint at the vodka contained therein. Bubbly cucumber water with a hint of lemon and just the tiniest touch of mint on the finish.

Lime Ginger – Lime is the dominant nose and its all lime refreshment until just a touch of tangy ginger on the finish.

Hats off to Aware beverages for their risk taking in making such a unique drink and by default helping the cool whisky category at the same time.