Intro to Single Malts

By Hunter

In line with most introductory classes, one is generally inclined to try and show basic concepts of spirits through the various bottles poured. When this is considered, it might seem strange that we look to particular bottlings to express these characters. It is obvious that doing so creates a loaded scenario in which the taster is in one way or another swayed by the various factors hidden behind the label of a bottle. This isn’t to say that every whisky enthusiast is inclined towards subtle persuasions, but a question could be posed along the lines of: wouldn’t it be a more pure experience to taste these spirits blind? In this capacity, one can grasp more fully the premise behind the style of a spirit and ideally take away more than just a singular impression of a distiller or bottling. Under this thesis and for the sake of practical knowledge I ventured to pour the seven whiskies selected blind to try and establish a more firm understanding of what makes each bottle a unique and particular expression of the single malt class as a whole. To add a little spice to the experience, I asked my colleague Shawn (beer wizard at KWM) to select a handful of the bottles and blind them from myself as well. It’s not too often I can say that as the instructor I wasn’t fully aware of what I was tasting, but I can definitely say the experience was enjoyable and challenging. Here is what we tried under the purest of circumstances.

Cadenhead Tamdhu 1991 24 Year
The idea behind this whisky was to show off how older whiskies and American oak interact. This bottling was fat and opulent, full of honeydew, bowls of sliced stone fruit with a side of honeysuckle nectar. Follow this up with bunches of flowers, creamed honey, and even tones of tropical fruit. This release is arguably the perfect expression of middling to older American oak matured spirit.  $235

Cadenhead Knockdhu 2006 10 Year
Young American oak influences in a handful of ways, but usually one can expect tons of vanillins, grass, citrus, coconut, as well as a clean conveyor of distillery character. This bottling is no exception, characterized by the classic Knockdhu barnyard tones, hay, lemon zest, lychee, and barley dust. Delightfully vibrant and fresh with tons of power, and, arguably, a clear example of a young American oak spirit. $115

Tormore Cote Rotie
As with the previous options tasted, an understanding of wine barrel maturation is a must. In the current market, wine barrel matured whiskies are becoming a foundational aspect of most distilleries core range. This release, matured in a red wine barrel from France, holds a heaping of the typical wine barrel characteristics to be expected, and more. The nose offers Welch’s soft fruit candies, purple bubblegum tape, cranberry spiced punch, and a handful of red fruit concoctions. Tasting yields a lovely array of juicy, slightly acidic berries, fruit leather, fruit cake, brandy snaps, scorched sugar, and a helping of fresh cracked black pepper.There are fleeting leather tones and slight savoury notes akin to older sherry barrels, and that is the over-arching nature of wine barrels. $135

Arran KWM Cask 964 “Less Sherried” 1996 20 Year
Starting into the sherried realm, this release describes near perfectly what it means to be moderately sherried. Arran is notorious for their measured hand when it comes to barrel character, usually marrying the distillery profile of soft, fleshy fruit, brine and oiliness with whatever barrel character you can imagine. In this case, the oak influences the spirit to become denser, sultana like, brown sugared, pan-fried fruits, and rich baked apple tones. Sherry in this capacity adds these darker, richer tones but balance with that aforementioned fresh distillery profile. $150

First Edition Braeval Sherry Cask 18 Year
Moving into the decadence of near full bore sherry, this offering from Braeval hits with huge flavour. In particular, sherry of this calibre adds huge density with even darker character. What this entails is fig newtons, Christmas cake, dark fruit syrup, eat more bars, and many decadent treats one can imagine. Following this train of thought one may only imagine sweet tones, but that isn’t the only feature that this kind of sherry decadence holds. Further, imagine a cigar shop rife with the aromas of tobacco and perfumed wood. $160

Springbank Bourbon Single Barrel 19 Year
A small step from sweet to peat, though transitionally sitting in both fields of character. This unique and hyper-limited Springbank single barrel (1 out of 168?!) is chock full of beautiful and well rounded American oak tones, showcasing pear drops, lemon hard candies, and those mini candy bananas that come from the 25 cent turn slot candy machines. Following the American oak influence, one can find roasted coconut shavings, buttered popcorn jelly bellies, and the soft burbling of peat integrated throughout this whisky. The peat is glorious, mingling with delicate whiffs of brine, the smoke edging on an elegant perfume spritzed into a smouldering fire pit. I can go on about this whisky, it is truly the result of master-craft and the embodiment of easy-going peated whisky. $340

Berry Brothers & Rudd Caol Ila 18 Year
Now to say that this is full tilt peat would be a stretch, but it definitely sways in the direction of distinctly smokier spirit. Caol Ila, known for their briny whiskies, in this case gravitates to the fish fry on the beach. Smoked mackerel over a kelp bonfire wafts on the nose, BBQ shrimp and hickory glaze threading the fish character. Peppery tones and waves of earthen peat provide the supporting role, lingering in the background assuring the taster of the rustic comforts of a seaside cabin. A quality featuring of peat as the focus of a spirit. $190

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Awesome Acidic Ales All Around

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are gathered here today to talk about one of my favourite kinds of tastings ever. Just you try to stop me from doing a sour beer tasting. I dare you! I love the puckery acidic feeling, I love the tart funky quality given by wild yeasts, and I love that old world feel of Brettanomyces and the addition of weird fruits. Not to mention how well Cheese and meats pair with them, I mean how could you even resist a tasting like that?

Well, it was a small crowd this time around, which is often the case shortly after the summer comes to an end, plus a long weekend. But taste we must and taste we did! Here’s the fantastic selection we went through.

Frederick H. by The Bruery: Frederick H is the new and improved incarnation of the Hottenroth Berliner Weisse. The traditional style is made a little more unique with the use of their in-house yeast strains, and intensely cultured Foeders. Light bodied, decently tart, and lightly funky. ($13.89 for a 750mL bottle)

No Regratze by T0 0L: A smoked sour! Don’t see too many of these around. This one boasts a mostly fruity profile with light smoke undertones. Pleasantly tart with a medium body and a decently dry and still tart finish. ($5.69 for a 330mL bottle)

The Dandy Wild Sour: Using a newly sourced wild yeast strain, the Dandy boys took their sour game to the next level. Their wild sour is light bodied with a big round acidity. ($9.99 for a 650mL bottle)

Oude Gueuze by Mikkeller and Boon: Mikkeller and Boon Gueuzerie collaborate to bring you this delightfully tart and complex blend of lambics, done in the traditional way, but aged in ex-Calvados barrels. ($18.89 for a 750mL bottle)

Celebration Yuzu Sour by Mikkeller: Fairly tart and funky brew with very notable zesty citrus aromas and flavours (but definitely distinct from your standard citrus). ($6.99 for a 500mL tall can)

The Dissident by Deschutes: A distinctive Oud Bruin, Flanders-style brown ale done with cherries, with a fruity, distinct aroma, along with malty brown sweet bread notes, oak, spice and a good fruity tartness. ($26.79 for a 650mL bottle)

Belle Royale by Driftwood: Tart cherries with mild mulling spice-like notes on a decently sour base. A wonderfully tasty beer that challenges the best out there! ($15.69 for a 650mL bottle)

A pretty darn tasty range if I do say so myself. I’d say there are some favourites in there! And one that made it hard for me to pick a #1, but my guests all agreed that Mikkellers Celebration Yuzu sour was the best of the bunch. Followed by Mikkellers Gueuze, and then T0 0Ls smoked sour.

And that’s about all for this post, My next tasting blog will be for Autumn Ales, taking place this Friday, which is sold out I’m afraid. We are, however, releasing a new tasting schedule in a few weeks, and I’ve thought of a few excellent tastings for the new year that you won’t want to miss, so stay tuned!  In the meantime, don’t forget your beer advent calendars (which are in store now), and to follow me on Twitter @ShawnsBrewsCGY, and I will see you in the store!



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Scotch Malt Whisky Society Outturn for November 2017

November is the busiest months of the year when it comes to whisky tastings here at Kensington Wine Market. With nearly a tasting every day (and sometimes two in one day!) of the week for the first two weeks we are running non-stop to set up tastings hosted by ourselves, by Brand Ambassadors, and to tear apart the store for an upcoming sold out whisky festival. Just to add more fun to the mix we also through in a wine and/or beer tasting or three just to add to the fun!

The month started with two Scotch Malt Whisky Society Outturn tastings on Wednesday, November 1st and then there was a third SMWS tasting on Saturday the 4th. It was my privilege to host the two Wednesday tastings and Marty pitched in to run the Saturday event.

How does the Outturn look? As always it is an interesting and varied lineup featuring a 26-year-old Grain, two Islay Malts (one unpeated!), and a beautifully peated Highland Malt among others. Post-Brexit pricing still seems to be in effect as only one of the bottles in our lineup tipped surpassed $200 – and it did so just barely. Flavour and Value are the watchwords here, and Quality has not slipped one bit.

A big shout out to our neighbour’s at Peasant Cheese for providing the small bites to compliment the whisky as always.

Curious about other available SMWS bottles? You can check out what is currently available at our store here. Feel free to fire Marty or myself an email if you have questions on any of them – or pop into our store for more information on and perhaps even taste of the curious and ever delightful green bottles.

Dive into the Society notes down below!

twitter: @sagelikefool
instagram: @kwmwhisky @sagelikefool

The Lineup:

This 26 year old single grain whisky from a closed distillery comes in at 56.7% after maturing in a refill hogshead
Flavour profile: Light & delicate
Outturn: 222 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “The initial nose has subtle fruits and flowers – patience coaxes out soft toffee, chocolate-coated bananas and mandarins in syrup; all on clean new oak. The palate has an attractive delicacy – caramel wafers, ice-cream, honey and cherry chocolates, balanced by spiced bourbon, nuttiness and hints of grapefruit. On the reduced nose, sweet treats of orange and lemon candied slices, candy corn, and shaved coconut on chocolate custard are laid out on a table somewhere between the botanic gardens and a sawmill. The reduced palate has vanilla, custard creams, chocolate limes and marrons glacés, with some bourbon-like char and spice in the finish.”
Drinking tip: “When you have the luxury of time”

This 11 year old Speysider from a 1st fill barrel comes in at 58.4%
Flavour profile: Sweet, fruity & mellow
Outturn: 204 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “The welcoming nose had something floral and woody, like a fuchsia hedge – also coconut, mango and pineapple; French fancies, honey and chocolate. The neat palate was lively – those fruits again, some citric sharpness, dark chocolate with ginger and a few other woody spices (nutmeg, anise); mouth-filling, mouth-watering and tongue-numbing all at the same time. The reduced nose was an explosion of fruit and honey sweetness – tutti-frutti, soft stone fruits, crème caramel, barley sugars and rice pudding with cinnamon. The reduced palate combined sensual chocolate caramel wafer and bourbon biscuit sweetness with playfully frisky fruitiness and warm ginger cake and chili spice.”
Drinking tip: “When feeling frisky!”

This 10 year old from Islay comes in at 60.1% after maturing in a refill barrel
Flavour profile: Spicy & sweet
Outturn: 198 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “The whisky, at first, released a life affirming vibrancy reminiscent of waxy citrus fruits, candied peel and lemon sherbet that fused with mineralic and salty overtones. Then sweeter notes of Jaffa Cakes, salted caramel, white chocolate and lemon drizzle cake entered the game alongside the rich and malty feel of digestive biscuits. Water released more juicy fruits and gentle spice like cinnamon swirls, plum pickle on oatcakes and sweet plums with the return of citrus fruits this time in the form of lemon curd. The finish left behind light honey with wood shavings and the tannins of strong black tea.”
Drinking tip: “For high tea by the sea”

This 13 year old Speysider, at 58.8%, was finished in a 1st fill charred ex-red wine hogshead after maturing in an ex-bourbon hogshead
Flavour profile: Spicy & sweet
Outturn: 228 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “We entered a stately home and walked through the hall of marble white granite limestone, passing the armour’s gallery, downstairs to the kitchen with an open hearth. We were offered baked brie with apricot preserves and almonds as well as warm bread with sunflower seeds. After a drop of water the sweet smell of puff pastry plum tarts and apple strudel made us even hungrier and we enjoyed a sticky toffee loaf cake with fudge icing.  After 12 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead, we transferred this whisky directly into a 1st fill charred ex-red wine hogshead for the remainder of its maturation.”
Drinking tip: “Getting warm and cozy by an open fire”

This 9 year old Speysider was matured in a refill butt and comes in at 65%
Flavour profile: Deep, rich & dried fruits
Outturn: 618 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “The aromas are heady and inviting – dates, gingerbread pastry, rich toffee and a whiff of balsamic. We imagined a glazed ham, all spice, black pepper and pickled vegetables on the side. The taste at full strength was big and sweet. Cinder toffee with “builder’s tea” (strong, with milk and sugar) and a touch of burnt sugar from the bottom of a saucepan. With water, there was mulled wine with oranges and spices and a freshly baked apple and plum crumble with caramelized sugar and cinnamon. The taste left us wanting more – sweet and spicy with a little savoury kick, mince pies, cereals and crème brûlée.”
Drinking tip: “A pleasingly big sherried dram for its age”

This 20 year old from Islay comes in at 56.5% after maturing in a refill hogshead
Flavour profile: Oily & coastal
Outturn: 263 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “‘That tickles my fancy’ was the first comment. Warm, sensuous and the delicate spiciness of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg with juicy segments of blood oranges, hints of tobacco and honey cured salmon gravlax. On the palate big and creamy with plenty of oak and spice; caramelized wood flavours balanced by salty chocolate and chili meringues and doughnuts with burnt caramel and sea salt – this is huge! Let’s try and tame it; now deep earthy aromas found in a Pu-erh-tea combined with Dundee marmalade and walnuts. Still big but with a juicier mouth-feel, rum soaked raisins and pineapple cubes and a never-ending gingery finish.”
Drinking tip: “For those “Joie de vivre!” moments”

66.95 – SWEET REEK
This 11 year old Highlander was matured in a refill hogshead and comes in at 61%
Flavour profile: Peated
Outturn: 264 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “Reassuringly sweet with pink wafer biscuits and Turkish delight dusted with icing sugar and wrapped with a soft cloud of gentle smoke. More floral notes developed with violets, red roses and apple blossom that fused quite magnificently with malt extract and sticky cough mixture. The syrupy texture extended to the taste with a mouth-coating character now delivering liquorice sweets, overcooked blackcurrant jam and considerably spiced haggis that had been grilled until the edges had become crispy. The finish was substantial and irrepressible leaving a warm and sweet smoke reminiscent of pork crackling on the barbecue.”
Drinking tip: “Drink when you do not wish to taste anything else for the next few hours”

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Not Just a Man’s World

by Abigail Sayer

In the world today, we are constantly reminded of inequality between sexes and/or races. This is not new (unfortunately), but, what we are also seeing today is that people are focusing on the positive aspects of change that hopefully arise from the unfortunate negative situations people have been and still are put into, and honestly, we all need to do that a little more. Yes, we do live in a world where the political figures are continuously in battles against media accusing them of some sort of assault against women, only for that to get labelled as fake news, or many Hollywood executives now being shown for their low morals and monstrous behaviour. One thing that has come from this is the amount of women and people coming together to both shine a light on and also fight against all of this inequity.

This tasting was an opportunity to celebrate the positive evolution within the wine world. Not only did we all get to enjoy some delicious wines, but we also focused on how powerful and talented women are, especially within the wine scene. With the wines selected for the event, we ranged in style and in affordability. Not only was the wine delicious, but it was great to see everyone’s reactions and the conversation about the amazing dedication these women have.

Marie Courtin Efflorescence 2012
Cote des Bar, France
In 2005, Dominique Moreau purchased 2.5 hectares of land in the small village of Polisot, in Southern Champagne. Fearless and determined, Dominique has created a name for herself in the wine world, producing some of the most elegant and terroir-driven wine in the area. Named Efflorescence (meaning ‘something evolves in perpetuity’), this 100% Pinot Noir wine is hand-picked, fermented with native yeast for both primary and secondary fermentation, and is zero dosage. This wine has a fierce acidity, with notes of yeast, white peach and sour apple.

Bench 1775 Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Naramata Bench, British Columbia
Located on the Naramata Bench in the Okanagan – Winemaker/Viticulturist Val Tait, along with Wine Consultant Alain Sutre beautifully capture the essence of the Okanagan. Believing that the natural expression of the grape should always be seen first and foremost in her wine, Val has become a household name in the Canadian wine scene. For years, Bench 1775 has been ranked in the top 20 wineries in Canada, and that only seems to be the start. This Sauvignon Blanc is a true representation of Val’s talent as a winemaker, utilising the best grapes and fermenting in stainless steel to show the characteristics of Canadian grown Sauvignon Blanc. It showed tropical fruit, with a whole load of pineapple and mandarin.

Venus La Universal Dido Blanco 2015
Monstant, Spain
Sara Perez and Rene Barbier Jr. are making waves in the Spanish modern wine world with their line of biodynamic, organic and sustainable wines. After seeing their vineyards struggle, Sara decided it was best for them to make the transition over to sustainable and organic farming. Since their switch, they have been producing some standout wine, with this Dido Blanco being the latest addition. A Blend of Macabeu, Garnacha Blanca and Xarello. This wine was showing more savoury notes, which we all loved. With aromas of olive, shrub bush, ripe yellow apple, the palate was full, with an oily texture. This is one white wine to drink all year round.

Tiberio Carasuolo d’Abruzzo 2016
Cugnoli, Italy
In 2000, Riccardo Tiberio found a small lot of 60-year-old Trebbiano Abruzzese vines and decided he wanted a career change. In 2008, he handed over the reins to his daughter Cristiana, and son, Antonio, and they have made sure to keep the surname name in high regard. This wine is 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo that has been slightly pressed and underwent cold-maceration to give it an elegant scarlet colour. This wine had a surprising amount of structure, with notes of red berries, red cured meat and a touch of smoke.

Foradori Teroldego Rotaliano 2014
Mezzolombard, Italy
After the early passing of her father, Elisabetta Foradori took over the family vineyard at the young age of 19. It was her decision to slowly replant the winery with a clonal or massal selection of the Teroldego grape variety. With other producers in the same area, she was pivotal in saving the varietal. In 2000, she decided that she needed to do more and changed her vineyards into a biodynamic production after seeing the impact of conventional farming. Her wines are amongst – if not the very best in the world – when it comes to the Teroldego variety. Even though this wine is her entry-level label, it encapsulates the beauty of Elisabetta Foradori. The number one pick for the evening, this wine was showing very well, with peppermint, dark berries, cigar, leather and dust coating the palate to show a great example of Teroldego. For most, this was their first Teroldego wine, and I’m sure it will not be their last.

AltoLandon Organic Rayuelo 2012
Manchuela, Spain
Winemaker Rosalia Molina originally started out making wines solely for her family and friends. Once she realised she was getting rid of furniture in order to make more space for wine barrels, she decided it was time to fully immerse herself into the wine world. In vineyards 1100m above sea level, Rosalia is producing some unique wine within the area of Manchuela. Her Rayuelo label is a blend of Bobal, Malbec and Monastrell. Showing notes of violet, red and black pepper, and dark berries, it was more floral than expected but showed beautifully in the tasting.

Tetu Old Vine Grenache 2013
Maury, France
Kimberly James is a household name in the California Wine scene with her love and passion for fine wine. Having been in the wine business for 37 years, Kimberly not only runs a fine wine import company but also is now dabbling in producing some of her own wines. With the help of Richard Case in the Languedoc Region of France, they created Tetu to show their love for old vine Grenache. The wine showed ripe summer berries, with tar and a touch of sour cherries. Definitely the biggest and more fruit forward wine of the evening.

Once again, a huge thank you to everyone that joined in for this tasting. It’s important to show the powerful females in the wine world and to show that they are making some amazing, amazing wines. Thank you again to Peasant Cheese for supply the beautiful platters and pairings!

- Abi
Twitter: @babiller_de_vin
Instagram: @abigailjsayer

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New Beers for Autumn 2017 (Part 1)

Howdy there all you beer lovers!

It’s time once again for me to play catch-up! I have… just too many beers to talk about and brag about, and show off, and I want to do that now! However, there’s always other things to talk about as well, so I guess I should go through that stuff real quick.

The Craft Beer Advent Calendars have started arriving in the store, and if you haven’t pre-ordered one of these, then it’ll be first come-first serve with the ones open to everyone. I’ve received more details on the theme for this year as well. The “Around the World” theme is also an “All Stars” sort of theme, where Craft Importers sources from their very best and most popular brewers from their portfolio, which in my opinion, makes it a touch more exciting!

Aside from that, I want to give a shout out to Outcast for their amazing fresh-hopped IIPA that is on the growler bar RIGHT NOW! Be sure to make some time to come have a taste and grab a fill!

Ok, I want to get right to it here because I’ll have another post with even more beers after this delivery this week. So here are some new beers I’ve received in the past few weeks.

Ich Bin Berliner Blueberry by Mikkeller: Moderately crisp body, slightly fuller than your average Berliner, thanks to the added fruit. Dark purple in colour, and big notes of blueberry skins and general dark berries, along with a fairly mild tartness. ($6.19 for a 500mL tall can)

Ich Bin Berliner Mango by Mikkeller: Moderately tart and fruity Berliner Weise with mangos. Big mango aromas and flavours, along with a base of crackery wheat malt with lightly soured muddled fruit behind it all.($6.19 for a 500mL tall can)

Celebration Yuzu Sour bu Mikkeller: Fairly tart and funky brew with very notable zesty citrus aromas and flavours (but definitely distinct from your standard citrus). If you’re a fan of Yuzu, you owe it to yourself to grab several cans of this limited beer! ($6.99 for a 500mL can)

Drink’in Berliner Yuzu by Mikkeller: About as light and easy drinking as you can get! Throw all those Radlers out the window because this 2.7%abv Berliner is riddled with tasty wheaty tones and a ton of yuzu juiciness and is sure to satisfy your thirst. ($5.19 for a 330mL can)

Time For Dinner by Alley Kat: The first in a two-part beer. Brewed in the Parti-gyle method, the first wort runnings are to be released as the second beer in the future (a bigger body, higher alcohol beer), and the second runnings come to you now as this low alcohol, dry and lightly spicy table beer. ($8.59 for a 650mL bottle)

Symbiosis by Schmaltz brewing: Schmaltz brings you this pale Wheat Ale to commemorate 30 years of Star Trek. This bottle dedicated specifically to the TNG episode of the same name. Light and bready with hints of caramel and spice, hints of citrus and a good bitterness on the back end. ($5.09 for a 330mL bottle)

Wailua Wheat ale by Kona brewing: Wailua is a citrus forward Wheat Ale done with beautiful tart passionfruit. Quenching and light, and here to keep the warm weather present in your heart! ($21.39 for a 6-pack of bottles)

Gueuze by Mikkeller and Boon: Mikkeller and Boon Gueuzerie collaborate to bring you this delightfully tart and complex blend of lambics, done in the traditional way, but aged in ex-Calvados barrels. The outcome is a tart and funky brew with present minerality, citrus, light spice and apple tones. And a price that you can’t resist for a gueuze! ($18.89 for a 750mL bottle)

Single Hop Session Mosaic by Mikkeller: Light and malty IPA that is done in a low alcohol style. Hopped exclusively with Mosaic hops that give tropical fruity tones and citrus. Mild but pronounced bitterness finishes everything off nicely. ($4.99 for a 330mL can)

Single Hop Session Nelson by Mikkeller: A Nelson Sauvin single hopped session IPA to showcase the New Zealand hop in all its glory. lightly bready malts with a hint of sweetness, but low alcohol. Light grape and leafy green tones with hints of melon and citrus, and a firm bitterness (it is an IPA after all). ($4.99 for a 330mL can)

Sakura Gose by Burnside Brewing: An interesting take on a Gose by the addition of salt-cured cherry blossoms. Lightly tart, crackery malt Gose with tart citrus fruits, a notable salty tone, and a quenching mouthfeel. ($10.29 for a 650mL bottle)

Terminus 2 Hoppy Saison by Blindman and Yellow Dog: The second release in Blindman’s Terminus series was done with Port Moody’s own Yellowdog. This Hoppy Saison is a modern style, heavily dry-hopped with fruity hops that accentuate and lift the spicy and banana notes of the yeast used. The light body has a moderate sweetness that comes out more as the beer warms. ($17.59 for a 4-pack of tall cans)

Red Truck Lager: The perfect 8-pack lager to grab and go to whatever event you’re on your way to. BC’s Red Truck brewing is relatively new to Alberta, and their lager is a light bodied, easy drinking crisp beer with little bitterness, and light spicy hops. ($18.69 for an 8-pack of cans)

Sour Wench Blackberry by Ballast Point Brewing: Classic tart German Wheat beer, with good sour tangy grain tones and thanks to the addition of blackberries, an attractive purple hue and deep rich bramble notes with the high bitter berry tones as well. ($4.99 for a 330mL bottle)

Fat Tire White by New Belgium: New Belgium is pushing forward with their Fat Tire brand with this American take on a Belgian Wit. Spicy, and fruity yeasty aromas with a zesty wheat character. Finishes dry with a hint of farm-yardy funk. ($21.99 for a 6-pack of bottles)

First Rule IPA by Ninkasi: First rule is… A pine and spice forward IPA, hinting towards an old school style.  Featuring lovely biscuity pale malts, and a moderately off-dry bitter finish. ($10.39 for a 650mL bottle)

Satsuma by Steel & Oak: Light lager with good grainy tones and a hint of caramel. Light citrus from the hops come through nicely but doesn’t take away from what is through and through a lager. ($9.19 for a 650mL bottle)

Ode to Wallflower by Powell St: A super herbaceous beer thanks to the time spent in Wallflower gin barrels. Light golden colour with leafy citrusy hops. Easy to drink and perfect to pair with equally herbaceous meals. Rosemary chicken anyone? ($9.89 for a 650mL bottle)

The Julia by The Dandy Brewing Company: This Dandy favourite is finally in bottles! The Julia is a Kettle Sour, made to taste like a peach cobbler! Lovely peach tones with generous tartness, good malty sweetness and mild spice notes. If this doesn’t scream Autumn, I don’t know what does. ($9.99 for a 650mL bottle)

That’s a pretty nice selection if I do say so myself. I’m particularly fond of the Mikkeller yuzu beers myself. With all these beers, I haven’t even gotten into the fresh hopped beers yet! Stay tuned for those in the next post (it’ll come sooner rather than later, I promise). In the meantime though, there is plenty here to quench the thirst, and heck, while you’re in to get these, you can always see the stuff I haven’t yet mentioned.

So that’s about all for now. I’ll see you in the shop!

twitter: @ShawnsBrewsCGY

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Heading Back to AlBEERta

I seriously can’t keep track of all the new breweries opening in our fair province. It seems like every week there’s a new brewer coming out of the woodwork to show off its wares. I love the rate in which Alberta’s brewing culture is growing, but with so much happening all at once, we have to sit down once in a while and take a serious look at who’s doing what. So that was the purpose of this tasting. A bit of a free-for-all to see what some of the new guys(and older guys) are doing, who’s staying exciting, and who’s playing it safe!

So I’m pitting 7 beers, and 6 brewers against each other for this. Along with a dozen or so friends and some tasty Peasant Cheese snacks. The results were a little surprising, but definitely delicious. Have a look!

Hazy Horizon Hefe by Caravel Brewing: Classic but solid styles seem to be the starting lineup of Caravel. This very well done hefeweizen is not too heavy on the banana tones, but it still comes with nice clove tones to accompany the pillowy wheaty body. ($11 for 1L, $21 for 2L on the growler bar)

Multiverse Pale Ale by Zero Issue: A bright and citrusy pale ale be one of Calgary’s best new brewers. Light biscuit and toffee malt note with well-balanced bitterness and great complimentary citrus tones. ($15.79 for a 4-pack of tall cans)

Terminus #2 Hoppy Saison by Blindman and Steel & Oak: A lovely modern Saison that is heavily dry-hopped with fruity hops that accentuate and lift the spicy and banana notes of the yeast used. ($17.59 for a 4-pack of tall cans while supplies last)

The Senator WIPA by Village Brewing: A malt forward white IPA with nice cereal notes in the light wheaty base, with fruity hop aromas all over, and rounded all off with a moderate bitterness. Super easy to drink! ($9.29 for a 650mL bottle)

The Dandy Wild Sour by Dandy Brewing: A somewhat high test kettle sour by Calgary’s nano-brewing veterans. The sourced wild yeast give huge orchard fruits that go with the tangy lactic tartness like two peas in a pod. Pleasant malty sweetness accompanies the whole thing like an enveloping blanket. ($10 for 1L, $19 for 2L on the growler bar (while supplies last)

Dead Ahead Irish Red by Caravel Brewing: Another well crafted classic style. This dry Irish red has nice toffee flavours all over along with lightly toasted bread and generous crystal malt. Terrific for fall and the coming of the colder weather. ($7.19 for a 650mL bottle)

Bears Hump Nut Brown by Coulee Brewing: A medium bodied brown ale with a generous roasty character and semi-creamy feel. Toffee and bread, along with dried fruits and a touch of hazelnuts on the palate, and lead to a clean finish with soft and mellow bitterness. ($16.69 for a 6-pack of cans)

Ok… so who won? I guess winning, in this case, doesn’t mean THAT much. I mean it was just 7 beers, and everyone likes different styles, but here it is anyway!

Tied for first place was Caravel’s Dead Ahead Red (why do we have so many nautical themed brewers in Alberta anyway?) and Coulee’s Bears Hump Nut Brown! Tied for second place was Dandy’s Wild sour and Blindman’s Terminus #2!

That hoppy Saison was first for me, but I guess everyone was really down with the darker beers this time. So that’s it for this round! I’ll make sure to try this again around the middle of next year to see who reigns supreme then! Until next time.



Twitter: @ShawnsBrewsCGY



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Once More Unto the Bottle, Dear Gin Fiends, Once More


Gin, the Ruin of Many a Mother

By Hunter

With the completion of another gin lecture, I realize I have reached the threshold of counting gin classes hosted on ten fingers. Though this may be a melancholy realization as I leave behind the best tastings of my life and reach gin middle age, I am also happy to ruminate on what I have achieved. What that achievement might be is perhaps I haven’t bored a collection of 150 people eager to taste the botanical spirit. Who among that number could say they instead received a two-hour seminar on gin history and roughly analogous personal anecdotes on gin. If I did do exactly that, posh, who’s counting. If any one of my many new friends (rightly considered so given the bonding experience of “tasting” glass after glass of gin) or more aptly named gin alumni (for if you take a gin class with me you have ascertained a level of gin knowledge unsurpassable and make sure to challenge your friends and foes on that) feels that my lectures on William of Orange and wooing stories in mother’s basement over glasses of Hendricks was boring they surely number in the few. If one is to find themselves firmly placed in my aide-de-camp, this one is for you.

Gin is a definitive spirit that is constantly soul searching, what a conundrum. How can one make a splash these days with simply “Locally Harvested Botanicals” and “Grain to Glass”? Perhaps reinventing the category isn’t the answer, but instead finding out how to make a really good spirit. And I don’t mean botanical wise. What if, and hold onto the seat of your armchairs fellow critics, the distilleries made a really quality base spirit? Don’t take me for rhetorical, I am merely stirring the pot and asking a question in earnest. The broken record is back on the player and it is ready to repeat verbatim what was said in last post. Be quick and jump the needle before it starts. Ah, you are too late and for some reason the needle is now stuck with impossible gravity. Also, this analogy is bad. So be it.

White spirit as the foundation for what spirit is to be in its end product is so woefully overlooked when it comes to gin. As I have mentioned in the past gin is the most cash of cash crops. Make your money and get on with the stuff that you actually want to make. You know, the good stuff, the brown stuff that makes you sing of its merits while being careful to promptly refer back to the age-old saying, “but whisky will always reign supreme,” or something like that. This doesn’t matter all that much in the end game as distillers ought to do what they like. But gin, the sacrificial lamb, is overlooked in favour of achieving said goal. I feel that more frequently distillers are simply using the most convenient grain bill available looking at gin merely as means to an end. This is not enough; if North American Gin is to be taken seriously it needs specialized grain bills, specifically inclined to expressing the botanicals being infused. And for goodness sake why are so many of the new distillers producing such sweet products? Different from earlier, this question is of the rhetorical sort. It is because it masks imperfections easier, hides blemishes and makes it easier for the consumer to drink more readily. You see, the older producers had names for gins of this sort. Now the “Old Tom” style seems to so widely address the current North American gin production market that the term is almost irrelevant outside of traditionalists.

Now that that is all laid out here is what truly bothers me: the current gin market appears to have little concern for longevity and lacks the foresight to care. The current consumer restlessness is symptomatic of this; many gin consumers come in to ask what is new, and if nothing is new grab their old favourite which is invariably a classical example of gin (i.e., all the traditional or long-established names from the U.K.). In not entirely committing to some level of white spirit quality in favour of the ends that most distilleries seem keen on achieving the market ends up in a state of flux, the consumers engaging in a version of “the cult of the new” where flirtation never ends in commitment, at least not with the current interest.

So you might be wondering what this all means. It means that I poured all my old favourites for the tasting plus a couple new age examples of getting it right, at least in this writer’s most humble of opinions. Here is what we tasted during Gin, the Ruin of Many a Mother.

The Lineup

Glendalough Wild Botanical
In other releases from this distillery, the offerings were full of Thrills soap gum. Not today! Huge on the fleshy fruits and nut tones. A bit like ephemeral and exotic trail mix. Tasty and easy to work with, same goes for the price tag. All around success. $50

Berry’s No. 3 London Dry
Traditional London Dry executed to the nth degree of excellence. Crafted by rustic Holland distillers, Berry’s has the hookups to source this top quality spirit. Unlike the cocktailing easy mode that Hendricks offers Berry’s No. 3 is hard to perfect but extremely rewarding. If you nail a cocktail with this spirit you will be enjoying one of the best gin cocktails you have ever had and ever will have. That said you don’t have to be adventurous with this bottle. Be lazy like me, bust out the tonic and lime and you are set. $61

Hven Organic Distilled Gin
Have you ever fantasised about being in a woodshop all by yourself? Of course you have you very normal human. The forest tamed by mechanical beasts, the smell sultry with spruce tips and pine needles. Oh no, the trees are back for revenge. You thought you were going to be forming their tree-y bodies into lovely works of artistic wooden expression but instead you are now trapped amidst a sea of angry yet immovable beings. Are they sentient or merely alive? You be the judge. $70

Hayman’s Old Tom
The old stand-by for me. If you didn’t guess by the comments made earlier I am the ultimate armchair crusader, both lazy and verbose. But how can one easily quench the thirst of a being that expends so much energy whilst not wasting that energy unnecessarily? By not mixing one’s own highballs and cocktails no doubt. If the aforementioned speaks to you, I am both sorry and have a recommendation for you. Hayman’s Old Tom is perfect for those unwilling to compromise precious time “mixing” and fiddling by being ready to drink. This stuff is actually great, I love it. Keep it cool and drink it out of a mostly-full tumbler so that you can make long-winded and non-contiguous blog posts such as this. Highest accolades. $34

Remember how I mentioned Hendricks easy mode earlier? Well here is the new age interpretation of making your decision easy. I am almost reticent to include this in a tasting given that it always seems to steal the show. What’s the deal? I don’t know. I just know I like drinking it. Supple with berry fruits, rounded and slightly oily making for an easy afternoon beverage that will never turn you off. For example, sometimes I don’t know what I want to drink. Should I drink this mezcal or that mezcal? I can always easily choose Pickering’s gin. This post assuredly not sponsored by Pickering’s. $66

Last Best Kensington Wine Market Collaboration
Runner-up for the longest name given to a gin (I couldn’t include the other as it would run out the word count on this post); this collaboration was formulated by the combined efforts of Andrew and Bryce’s twisted minds (of which were also somehow conjoined in the process, but don’t worry, they got better). The intention of the final product was an interpretation of bubble baths and vaguely veiled bromances. It was a resounding success, at least in terms of achieving their warped goal. The gin itself is an Alice in Wonderland potion trip of lavender, juicy fruit, banana slices, and a miscellany of perception distorting aspects. I was only disappointed by the lack of “Drink Me!” neck tag. $55

Old Raj
Brought to you by Cadenhead independent spirits, this bottling is in line with the Berry’s model of product from an archaic Holland distiller whilst opting for the only slightly uncomfortable label that hearkens back to colonial India. Bottled at naval strength (55%) which allows one to adopt a sailor’s tongue faster than many other spirits out there, this gin has got it all. The condition is that you have to serve it in traditional quantities which if I recall correctly is quarts. Or was it pin… YARR MATEY. Ahem. Excuse me, that was unprofessional. Give this classic a go if you haven’t yet. It’s made with saffron! $55


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Scotch Malt Whisky Society Outturn for October 2017

The weather is slowly turning as we are into fall full-time and even seeing some part-time winter creep in as well. As is always the case, there is no better time for cask strength whisky – and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of Canada supplies this to us in droves. This October’s Outturn provides a wide variety of flavours from an eclectic mix of distilleries. Some of these we had seen featured in other recent Outturn but this month also includes a few distilleries that we have not seen in SMWS bottle form in quite a while – hailing respectively from the Lowlands and Campbeltown. Welcome additions to the lineup they are, but then there are not many unwelcome additions to any SMWS tasting in my humble opinion.

This also marks our first sighting of the new look Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottles, which add splashes of colour and tweak the label layout of the iconic green bottles. Four out of the seven bottles in the October 2017 Outturn are in the new style. We will continue to see some of the older bottles in future months but the new look is here to stay and are now the de facto style for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

Curious about the seven new bottles? Read on below – but first I would like to thank the always wonderful Peasant Cheese for providing the small bites to go along with our monthly pilgrimage up cask strength whisky mountain.


This 16 year old Lowlander spent 14 years in ex-bourbon wood before being transferred to a second-fill Sauternes hogshead for the remainder of its maturation and it comes in at 60.1%
Flavour profile:  Sweet, fruity & mellow
Outturn:  240 bottles
Panel’s tasting note:  “The nose had perfumed tropical fruits (peach, raisins, lemon bonbons, pineapple, passion-fruit) and polished wood. The palate combined those fruits (orange, papaya, banana) with toffee donut sweetness and some wood tannins; the finish found curry, wasabi and chili. The reduced nose detected cinnamon buns, Peshwari naan, cigarette packets and a Spanish bodega wine note. In reduction, the palate was now full of pleasant intrigue, any previous tensions were completely reconciled – exotic fruits and Eastern spice, sherbet straws and chocolate raisins – all wonderfully integrated – an eminently enjoyable dram. After fourteen years in ex-bourbon wood, we transferred this to a second-fill Sauternes hogshead.”
Drinking tip:  “While planning adventures” $173.99

Matured in a refill hogshead, this 19 year old Speysider comes in at 56%
Flavour profile:  Spicy & sweet
Outturn:  270 bottles
Panel’s tasting note:  “An expansive horizon of aromas lay before us, ranging from orange and apple blossom, dried rose buds, custard creams, syrup sponge cake, dried apple rings and bananas all the way through to caramel wafers, toasted pine nuts, coconut oil, dark chocolate and raisins soaked in Pedro Ximenez sherry. The palate boasted voluminous dimensions as fresh ginger, liquorice root, orange liqueur and black forest gateau opened into spiced marmalade, toasted almonds, chewy toffee and strawberry and apple smoothie. The finish was sweet with pipe tobacco in an old leather pouch, candle wax and a lasting suggestion of menthol.”
Drinking tip:  “For happy times watching the sunset” $196.99

From a 1st fill barrel, this 12 year old Speysider comes in at 60.7%
Flavour profile: Spicy & sweet
Outturn: 180 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “The train was hot and spicy, assisted predominantly by our delicious bloody marys with celery sticks, pickled ginger and sweet chili sauce. As the driver shovelled mounds of black pepper into the engine’s furnace we chugged our way through the Indian countryside passing trees of lemons, limes and sweet blood oranges. With a shrill “toot toot” of the engine’s whistle we entered a tunnel cut deep through a blueberry muffin mountain. We could smell the peppery smoke from the engine that also had the sweet aroma of honey roast nuts. Then to our delight the afternoon tea trolley came around carrying pancakes with lemon juice, nutella and vanilla ice cream.”
Drinking tip: “With spicy food and/or a fruity dessert” $135.99

44.78 – PEEK-A-BOO
At 57.6%, this 14 year old Speysider spent 14 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead and was then transferred to a virgin oak hogshead for the remainder of its maturation
Flavour profile: Spicy & dry
Outturn: 276 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “The nose suggested light fruit notes of apple, pear and sultana loaf with a nutty flip side of linseed oil and peanuts before arriving in a sweet demonstration of custard powder and icing sugar. However, concealed behind this alluring facade was an explosive palate of fireworks, liquorice, burnt raisins and burnt custard tart. Big, chewy and viscous with coffee cake, maple syrup, parsnips and soot sweetly finishing with old leather and tobacco. After spending 13 years in an ex-bourbon hogshead it was transferred to a virgin oak hogshead for the remainder of its maturation.”
Drinking tip: “For those contemplative moods” $154.99

This 9 year old Speysider comes in at 58.1% after maturing in a 1st fill Oloroso butt
Flavour profile: Deep, rich & dried fruits
Outturn: 594 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “The panel embarked on a bold expedition into spectacularly rich and robust sweet meats and Spanish jamon with charred oak and honey on grainy toast. The way was chewy and viscous with mouth-coating oils like eating warm crispy bacon. Then a beam of sunlight illuminated tangy tangerine and baked Seville oranges to provide a moment of refreshment before we delved deeper into paths of golden syrup and malty bran flakes. The journey finally came to an end when we approached the fresh wood of charcoal pencils dripping with the dew of young sherry whilst milk chocolate and the slightest suggestion of sulphur provided a deliciously rounded completion.”
Drinking tip: “Drink when all else tastes bland” $105.99

This 9 year old from Campbeltown comes in at 58.3% after maturing in a 1st fill barrel
Flavour profile:  Oily & coastal
Outturn:  222 bottles
Panel’s tasting note:  “The nose evokes a candy factory, with all the machinery working – outside there is a barbecue with mackerel and chestnuts roasting; runny honey mixed with balsamic and heather burning in the distance. The palate is rather curious – sweet-cured herring and salt and chili prawns, dried seaweed, light nut oil and liquorice. The reduced nose conjures a beach bonfire with hickory smoke and tarry driftwood; peppered salami, treacle scones and burnt jam tarts (blackcurrant). The palate becomes sweeter – sugar-coated fennel seeds and Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory – also an applewood fire cooking lobster and herb sausages – spearmint and ash to finish.”
Drinking tip:  “Might go well with charcuterie or smoked fish” $125.99

This 18 year old from Islay was matured in a refill hogshead and comes in at 55.3%
Flavour profile:  Peated
Outturn:  204 bottles
Panel’s tasting note:  “Clouds of dusty burnt ash began to settle on the remains of scorched wood and a pile of black soot with its characteristic tar-laden aroma. Sitting back the chimney sweep placed the lunch box on his blackened old leather apron and opened the lid to reveal smoked salmon on toasted rye bread, oat cakes with cinnamon honey and an olive and feta salad with a herbal dressing and crumbled smoked haddock. Opening his flask he poured a refreshing cup of eucalyptus and menthol tea and enjoyed the seaside view from the window as the tide gently washed against the seaweed-covered rocks.”
Drinking tip:  “As a welcome reward for knocking out an old fireplace” $274.99

Don’t forget we have plenty of past releases you can browse anytime on our Scotch Malt Whisky Society Pages.

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Wine Gift Club Selections for September

Here are the bottle selections for September’s Wine Gift Club:

Mayu Carmenere Gran Reserva 2014
Chile - Elqui Valley – Red
Originally from France’s Medoc region, Carmenere has become Chile’s flagship red wine grape. MAYU Carménère Gran Reserva, made from 100% Carmenere, is a stunning red with luscious black fruit on the palate. Notes of dried tobacco and espresso on the finish.  Best paired with hearty meat dishes and mature cheeses.  The word Mayu is an ancient Incan word that refers to the Milky Way.

Esser Cellars Cabernet 2013
USA – Monterey County – Red
Esser Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon emits deep aromas of black cherry, plum, dark chocolate and oak. Mouth-filling flavours of dark fruits, cocoa and vanilla are balanced with tannins and a lingering finish of sweet fruit and subtle spices. This can be paired with a broad range of food groups from burgers, to beef roasts, game and red pasta dishes.

Poggio al Sole Chiara Bianco Toscana 2015
Italy – White
A lovely blend of Chardonnay and Bianco di Sangiovese (yes, white Sangiovese!) from one of our favourite Tuscan producers. Production is very small with less than 10,000 bottles produced. Look for fresh lively flavours. Pair this one with goat cheese and arugula pizza, salads, or all by itself when you need a lift!

Azul Y Granza Vitis Blanca 2016
Spain – White
Viura and White Garnacha, varieties of native Iberian Peninsula white grapes, whose bunches are compact, middle-sized and with round, small, golden coloured grapes. Straw yellow, clean and bright. A concentration of varietal and mineral aromas. White fruit intermingled with hints of herbaceous type – notes of laurel, fennel and aromatic plants of low mount. Dry, balanced and tasty. Pairs well with fish, medium cheese and lighter pork dishes.

We pick a variety of unique bottles for our gift club members each month. More information about our Gift Club for both Wine and Beer take a look here.

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A spirit worth drinking? Or the Eudaimonia of Spirits with Hunter

By Hunter

Over the last seven years of my spirit enthusiasm, I have been a devout follower of the whisky market. The choice to be a whisky enthusiast was not one of happenstance. Quite the opposite: it was a conscious decision I made to choose a hobby that seemed best at reflecting my newly minted adulthood. Whisky appeared as the defining class of liquor that would set one’s appreciation and knowledge above the rest. Naturally, I was drawn to single malt scotch whiskies; the old boys’ club of long-held sophisticated pretensions. At the time I was eighteen, and for one of my age the market was daunting quickly consuming my interests and ultimately leading to my position at the Wine Market.

To my detriment though were the airs whisky puts on (or perhaps the airs we put on whisky). One may define it generally as a superb class of experience surpassing all other liquors, but why would this be a reasoned opinion? To put it simply, it isn’t; the concept of whisky being the spirits end game may be part of our social experience of which influence our perception of class. Media seems to portray success and the better things in life in the same basket, and why wouldn’t it. The problem in this sense is the perceived and arbitrary grandeur of whisky, usually scotch. An example might help illustrate this.

The financially well off business person has a decanter of some dark liquid and offers it to a client. “What’s in the bottle?” the client asks, “eighteen year old scotch whisky”. Of course the intrigue is palpable for what 18 year old scotch whisky is in the decanter, but the client doesn’t care and nor does the audience. The attention has been captivated and the ideas are now in place. This is one example, and perhaps a poor one, but I feel the notion is established. Who drinks scotch whisky? Successful people who experience nothing but the best. This has led to a tainted perspective regarding other spirits, a haughtiness that appears when one is already within the belly of the whisky beast.

The closed mindedness of whisky is sometimes entrancing, leading to generalized assertions regarding other spirits. I for one participated in them, finding other spirits tedious due to their mono-tonality. In imagining rum any more than two years ago I would have presumed that Demerara Distillers Limited was the extent of premium rums; the anomalous accounts in reference to DDL only redeeming themselves if they weren’t too far off my previously held standard of premium rum equalling sweet decadence. This palate shock has now only occurred to me two times, at least in regards to vast rethinking regarding entire spirits categories. Other slightly small epiphanies are always enjoyable and lead to numerous new experiences that I both cherish and also rue, if only for how long I turned my nose up at them.

We here in Alberta are lucky to have a such an expansive market open to so many varied and interesting alcohols. In having so many options it is regrettable to be closed off from entire sections of unique experiences, let alone boxing one’s self in definable grounds of enjoyment. For all the “I only like stuff from the Highlands” folk, everyone who asks to see if a store has Zacapa 23 if only to know it is there and the price, anyone who has been glommed onto bourbon through a taste (or even just the chase) of Pappy, throw the pretensions to the wind. You have experienced but one of the many unique options available to you, and to only ever experience that is to only ever eat one item off the menu. Doesn’t steak get old if you have it every day? If not, keep enjoying your swill. Here is what we tasted during “Why are so many rums named Ron? and other stupid questions.”


Kill Devil Caribbean Blended Rum
One of my ultimate table rum recommendations, this juice is the perfect combo of sweet and savoury. The layout is simple, If one is usually on the market for the typical amber Kill Devil brings the heat with a ton more quality. Likely to contain at least some Jamaican stock, this bottle holds a little bit of brown sugared orange slices, ginger, wisps of tangy, tropical funk, and something akin to an nutty candy bar. I’m thinking Eat More, but I might have to defer to Andrew, I think he is the Eat More bar expert. $45

Whisky Agency Rhum Barbancourt 12 Year
Bottled closer to 50%, Andrew claims this is classic Haitian style. Now I would be inclined to agree for a moderate and reasonable bonus, but as of yet, I can not officially confirm. The more important thing is that if you have recently had the pleasure of enjoying Barbancourt’s fine 15-year-old solera system Rhum then you may be taken for a spin in tasting this one. This spirit is little like it’s semi-older brother (see solera system), and it holds a lot more of the traditional Rhum Agricole traits. For one, the vibrant nature of this spirit is like the leftover juices from a Cora’s breakfast. Melon tones, floral and near perfumed, honey drizzle, followed by a slightly dusty/mineral tone, almost like stepping into an in progress basement. The spirit is cool and refreshing, like walking out on to cool cement with bare feet after a stuffy day. $160

Plantation 20th Anniversary Blend
If one isn’t too careful this bottle will drain in a night. Cursory check for all those Ron Millonario lovers: here is your new love. A bottling to celebrate Alexandre Gabriel’s rum meets cognac brainchild, this spirit was crafted from strictly Barbados stock in secret to surprise the head honcho on the anniversary of the companies inception. Taking a gander, I want to say the barrels used to make this are mostly from Foursquare distillers, and maybe, just maybe St. Nicholas Abbey, but that would be a stretch. All the stock is quite old too, at its youngest 12 years old, it’s oldest 20. To taste this beast is likely eating the Christmas dessert buffet. Ginger snaps, icing sugar glaze, ginger cakes, orange syrup, butter tarts, just decadence all the way through. $68

Plantation Jamaican 13 Year
Here come the funky sauces. If you aren’t in the know, Jamaican spirits sometimes hold special properties that make them, strange. For lack of a better word funk is thrown around quite often, the kind of thing that you know once you’ve had it. This release, undisclosed but very likely to come from Jamaica’s Hampden distillery, is more elegant up front slowly building its odd persona in the background. Likely from being partially matured in cognac barrels, this bottling invokes thoughts of bananas foster, cheap leather, brandy bows, peanut sauce, and a stinky old trunk full of old timey clothes. I was a little shocked that this was a favourite of the night, simply due to the slightly strange nature of the bottling. That said, we were only up to our ankles in the funk, the next few steps sunk us progressively deeper into the miasmic swamp. $75

Rum Nation Reunion 7 Year
Another in the Agricole style but this time with style. Rum Nation holds a dear place in my soul, being some of the first bottles I tried that challenged my appreciation of rum. Frankly, I didn’t like them and remember thinking they were gross. All the better to subject my willing rum participants to the experience that shook my taste buds out of their languor. Smells of apple cider made deep in the heart of Normandy, the apples likely pressed by feet. But do not tremble, carry on bravely to find notes of old leather saddlebags, the interior wafting of fruit on its way out, nutmeg and oak tannin prolific on the palate. The taught nature of this Rhum is marvellous, every aspect of it holding a tanginess while not becoming overbearing. Though it is potent, the funk isn’t too much for the usual rum enthusiast making this another favourite of the night. $75

Whisky Agency Long Pond 16 Year
Wow, just wow. Beautiful funk in its purest form at last. Long Pond is notorious for producing some of the weirdest and most sought after rums on the planet, bottlings of it quietly bought by those “in the know”. How I wish I was in the know a few years back when the Gordon and MacPhail Long Pond 58 year was sitting in front of me, waiting to be appreciated, only to be rejected by my too sophisticated palate. So much for my acclaimed infallible spirits knowledge. Be warned this thing is an oddity, and it is a thing, much less a creature of familiarity. One thing I would note is that a certain colleague of mine attributed this spirit to being the palate measuring stick. If you can stick it out with this and appreciate the nuance, you’re in the club. Congrats, now you can only taste what seems to be a barrel full of decaying plant matter and gelatin candies. Something on the nose is like a local and scary folk tale, the dunder that produces the funk on this bad boy howling out of the glass, hitting your senses with a wave of funk. Venture further into the depths and find something elegant, cloying, perhaps slightly off but enchanting. Is it the tire fire in the distance or the limes in your sweaty canvas shirt pocket? It is for you to decide. $170

Whisky Agency Uitvlugt 25 Year
With a name that roughly translates to “Out Flow”, one is not inspired with much confidence regarding the quality of the spirit. Uitvlugt was one of the last Guyana rum distillers to die out following the DDL consolidation period in the years leading up to 2000. Depending who you ask perhaps it was for good reason; this liquid is weird and so is everything I have tasted from Uitvlugt. That alone is not enough to call for its closure, but I would further argue that for a while I thought there was not a single redeemable quality to their spirits. They are outright odd, full of inorganic compound tones, and entirely unapologetic. If my preamble was to indicate any sort of enlightenment in regards to thinking of spirits with a new perspective, you would still be wrong. Tasting this thing is like sitting on the fence to the nth degree. On one hand the experience is so unique that you can’t stop yourself from tasting it. On the other hand it is near impossible to enjoy with your tongue being rubbed raw from barrel tannin overload. The bitterness of the palate is incomparable, describable as an extremely over-steeped Assam black tea, followed by storing the wet tea bag in a humidor for 2 weeks and then re-using it. A leather catchers mitt holding a dirty root vegetable is another way of thinking of this rum. I’m compelled to nose and taste this thing over and over again, but am always recoiling from the way it smacks you with every sip. I think the more I drink it the more I like it, maybe I’ll have another sip. $240

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