Making Bourbon Great Again, Again, Again

by Evan

We recently hosted another sold-out Bourbon/American Whiskey tasting here at KWM. Despite having to put up with me talking about the bottles at these Bourbon tastings, people still seem to be excited about tasting them.

This is for good reason: it doesn’t matter how boring my talks are, the bottles poured are typically represent very good value. Unless they happen to be a 15-year-old single cask Tennessee Whiskey like the last one in this lineup. That expensive exception aside, the other six bottles in the lineup were $115 bucks or less. Four of the bottles can be had for 75 bucks or less. In Canadian Dollars even!

I am very happy for two things: One, that these American Whiskey tastings are popular enough that we (I) can host at least one each season. The second is  that there is enough new American Rye and Bourbon hitting shelves for me to put an entirely new lineup together for pretty much every single tasting. Except when I want to revisit some old favourites…

What did I choose to feature in this round of our Making Bourbon Great Again tasting? Read on below!

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The Wines of Summer

by Abigail

So, summer hasn’t very much felt like summer as of yet. It’s rained, it poured, and it rained some more, but I’m English, so this is a style of summer I’m used to. And for the record, we’re not buried in snow *touch wood* and Calgarians are notorious for making the most of nice weather (i.e. patio-ing as soon as its above 0 degrees), so this evening is all about celebrating summer with wines that are perfect for quenched palates.

When thinking about wines that are summer friendly, it’s always safe to find styles of wines that are brighter in style, a touch lighter, and maybe lower alcohol (dehydration is REAL people!). For example, big heavy reds tend to have more of a comfort/warming effect, and that’s why they work so well during the winter months. But in the summer, we tend to switch directions, craving food/wine that have more of a cooling effect, which are wines that aren’t as bold or brash, rather wines that are brighter and fresher. For tonight’s line up, I wanted to showcase other wines to explore during the summer months, not just Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir (even though they are perfect for summer, or any time of the year). Tonight, we are going on an adventure for the perfect summertime juice!

Saint Cyr Pet-Nat NV
St. Cyr is based in the beautiful region of Beaujolais. The vineyard is planted mainly in the town of Anse, where the sun beats down on the land. They practice only organic agriculture, limiting the use of chemicals on the land, and not adding any gunk into the wine. All of their wines on our market are perfect for summer, but the Pet-Nat is something special. Made from 100% Gamay, this dry, unfiltered sparkling wine shows notes of cloudy apple juice, blossom, citrus and a touch of spice. It’s a wine that is easy, breezy, yet energetic. Enjoy any day of the week, especially if a patio is involved. $36.99

Domaine du Haut Bourg Pavillon Muscadet 2017
Located in the heart of the Appellation Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu, the Domain du Haut Bourg has been built by four generations of winegrowers. The first vine was planted in 1944 and today the total area of the vineyard has grown to 40 hectares. Pavillon is the name of the parcel where the grapes are from. The vines are 40 years old and produce a fine wine that is chock-full of minerals and bracing acidity. Showing greater length and complexity, this wine opens up to classic melon, citrus notes in the nose, but more reserved and more complex. $22.99

Tenuta di Castellaro Bianco Porticello 2017
I chose this one because not only is a perfect wine for summer, but the wine itself is named after one of the most popular beaches in Lipari! Malvasia Bianco and Carricante grapes from the volcanic island of Lipari, just north of Etna. Salvo Foti is the guru. All bush vines, no chemicals, all by hand, native yeasts. A dry white wine, with a straw yellow colour with bright green reflections, which comes from the combination of the liveliness of the Carricante and the aromaticity of the Moscato Bianco and Malvasia delle Lipari. The scent is herbaceous and fruity notes, with hints of apple, make it fresh and balanced. $29.99
Winner for the evening!

Terra Vecchia Une Ile Rose 2018
Set in Corsica, known as “lle de Beaute”, the domaine stretches between the sea and the mountains, on land filled with history. The combination of terroir and ancient Corsican grape varietals has given Domaine Terra Vecchia worldwide recognition. This rose is a very expressive and complex, combining notes of red fruit, candy and citrus. Fresh and full on the palate with aromas of grapefruit and red currants. The long and delicious finish is the expression of a stylish, well-made wine. 100% Nielluccio. This wine can be enjoyed on all drinking occasions. Its freshness makes it perfect as an aperitif and its elegance allows it to accompany the finest Mediterranean or exotic dishes. $25.99

Cacique Maravilla Pipeno 2017
The history of the estate goes back to the conquistadors and the first vines were planted at that time. The Malbec and Pais originate from vines planted in 1766 (10 years before the United States declared independence!). Farming and winemaking are done in a traditional, natural approach. All farm work is done organically and the vineyards are dry farmed which allow a fuller expression of the unique volcanic soils of the area. Located in the Bio-Bio Valley in Chile, Cacique Maraville shows the true essence of ancestral winemaking. There Pais is something most would not recognize. its tart, earthy and full of life. It’s definitely the curveball for this tasting, but it also comes in a 1 Litre bottle, so perfect for sharing! $40.99

Tenuta di Castellaro Ypsilon 2016
Another wine from Castellaro, but this one is certainly a great red for summer sipping! The latest addition to the Castellaro home: a new red wine that takes its name from the geographical shape of the Aeolian archipelago, which draws a Ypsilon lying on the sea, off the Sicilian coast. It is a blend that harmonizes three red berries characteristic of Lipari, Sicily and Etna: Corinto, Nero d’Avola and Alicante in a wine ready to drink, purple and full-bodied that maintains freshness and minerality. $33.99
Winner for the evening!

Merayo Sangria NV
Merayo winery is Pedro Merayo ́s dream. With the help of his oenologist and friend Fermín, he modified the fruit warehouse and started the adventure of commercializing quality wines based on the varieties Mencía, Godello and some Valenciana. They have been helped by the fact that they have some amazing old vines and recovering almost 20 hectares of southern orientated vineyards near Valtuille de Arriba and Villafranca, from where you can see the ruins of the wine-press of Penediños.

This Sangria is a special production originally made just for friends. We would like to consider ourselves friends because this is a semi-exclusive wine to Kensington Wine Market and we are one of the only places in the world outside of the winery itself where you can get it. With this amazing wine you don’t have to worry about mixing, adding fruit or doing anything else other than cracking a bottle and trying to make sure you don’t drink it too fast, because it is that delicious! The term ‘dangerously drinkable’ was possibly originally created to describe this wine.

We are sharing it with our friends so now you can get a bottle or three (while it lasts) to share it with yours! $25.99

Hopefully, this tasting or this blog post opens some new ideas of what to enjoy this Summer. Thank you to everyone who attended, and thank you to Peasant Cheese for supplying the nibbles!

- Abigail Pavka

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Tight Wad: Junk and Juice

by Brianna

Wine has a wonderful yet sometimes pretentious reputation to be accompanied with fancy five-course meals or food that is equally expensive. Well if you’re like me sometimes all you want to do is sit in your pj’s watching reruns of The Office, for the millionth time. What affordable snack and wine would go well with this perfect evening, you may ask? Oh, how about some sparkling Vouvray with Chicago mix or Mac n Cheese with Chardonnay. These are the types of ideas we explored and sampled at the Junk and Juice tasting.

The oh so fancy pairing; Domaine des Aubuisieres Vouvray Brut with Chicago Mix

My goal was to find a snack of whom we’re all familiar with but give it a partner to elevate its stature. The caramel and cheese combination is genius! Giving us all what we crave, the sweet and salty. Paired with the delicate effervescent of the Vouvray refreshes after every sip. Therefore, if you need a break from the fistful of Chicago mix, Vouvray Brut will do the trick! This was the 3rd favourite of the evening.

Spice up your life pairing; Kuentz Fleur D’Alsace with Veggie Samosa

Every once and a while we crave a snack that challenges us both emotionally and mentally. However, it must not challenge us physically. That is why I chose a veggie samosa for our next pairing. Samosas can either be gorgeously handmade at a restaurant or something frozen you pick up in aisle 6. Kuentz Fleur D’Alsace went beautifully with the satisfying yet slightly spicy samosas. This white wine has the following bouquet; Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Blanc. Together they created a slightly off-dry wine with a complex floral yet spicy notes. This pairing was one of two favourite picks tonight. When pairing spicy foods with wine keep it simple. Try to find a wine with little to no tannin or a little sugar to help calm those taste-buds.

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Canadian Whisky Rising

by Evan

The Canadian Whisky scene as a whole can be described as three or four Goliaths plus a few dozen or so (with more on the way) Davids. Many of these Davids are up and coming Craft Distilleries, a few of which are featured in this tasting. You have a few that have been operating for nearly a decade and sometimes more like Two Brewers, Shelter Point, Still Waters Distillery (Stalk & Barrel), and so on. Then you have the newest generation in which I would include Eau Claire, Burwood, Last Best, Victoria Caledonian, Dubh Glas, and many more. Some of these now have actual, bonafide whisky that they have produced themselves and released. Others are in hurry-up-and-wait mode when it comes to whisky, with nothing in a barrel that has reached the three-year mark needed to legally qualify, biding their time selling vodka, gin, and aged spirit releases.

The “Domestic” and “Import” Beer industry has suffered a thousand cuts over the last decade or more, as many customers flock to the many craft beer producers that continue to pop up. The industry of Big Beer is nowhere near close to dying, but whole swaths of beer lovers have essentially written them off. In my opinion, the main reason for this is that a lot of consumers have decided flavour and variety are king. When you can have a new seasonal or one-off beer in your hands every day of the week, do you really need to go back to the Molson, Labatts, Heineken and Stella of the world?

It could be that we will see the same thing happen on the whisky side of things. I would argue we already have – at least on a smaller scale. We have more choice in Canadian Whisky then we have ever had before, and as more distilleries get closer to whisky-age, this will continue. This and other influences already seem to have pushed the big companies to innovate and offer more new releases – many at the higher than bog-standard 40% ABV. You also see a greater push for more flavour, usually through more experimentation with barrels and/or a push for more flavourful grains and casks to be used.

Hopefully, that continues as well. A decade ago, it would have been easy to write off the Canadian Whisky Industry as a whole as stagnant and homogenized; happy to blend away the flavour with neutral casks and bland, bulk whisky. With the single malt boom and the current rye resurgence, things are shifting.

The best part of all of this chaos? More choice for us whisky lovers! That, and I can pour an eight-deep lineup of Canadian Whisky where NOTHING is stuck at the dreadfully low 40% ABV…

Curious about the lineup? Read on!

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Natural Wine Battle

by Dave At our recent Natural Wine Tasting, we were lucky enough to have Erik Mercier from Juice Imports and Andrew Stewart from Vino al Vino Wine Imports going head to head for 4 rounds of wine vs wine battle. They tried to pick wines that had similarities, with selections focused on minimal intervention style wines or “natural” wines.

I personally have a very hard time with the term “natural wine”. First and foremost it is because there is not a set or agreed upon definition of what it exactly means. It can mean one thing for one person but something different for someone else. The other unfortunate part is that a lot of wine that has been termed as natural may potentially sell quite a bit even though it could be just a faulted wine.

For this tasting, we were lead by two very knowledgeable and resourceful agents that we work with quite a bit who both focus on minimal intervention wines. This basically means that the people who produce these wines use little mechanics, don’t add anything to their juice, use minimal interference when producing their wines and also have low to no sulphur added. Some of the wines that they represent are some of the best and most sought after in the world and we are fortunate enough to be able to taste them here in Alberta.

To start the night we went off with a bang of face ripping acidity, Riesling vs Riesling. Both of the Rieslings were from the new world. One from California and the other Australia.

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Scotch Malt Whisky Society of Canada July 2019 Outturn

by Evan

July is here, the Calgary Stampede is underway, and it is raining outside as I type this. I am sure we could use the rain (as long as it doesn’t lead to flooding), and I personally prefer when the temperature doesn’t go above 20 degrees Celsius outside. It may bum out most everybody else, but at least I am happy!

In the summer months, the Scotch Malt Whisky of Canada releases six new bottles instead of the typical seven. At KWM, we add a returning SMWS bottle to the lineup that was featured in a previous Outturn. July’s bottle is 72.57 – CHEERFUL SOUL, which was originally released as part of the December of 2018 Outturn. Regularly priced at $126.99, the price has been dropped on the few remaining bottles by 15% off to $107.94!

What are the new six bottles in the July Outturn? Here is a quick rundown:

  • We start with two solid, summer-ready sippers, including one of my favourites from the lineup: the first release we have seen from Distillery 88 in Canada. The saltiness in the dram was enticing…
  • The second dram offers an exciting mix of sweet notes and oak. Like the 72 featured above, the distillery that produced this bottle of 71 also plays a prominent role in the Ballantine’s Blend.
  • The SMWS Canada chapter had saved a Bourbon with a Stampede-ready name for this Outturn. Bucking Bronco is the second Bourbon we have seen in a green bottle in Canada. Both have been from B3 – a young distillery in Little Rock, Arkansas. Looking for a cask strength Bourbon with wood, fruit, and a lot of other notes going on? Check this one out.
  • We finished the lineup with three straight cask finishes. Each one was wilder than the last. First up was my favourite from 135, which hails from the most versatile distillery in Scotland. It was finished in a first fill Sauternes cask, but it is unlike any other Sauternes cask finish I have personally tried…
  • Next comes what is a contender for best recent SMWS bottle name: SPEYGERMEISTER! Not only worth checking out for name alone, this guy is a crazy px cask finish that doesn’t just go for syrup and sweetness in style.
  • Last but not least comes our only foray into peat, but not from Islay. Great Fun comes to us from the Highlands workhorse distillery that is featured in Teachers Blended Scotch. Finished in what might be called an STR cask by other companies. It is a wild twist on this distillery’s typical style. Continue reading
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A Night in Reims (Champagne Tasting)

by Abigail

Champagne is a drink of beauty; It’s delicate, yet unapologetically powerful in its elegance. It’s a wine style that should be celebrated more, any day of the week, not only consumed on special occasions.

Champagne became known as a celebratory wine during its popularity in the Belle Epoque, a period of time between the end of the Franco-Prussian war in 1871 and the beginning of World War One in 1914. It was an era filled with optimism, regional peace, economic prosperity, and innovation.  During this period, Champagne was consumed in plenty and became part of the celebration myth that it is still wrapped up in today.

We open a bottle on new years eve, at graduation and weddings, yet it’s not widely consumed on other occasions. This tasting was to show the beauty of Champagne, to see it as versatile as other wine styles, and to show how unique champagne can be.
In this tasting, I wanted to pour everything we have to the shelves, but unfortunately, I couldn’t. Instead, I decided to show Champagne in a few different stages and styles; Aperitif, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Vintage. The reason for doing this was to exemplify the difference between each and every style of champagne, without pigeonholing into one characteristic.

Here is the lineup that we tasted our way through!

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Scotch Malt Whisky Society of Canada June 2019 Outturn

by Evan

HEY SMWS CANADA MEMBERS: Have you been to the revamped SMWS.CA website yet? The website was just makeover, and it has a new option included for how you would like to receive the quarterly Unfiltered Magazine.

All SMWS Canada members now have the choice between receiving the magazine by mail as usual, or opting out and just reading the online version available through SMWS Canada’s website. Choosing not to receive the physical version of the magazine will get you a discount on your annual membership renewal.

The online version of Unfiltered Magazine can be viewed as long as you remain and SMWS member, and the online archive allows you to view a decade of past issues as well. It is definitely worth a login to check out if you have not already.


Hey… I know those guys!

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Rum Runnin’

by Shawn

Oh boy do I love rum! The rich -and at times unfortunate- history, the variety, the international penetration, and of course the drink itself! Just as I did last time I put on one of these, I wanted to create a lineup of interesting rums from a variety of countries and styles, and of varying qualities, and I think I succeeded in just that. Some newcomers and some old favourites, and natural, because this is Kensington Wine Market, some real rarities!

I’m not all that certain what pirates ate besides limes, so I just asked the lovely Peasant Cheese to throw together tasty boards full of cheese and meat. That works well enough! Well enough for an informative evening of swigging rum and singing a sea shanty at least! Well… maybe there wasn’t any singing, but that’s mostly because I’m not the sort of person to start that sort of thing off. Here’s what was swiggin’ though!

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Scotch Whisky Regions? Really?!

by Curt

The whisky regions of Scotland. A subject bound to raise the hackles of whisky geeks. For those less inclined to delve down into the real nitty gritty of the whisky world, the regions become a simple way to target what they think will be the bottles that suit their palate. Unfortunately, the producers are not so inclined to cooperate. And there’s a good reason why. But let’s save that that for the end of this rambling little monologue, what say? Read on, folks…

This tasting was focused on an issue that is kinda ‘near and dear’ to my heart: the value of regions in defining flavour profiles. On its surface, the concept seems rather ludicrous. It wasn’t always this way, however. There was a time when those regional boundaries (both real and imagined) literally did define some sort of loose-fitting flavour camps. The question for tonight was whether or not our attendees found value in these designations. And whether or not they would at the end of our time together. But let’s come back to that in a moment. (Yes, I’m teasing a bit here. Bear with me.)

Single malt lovers are a rather singular breed. Their passion knows no bounds. And when they fall in love, they fall in love for keeps. Most people find it all begins something like the big bang theory. The great cosmic event, that is, not the TV show. There’s one defining eureka! moment and suddenly an ever-expanding universe of wonder awaits. It grows continually and when you get deep enough into it, you realize that there’s almost an element of time travel involved. Worm holes anyone? Bending the space-time continuum? Suddenly, contemporary malts won’t cut it. Nor will the prospect of upcoming releases. That becomes the point where we start digging into the past. Historic bottlings, closed distilleries, long lost histories. Come to think of it, maybe it’s more of a black hole than a worm hole. Once it takes hold and pulls you past the event horizon, there is simply no going back. Continue reading

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