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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Scotch Malt Whisky Society Outturn for September 2017

September is here and for many that will mean the end of summer. Holiday time is finished, the kids are back in school and we could all use a drink. But then again, when couldn’t we use a drink? Something cask strength from a green bottle would be preferable so with that in mind let us dive into 7 of those green bottles with the September Outturn for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of Canada.

We held three tastings for this new lineup and all were well-attended, giving SMWS Canada members and non-members alike the opportunity to taste the new bounty. Small bites were provided by our wonderful neighbour Peasant Cheese.

Along with this new outturn we also have stock of past releases for tasting and purchasing in store. If there are bottles from previous Outturns that you are curious about please ask us – some may still be available or there may be something similar worth a try!

twitter: @sagelikefool
instagram: @kwmwhisky @sagelikefool

Here are the seven new releases for September:

This 12 year old Speysider was matured in a 1st fill barrel and comes in at 57.7%
Flavour profile: Juicy, oak & vanilla
Outturn: 216 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “We felt like before the first time meeting the girlfriend’s parents, a bouquet of white oriental lilies and roses in one hand and a bottle of Gewürztraminer in the other – we had a couple of glasses from a second bottle before we got as far as the door and knocked. The door opened and we were greeted with open arms, got offered crumpets with slightly burned edges with butter and strawberry jam and pretty strong espresso which packed a punch. Water brought out bonfire toffee and fruity strawberry fudge before we all relaxed with a Mai Tai in the conservatory.”
Drinking tip: “Before a big moment or at any moment”

Matured in a 1st fill barrel, this 9 year old Speysider is 58.9%
Flavour profile: Juicy, oak & vanilla
Outturn: 222 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “A fruity, slightly herbal note at first like an apple spritz cocktail using extracts of gentian and a little fresh muddled mint before sweeter notes of marzipan and green and red grapes covered in a fine layer of white chocolate appeared. Juicy fruity on the palate; a tropical fruit salad with chunks of pineapple, mango, kiwi and papaya, with the addition of a creamy coconut almond dip on the side – delicious! When we added water we imagined sitting under swaying palm trees eating rum soaked cherry coconut ice cream with dark chocolate and toasted pecans – no hurries … no worries.”
Drinking tip: “Dreaming of sun, sea and sand”

This 14 year old Speysider is 56.8% after maturing in a refill hogshead
Flavour profile: Spicy & sweet
Outturn: 234 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “We were transported to a Thai street food market with a never-ending variety of fruits as well as a wide selection of dishes on offer all smelling of exotic spices being cooked right in front of us. The stall we stopped at served barbecued spice-rubbed chicken with a kumquat-lemongrass dressing. We decided to have a plateful of it and the mouthfeel was a delicate balance between sweet and spice with a light smoky finish. After some water we were drawn to aromas of rice noodles, shrimp and scallion rolls which we dipped in a soy and oyster sauce – weird but wonderful!”
Drinking tip: “Open your mind and you open your life”

Matured in a 1st fill barrel, this 13 year old Speysider is 62.5%
Flavour profile: Spicy & sweet
Outturn: 189 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “Just like a sultry summer’s day – fragrant and heady – and we all cooled down with a lavender honey ice cream and a rich, creamy peach milkshake with cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg. The cinnamon was very much apparent on the palate but now in a caramel cinnamon latte, which was served with a flambé crepe Suzette; caramelized sugar, tangerine juice, zest and Grand Marnier. Diluted, a picture of a delicate ornament on top of a cake made out of spun sugar emerged and the taste was now a sweet tingling experience like a spiced blood orange Champagne punch.”
Drinking tip: “Let’s celebrate the good times”

This 15 year old Speysider is 60.4% after maturing in a virgin oak butt with a heavy toast and medium char
Flavour profile: Deep, rich & dried fruits
Outturn: 594 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “An unstraightforward, extrausual nose – we, the no-flannel  panel, found oodles of tastylicious toffeenesses, essence of BFG (black forest gâteau), prunes, Madeira-madearie, tobacco threads and polished pipes. The gob-smack was gob-smackingly impactful and chewy as a Wookie’s teazle – maple candies, cinder toffee, cherries in syrup, leather and spice. The water-weakened nose had well-stroked razor-stroppers, fine-and-fancy fumadors, orange peel, lickerish liquorice and pink and dandy candy floss – tip-top snifferoos. The taste was now all fig jam and Jaffa, Jamaicy ginga cakey, juicy pear-belly Helene and sugar-coated fennel seeds. A crodscollop dram to drain hum-drum tedium from the dullest day – gloriumptious, phizz-whizzing and jumpsquiffling.”
Drinking tip: “A lip-smackering accompaniser to reading Roald Dahl”

This 9 year old Highland Islander comes in at 57.3% after maturing in a refill barrel
Flavour profile: Oily & coastal
Outturn: 228 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “Next to the seaside smokehouse and amongst the tarry ropes and old fishermen’s nets was an odd place to sip margaritas whilst snacking on sweet pickled herring, smoked bacon in grainy bread rolls with brown sauce and oysters with balsamic vinegar. But that’s just the way we rolled. From the smell in the air it seemed they were smoking duck today, perhaps with some sort of marmite glaze. As the margaritas evaporated we looked forward to our dessert of salted caramel ice cream with lime sauce and a spoonful of thick cut marmalade.”
Drinking tip: “Alone with a pencil and a drawing pad prepared to be amazed at the outcome”

This 20 year old from Islay was matured in a refill hogshead and is 54.6%
Flavour profile: Lightly peated
Outturn: 228 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “On the beach was an unusual place to find a florist shop, however the perfumed bouquet of pink roses, heather and violets seemed to balance rather nicely with the nearby bonfire and the smouldering damp sticks that had been placed upon it. Someone was toasting marshmallows to go with melted chocolate on Belgian waffles whilst around the other side someone else was cooking bacon that had been stretched across twigs and drizzled with maple syrup. We had with us a punnet of peaches, perhaps we could smoke those on the bonfire too, sprinkled with a little brown sugar.”
Drinking tip: “Drink when all the boxes need ticking”

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New beers for early September

Brace yourselves, we’ve got a whole slew of new beers for you all. I’ve been carefully compiling this shelf full of tasty brews and I’m ready to unleash them onto the unsuspecting public. From big IIPAs to crazy funky sours, and even the appearance of the first (of many) Oktoberfest beers, we’ve got ‘em all! Read on!

Dumb Funk Brett IPA by Parallel 49: The addition of Brett gives this IPA a light funk tone, and a noticeable yeastiness. Fluffy mango and muddled tropical fruit cup with nice malty notes and a good bitterness to finish it all off. ($7.59 for a 650mL bottle)

Oktoberfest by Sierra Nevada: Marzen is the quintessential Oktoberfest bier. Sierra Nevada’s rendition is a robust malty beer with mild spice and grassy notes. Not too sweet, and the German hops provide a nice balance, making the beer incredibly comforting and pleasant. ($3.99 for a 350mL bottle)

EE Tah! IPA by Anderson Valley: Light, wheaty malt profile with layers and layers of Chinook, Citra and Amarillo hops. Huge citrus and tropical syrup, with light floral, juicy notes. Moderate alcohol stays in balance with the lightly sweet malts, and support the fruity tones nicely. ($3.69 for a 355mL can)

Old Stumpy Pine IPA by Fernie: Old Stumpy is a light bodied IPA with a pretty pronounced layer of pine sitting on top of hints of citrus and hoppy floral notes. 7 different hops keep the palate complex and in balance with the malt ($8.49 for a 650mL bottle)

Fugli Fruit IPA by Oskar Blues: Fugli is a unique IPA featuring an infusion of Yuzu and Ugli fruits. A lighter style IPA with fruity mosaic hops on top of the interesting citrus tones of the featured fruits, and a firm bitter finish. ($21.99 for a 6-pack of cans)

Prairie Pride by Toolshed: An Alberta made beer through and through. Alberta grown barley and wheat, malted in Alberta, along with Alberta grown hops, our crisp, clear water, and a wild yeast captured right here in our beautiful province! Light, and mildly spicy. Saison-ish with a prominent estery finish. ($16.69 for a 6-pack of cans)

Real Peel Grapefruit IPA by Fernie: Grapefruit peel and the most citrusy of the hops, in a light, super quenching IPA. What do you think the outcome would be? Citrus, pine, sweet malt with an oily bitter finish. ($18.29 for a 6-pack of cans)

Vagabond Pilsner by Bad Tattoo: This is a light and super easy pilsner, not trying to be overly complex or challenging. Drinking it in context for me would be on a hot patio with the sun just about to turn the sky pink. Lightly floral with hints of spicy hops on a clean and slightly bready malt. ($7.89 for a 650mL bottle)

Lifted Embargo IPA by Latitude 33: A San Diego style through and through. Light and crisp malt with big citrus and sappy hop tones throughout. A decently dry beer for the most part with lovely floral tones and a hint of sweetness popping up here and there. ($10.59 for a 650mL bottle)

White Knuckle WIPA by Mt. Begbie: Everyone’s favourite style hybrid! Silky and frothy wheat with mild spice tones, combined with fruity, floral citrusy hops to give you a soft, but punchy brew with a mild bitterness. ($7.99 for a 650mL bottle)

Moon Dance Mango Wheat by Old Yale: Wheaty, frothy and fruity with a fluffy head. Mango and banana are the big players, with cereal-like notes here and there. Silky wheat keeps the palate somewhat clean, but still, some oily fruity tones linger around. ($3.49 for a 355mL can)

Pegasus Pale by Ol’ Beautiful: Ol’ Beautiful is new to the scene here in Calgary. Pegasus is a well-balanced pale with generous malt flavours and hints of grassy citrus and floral notes. Very easy drinking! ($7.99 for a 650mL bottle)

Hopocalypse Meow by Phillips: This is the 2017 anniversary ale from Phillips. A big IIPA loaded with tropical hop flavours and aromas. A rich and moderately sweet maltiness and a dense oiliness from the hops. ($8.59 for a 650MmL bottle)

Frucht: Lemons and cherries by The Bruery: The Frucht series is always a mouth smacking puckery tart bomb, and this one is no different. Ripe cherry with mild spice and a crisp zesty lemony zing. This beer is super quenching and just loaded with oaky funk. ($22.49 for a 750mL bottle)

Goses are Red by The Bruery: A Gose by any other name…  This beer is Gose meets Rose wine. Crisp, spicy, salty and very tart, then comes more crisp grapes and light skin tones. Super refreshing, funky and of course, very sour. ($19.49 for a 750mL bottle)

Farm Table Saison by Beau’s: light, crisp body, with aromas of spice and grass. semi-complex grains give an enjoyable feel with hints of tartness and flowers. Low alcohol and easy to drink with big carbonation. ($8.19 for a 600mL bottle)

Hop Lion by Double Mountain: Light golden IPA with big citrus, tangelo and tropical fruits, along with pronounced sappy and floral tones. Crisp and bitter on the palate with more citrus and a light malty sweetness. ($8.69 for a 500mL bottle)

Not a bad little selection hey? And don’t forget the growler bar. We’re pouring Make That a Double from Outcast, along with a wit from Coronado, High Five Hazy IPA from Yellow Dog, and the Beltline Conductor Lager from Trolley 5.

Anyway, that’s all for now.

Until next time!



Twitter: @ShawnsBrewsCGY

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Out of Their Comfort Zones with Abigail

Like any agricultural practice, not every crop can grow everywhere. Some are better suited to the brisk, damn weather along the Atlantic Coast, whilst others are better suited for the dry, desert-like conditions of the Mediterranean. Grapes and viticulture are no exception. It takes a lot of dedication to make sure a particular grape will grow in a region, but there are some lucky few who made it happen. For this tasting, we explored the unique few that have created wine where it technically shouldn’t belong.

The lineup:

Benjamin Bridge Brut Rose
Nova Scotia, Canada
I don’t know about you, but when I think of Canadian wine regions, Nova Scotia isn’t the first to come to mind. It’s a touch cooler than most growing regions, and with the brisk and sometimes fierce Atlantic winds, it doesn’t seem like it would work out. The masterminds behind Benjamin Bridge figured that they were a similar latitude to Champagne, and decided why not try. Since then, they have made a name for themselves as a Sparkling Wine House, and are producing some delicious traditional method bubbly. This Rose Brut is a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. It has delicate bubbles, with notes of raspberry, citrus and brioche. All of us decided it would be perfect with a simple, fresh scallop dish, or maybe just some fresh oysters. $56.99

Zocker Paragon Vineyard Gruner Veltliner
Edna Valley, California
Located in the heart of Edna Valley, just outside San Luis Obispo, this winery was created to go against the conventional idea of Californian Wine. ‘Zocker’ roughly translates to ‘Gambler’ from German so from the name alone you can tell that Jack Niven wanted to take some risks when he started to produce wine in the early 1970’s.  He started production with Gruner Veltliner, which isn’t seen all too much in this part of the world, but yet, created a produced that nicely represents the Austrian varietal. With a deeper lemon hue, this wine had notes of ripe citrus, blossom and melon. $29.99 KWM Exclusive

Montauto Gessia Sauvignon Blanc
Tuscany, Italy
The Lepri family started out producing only red wines that thought suited and showed their terroir of the coastal area of Maremma, the best. Eventually, Rochardo Lepri decided to challenge himself to grow some Sauvignon Blanc, something he didn’t have too much knowledge on. Evidentially, his Sauvignon Blanc became the family’s favourite, and for good reasons. It shows the true characteristics of their terroir, with notes of citrus, apple, minerality and slight herbal notes. $31.99 KWM Exclusive

Bassus Pinot Noir
Utiel-Requena, Spain
Pinot Noir is known as the ‘heart-break grape’, destroying the dreams of any wine maker trying to make this light red in climates either too cool or too warm. Utiel-Requena, just outside of Valencia, is a place that could be seen as too warm for Pinot Noir production, but the geniuses behind Bassus have it all figured out. With higher altitude in UR, the temperatures are friendly to Pinot Noir, producing a round, and slightly more robust wine. $42.99 KWM Exclusive

Fox Run Vineyard Lemberger
Finger Lakes, New York
New York is a young, up and coming wine region, making some outrageous wine from Riesling and even some American varietals. Lemberger, also known as Blaufrankish, is a grape predominantly grown in Austria and is one that stands out in this neck of the woods. Starting off as a Dairy Farm, Fox Run transformed into a winery in the mid-80’s. Its unique geographical location gives this winery an edge, producing wines that showcase their terroir. This Lemberger showed crazy minerality, accompanied by dark berries, herbaceous notes and also a touch of leather. $31.99

Hesketh Small Parcels Bonverdo
Barossa Valley, Australia
The Hesketh Family love to produce wines that aren’t typical of Barossa Valley. With 90 years in the wine industry, the Hesketh’s have realised the importance of making a product that they, themselves would drink. They select grapes they want to grow, and make wine that anyone will enjoy. Bonverdo is the Portuguese name for the Spanish Parraleta cultivar, which was originally believed to be Carignan in Australia. It produces a wine with good structure, elegant acidity and notes of berry, earth, oak and dried herbs. $28.99

This was the second tasting I decided to put a Hesketh wine in the line up (see Patio Crushers), and for the second time, the Hesketh bottle was the favourite by far.

It was great to orchestrate a tasting that allowed for these unique wines to be showcased, and to talk a little more on how climate and location can affect a production of different varietals.

Once again, massive thanks to our neighbours Peasant Cheese, for treating us to an amazing line up of cheese, meats and crackers. They beautiful paired with each wine, and brought so many smiles to everyone’s faces.


Twitter: @babiller_de_vin
Instagram: @babiller.de.vin @abigailjsayer



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Arran Cask Launch Tasting with Evan

Arran distillery is relatively young by Scottish standards.

This usually the first thing I say to people who have not yet heard of the distillery or their bottles of Scotch. And it is true. Having started production in 1995 this is relatively true in the grand scheme of things and given the history boasted by many of Scotland’s other distilleries.

The Isle of Arran Distillery is located – unsurprisingly – on the Isle of Arran. The island lies just east of Campbeltown and well east of Islay and the distillery itself resides on the north of the island at Lochranza.

Arran’s first official Single Malt Scotch release was back in 1998 with a Limited Edition 3-year-old.

Going by my own faulty memory – Arran has been sold in Alberta since around 2003 or 2004. I was introduced to Scotch for the first time back in 2002 and immediately fell in love and started going to tastings and festivals. This is probably why Arran is so near and dear to my own heart. It feels like the distillery’s own evolution in whisky somehow mirrors my own personal growth and experience with whisky.

Arran started distilling and then releasing their first bottles at a fortuitous time both within Alberta and within the Scotch Industry as a whole: Alberta was in the midst of its economic boom. The province had also had privatized liquor stores (such as Kensington Wine Market) for a decade at this point and seen a large jump in the amount of available whisky available to new enthusiasts such as myself.

The Scotch Industry was also starting to see a much-needed boost in sales and was entering a boom of its own. Part of this was a new generation of drinkers turning their backs on that boring, intentionally flavourless alcohol known as vodka and looking for more interesting libations. The other part had to do with emerging markets of China, India, and Russia and the new middle class (and luxury class) that had opened up overseas.

Looking back at the early years of Arran releases that we were lucky enough to get in Calgary I remember tasting (and buying) a lot of single cask finishes from Arran. The company took a similar marketing and release route to another distillery at the time: Bruichladdich. Both had a tremendous amount of one-off releases – many of these were finished in wine casks or casks that held other spirits beforehand such as rum, calvados, cognac – you name it. I have fond memories of weird corrugated cardboard packaging of rum and Champagne cask-finished bottles of Arran.

These releases enabled Arran to release young whisky that was still interesting to whisky enthusiasts young and old. It gave us an idea of the distillery style and went a long way in showing us that that young whisky could still be good whisky. It also, of course, allowed Arran to develop an income from their own whisky well before they had their official 10-year-old hit the market.

Arran Single Malt has always been solid – even in its youth. Their younger than 10yr whisky releases were (and still are) always approachable yet also very flavourful with the distillery profile typically showing notes of ginger, spices, creamy orchard fruits and sometimes into tropical fruit notes.

Most of these releases were either bottled at cask strength or 46% ABV and they were also typically non-chill filtered with no colouring added and stated this right on the packaging. This is a trend that Arran continues to this day.

The boom for Scotch Whisky also meant prosperous times for Arran – the distillery recently added four more stills to increase production – though the amount produced there is still dwarfed by major mainland distilleries such as Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, and Macallan.

Now it is 2017. I have been into whisky for more than 15 years – tasting and drinking Arran malt some shape or form for most of that time. The Isle of Arran Distillery has been in operation for 21 years and has been successful enough for its private ownership group to work on building a second distillery on the same Island – this one in the south overlooking the cliffs at Lagg. A ground-breaking ceremony at the new site took place on February 16th of this year. The plan is to focus on peated whisky at the new distillery once it is up and running.

The core range of Arran now consists of the 10, the cask strength 12, the 14 and 18-year-old and a few regular cask finish bottlings such as the Madeira and Amarone. They also release the moderately peated Machrie Moor line and the Robert Burns line of Single Malt and Blended Scotch.

Kensington Wine Market has been lucky enough to have a very good relationship with Arran and its representatives for a long time. We just bottled our 9th and 10th single casks with them. Joining our peated 7-year-old single casks are two 20-year-old unpeated malts both aged in separate sherry hogsheads.

Arran 14yr – 46% ABV

“Bottled at 46% after maturing in Sherry and Bourbon Casks this whisky retains the soft fresh citric character of the 10-year-old but with added layers and depth.” This is pretty much what our website states and I agree. While the Arran 10 shows much more Apples and pears the 14 exhibits much more tropical fruit and honeydew melon plus a beautiful creamy delivery on the palate. This is one of the best official bottlings from any distillery given its age and incredible value. $80

Old Malt Cask Arran 19yr – 50% ABV

This 19-year-old Arran is exclusive to KWM in Calgary, bottled at 50% from a Refill Hogshead (HL11885), a total of 288 bottles were produced with just 30 coming to Calgary. Distilled September 1996 and bottled: September 2015.

Only two bottles of this barrel remain for us at the time of writing and it combines the best of the regular 10 and 14-year-old in my opinion: The pear and green apple notes are back at the fore with a bit of spice and bitterness on the fade to battle the sweet, creamy palate. $170

Arran Madeira Cask Finish – 50% ABV

An apparently one-off release that is part of the Arran cask finish lineup. On the nose, this exhibits some grassiness as well as the typical Arran fruit forward style on the nose along with just a hint of smoke/struck match. There might be a whiff of sulphur in there somewhere. On the palate toasted almonds, fruit, vanilla and spice battle for domination with all of them lasting through the finish. This is a really cool bottling at a very good price if the ‘S’ word doesn’t bother you (or if your name isn’t Jim Murray). $80

Arran 20yr KWM Cask 964 – 52.5% ABV


Arran 20yr KWM Cask 1649 – 50.8% ABV

These are our TWO brand new Arran Single Casks that have just arrived – and the reason for our cask launch tasting. Both are from Sherry Hogsheads. Cask 964 shows more of the typical Arran tropical fruit and candied ginger spice while Cask 1649 shows a bit more sherry influence with more dried fruits and marmalade coming to the fore. Both are great (in my biased opinion). I typically prefer Arran in more of a creamy and tropical style so my personal favourite so far is Cask 964, but I may be in the minority on that! $150 each

Scotch Malt Whisky Society 121.81 – 55.2% ABV

This Arran was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society – which is the largest member’s whisky club in the world. More information on the SMWS and their bottles can be found here.

From a refill hogshead, this 15 year old Islander is 55.2%
Flavour profile:  Spicy & sweet
Outturn:  286 bottles
Panel’s tasting note:  ”The nose infantilized our panel – one was on her school break (grass, pine, paper, lollipops); another was savouring his trick-or-treat goodie bag. It was certainly attractive – honey, Belgian waffles, Haribos, rose and lemon, but with ample spice speculation to add interest. The palate was amazing – mouth-drawing, lip-smacking, intense, lively and delicious – flavours of orange oil, Christmas spice biscuits, cinnamon Danish pastries, roasted chestnuts, maraschino cherry and rum and raisin chocolate. The reduced nose – toasted marshmallows, rhubarb crumble, a spice cupboard and a candy hoard. The reduced palate – jasmine, peaches, violets, After Eights and a hint of cigar to finish – Mmmm! “

Drinking tip:  ”When the kids are having candy – this could be your version of indulgence or reward”


Arran 7yr Peated KWM Cask 1131 – 56.8% ABV

This was the first peated Arran cask we ever selected for our shop of the numerous Arran single barrels we have had bottled just for us.  The stated 7 years old might seem young but this bottled has to be tasted to believe. Moderate smoke and peat with bracing salt and pepper notes and a bit of maritime influence. It is young and fresh but by no means immature – the malt sings in this one and it still maintains the wonderful Arran style beneath the smoke! $105

So there you have it! That was the lineup we tasted our way through. As for favourites, we ended up with a three-way tie for first place:

Scotch Malt Whisky Society 121.81

Arran 20yr KWM Cask 1649

Arran 7yr Peated KWM Cask 1131

As a stated in the tasting though – there is not much out there that is not great from Arran. Even the regular 14-year-old which many people had tried got quite a few votes. The newest of the regular lineup from Arran – the 18-year-old is so good itself might have stolen the show if I included it in the tasting.

The bottom line is if you have not tasted any Arran lately (or at all?!?) then what is stopping you?

A big thank you to Cured Delicatessen for providing some charcuterie for us to nibble on during the tasting.

Cheers and until next time,
Twitter and Instagram: @sagelikefool
Instagram: one part of @kwmwhisky

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Tightwad: Summer Savers with Davis

Whether you’ve been affected by the current state of the Albertan economy, or are just a fan of a good deal this was the tasting for you! While it would be nice to drink Chateau Margaux and Petrus every day, most of our bank accounts just won’t support that. Trying to find an affordable wine that will impress can often be a game of roulette, but if know where to look some amazing deals can be found. When making my selections for this tasting I was able to find great deals from all over the world, though the countries with noticeably more offerings tend to be Chile, Spain, and Portugal.

As a group, we dove into the wine. Peasant Cheese provided an amazing selection of cheese. Here are the wines we tried:

Canals Nadal Cava Brut Nature Reserva

This winery in Penedes (just west of Barcelona) was founded by Antoni Canals Nadal in 1986 (though the family has been involved in wine since 19th Century), and now his sons’ run it. The Brut Nature Reserva is made in the same method as Champagne, though with three non-Champagne grapes. This Cava is made from 45% Macabeu, 40% Xarel·lo and 15% Parellada. $25.99

Mayu Pedro Ximenez 2016

Mayu (which is an Inca word for the Milky Way) is located in the high-elevation Elqui Valley in Chile and was established in 2005. The singular Pedro Ximenez grape is more typically used for sweet sherry production, so it is quite unusual to see it turned into a dry white wine. $17.99

CVNE Rueda Verdejo 2015

CVNE was founded in 1879 by the Asua brothers and is still run by the descendants of the original family. They are well known for having some of the most advanced wineries in the world and maintain a very low carbon and water impact. This Rueda in made with 100% Verdejo and is aged in stainless steel.  $16.99

Quinta da Alorna 2016

The Alorna Palace and 2800 acre Estate were established in Portugal in 1723. The Estate can be found the Tejo wine region, close to Lisboa in central Portugal. This Rose is made from 100% Touriga Nacional (in the maceration method) and aged in stainless steel. $17.99

Tedeschi Valpolicella 2014

The Tedeschi family has been making wine for nearly 400 years, focusing on traditional grapes expressing the terroir of the region, while using modern wine making equipment like horizontal temperature controlled fermentation vats. The blend on this Valpolicella is 30% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella, 10% Molinara, and it spends one year in Slovenian Oak Barrels before being bottled. $19.99

Magellan Le Fruit Defendu Rouge 2015

The winemaker and viticulturist moved from Burgundy to the Languedoc region of France in 1999 to explore different grapes and a warmer region. The “Forbidden Fruit” used in this red are grapes transported from the famous Chateauneuf de Pape region in Southern Rhône to Languedoc in the 1960’s. The grapes in question are 90% Cinsault and 10% Syrah. Aged in concrete tanks. $17.99

Carm Douro 2015

This organic red from the Douro region of Portugal is a strictly family run project, that has been running since the 17th century. The red blend consists of 40% Touriga Nacional, 30 % Tinta Roriz, and 30% Touriga Francesa. $19.99

While at the end of the night every single wine received at least a couple of votes as the favourite, we were able to pick a winner. First place went to Canals Nadal Cava Brut Nature Reserva, second to the always crowd-pleasing Tedeschi Valpolicella, and third to Magellan Le Fruit Defendu. I wasn’t the least bit surprised to see the Cava come first (as it was my favourite too!), but it was fascinating how to see how even the voting was across the board.

Well, that was our summer saver tasting. A good time was had by all, and I hope to see you at our next tightwad wine event!

-Davis Maclean


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Hopped up on IPA

Every few months I come across an article written by someone I’ve never heard of talking about how the IPA craze is over, and that beer drinkers are sick of all these hops. I’m not really sure where they are getting their information, as IPA is still one of the most beloved styles for nearly all brewers, and it’s not hard to see why. The popularity has bred more innovation in the world of hops than in all other aspects of brewing combined! What with the use of experimental varieties along with the full development of said varieties, different techniques of hop usage, freeze dried lupulin powder, and more! Sure, 10-15 years ago people were hopping (no pun intended) on the more=better train, and the result was some supremely bitter beers(but some of the best as well).

Alas, that time has passed and now we’re looking for hop bombs with at least a semblance of balance and not just bitterness, and boy are modern brewers delivering! I take it as part of my job to spread this message, so my IPA tastings are as staple as my much loved sour and stout tastings. Here’s a peek of how my latest one went.

Dieu du Ciel Ultra Mosaika: Who doesn’t like Mosaic hops? Of course zero hands go up. Ultra Mosaika is an American pale with a massive load of these tropical, super aromatic green buds. Plenty of mango, citrus, papaya and prickly pear come to the table in this easy drinking powerhouse. ($17.19 for a 4-pack of bottles Currently sold out!)

Blindman New England Pale Ale: This New England style pale ale will knock your socks off with its hazy, juicy hop profile. Loaded with massive aromas of tropical fruits and citrus, and a silky murky body. Around for a very limited time! ($17.59 for a 4-pack of tall cans)

Dunham Cyclope IPA Theta: Dunham’s Cyclope series is an ever-changing beer with different hops in every incarnation. This one was done with experimental hop ADHA484 and Vic Secret. Citrus, herbal, and light tropical fruits all over the place, with a hazy and full but easy body. (sold out on our growler bar for the time being!)

Last Best Tokyo Drift: Hazy and fruity and bitter and all you could want. Tropical tones with huge citrus and a very “green” feel. A body full enough to stand up the onslaught of hops, and to keep things clean through the end. (Sold out on the growler bar for the time being. Please get a request into me if you want to see more!)

Outcast Neon Dream: Yet another take on the hazy IPA trend by Outcast. Big and mildly sweet, with huge tropical and citrus aromas. The exclusive use of lupulin powder gives monstrous aromatics along with a unique feel and bitterness. ($19.99 for a 4-pack of tall cans)

Oskar Blues Fugli: Fugli is a unique IPA featuring an infusion of Yuzu and Ugli fruits. A lighter style IPA with fruity mosaic hops on top of a distinct citrus zest, and mild to moderate dank green notes. $19.99 for a 6-pack of cans)

Melvin Drunken Master IIPA: Melvin comes back to the province with another big, dank IIPA. Drunken master is a generously malty double IPA with resinous pine notes, orange, tropical fruits, with a touch of alcohol heat on a big malty foundation. ($21.39 for a 4-pack of cans)

So this was a pretty stellar lineup. Upon posting to twitter, I had a few people drooling over it. Though each of these beers and brewers stands up on their own merit, I still love to see what the favourites are. The top three here were more or less already predicted by some. First place by a long shot was the Ultra Mosaika, and Blindman’s New England Pale was tied for second place with Last Best’s Tokyo Drift.

Like I said, that was more or less what was predicted, though the order could be changed (but not in my opinion). The unfortunate thing is that these beers aren’t all available all the time. Tokyo Drift graces my growler bar here and there, but the other two are seasonal and won’t be available come fall (the Ultra Mosaika is already gone!). Though there is always something tasty to try, so please just come and ask!

Before I go, I want to give thanks to The Peasant Cheese company for the tasty treats during the tasting, and to all my guests as well. It was truly a superb tasting!

Take Care!



Twitter: @ShawnsBrewsCGY


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Independents’ Day Whisky Tasting with Evan

If you dive into the world of Scotch Whisky head first and start exploring – eventually you will ram into the Less well-known world of Independent Bottlers.

Independent Bottlers of whisky may not all be very well known, but for a consumer, enthusiast and collector alike the role they play is vital.

On Tuesday, August 8th I ran a Indie Bottle tasting at Kensington Wine Market. Here is the lineup we tasted our way through as a group:

G&M Distillery Label Miltonduff 10yr
40% ABV

Exclusive to KWM. This 10 year old Miltonduff is part of Gordon & Macphail’s Distillery Label series. It is exclusive to KWM in Calgary, and our Day 8 whisky, in the 2016 Whisky Advent Calendar. It is the closest thing to an official bottling of Miltonduff ever to come to Canada.

Gordon & MacPhail is one of the oldest Independent Bottlers around. Originally founded in 1895 in Elgin, Gordon & MacPhail was originally a grocer and has made a name for itself by bottling many amazing and sometimes old single malts – including the oldest Glen Grant and Mortlachs to every be bottled at 70 and 75 years old respectively.

The company takes sourcing whisky a step beyond many other bottlers by filling their own casks at different distilleries in batches, then ageing it at the distillery warehouses or facilities of their own. Many bottlings such as their Distillery Label line are bottled at 40% or 43% ABV making them a good place to look for well-priced whisky and alternatives to official bottlings.

In 1993 the company entered the distillery ownership game with the purchase of Benromach. Notice how you can’t find any independent bottlings of Benromach? Hmm…
$80 (700mL Bottle)
$11 (50mL Bottle)

Cooper’s Choice 1972 Family Silver Blend
41% ABV

The Vintage Malt Whisky Company was founded in 1992. It owns The Highlands & Islands Scotch Whisky Company which bottles Finlaggan and Ileach. It also bottles the Cooper’s Choice line – which has recently been releasing some amazing old whisky from closed and demolished distilleries such as Lochside and Garnheath. Much of what they release is bottled at 46% ABV.

The 1972 Family Silver Blend showcases the kind of incredibly unique whisky you can find nowhere else but an independent bottler. This is a one-off single barrel of 480 bottles that happens to be a blend of 3 different distilleries. All of the whisky was distilled in 1972. It was bottled in 2017 and is 44 years of age.  The most impressive thing about this bottle is the makeup of the blend. The back label states it is a blend of 60% Grain and 40% Malt whisky from 3 distilleries. The Distilleries in question are Lochside, Garnheath, and Invergordon.

Lochside and Garnheath don’t get many bottlings from anybody these days. The reason for that? They are both long since closed and demolished. Only Invergordon remains producing today.

Cadenhead Glen Moray 25yr KWM Cask
51.1% ABV

2017 is a landmark year for many reasons. We are celebrating Kensington Wine Market’s 25th Anniversary this year. Canada also turned 150 years young back on July 1st. If you combine those two ages you hit 175 years – which is how old Independent bottler W.M. Cadenhead turns this year. Founded in 1842 in Campbeltown – Cadenhead is the oldest Scottish Independent Bottler.

Owned by the same person that owns the Springbank and Glengyle Distilleries in Campbeltown – they also have probably one of the most eclectic and vast collections of all independent bottlers around.

While Glen Moray was treated a secondary malt by its previous owners up until it was sold to La Martiniquaise in 2008, it has managed to develop a bit of a cult following – especially for indie bottlings. Part of the reason for this seems to be the malt’s ability to become interesting in any barrel you put it in – or least just about every single barrel released by an independent bottler.

Scotch Malt Whisky Society 41.78
60.4% ABV
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society was started in the 1970s as a private scotch club by Pip Hills as a means to bottle single casks for him and some of his friends. It is now the largest Scotch Club in the World which privately bottles single casks of Scotch for its 25,000 plus members through 17 chapters around the world. The Canada chapter of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society – or SMWS Canada – was founded just about six years ago by Rob & Kelly Carpenter.

SMWS bottles are available to purchase only by members and are only available through exclusive retailers such as the Kensington Wine Market and partner bars.

SMWS 41.78 – Poker Night Whisky – is the first SMWS bottle exclusive to Canada. Like all SMWS bottlings – the distillery is not listed on the bottle. If you do a little web searching for SMWS codes you will find out that the distillery originally responsible for this cask is Dailuaine.

Matured in a 1st fill barrel, this 11 year old Speysider is 60.4%
Flavour profile:  Young & spritely
Outturn:  114 bottles
Panel’s tasting note:  ”It starts with fresh and prickly aromas of pear drops, beeswax polish, cereals and tonic water. The taste is hot, sweet, spicy and dry – bubble-gum, fragrant honey and tart kiwi fruit. Water really helps to open up and now there’s much more for the nose to enjoy. Pralines, milk chocolate, pine cones, coconut, icing sugar and a hint of lime. The mouthfeel is thicker (creamy) too and the sweet flavours are of Sauternes wine, peach, mango, coconut and light spices. It’s a dram that’s best shared with others.”
Drinking tip:  ”With friends around the poker table”

$130 (700mL Bottle)
$22 (100mL Bottle)

The Whisky Agency Tobermory 1995

The Whisky Agency is a German Independent Bottler founded by Carsten Ehrlich in 2008. Ehrlich is part of a group that annually runs The Whisky Fair in Limburg, Germany which is considered one of the greatest whisky festival/conventions in the world. Single Cask bottles from the Whisky Agency and other like-minded bottlers such as Maltbarn and Jack Wiebers are typically bottled at cask strength.

This Tobermory comes from a single ex-bourbon hogshead and was bottled at 21 years of age.
51.9% ABV

Old Malt Cask Glenallachie 24yr
50% ABV
Glenallachie is an interesting distillery to talk about because it was formerly owned by Chivas Bros./Pernod Ricard. Used mostly in blends such as Clan Campbell – this is a distillery that many are not familiar with or possibly have not even heard of. Glenallichie was founded in 1967 and is located in Aberlour, Banffshire which itself is within the region of Speyside.

What makes this distillery worth keeping an eye on is the fact that it was just sold to a group led by Billy Walker. Walker previously lead a group that bought BenRiach, GlenDronach, and Glenglassaugh – bringing those three distilleries into prominence with some amazing releases over the past decade.

Old Malt Cask is one of many lines owned and bottled by Hunter Laing. Originally Part of Douglas Laing, Hunter Laing was created when the company’s two brothers split everything in 2013. Much of the Old Malt Cask series is bottled at 50% ABV though there are occasionally cask strength releases as well.

Berry’s Own Caol Ila 1997
40% ABV
A very interesting new 18-year-old single cask Caol Ila, at a good price… exclusively available in Canada from KWM, we don’t expect these to last long. This single cask of Caol Ila, 14/1001,  from Berry Brother’s & Rudd has curiously been bottled at 40%, which is unusual for the distillery.

Berry Bros. & Rudd is Great Britain’s oldest Wine Merchant. It was founded in 1698. They have only been bottling single malt for a relatively short period of time though, starting in 2002 with their Berry’s Own line. Though they do release some cask strength offerings, many of their releases are bottled at 46% ABV.

Thank you to everybody in attendance and a big thank you to Cured Delicatessen for providing the food compliment!
Cheers and until next time,

Twitter: @sagelikefool
Instagram: one part of @kwmwhisky // @sagelikefool

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The In-Cider’s guide

It’s been so long since we’ve done a cider tasting! Luckily, we had a little free reign in the summer tasting schedule (including all the names, the puns in half which you can credit yours truly… or not, either way, because I am personally ashamed.).

Cider is growing in popularity for a number of reasons, the biggest of which being the growing brewing/wine making/distilling scene, and the fact that cider is naturally gluten-free (with the growing awareness of Celiac disease). So it was high time we hosted another tasting of some of the wonderful apple ciders available in our rich province – pun or no. Peasant Cheese provided some very suitable cheese accompaniments for our amazing lineup. The ciders we tasted our way through were as follows:

Left Field Little Dry: Little Dry is a very lightly sweet, crisp BC cider from Logan Lake. Tart apple tones with a big fruity nose with just a hint of sweet apple flesh. Still dry enough for those who dislike sweet ciders. ( $10.79 for a 500mL bottle)

Bigoude Cidre Artisanal: Cider in Brittany has a certification of AOC. As part of the designation, the ciders are able to be made with 7 different apple varieties and fermented with 100% pure juice, along with natural carbonation. Bigoude has a lovely barnyard-y flavour with huge apple and funky aromatics and a lively effervescence. ($13.89 for a 750mL bottle)

Petritegi Sidra Natural: Everything about the Basque region screams artisan, unique and quality. Petritegi is a wonderful example of what a Basque Sidra can be. Funky, slightly bitter with a hint of sweetness, this mostly still cider is poured from high above a glass thanks to the provided cork/spout. One taste and you’ll see that it was meant for celebrating, and breakfast, and lunch… and dinner… and whenever! ($22.49 for a 750mL bottle)

Scenic Road Nearly Dry: Coming from Kelowna, Scenic Road is a recent arrival to the Alberta market. Their mostly dry and tasty ciders and made with “traditional apple varieties” and come across with robust apple flavours and the nearly dry has -as the name would suggest- just a hint of sweetness. ($11.49 for a 500mL bottle)

Sea Cider Pippins: A lovely, off-dry cider made with Yellow Newton Pippin apples. It pours with lovely tropical fruit aromas, and the taste says the same! Light pineapple and exotic apple notes, with a bit of an alcohol bite thanks to the 9.5% abv. Food friendly and guzzle friendly alike! ($21.99 for a 750mL bottle)

Sea Cider Rum Runner: This sweet and incredibly unique cider used to be aged in the barrels of a well-known Newfoundland rum, but that rum is no longer aged in oak barrels. What were they to do to keep up with the demand of one of their most beloved ciders? Soaking readily-available ex-bourbon barrels in rum solved that problem! Hints of dried fruit, molasses and a hint of whisky enhance the sweetness, giving a mix between a dessert and an aperitif feel, and this is further enhanced by the 12.5% abv. ($21.99 for a 750mL bottle)

After all these tasty beverages, it was hard to pick a favourite. But pick one we did! And it was Sea Cider’s pippins. The second and third place came Bigoud Cidra Breton and Sea Cider Rum Runner. I can’t say that I’m totally surprised, Sea Cider has been a beloved maker for so long, and Brittany ciders are just so unique!

So there you have it! Thanks to everyone who came out, and thanks again to Peasant Cheese for all the tasty goodies! Our cider selection is always changing, so make sure to check in, and if you have a request for something in particular, just drop me a line and I’ll see what I can do!

Until next time,

Twitter: @ShawnsBrewsCGY

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GIN! An exposé on Gin and Hunter

The wonderful and ever growing world of gin strikes again, and this time with more craft. The momentum of craft distillation is growing, more distilleries are cropping up and even more are creating gin. A logical step for any new distiller, but I wonder if it is a means to an end for most. Even if the gin is the end itself, will the market continue to bear so many new gins?

One must consider that even the gin enthusiasts scope is generally limited to single bottle adventures with an eventuality of settling down on a favourite, perhaps a reasonable analogy of youth to maturity. As the market matures, along with the gin appreciators, one might speculate on the ranks of producers thinning out, a distilling Darwinism that will culminate in the strongest of the producers surviving.

Such simple observations mean little at the moment, but what this does entail is a large proportion of distillers flooding the market with all sorts of botanical spirits, usually locally harvested, sometimes organic, grain sourced from only the most choice of farmers. Catch phrases of these sorts are becoming tired, it now requires a little more razzle dazzle to captivate the thirsty audience. I poured a sampling of subjectively interesting spirits for the class, all of which seem to hold some modicum of intrigue that goes beyond what is held in high regard or status quo. Keeping in mind, all gin still holds a distinctive quality of juniper, but this each bottle in this selection breaks out of the boundary line – even if just a little.

Here is what we tasted:

Spirit of Hven Organic Gin

Soft and round, the elegance Hven is definitely the forefront feature. This is an obvious symptom of being a wheat based spirit, which translates beautifully to the palate. The mad scientist behind the magic of this distillery does things differently with his gin, maturing the spirit for a while in American oak, then distilling it once again after it has rested in the barrel. This process adds a richness to the mouthfeel and makes for a sultry gin. Peppery, lemon and lime zest, along with refreshing wafts of juniper are all found in experiencing this gin. $69.99

Arbutus Empiric Gin

A grain bomb from Nanaimo with no desserts in sight. Huge grist and barley dust tones, this thing smells like sticking your head in the malt bin. Meyer lemons, limestone rocks from the riverside and tones of coriander plus slight hints of summer blooming greenery. I loved this stuff, quite impressed by the overall tone achieved, even with the grain heavy characters looming in the background. $54.99

Sipsmith London Dry Gin

A revisiting of the blueberry infused, oddly sweet, London dry. When I first tasted this I thought I could pinpoint the exact botanical being used, specifically Kalamata olives, but was thoroughly shocked when I found out it was blueberries. Now, this may sound strange, but I am convinced that there is some strange miswiring in the brain that makes the mind draw olives as a conclusion, a conclusion which quickly evaporates into a clear understanding of blueberries. Now that you know, you won’t be able to go back. As mentioned, the blueberries dominate the nose and palate, adding a berry fruit salad nature to this bottling. Delicious, this bottle just needs the freezer. $54.99

Cotswolds Dry Gin

Another gin with a wheat grain spirit base, Cotswolds Dry speaks clarity and finesse wrapped in a neat package of succulent fruitiness and zesty citrus. The Cotswolds makes me think of melons and peach, hinting at passion fruit and a touch of exotic spices. I can’t name them, but there is something in here that is distinctly not from the northern hemisphere. This spirit is too easy and works in everything. If Hendricks was the easy mode for gin and tonics Cotswolds is…whatever is easier than easy mode? I didn’t even need to measure properly for my G&T, it came out like liquid euphoria. Add a few of your favourite slices and you just might find Nirvana – no meditation required. $74.99

Beefeater 24

I feel the distillers at Beefeater finally got fed up with their standard gin. Can you imagine having access to all these delightful botanicals, bleeding edge distilling know-how, and a general love of gin, and still only making Beefeater standard? It would appear that their weeping souls finally got through to the high ups, giving the all clear for an expression of their hearts, while maintaining the wonderful price point of standard Beefeater. The execution of this is remarkable, and the quality has led to this bottle holding one of the two gin slots in my bar collection. $32.99

Dutch Courage Old Tom Gin

Biased review incoming: I love Old Tom styles. The slightly sweeter character of this style is what gives it a little up in my books, adding an immediate and straight drinkability to the spirit. This variant follows suit with the others I have experienced, albeit with a somewhat chewier base spirit. Off yellow in colour, this spirit is not only tantalizing in taste, it is as well in appearance. I would generally recommend this one to brown spirit enthusiasts looking to add an interesting “white” spirit to their collection. $60.99

Noteworthy Gin

The odd beast of the bunch; where the rest have a collective spirit of a goose or a cat, this one be dragons. Right off the nose, you can imagine yourself in a coniferous forest, sawing lumber and chewing thrills gum. “Take that sissy gum out of your mouth and chew on this”, says your lumberjack friend, handing you a palmful of spruce tips. “Why not?” as you induce the needle bunches, thinking all the while, “How did I get here?”. You are now transported back to your seat, having finished your glass of Noteworthy, and are left staring at a computer screen, wondering at what you just read. $47.99

Cut, this movie is bad.

- Hunter
twitter: @beerpauper

Sorry, ladies - he is taken!


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