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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Stillwaters Distillery, Ontario, Canada

When I planned my recent business trip to Canada I had my heart set on visiting my first Canadian whiskey distillery. I had expected / thought / hoped it would be Forty Creek as that is the whiskey that completely and forever changed my opinion about the possibilities of Canadian whisky. Sadly, with my schedule and limited visiting times at the distillery during the fall and winter I had to rethink. Thanks to Johanne McGinnes (aka the Whiskylassie) I was introduced to Barry (and Barry) of Stillwaters and found my way to their industrial unit in the suburbs of Toronto.

While not a formal distillery visit / tour, Barry (but not Barry, he was busy) was kind enough to spend some time with me and show me around the place. Like most craft distilleries this part did not take long. We discussed (distilled perhaps?) their journey via vodka, independent Scotch bottlings, gin, single malt, brandy and finally (and perhaps saving the best until last) the bottling of their 100% rye expression which was ongoing when I arrived.

I had tried the Stalk and Barrel Cask Strength single malt on a Twitter Tasting (also organized by Johanne) and while I liked it there was nothing about it that stood out for me, other than its youth. However I had heard “good things” about their rye and as a “rye guy” I was happy try it. Glad I did. I did not take notes but recall vividly that the nose was rich and fruity and the taste had all the spice, fruit and chocolate notes I have come to love in ryes.   Well balanced with a herbal, minty finish I was impressed. Will definitely pick up a bottle if it ever makes to Texas. I also re-tried their single malt and at 46% ABV and found it better balanced than the cask strength (for my palate) and would happily have drunk more but for the plane home I had to catch.

So with a Canadian notch freshly carved into my distillery bedpost I now have to find a way to get to Japan so I can say I have been to the “Big 5” of whisky producing countries; Scotland, USA, Ireland, Canada and Japan.

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Woodford Reserve, Kentucky, USA

Woodford Reserve, Kentucky, USA

A distillery was opened on this site by Elijah Pepper in 1812 and according to legend (or the marketing department) is the site where Dr Crow "perfected" bourbon.  Now owned by Brown Forman (of Jack Daniel's fame) you could literally pick up this distillery and drop into Speyside and it would not look out of place, with it's picturesque setting, stone stillhouse and copper pots stills from Forsythe's of Rothes.  This was exactly what I had imagined a bourbon distillery to be.  They had picked up a  few other ideas from Scotland as well, such as charging $7 for a tour, the first and only time I was charged on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and having a convenient lunch / coffee shop in the visitors center.  The tour was well organized with a short video and then a bus ride from the plush visitor center down to the actual distillery and a guide equiped with a mini PA system so all could hear him.  The tour focussed on the components that make up the distinctive sweet taste of Woodford Reserve, the grains, the yeast (one of many distileries that mentioned criticality of yeast) the stills and distillation process (Woodford Reserve uniquely triple distills their bourbon), the casks and of course the maturation.  Seeing the still house wtih three pot stills was definately unique on the KBT.  Another highlight was seeing the fermentation process because the day we toured they were actually making an unusual mash which will be part of a future Masters Collection and included chocolate roasted rye so it was much darker than usual yellow corn mashes I saw on the tours.  Then the mandatory bottling hall part of tour to watch Collingwood Canadian Whiskey being bottled... (something to do with similar bottle shape and Borwn Forman plant capacity).  After the highlight of watching and hearing some Canadian whiskey being bottled the tour concluded back in vistor center with a shot glass of Woodford Reserve (you get to keep the plastic shot glass!) and a chocolate!  All in all a very good tour and along with Maker's Mark was one of the highlights.

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