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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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Yellow Rose Distilling, Texas, USA

Yellow Rose Distilling, Texas, USA

I was very fortunate to live in Aberdeen for almost three years. For that time I was a short drive from Speyside, the Highlands and just 11 miles from the nearest single malt distillery, Glen Garioch. Moving back to Texas in 2011, even though Texas whisky was starting to appear on the scene in form of Balcones, Garrison Bros and Ranger Creek I never expected to be living so close to a whisky distillery again. Then Yellow Rose Distilling moved from the outskirts of Houston to an industrial park less than five miles from my house. Five miles!   Not yet operational (they have a new still but are not rigged up yet) I went to visit the site, sample some of the house products and meet the master distiller, Troy, in January 2014. It is always nice to be taken around a site by the actual distiller and Troy’s passion is clear. Yellow Rose started making their Outlaw Bourbon with a tiny hand-made still they purchased from Portugal.   They will continue to make their Outlaw Bourbon when their new still is up and running (though I have to wonder how similar the product will be as the stills are very different?) but also have a line extension strategy which includes making vodka with the same still, a blended “Canadian” style whiskey and a Rye whiskey, both of which they have made for them offsite out of state and a Double Barrel bourbon which they also have made for them offsite and then put into Californian red wine casks for additional maturation onsite. Think Angel’s Envy. As well as the warehouse space they will use for distillation and maturation they are developing a nice visitor experience with the original Portuguese still on display, a bar with all of the Yellow Rose products for sampling, some of the usual goodies like Yellow Rose Glencairn glasses and they can even sell bottles (under the archaic Texas licensing laws they can sell up to 2 commemorative bottles every 30 days per person). If you want the “classic” distillery experience… this definitely is not it. But the whiskey is good, the people are nice and you have to drive a long way from Houston to find the next nearest distillery.

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