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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Cardrona Distillery, New Zealand

I first heard of this new distillery while listening to WhiskyCast in December 2015. It turned out that they had just opened and it so happened that I was going to be on vacation in Queenstown, a short but very impressive drive away, over Christmas. A few emails later and I had a tour set up for December 26th, within just a few days of their official opening. The site is impressive and well designed and will also house a small museum focused on the town of Cardrona however that was still in development when I visited. The highlight was that I also got to spend some time with many of family who built it and experience their passion and excitement for what they are doing here. If their product is half as enjoyable as their hospitality (and I see no reason why not based on the excellent site and investment they have made) then we will have very nice Kiwi whisky in a few years’ time.

After the tour there was a lot to try (I had to take samples as I drove there) including their excellent Reid Single Malt Vodka, which is one of the best white spirits I have tried in a long time and a good solution to the “how do we make money for first three years of a whisky distillery” problem, the Rose Rabbit Orange Liqueur (not my thing but for sure someone’s thing) and their Single Malt new make. I have tried a lot of new make spirit but do not consider myself qualified to project on how well a new make will mature and develop but I have posted tasting notes for all of three of these Cardrona products on the website.

So if you find yourself in the Queenstown region of New Zealand and perhaps need a break from flinging yourself off a bridge with just an elastic bungy cord tied to your legs and are tired of gorging on the region’s stunning Pinot Noirs can I suggest you add this to your NZ Bucket List along (and blue cod “fush and chups”). You will thank me.

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Stillwaters Distillery, Ontario, Canada

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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