This years visit to the Victoria Whisky Festival began with Canadian Whisky and Spirits. Just after arriving, I received a phone call from Davin asking if I would like to join him and a few others on a distillery visit. So we were off to visit de Vine Wines & Spirits. Looking around at the landscape with Mt. Baker in Washington State, and the Gulf and San Juan Islands in the distance, one could help but admire the beauty. Purchased back in 2007 and farmed organically since then, the vineyard was to see their Certified Organic status in 2016. Around 2012, Ken Winchester signed on as Wine Maker and Master Distiller. While speaking with Ken, I was fascinated to learn that he had spent some time honing host craft at the Bruichladdich distillery – Chip Tate, founder, and formerly of the highly-Awarded Balcones Distilling had done the same – some great results out there. I’ll see if I can provide some more information in the future on this program.
The distillery began making a strawberry vodka in 2015 using solely organic Saanich Peninsula strawberries, forward just under a year and de Vine Spirits has created ten unique products which includes Vin Gin, New Tom, Genever, Moderna-Bittersweet Vermouth, Honey Shine, Black Bear, Pomme, and Black Ram. A 650-litre German Pot Still which has been named Brunhilde carries out the workload in the production of the spirit. One of the spirits we tasted was The Glen Saanich (45% abv) aged for about 12-18 months, with a nose of pine forest and nutty, there was a bit of spice together with some caramel and tropical fruit in the back. It was an enjoyable time in the tasting room with all the various sample which I was distracted by. A fine example of the craft movement in Victoria and can’t wait to see how the spirits develop further next year.
At the Canadian press preview, we were treated to the forthcoming limited edition whiskeys from the Hiram Walker & Sons Distillieries Master Blender, Dr. Don Livermore. The whiskeys will be from a collection called the Northern Border Collection with a release later this year in the fall. The collection includes: Lot No 40, 12 year old Cask Strength (53.1% abv); Gooderham & Worts Little Trinity, 17 year old Three Grain Blend (45% abv); Pike Creek, 21 year old Single Malt Cask Finish; J.P. Wiser’s, 35 year old (50% ABV).
The following evening began with a great speech from Lew Bryson and ended with Masterson’s 10 Batch PSA3 being named the 2017 Canadian
Whisky of the Year. I asked Davin De Kergommeaux founder of the awards for a comment on the awards and Canadian Whisky:
The Canadian Whisky Awards bring the industry together for an evening to celebrate all that is great about Canadian whisky. Each year more new connoisseur whiskies are entered and each year the competition is very tight. The growing success of the Canadian Whisky Awards is very gratifying; this year we had more entries than ever. It is encouraging to see the quality of Canadian whisky overall increasing at the high end. In Canada’s 150th year, the future looks bright, as Canadian whisky is recognized more and more globally as one of the premiere whisky styles. Many of the brands are releasing new whiskies to celebrate Canada 150. At the same time, it is important to remember that Canadians have been making whisky since long before Canada was a country, so we can say Canada 150, whisky 200+.
The festival, which sells out every year, and its Master Classes together with the main event did not disappoint. As I commented last year, the range of whiskeys that are available out west are phenomenal and hopefully if the LCBO will open the market for whiskey they do not wish to stock to be done so by private establishments. It would be phenomenal to be able to purchase Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottles in Toronto.
The Laphroaig Select (40% abv) is the latest entry to come out of the Laphroaig distillery. It is said that the casks selected are from the core rage – the Quarter Cask, Px Cask, Triple Wood and the Ten Year Old – with a final maturation in new American Oak casks. When I first smelled I did not get the usual Lagphroaig smell that you would get in the 10 year old, It seemed lighter, you get a hint of banana The taste was of a light peat (smokiness) a little cleaner, a bit of salt but overall there was a sort of sweetness mixed together with a light spice (nice peppery note) well into the finish. (LBCO $77.95)
The Glenmorangie Bacalta (46% abv) is the eighth in it’s Private Editiion for 2017. It is stated that it has been created from Glenmorangie first matured in former bourbon casks, then extra-matured in bespoke casks baked under the sun which once contained Malmsey Madeira. There’s no denying that I’m a fan of this release, coming to Ontario as early as May, with it’s sweet and honey notes on the nose with apricot and a chocolate note. The taste had the honey continue to my tongue with baked deeper fruits now, some tanginess, caramelized orange, creamy rich chocolate (fudge) a hint of mint at the back all leading into the finish. (LCBO estimated at $180.00).
The Angels’ Portion – A Clergyman’s Whisky Narrative (351 Pages) is the first of two books (the second is Volume II) by Reverend Christopher I. Thoma. Yes, my first review of a book and this one reviews whiskeys in its own unique way. The preface details the approach, one that uses various characters some are biblical referenced, some fictional and others appear to involve situations that have occurred. One of my favorites is when his three year old daughter, Evelyn, asks him to “play the Tintobell song.” He does not have the song, but after a bit of back and forth and convinced he does, what is Evelyn to do but sing … “Tintobell’s in the paradise city where the gwass is gween and the nose is runny. O wone you pwease take me home, yeah.” Although this is just a bit of the review, what followed was just as funny and lead into his recollection of a review of the Bunnahabhain 12 year old and then the proper way to pronounce it, apparently the Scots pronounce it “Ben-arvin.” I can’t wait to read Volume II. I was lucky to find these books, actually through twitter since Reverend Thoma sent them to me for being his 1,000th follower and I am grateful for the gesture but more so for the stories he shared. After all, I’ve said it before that “whisky is a social thing” and without people and without stories, it’s not fun. This has made it a bit more fun reminiscing about whiskeys I’ve tried.
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