Stalk & Barrel Single Malt Whisky (Cask No. 2)
Review: Stalk & Barrel Single Malt Whisky (Cask No. 2) 80/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published February 16, 2014
Still Waters is a new distilling company who proudly proclaim themselves Ontario’s first Micro-Distillery. They commenced operations in the fall of 2009 and produced their first new-make spirit just two months after they received their custom German-made pot still. The year is now 2014, and this means that the Still Water’s Distillery, being in its fourth year of operation, has been busy bottling their first batches of their own 100 % Hand-Crafted Canadian Whisky (which been aged a minimum of 3 years in oak barrels).
The distillery has chosen to bottle each of the first barrels of whisky as Single Cask offerings.
According to the Still Waters Website:
“STALK & BARREL SINGLE MALT WHISKY is made from 100% Canadian two-row malted barley. It is mashed, fermented, and distilled by hand in small batches in a small copper pot still. All our whisky is aged in ex-bourbon casks on site. When ready, each barrel is bottled individually as a single cask offering in individually numbered bottles. Some casks will be bottled at cask strength, while others will be bottled at a minimum 46% alc./vol. We never add colouring nor do we chill-filter our whiskies.”
I was rather fortunate in that I received my first samples of the Stalk and Barrel Single Malt Whisky from the very first three casks (Casks 1, 2 and 3). This review is from Cask No. 2, which was aged in a first-fill used American bourbon barrel, and was bottled at 61.3 % alcohol by volume. This is a 3 Year Old Single Malt whisky, the youngest allowed by Canadian law.
In the Bottle 4/5
The Stalk & Barrel Single Malt whisky is bottled in the clear, medium-tall glass bottle pictured to the left. Each bottle is individually numbered by hand, indicating the Cask number, the bottle number and the bottling strength. The packaging is quite acceptable, especially considering that this whisky comes from only the second barrel of Single Malt Whisky that Still Waters has produced.
Note: the bottle shot is from Cask 1, I apologize for not having a suitable picture of the bottle from cask number 2. (The bottles are of course almost identical.)
In the Glass 8/10
When I poured a little of the Stock & Barrel into my glencairn glass, the whisky displayed itself as very light spirit, represented by a light straw coloured hue. The initial aroma in the breezes above my glass carries strong impressions of leather and hazelnuts within the more familiar whisky scents of sweet malt, butterscotch and spicy oak. The power of the 61.3 % alcohol by volume becomes apparent and this gives the whisky a strong sharp push of astringency. Pushed along as well are earthy scents of freshly upturned soil, piles of newly harvested grain, damp wooden granaries and sour gooseberries.
Whereas Cask No. 1 (see review here) had strong grassy scents and impressions of corn running alongside the fresh grain, Cask No. 2 is earthier and nuttier with the malted barley on full display.
In the Mouth 48/60
Just as it was with Cask No. 1, sipping the whisky from Cask No. 2 is very difficult at full strength. There is too much heat, and the wooden barrels just haven’t had enough time to smooth out the rough spots. We can taste glimmers of butterscotch sweetness and hints of the almond and vanilla flavours from the barrel aging; but most of the other nuances which I would normally enjoy in a sipper are lost to the alcohol heat. When I add an ice-cube, the heat is tempered (to a degree) and additional flavours of gooseberry, timothy grass and willow bark are revealed to be mingling with the previously mentioned butterscotch, almond and vanilla. I think perhaps I even taste the beginnings of some light chocolate flavours as well.
My honest impressions however, is that this particular barrel should have been left for some more years to allow the whisky inside to mature more fully. What we have is a Single Malt with wonderful potential which was tapped and bottled before that potential could be fully realized.
In the Throat 12/15
In the finish, (at full strength) the youth of the whisky and the high alcohol content make this dram difficult to swallow comfortably as there is too much burn for too little reward. However, with an ice-cube added, things are much nicer with exit flavours of butterscotch, gooseberry, almond, and more obvious hints of milk chocolate.
The Afterburn 8/10
It is obvious to me that the Stalk and Barrel Single Malt Whisky from Cask No. 2 was captured at a time when the whisky lacked the maturity required to be enjoyed fully as a sipping whisky. Having said that, given the place in time where the Still Waters Distillery is, there is really nothing wrong with the idea of capturing some of their young whisky to see where things are, and how the whisky is evolving.
I guess (in my long-winded manner) I am trying to convey the sentiment to the folks at Still Waters to look beyond my scoring in this case (which is meant to guide consumers not distillers). Their young whisky has the right flavour and right structure given its age, and as their whisky is allowed to mature fully, I think the results are going to be quite fantastic.
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)