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Hansen Border Crossing Rye Spirit

Review: Hansen Border Crossing Rye Spirit   (82.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted March 19, 2017

On January 26, 2017, I attended the VIP Launch Event for the Hansen Distillery, a brand new Craft Distiller situated here in Edmonton. The small distillery is located in Edmonton’s West End (17412 111 Ave NW), and the launch included a small tour of the distillery as well as an evening of cocktails made from Hansen’s craft spirit.


Head Distiller Kris Sustrik

The Hansen Distillery has an unlikely history that began in the midst of the Great Depression when Carl and Amanda Hansen began to make moonshine in Southern Alberta. As I learned at the VIP event, this wasn’t about running ‘shine across the border to make tons of money off Prohibition, this was about keeping their farm and feeding a growing family by providing a little hooch for local socials and dances. Apparently Amanda made the moonshine, and Carl made it available to the local community.

When World War II ended, the Depression was over as well, and Carl and Amanda left moonshining behind to go back to farming full-time. Of course they continued to distill the odd batch here and there for family occasions, and the recipe Amanda created was handed down to her children, and then to her grand children, and finally all the way to great-grandchildren, Kris and Shayna Sustrik. Kris and Shyna have decided to relaunch that family tradition and together they have built the new Hansen Distillery.

At the launch event the Hansen Distillery had three spirits they were showcasing in their tasting bar (which is open to the public), Border Crossing Rye Spirit, Barn Owl Vodka, and their End of the Line Moonshine. Special cocktails had been made for each of the spirits and we were all allowed to indulge ourselves with a few cocktails. After the event everyone was allowed to take home a bottle of their favourite spirit. I chose the Border Crossing Rye Spirit, and decided to share my thoughts regarding the rye spirit with a review here on my website.

Border Crossing Rye is made with 100% locally grown rye grain. It is an unaged spirit hand cut  from after distillation through the 6-plate copper column (see photo above right). It is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

hansen-border-crossing-sam_3001In the Bottle 4/5

I am never overly critical of the bottle presentations for new distilleries. This is because I realize that bottle and label design can be a costly affair, and these new distilleries are trying to bring an affordable spirit to the market and don’t want to drive up their prices with fancy bottles and labels. Having said that, I think the Hansen Border Crossing rye spirit looks just fine. It is housed in a medium tall whisky bottle with a nice solid synthetic cork topper. The bottle works great in a bar setting where it is easy to store on the shelf, easy for the bartender to grab, and the medium-sized neck makes the spirit easy to pour.

The label could perhaps use a little colour to brighten it, however it does sort of hearken back in time looking like moonshine label from the era of the Great Depression.

In the Glass 8/10

The spirit is completely clear and when I tilt and twirl my glencairn it deposits only a light sheen on the inside of the glass which coalesces into  skinny legs which trickle and dissolve quite quickly.

The nose is very interesting with scents of mushy banana and plantain rising alongside zesty citrus notes and fresh spicy rye grain. Grilled zucchini and pineapple are hinted at as well. I sense very little astringency in the breezes but there is a firm vegetal tone which is typical of new-make spirits.

In the Mouth 50/60

When I sipped the rye spirit, I was pleasantly surprised that the vegetal tones I noticed in the breezes did not come across nearly as firmly upon the palate. I was also very happy that the spirit was relatively easy to sip. The rye grain shines brightly and this rye flavour is completed by firm citrus fruit, banana, and grain spice. There is just a touch of astringent spice which swats the tonsils, but this is and unaged rye spirit and frankly I was expecting to be whacked harder. As I said the spirit is easy to sip.

Although the spirit is suitable for sipping, It almost certainly will be found more often in a cocktail glass, and at the Hansen Distillery launch event, I was served a wonderful cocktail called the Green Card (see recipe below) which mixed the rye spirit with basil, lime and ginger syrup. At home I also found I enjoyed the spirit mixed fifty-fifty with ginger ale.

In the Throat 12/15

The finish is short and as indicated above there is a touch of spicy astingency in the throat after the swallow. Rye grain and hints of mushy banana linger for just a little while before fading away.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

After the launch event, I was invited back to the distillery to run the still for a day. While I was there, Kris Sustric showed me a re-used Okanogan red wine barrel he was using to age some of the rye spirit. We drew some of the spirit from the barrel and sampled it together. I was amazed at how good the rye spirit tasted after only several weeks of aging. I suspect that when the whisky is ready (after three years), The Hansen Rye Spirit is really going to shine.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe


The Green Card as served by the wonderful staff at the Hansen Distillery Launch Event

The Green Card

1 1/2 oz Border Crossing Rye Spirit
1 oz fresh Lime Juice
1/2 oz Ginger Syrup
Splash of Soda Water

Slap a few Basil Leaves and drop them into a mixing glass with ice.
Add the Rye Spirit, the lime juice and ginger syrup
Stir until very cold
Strain into a serving glass filled with ice
Top with a dash of Soda Water
Garnish with basil

Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


As usual, 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)

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