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Devine Spirits Quarter Cask Ancient Grains

Review: Devine Spirits Quarter Cask Ancient Grains Whisky   (84/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted On August 08, 2018

John & Cathy Windsor manage the family owned and operated de Vine Vineyards on Vancouver Island (near  Victoria British Columbia). As well as growing grapes for wine making the vineyard houses a small still from which they distill both grapes and grains producing a variety of spirits including Vodka, Gin and Single Malt Whisky

I had an opportunity to taste Devine Spirits Quarter Cask Ancient Grains when I acted as a juror for the 2018 Canadian Whisky Awards. While judging, I wrote up tasting notes for each dram as I scored them (in a blind tasting format). I also saved a wee bit of each sample such that I could revisit them after the judging when it was revealed to me which sample belonged to which whisky. From those tasting notes and from my last sampling session afterwards I wrote this review.

Devine Spirits Quarter Cask Ancient Grains is produced from locally grown BC grains (malted barley and eirloom wheat grains. The eirloom wheat includes varietal of einkorn which is a wild wheat, kamut (khorasan wheat), spelt (dinkel wheat), and emmer (farro/hulled wheat). The spirit was aged in new American oak quarter casks and bottled at 45 % alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

The Quarter Cask Ancient Grains Whisky arrives in the squat round bottle shown above. Quite by accident I found out that the label was designed by a local BC professional artist and designer, Margaret Hansen (see her website here). I think it is wonderful that Devine Vinyards and Spirits local approach even extends to the designing of their whisky labels.

The label includes an illustration of a farmer harvesting his field the old-fashioned way without tractors or equipment which links the whisky to the theme of ancient grains used in its production. As it was with the Glen Saanich Single Malt (made by the same distillery and reviewed last year), I am concerned somewhat by the relatively short neck on the bottle which by appearances looks like it will be hard to pour without spilling a few drop. I hate spilling alcohol and prefer a longer necked bottles.

Having said that the stubby bottle and label do have a nice eye-appeal which is sure to attract attention on the store shelf hopefully enticing a few sales.

In the Glass 8.5/10

These were some of the brief notes I wrote when I first assessed the whisky:

Colour:  copper

Legs:  reluctant midsized droplets

Initial Aroma:  fine spices, oak and a touch of herbal menthol and grass, vanilla butterscotch

Decanted Aroma:  dusty grain, orange peel , peaches, almond

Empty Glass:   meringue and pencil shavings

I am quite impressed by the whisky which shows strong complexity and a nice structure.

In The Mouth 51/60

Alcohol push and Spice: touch of alcohol bite which gives the spirit a peppery bite

Initial Taste: butterscotch, peppery spice, resin, menthol, and tobacco

Follow up:  turning bitter, with rye building, and heat from alcohol

Devine Spirits Quarter Cask Ancient Grains Whisky is a heated dram full of herbal flavours which lie alongside grain and wood spices. When I tasted the spirit in the blind format, I believed there was rye grain in the blend. This is not surprising as wheat, when distilled often brings very similar flavours forward. I am concerned with the build-up of alcohol and grain spice which required an ice-cube in order for me to sip comfortably.

In The Throat  12.5/15

Body and Length: Medium bodied but the finish is shorter than one would expect

Flavours  during Swallow:  Grassy menthol, rye and peppery spice

Lingering Flavours: Menthol and peppery spice

The build up of heat during the delivery carried through to the finish. I found I liked a touch of ice which brought some chocolate-like flavours into the exit.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

Throughout my tasting sessions I was tempted to score the spirit higher, However, I came to the conclusion that the whisky was in a sense just slightly out of balance. I sensed competition in the glass rather than harmony with the firm herbal flavours not quite meshing with the impression of rye. The heat from alcohol and grain spice contributed to this impression of imbalance.

Having said that, I was very impressed with the complexity of the spirit and the robust flavour. I think my score of 84/100 is just about right.

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

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

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)

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