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Glen Saanich Single Malt

Review: Glen Saanich Single Malt Whisky   (83/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted On October 16, 2017

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.

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I had an opportunity to taste Glen Saanich Single Malt Whisky when I acted as a juror for the 2017 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.

Glen Saanich Single Malt Whisky was produced from locally grown BC Barley and aged in Ex American Bourbon Barrels. It is bottled at 45 % alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle 4/5

Glen Saanich Single Malt arrives in the squat round bottle shown to the left. There is a cartoon-like picture of a farmer on an old farm tractor working the field which is (I believe) meant to draw attention to the fact that the Windsor family operate their vineyard and distillery in a hands-on manner using local raw materials.

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 bit of eye-appeal which is sure to attract attention on the store shelf hopefully enticing a few sales.

In the Glass 8.5/10

When poured into my glencairn, the whisky displays itself as a pale gold spirit. When I tilt and twirl my glass I see a slightly thickened liquid sheen on the inside which slowly releases a multitude of leglets which turn to slender legs which run back down to the whisky at the bottom of the glass.

When I tasted the spirit blind I wrote the following notes for the nose:

Nose:  sour note of dank corn and sweet and sour fruit, butterscotch, with hints of red licorice

The whisky has a ribbon of corn-like bourbon in its profile which is melded into impressions of oak spice and barley malt. Sweet and sour fruit (apples pears and canned peaches come to mind) hang in the breezes with a nice wisp of vanilla as well as an herbal quality which is almost like a mixture of fresh clover and mint. Hints of red licorice make me wonder if a red wine barrel might have made an appearance in the aging room, although the impression is mild and could easily be an impression created by American oak tannins.

Overall this smells very nice, reminiscent of a nice Speyside Scotch.

In the Mouth 50.5/60

The impression of Speyside Scotch (Single Malt) continues.

I taste fine vanilla and fine oak spices which are complimented by a wave of fruit and malt sweetness. I must be imagining it but there seems to be just a wisp of peat in the background, not enough to verify for certain, but a light smoky quality which tastes quite nice. Impressions of almond and marzipan work their way into my mind and as you can tell, I am enjoying this West Coast Whisky.

I added a little ice during my final tasting session and loves the way that milk chocolate flavours began to ooze out.

In the Throat 11.5/15

Like so many of the new Canadian Single Malts I am sampling this year, the Glen Saanich malt is a little too sharp in the exit without ice or an added dollop of water. I think the bottling proof at 45 % is just a little high for such a young whisky. The higher proof brings more concentrated flavours; but in a young whisky that additional flavour comes at a price.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

The only real flaw in the Glen Saanich Single Malt Whisky is the sharp exit which is a function of youth and high alcohol strength, However, in terms of single malt flavour, complexity and balance, the whisky is terrific. I may have to take a trip out to Victoria as I continue to be impressed by the offerings from the Vancouver Island Distilleries. West Coast Whisky is on the rise!

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

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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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