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Stalk & Barrel Red Blend

Review: Stalk and Barrel Red Blend  (85 points)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published October 30, 2017

Barry Bernstein and Barry Stein own and run the Still Water Distillery, Ontario’s first micro-distillery which they founded in 2009. They not only manage the distillation and the blending of the Still Waters’ products, they also act as the distillery’s Chief Bottle Washers and Bottle Fillers. In fact, there is not a single aspect of their business that they do not either personally oversee or do themselves.

According to the producer’s website Stalk and Barrel Red Blend is:

“… created by using a high percentage of our aged single malt and rye, blended together with selected casks of aged corn. This extraordinarily smooth yet complex mix of sweet malt and plump Canadian rye is imbued with intense flavours, richness, and full body.”

(My sample was bottled at 43 % abv..)

In the Bottle 4/5

The Stalk & Barrel Red Blend is pictured to the left. I like the long-necked bottle with the synthetic cork closure. It follows the bartender’s rule of thumb that liquor bottles should be easy to store, easy to hold, and most importantly easy to pour. The label could use a little dressing up; but keeping costs down is a major impediment for new distillers. I suspect that for the time being the distillery feels that money should be spent on what’s inside the bottle rather than what is outside.

In the Glass 8.5/10

When poured into my glencairn, the whisky displays itself as a nice gold coloured spirit which is just turning the corner towards amber/copper. When I tilt and twirl my glass I see a slightly thickened liquid sheen on the inside which slowly releases a multitude of medium-sized droplets which turn to slender legs which run back down to the whisky at the bottom of the glass.

The initial nose is full of wood and dusty rye spices with grain building in the background. It really is quite nice. Soon vanilla rises out of the glass followed by wisps of butterscotch and maple. There is a light maltiness that comes through more clearly as the glass breathes and light indications of marmalade and almond.

In the Mouth 52/60

This was another whisky which I first encountered tasting it blind as a judge for the 2017 Canadian Whisky Awards. My brief tasting notes for my blind sample were as follows:

Maple and butterscotch. Mellow corn with building spice of wood and grain. Sweet and sour fruit, dank bitter rye and fruit pith.

As you can see, the dram demonstrates nice complexity. I particularly like how each component of the flavour works so well with the others. I missed it in my initial tasting sessions; but there is also a nice nuttiness underneath that supports the whisky bringing even more balance forward. The only thing keeping the score down just a bit is a light astringency which seems to be associate with the age of the spirit.

When I drop a touch of ice into the dram, I seem to taste that underlying nuttiness more clearly as it manifests itself as an almond-like flavour just beginning its journey towards marzipan.

In the Throat 12/15

The finish is crisp with dusty grain and hints of burlap (barley). Things are just a little heated with  touch of alcohol and spice taking a light shot at the tonsils. A malty sweetness comes to the rescue.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

This was a whisky sample which I had ear marked as a spirit I wanted to learn more about after my judging duties were concluded. This was because it seemed to be a whisky with an added something extra which made it interesting (and delicious). When I learned that the rye was complimented by single malt whisky, I was pleased to see that one of our new micro-distillers was blazing a new path forward for rye whisky.

I think the combination works very well, and given a little more time in the barrel, I suspect this new path forward might become even better.

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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