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Stalk & Barrel Rye

Stalk and Barrel Rye  (83.5 points)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published October 19, 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 Rye is made 100 % from locally grown Ontario rye grain distilled by hand in small batches in the distillery’s small copper pot still. The whisky is matured in ex-bourbon casks for a minimum of three years. Each barrel is bottled individually as a single cask offering in individually numbered bottles, offered at either cask strength or at 46% alcohol by volume.

(My sample was bottled at 46 % abv..)

In the Bottle 4/5

The Stalk & Barrel Rye whisky 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 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 medium size droplets which turn into legs which run back down to the whisky at the bottom of the glass.

This was one of my blind samples for the Canadian Whisky awards and notes regarding the nose were as follows:

Nose:  dusty grain and wood spice & rye. Fine wood spices build with light butterscotch and grassy tobacco. Chaff and straw, grain stubble …

I saved a small amount of the sample (I really could not drink the entire contents of each sample as I would have been loopy throughout the entire judging process), and when I completed one last tasting session afterwards I noted that in addition the breezes above the glass have a light maple-like scent. I have impressions of graham wafer and nutty almond turning to marzipan.

In the Mouth 50.5/60

Again my tasting notes from analyzing the blind sample were:

Flavour: Bitter rye and dusty grain, light maple and milk chocolate favours with citrus zest and some very light corn. Leather and burlap on second sip.  Hot and astringent …

The Stalk and Barrel Rye is robust and the complexity is very high.  This speaks to the small copper pot distillation which brings a lot of flavour into the whisky. The score should be quite high except that there is just too much heat and astringency which forces me to sip very carefully and to add ice during my last sampling session.

In the Throat 11.5/15

Again here are my notes from my blind tasting notes:

Finish: Spicy with white pepper and fine wood. Maple sweetness combined with the bitterness of rye and orange pith with touches cinnamon and wood spice

Sounds fantastic doesn’t it? It is, but unfortunately I still have a hard time with the alcohol heat and spiciness until I add ice and a dash of ginger ale.

The Afterburn 9/10

The scores don’t reflect it; but the Stalk and Barrel Rye Whisky is freaky delicious. Freaky because despite all that wonderful flavour, the darn stuff is just about impossible to sip without lots of ice (which dampens that delicious) or with a good dollop of ginger-ale. That makes the dram a high-end mixer, even though its flavour screams at me to score it higher. I did what I could by bumping the Afterburn as high as I dared.

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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