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Stillhead BC/QC Whisky (Maple Syrup Cask Finish)

Review: Stillhead BC/QC Whisky Maple Syrup Cask Finish   85.5/100
Review by Chip Dykstra
Published May 26, 2022

The Stillhead Distillery, founded by the Colebank Family, began operations in October of 2017 in Duncan British Columbia with a vision to distill the essence of Vancouver Island into their brands. They do this by adding distinct Vancouver Island ingredients to their products showcasing their home in every bottle.

Master Distiller, Brennan Colebank (after working 15 years in the tech industry) decided to pursue his dream career by combining his two passions, chemistry and spirits. In the five years that have followed, the Stillhead team has grown from a family of 4 to a company of 9, and during this time they have introduced several internationally award-winning spirits.

They are innovative creating exclusive, limited release special cask finished whiskies, utilizing barrels from Kentucky, Scotland, Spain, Portugal and Hungary. This year, 2023 will see the continuance of their flagship “Double Oak Whisky” (which I hope to taste and review at some point), as well as the subject of this review, their new maple syrup cask finished whisky, and maybe a few other that I do not know about yet.

Stillhead BC/QC Whisky Maple Syrup Cask Finish (that’s quite a mouthful) is the latest addition to the Stillhead whisky Portfolio. It is a 100% British Columbia rye grain whisky first aged in ex-bourbon casks for 3 to 4 years, and then it was finished in whisky barrels which had recently aged Grade A 100% pure, organic and unblended Maple Syrup from Cosman & Webb in Quebec.

The Maple Syrup Cask Finish Whisky is bottled at 46 % abv.

In The Bottle 4/5

Stillhead BC/QC Whisky Maple Syrup Cask Finish arrives in the squat clear bottle shown to the left. Things I like, are the heavy glass base which adds stability to the bottle by lowering its center of gravity; the medium long neck and wide mouth which makes pouring easy, and the convenient size which makes gripping the bottle  for that pour easy as well. As well. I like that the folks at Stillhead are proud of the awards they have won and you can see that they have included a stamp from the World Gin Awards on the label.

I like the oak tree rings behind the Stillhead Distiller Inc. logo. I would perhaps suggest that perhaps some sort of motif which suggests the rye grain ingredient and the Maple Syrup finish could have been incorporated into the label as well. I would also suggest that the name of the whisky could be shortened.  Stillhead Maple Syrup Cask Finish Whisky rolls off the tongue a little easier than Stillhead BC/QC Whisky Maple Syrup Cask Finish. (I find word of mouth spreads easier when product names are simplified.)

In The Glass 8.5/10

The whisky has a paler amber hue in the glass and when I bring it to my nose three aspects of the whisky immediately make themselves known in the breezes above the glass. The first is a light maple sweetness, the second is a firm rye-like spiciness, and the third is hints of alcohol astringency stemming from the high bottling proof (46 % alcohol by volume). I like how the rye grain spice pushes through that maple sweetness and find myself enjoying the aroma, albeit a little cautiously as the higher than normal alcohol strength give me the impression that the spirit has a little bite.

As I continue to nose the glass, I begin to notice vanilla and balking spices (ginger and cinnamon in particular). Orange peel adds to the impression of spiciness. There is a blush of raw oak, and some nougat chocolate bars in the air as well.

I like the complexity, but I am also wary of the heightened sweetness as well as the high alcohol content. It is going to be interested to taste the spirit to see which direction it goes.

In The Mouth 52/60

When I take my first sip, I immediately decide that I should add a little ice. The spirit is heated, both with rye spice and with alcohol heat. The maple sweetness helps to contain the heat, but it does not quell it completely. I am trying to decide if the maple sweetness is perhaps too much. I think not. This is a whisky with an intentional maple syrup cask finish and so the maple sweetness is an integral part of the whisky. And … it does not overwhelm the spirit, not become cloying as I sip. This is a little sweeter than a regular whisky, but it does not approach the level of maple sweetness where I would consider this a maple flavoured whisky. And that sweetness works well with the rye spice and higher than normal alcohol heat.

As my palate adjusts to the alcohol level, and as that ice I added melts, the whisky becomes very enjoyable. I can taste a little oak and leather as well as hints of dark fruit and apricot jam. Some Orange marmalade tickles my memory cells, and there is even hints of chocolate and coffee. Vanilla, cinnamon and cloves round out my tasting notes.

In The Throat 12.5/15

The whisky has a mid-length finish with rye spice and maple competing for my attention. Baking spices settle on the palate after the swallow with a little sizzle of cinnamon tempered by maple syrup.  The heat of the alcohol keeps the scoring down just a little.

The Afterburn  8.5/10

Stillhead’s Maple Syrup Cask Finish Whisky was a spirit I was excited to try. I think the innovation of finishing a whisky is an oak barrel that had aged Maple syrup is a worthwhile exploration. The trick I think, is to bring in a little maple sweetness without that sweetness overwhelming the whisky. Choosing to use a spicy rye grain whisky was a smart choice as the spicy rye is able to shine through the sweet maple. I question the bottling proof as I think the whisky would be more comfortable across the palate at a lower bottling strength. However, I realize that this may also blunt the forcefulness of the rye which may have upset the whisky’s balance. I guess I am being long winded, but this is just my attempt to wrap my thought up without misleading anyone.

I really like this whisky despite the heat that forced me to add ice. The flavour is wonderful and with ice, I have a new sipper to enjoy on cool evenings.

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


Suggested Recipe:

Barrel Rider

2 oz Rye Whiskey
Stillhead BC/QC Whisky Maple Syrup Cask Finish
1/2 oz Orange Liqueur (Bols Triple Sec)
1/3 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/3 oz Lemon Juice
2 dashes of Bitters (Fees Cocktail Bitters)
1/6 oz Sugar Syrup
orange Peel Twist

Add the ingredients into a metal shaker with plenty of ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish with a twist of Grapefruit

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

And if  you are interested in more recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for my mixed drink recipes!


Please Remember…The aim is not to drink more, it is to drink better!

I am always asked what my numbers actually mean. In order to provide clarification, you may (loosely) interpret the scores 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 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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