Tag Archives: Whiskey

Innis & Gunn Irish Cask Stout

This beer was one that was looked forward to by us. The Innis & Gunn Irish Cask Stout  was released in early 2012 for St. Patrick’s Day. Aged for 60 days in barrels that housed a triple distilled Irish whiskey, this beer boasts a full flavored and complex taste to enjoy any time of the year, not just March 17th!

-Tristan

*****

Heavier and darker than all other Innis & Gunn beers, the stout shares the unique Innis & Gunn quality of smooth, low carbonated, oak-imbued richness. While the stout flavours are somewhat dampered by the oak, they are at the forefront of the beer. The typical Innis & Gunn sweetness is mostly replaced by flavours of roast, malt, and whisky. Some vanilla certainly remains, though.

On both the nose and the palate is mostly the malt, yet the beer retains the lingering smoothness on the palate typical of Innis & Gunn. It is significantly lighter, though creamy and velvetty, than your typical ‘stout’. This results in a nice crisp, inoffensive finish. This might be where my problem with this beer lies: It’s good, no doubt, but, as an oak infused stout, I expected stronger flavours. I expected more whisky, more vanilla, and a more vibrant beer all-around.

Nose: 20
Body: 22
Taste: 20
Finish: 21

Kamran: 83 pts.

*****

As demonstrated by this point, if you haven’t noticed, Innis and Gunn is a long running favourite of ours, and this particular brew is no exception. Similarities in nose carry over with vanilla, chocolate and malt sweetness. Has a similar scent that reminds me of Red Truck Brewing’s Madscow or Crannog Ales’ Backhhand of God… both very well done local craft stouts! The body is a rich black tht fully encompasses mouth like North Coast’s Old Rasputin, more velvety than the creamy sensation of a Guinness. There is a slight bitterness to it as well. The taste was malty, chocolate, vanilla-treacle notes, lightly balanced and not as complex as the 21 Year Highland Cask. The Finish is malty tones, slight hops, yet certainly the sweetness and oak are most prevalent.

While not my favourite by the brewery, it is a VERY welcome addition and one i hope they continue with for years to come. Probably if i were to drink this again, i would refrain from using it as a session beer as it is delicate in complexity and it boasts a high level of alcohol at 7.4%, therefore a better night cap or dessert beer.

Nose: 23.5
Body: 22.5
Taste: 23
Finish: 22

Tristan: 91 pts.

*****

Final Average: 87 pts.

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Storm Brewing/Russell Brewing Big Smoke Ale

This limited release collaboration beer between Storm Brewing and Russell Brewing has been around for just a few months. Producing one of the first of a slew of collaboration beers that have been released over the past several months, brewmasters Jack Bensley (Russell Brewing) and James Walton (Storm Brewing) are pioneering a kinsman-like spirit for the Vancouver craft beer community.

The name Big Smoke is derived from its unique approach to beer fermentation: using peated malt! Well, some peated malt — 10% to be exact. If you’re unaware, peat is vegetation that is primarily used in Scotland to dry barley malt. This technique, using peat fires, is especially used in Islay single malts, and gives it that characteristic vegetal flavour — grass, moss, dust, dampness, etc.. It’s a little difficult to describe, but quite obvious once you’ve tried a peated whisky. Because of its association with drying of the malt in peat fires, peat flavours often come in tandem with a smoky quality. Peat is, in fact, often mistaken for smoke; truth is, while these two aspects typically come hand in hand, they are not inextricable — there are some very smoky, lightly peated whiskies, as well as some highly peated, lightly smoked whiskies, but this is all relative.

When it comes to beer, peated malt is unusual, but can be quite the pleasantry for a whisky drinker. Some other peated beers include Unibroue’s Raftman, Williams Brothers Fraoch Heather Ale — where the peat and heather come in part from the water sources of Scotland, and, though not actually using peat, (whisky) barrel aged beers — Phillip’s Double Barrel Scotch Ale, Driftwood’s Singularity etc. — tend to give off some peat flavour. Besides the peat, the Big Smoke is a heavy, malty, thick, dark, high percentage beer; a true sipping beer that’s not for the faint of heart.

– Kamran

*****

Amidst the light, effervescent peat smoke aroma is a solid malt backbone. As a single-malt enthusiast who loves his peaty scotches — Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Ileach, etc. — I was rather disappointed that the peat does not shine through as much as I’d hoped. In fact, the malt all but overwhelms the notes of peat. That said, with careful concentration, one may extract moments where peat instilled flavonoids connect with one’s receptors. The feeling is quite pleasant, however, this is much too much work, and I don’t want to have to pay such careful attention to access the best parts of a beer; these parts should be the forefront of the beer.

While the body is enjoyably creamy, the beer is quite heavy. You certainly don’t want to be drinking more than one of this tallboy bottle badboy. Though not considered a stout, it reaches certain stout-like parameters — heaviness, thickness (the definition of stout), and darkness. While the malty taste is excellent — especially the initial flavour — it does not last; the finish, while retaining the taste of alcohol, loses its sweet malt flavours.

All things considered, the Big Smoke is an exceptional beer, and while not fitting for all occasions, there are some instances — perhaps while sitting in front of a fire on a cold night — where it would be perfect. So, don’t miss out on it while it’s still around!

Nose: 20.5
Body: 21
Taste: 23
Finish: 21.5

Kamran: 86 pts.

*****

As you can tell, Kamran has left little room for expansion on this particular beer; I suppose he really enjoyed it!  Just along the basics of this beer then, I found it to be one of the best beers we had that night.

The nose was a rich malt that, while stronger than the peat notes, was still an enticing factor to salivate for this beer. The body was a thick and heavy combination that went down creamy and smooth, much like certain stouts. The taste was naturally malty and slightly peaty to my senses, but it also possessed a slightly cocoa-like flavour. The finish is a brief encounter to say the least. It fades rather fast for my liking, but it is a smooth malty presence that is enjoyable prior to dissipation.

This beer is one I’ve had on a couple of occasions since the tasting, and I have to say, it is a nice treat to have and even share late at night. Well done Russell/Storm, but you’ve now set a high standard for any future collaborations!!!

Nose: 21
Body: 24
Taste: 22
Finish: 20

Tristan: 90 pts.

*****

Final Average: 88 pts.

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Talisker 18 Year

Talisker 18 is regarded as a premium whisky, so we were excited to have a small taste of it! A great fragrance accompanies this single malt . Amber in colour, it is a full bodied whisky with a higher alcohol content of 45.8%. Compared to the Bowmore 12 it is certainly more reserved when it comes to the smoke and peat flavours, but still sweet at the start. The finish was rounded and smooth on the palate., with a medium length. A favorite of mine which I’ll have to purchase if ever passing through the duty free from the U.K.

Tristan

*****

Since the Talisker 10 is one of my favourite single malts, and since the 18 has become increasingly difficult to find — due to it mainly being produced for duty free, and rumours of it being discontinued — I was extremely excited to taste this whisky. Perhaps it is because of my ultra high expectations, and though it is fine whisky indeed, I was rather disappointed with my experience.

To be sure, though Talisker, coming from Skye Island, produces relatively peaty whisky, the 18s degree of peat is quite mild. The extra 8 years of maturation markedly softens the peat smoke that is apparent in the 10-year. In light of this, the Talisker 18, unlike the 10, shares more in common with a Speyside single malt. A mild earthiness, wood, and citrus notes are exuded both from the nose and palate, while the characteristic sea-salt flavour of Talisker lingers on the finish. An enjoyable whisky, though not what I expected. I hope to try it again someday without any preconceptions.

Nose: 22
Body: 21
Taste: 21.5
Finish: 22.5

Kamran: 87 pts.

*****

The nose in my humble opinion is by far the nicest I’ve come across. It’s smooth, fruity, sweet, with a faint smokey note. In body it’s certainly full, with a peaty presence. Very strong. The flavour is sweet at the start, which fades to a earthy/smokey note. Finally, the medium length finish was a rounded – almost smooth – and peaty. While I’m more a fan of the sweeter single malts, this is an exception that won me over!

Nose: 25
Body: 22
Taste: 22
Finish: 24

Tristan: 93 pts.

*****

Final Average: 90 pts.

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Glenlivet 18 Year

One of the worlds largest distilleries, Glenlivet have a rich history of producing fine single malt whiskys. For the review, we decided to do the 18 year scotch as it is an easy introductory single malt and has less peat and smoke flavour and a richer sweetness. The extra years in the barrel have added a richer colour to the whisky, yet it remains much lighter than the Glenlivet 21. The sweetness means that this is a whisky to be savoured, but the higher alcohol – at 43% – means that it does have a wee bit ‘o strength behind it. As well, the spice creates a warm glow that can be felt radiating from your palate down to your stomach. While not the best whisky we’ve tasted, it is certainly a must for those interested in dabbing their palate into the world of whisky.

Tristan

*****

Due to historical implication, popularity, and mass production, the Glenlivet, along with Glenfiddich, share a place in the whisky world that (the likes of) Bud Light holds in the beer world — consumption, consumption, consumption! To be fair, while this whisky snobbery is quite justified in regards to the simple, flavourless 12 year concoctions, the extra years of maturation in oak casks imbues some of the older editions with enough complexity to satisfy even the most sophisticated palate. While it certainly doesn’t ring true that more age = better product — in many cases the alternative is the truth, despite the gross increase in price — in the case of the Glenlivet, more age certainly does improve the product — I mean, how could it get any worse?!

As a typical Speyside malt should be, the Glenlivet 18 is smooth and subtle; the flavours are not intense or overbearing like an Islay malt could be. Unlike the Glenlivet 12, though, the 18 actually does have some flavour, given almost entirely by the wood. On the nose, there is just a delicate touch of sweetness; however you can certainly smell the alcohol through this. At 43%, the malt doesn’t really require anything to cut it down; however, a couple drops (literally a couple drops) into an ounce, followed by a swirl, really does open up the flavours — careful not to ruin the whisky! On the palate are notes of oak and dirt; there is an earthiness about it, despite the lack of peat. Rather than the taste of a bog is the taste of pine trees and fresh water. While the finish leaves one desiring more, it is, at least, enjoyable, and sometimes one just wants a plain old whisky!

Nose: 21
Body: 19.5
Taste: 20.5
Finish: 20

Kamran: 81 pts.

*****

The rich golden colour is from the extra years in the barrel, these years have also added to the rich nose that this whisky possesses.   It is sweet with the oakiness, with a mild peat fragrance, with floral notes, along with some light toffee. On first sip it feels bold, but by the second or third it has exchanged pleasantries with your palate and is smooth yet sweet, along with some spice before the oakiness follows through. The finish is sharp due to the higher alcohol content, but it lasts with a radiating glow from your bodies core. A somewhat dry sensation lingers.

Nose: 23
Body: 19
Taste: 21
Finish: 22

Tristan: 85 pts.

*****

Final Average: 83 pts.

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