This is the fourth and final category in our TWS Whisky Awards: Cask Strength Canadian Whiskies. In our previous three parts, we covered 1. under aged & non-whiskies; 2. Canadian Single Malts; and 3. Canadian Whiskies. There were only two bottles in this category, and you’ll find the notes and rankings below, along with a wrap-up of the series.
Black Fox Spirits Wheat Spirit Cask Strength – Saskatoon, SK
Black Fox Spirits opened in 2015 and started putting down barrels of various single grain whiskies including Rye, Oat, Triticale and Wheat, and using a blend of yeast strains. They use enzymes instead of malting. The sample bottle they sent is a 1 year old wheat whisky drawn straight from the virgin American oak cask. Its ABV is approximately 62.5% and it is non-chill-filtered with no colouring added.
- Nose: yeast, cranberry, ethanol, berries, oak, sawdust. With water: more grain.
- Palate: berries, oak, grain, banana bread, walnut, quite hot. With water: more cereal and oak, less heat.
- Finish: oak, grassy, banana, bready, spice, nutty.
- Overall Comments: Very young and hot, and quite bold even with water. Tons of flavour, but needs some more time to mellow out a bit. Impressive how much fruit and berry comes out at such a young age, likely due to good yeast choices. Tons of potential, and would love to try it at 3-5 years.
Shelter Point Artisanal Cask Strength Whisky – Campbell River, BC
The second bottle from Shelter point is their CS offering, which is a blend of two-row barley and rye. the grains are double distilled and aged in ex-Jack Daniels Barrels, and finished in French Oak barrels from the Coastal Black winery on Vancouver island which previously held blackberry fruit wine! It’s bottled at 58.4% and is non-chill-filtered with no colouring added.
- Nose: citrus, malt, oak, rye spice, chocolate/cocoa, fruits.
- Palate: tons of spice, oak, tons of light tropical fruit, cream, kiwi, apple, fruit salad, strawberry, pear, vanilla.
- Finish: sweet corn, wheat, grain, rye spice, peach, vanilla
- Overall Comments: Very impressed! the rye/malt blend was a great combination, and the wine cask added a ton of fruity depth that was unique and delicious. Between this and the single malt, we’re excited to see what else comes from this distillery! Please distribute to Ontario!
Best-in-Category: Shelter Point Artisanal Cask Strength Whisky
Runner-Up: Black Fox Spirits Wheat Cask Strength
Both were impressive bottles, and we’re excited to try more from them both in the future!
Overall, after having tried 15 different bottles from 12 distilleries, representing 6 different provinces, we are more optimistic about the future of Canadian whisky than ever before! We had a few key takeaways:
- Small distilleries are making some very interesting, innovative spirits! It is encouraging to see whiskies bottled at higher than the minimum 40% ABV, experimentation with cask types, finishes, unique blends and new grain types. We hope these and other distilleries keep getting creative!
- Large distilleries still corner the market on the classic Canadian whisky profile, which makes sense… they’ve been doing it for 150+ years! We hope to see them continue this great tradition of quality, while finding ways to innovate and appeal to the whisky nerds who are always looking for something new and exciting.
- The taxation system in BC – where distilleries selling less than 50,000 litres are exempt from the 160% provincial mark-up – is enabling distilleries there to experience profitable growth in the start-up stage, and it’s resulting in high quality whisky. Other provinces should be following suit to enable innovation and job creation.
- Inter-provincial trade barriers are preventing whisky lovers from trying great whisky. We hope the government will reduce barriers and regulations on the production and distribution of whisky so people across this great nation can see what other regions have to offer!
We hope this series has been interesting and valuable to our readers, and to the distilleries who participated! We look forward to making it even bigger and better next year!