The third and final category of the 2019 TWS Awards is the Single Malts! Canada’s single malt history dates back to the opening of the Glenora distillery on Cape Breton Island in the early 90s, and since then many others have taken up the torch from coast to coast. We always anticipate great things from this category, and this year didn’t disappoint! The bottles were tasted in the following random order, with the exception of the peated bottle being intentionally put last to avoid it overshadowing our palates:
Fils Du Roy Richelieu: This single malt was bottled for Richelieu International, an organization that helps children and youth in need. It’s aged for at least 3 years and bottled at 40% ABV.
Shelter Point Single Malt Single Barrel KWM Pick: An ex-Tennessee whiskey barrel aged single cask chosen by Kensington Wine Market. This single malt is aged about 6 years and bottled at 59% ABV.
Fils du Roy Single Malt: This 2015 distilled release is one of the first whiskies to come out of New Brunswick that we’re aware of. It’s aged for 3 years and bottled at 40% by this Acadian, family-run distillery.
Stalk & Barrel Single Malt: This single cask single malt is aged in ex-bourbon and bottled without colour or chill filtration at 46% ABV.
Shelter Point Double Barreled Single Malt: Shelter Point has continued their collaborations with BC wineries with this single malt. It has been finished in Quail’s Gate Pinot Noir casks for nearly a year, after over 5 years in ex-bourbon american oak. It’s bottled with natural colour and no chill filtration at 50% ABV.
Victoria Caledonian Mac na Braiche: The name “Mac na Braiche” means “son of malt,” and this bottle is actually under 3 years old so it can’t technically be called a single malt whisky. VC has been making this for years and aging it in their STR casks – portuguese ex-wine casks chosen by the late Dr. Jim Swan. It’s bottled at 50% ABV.
Lohin McKinnon Niagara Wine Barrel Finished Single Malt: Following their BC winery collaboration, the folks at Central City Distillers have partnered with an undisclosed Niagara winery to finish their single malt in ex-wine casks. It’s bottled with natural colour at 43% ABV.
Shelter Point Artisanal Single Malt Whisky: The standard single malt release from Shelter Point is double distilled, aged in american oak and bottled at 46% ABV without colour added or chill filtration. Each batch is comprised of hand selected barrels.
Lohin McKinnon Peated Single Malt Whisky: This is a lightly peated limited release version of Central City’s single malt. It’s aged in ex-bourbon american oak and bottled at 43% ABV.
Honourable Mention: Lohin McKinnon Peated Single Malt
- Nose: light smoke, peat, orange, vanilla, oak, creamy custard
- Palate: ashy, earthy, black tea, vegetal, funky
- Finish: long, earthy, funk
- Why it won: It’s true, we are peat-heads when it comes to scotch, but if anything that means we’d be more critical of a peated entry. This bottling earned our respect and delivered on all fronts with a particularly intriguing nose!
Honourable Mention: Victoria Caledonian Mac na Braiche
- Nose: cereal, light fruit, malt, chocolate
- Palate: chocolate, malt, pepper, red fruit, raspberry, cereal
- Finish: medium length, spice, baking spice, cocoa, light oak
- Why it won: Overall very high quality with depth and breadth of flavour. When we found out this was what we had ranked as an honourable mention, we were surprised, as we wrongly didn’t expect a malt under 3 years would compete against much older bottlings. Well done!
Runner-Up: Shelter Point Artisanal Single Malt Whisky
- Nose: sweet, stone fruit, highland-esque, mineral, earthy, fruit
- Palate: mineral, fruit, herbal, sweet, spice. This could fool someone into thinking it’s a highland scotch.
- Finish: long, mineral, earth, fruit
- Why it won: This whisky tastes like a single malt scotch. It has the same mineral, earthy and fruity notes that we typically associate with a malt from the highlands, and competes with them on quality too.
Best in Category: Shelter Point Double Barreled Single Malt Whisky
- Nose: spice, malt, oak, cereal, red fruit, berries
- Palate: fruity, cereal, malt, leather, tobacco, earth, spice, berries
- Finish: long, fruity, earth
- Why it won: This unanimous favourite of the single malt category completely blew the panel away with its depth of character and delicious notes from both the spirit and wine cask. It again could compete with finished scotch in terms of overall quality and complexity. We found ourselves going back for seconds after the official tasting was over, and recommend whisky fans all give this bottle a try!
The overall quality of the single malts we tasted this year was incredibly exciting and encouraging, as it demonstrated our best malts can compete with the best from anywhere else.
We continue to be optimistic about the future of Canadian whisky and thoroughly enjoyed the process of determining who won the TWS Whisky Awards for 2019.
Congrats to all of the winners, and thank you to all distilleries who participated!