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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Catoctin Creek, Virginia, USA

No, I hadn't heard of it either....  In fact I have a growing suspicion that even those of us who think we know a thing or two about "craft distilling" actually don't know a signficant amount about what is going in various small towns and industrial parks around this country and perhaps the world.  On a June day in 2014 I found myself in Virginia on business trip with a few hours to kill and so thanks to the miracle that is smart phone technology I searched for, and found, a craft distillery offering tours and tastings less than 50 miles from my hotel in the Washington DC area.  The site, a former car dealership and furniture store, is quite new as they started (as many craft distilleries do) in a nearby industrial unit in 2009, outgrew it and in 2012 purchased a very nice facility in downtown Purcellville.  They make rye whiskey (and some gin from the whisky tails - interesting) and sell some rye spirit as well.  I started with a $10 tasting flight which included the rye spirit, bottled at 40% abv, their "standard" 2 year old Roundstone Rye and their newest / latest batch of 3 year old Roundstone rye. For another $5 you can take a tour of the distillery (ie go into the next room) and have the whisky making process explained which I did.  Would I recommend you travel far to seek this out?  Probably not.  Did I accidently discover the best kept whiskey secret in Virginia and a product so stunning that John Hall should melt down his stills and go back to wine makling.  Also a no.  But if you are in the DC area and need to get your "whisky geek" on it is a very professional set up and worth the short trip.

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Stillwaters Distillery, Ontario, Canada

Stillwaters Distillery, Ontario, Canada

When I planned my recent business trip to Canada I had my heart set on visiting my first Canadian whiskey distillery. I had expected / thought / hoped it would be Forty Creek as that is the whiskey that completely and forever changed my opinion about the possibilities of Canadian whisky. Sadly, with my schedule and limited visiting times at the distillery during the fall and winter I had to rethink. Thanks to Johanne McGinnes (aka the Whiskylassie) I was introduced to Barry (and Barry) of Stillwaters and found my way to their industrial unit in the suburbs of Toronto.

While not a formal distillery visit / tour, Barry (but not Barry, he was busy) was kind enough to spend some time with me and show me around the place. Like most craft distilleries this part did not take long. We discussed (distilled perhaps?) their journey via vodka, independent Scotch bottlings, gin, single malt, brandy and finally (and perhaps saving the best until last) the bottling of their 100% rye expression which was ongoing when I arrived.

I had tried the Stalk and Barrel Cask Strength single malt on a Twitter Tasting (also organized by Johanne) and while I liked it there was nothing about it that stood out for me, other than its youth. However I had heard “good things” about their rye and as a “rye guy” I was happy try it. Glad I did. I did not take notes but recall vividly that the nose was rich and fruity and the taste had all the spice, fruit and chocolate notes I have come to love in ryes.   Well balanced with a herbal, minty finish I was impressed. Will definitely pick up a bottle if it ever makes to Texas. I also re-tried their single malt and at 46% ABV and found it better balanced than the cask strength (for my palate) and would happily have drunk more but for the plane home I had to catch.

So with a Canadian notch freshly carved into my distillery bedpost I now have to find a way to get to Japan so I can say I have been to the “Big 5” of whisky producing countries; Scotland, USA, Ireland, Canada and Japan.

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