KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 11

11 12 2017

I’m not sure what shocks me more:  that there are not one but TWO Canadian whiskies in this calendar; that they have shown up in the first 11 days of Advent nestled in with offerings from England and The Netherlands; or that this one is from Vancouver Island!! Andrew Ferguson is a madman, the 2017 calendar is officially unhinged and this is by far the most fun Whisky Advent ever.  I used to live on Vancouver Island while in law school, and I never would have expected there would be a renowned distillery there, but as of 2011, there is:  Shelter Point, established across 380 acres running up the eastern coast of the island on land that was previously a UBC research farm.  Why do you need 380 acres to run a distillery, you ask?  You need it if you ALSO want to farm and grow your own environmentally sustainable barley with which to MAKE your whisky.  This sounds like an obvious concept when viewed through the lens of the wine world (the barley is basically Shelter Point’s estate fruit), but it is almost never done in the whisky world; the only other farm distillery that comes to mind off the top of my head is Scotland’s Kilchoman, whose ethos I admire greatly but whose products I can’t seem to get myself to enjoy.  No such problem here.

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Shelter Point is heavily committed to the health of its farmlands and the surrounding area, even donating a large chunk of its “estate” to Ducks Unlimited for use as a nature park.  They make vodka and liqueur in addition to multiple different releases of whisky, but tonight’s focus is their Artisanal Single Malt Whisky, all distilled from homegrown barley and then matured for years in a warehouse right alongside the ocean in what is rumoured to be all ex-Jack Daniels casks.  Badass.  At $85, it is roughly double the price of the previous Canadian whisky in this calendar, and it proves itself easily worthy of this price tag.

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My first Vancouver Island whisky has a zesty, spicy nose, lemon peels and cinnamon hearts rounded out with almonds, apple pie crust and warm leather.  I can’t remember ever writing this about a whisky before, but it is absolutely linear on the palate, driven and focused, powered ever-forward by an engine of grainy, peppery, malty verve.  There is no meandering here, no stopping for breath, at least not until the sip is long swallowed and a Coffee Crisp sort of finish makes itself apparent.  This is far more cohesive and structured than the Gretzky whisky from Niagara and easily cruises to the Top Canadian Dram crown of both this Advent and my lifetime.  It may in fact be my favourite whisky of the whole calendar so far.  Shelter Point, I’m coming over.

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