Still Waters 1+11 Canadian Whisky (40% alc/vol)

April 12, 2012


A tingling effervescence turns initially buttery and mouth-filling, toffee indulgences into clear, clean refreshment. Ever-present hot pepper butresses a richness of body and crisp cleansing pith. ★★★★☆

Hats off to the LCBO. No, the Auditor General is not their biggest fan. Yes, efficiency expert, Don Drummond, thinks they could put a whole lot more money into the public treasury if they stopped promoting Ontario wine (think local, Don?). On the other hand, Ontario whisky lovers are beaming at an opportunity they share with no one else in the world. Still Waters distillery has produced its first blended whisky and LCBO has secured the whole 90-case first batch to sell across Ontario in its Vintages stores.

It’s about a year and a half since craft distiller, Barry Stein brought two brand new blended whiskies to Whisky Live for visitors to try. Stein, and his partner, Barry Bernstein had sourced the constituents of these whiskies from one of the major distilleries and were conducting focus groups to gauge reactions. Positive results encouraged the partners to continue tweaking their blend until finally on their 11th try they hit the winning formula. The result is a scrumptious mingling of sourced whisky, aged four to six years, and top-dressed with a splash of Still Waters own spirit.

It’s a succulent dram, dry on the nose until flourishing buttery toffee notes envelope the bouquet. It’s also a prizewinner, scoring 91 points at New York’s Ultimate Spirits Challenge in March 2012, just one point away from winning the Chairman’s Trophy.

First and foremost, Still Waters is a craft whisky distillery, sourcing local grain, then fermenting, distilling, ageing, and bottling it right on site. However, making great whisky takes time. According to distiller and company co-founder, Barry Bernstein, “While waiting for our single malt and straight rye whiskies to mature, we wanted to release a traditional Canadian blended whisky. We personally selected the whiskies in this blend and are quite proud of the international recognition it has already received.”

Still Waters’ pot-distilled single malt whisky is made from 100% Canadian two-row malted barley. Similarly, its corn and rye whiskies begin with locally sourced Ontario-grown grain. True to the craft distilling tradition, its whiskies are made by hand in small batches using artisanal distilling techniques.

If Still Waters’ own distillations continue to mature as they have, we could start to see some single barrel whisky offerings as early as 2013. Let’s hope the LCBO snags those ones for Ontario whisky lovers as well. Meanwhile let’s taste Still Waters’ sourced, and hand-blended Canadian whisky.

Nose: Begins dry and slightly closed before slatey mineral notes and dusty rye emerge only to slide away on wafting hints of dry grain and linseed oil. A smattering of pansies announces layer two: sweetness, with vague initial hints of toffee that build to a crowning crescendo, accented by fluttering fragrances of citrus fruit.

Palate: This whisky feels so good on the palate that at first you could overlook its pulsing pepper. Rich, weighty, and bordering on chewy, with slightly pulling oak tannins and sweet caramels, it almost feels like pancake syrup. The medium-hot pepper does start early though and it stays long with a tingling spiciness that leans towards ginger. A noticeably forward citrus pithiness builds on the early oak and soon develops equally appealing elements of tart citrus peel. It’s a neat balancing act performed with aplomb. As the middle develops a sizzling effervescence, the syrupy feel dissolves into pure refreshment. Hard-core whisky fans will revel in the sheer luxury of sipping this one neat, but do yourselves a little favour and just one time, add a splash of ginger ale.

Finish: Medium, fading to an almost nutty finale with clean grapefruit pith and hints of pepper along the way.

Empty Glass: Buttery Mackintosh toffee and clean threads of oak.

$34.95 at LCBO Vintages locations (beginning April 14, 2012).

Highly recommended. ★★★★☆

Canadian whisky from Still Waters distillery April 2012


21 Responses to “Still Waters 1+11 Canadian Whisky (40% alc/vol)”

  1. Marc:

    Hi Davin,
    Was at the distillery yesterday talking to the guys. Sampled this whisky on site with the two Barrys and found it to be exceptional. Picked up two bottles today and will enjoy a dram tonight while watching the playoffs. Davin, I suppose you’re a Sens fan? Must wait yet another year for Toronto to hopefully make it.

    • portwood:

      The way I understand it, spirit has to be aged in wood for a minimum of three years in order to be called “Canadian Whisky”. Given that Still Waters was established less than 3 years ago, and the “1-11 blend” contains spirit from their own production, how can this be called “Canadian Whisky”?

      Oh wait, I almost forgot about the infamous rule allowing up to 9.09% additive flavouring in Canadian whisky…

      According to the marketing story the “11″ refers to 11th formulation they tried, right? So, the fact that “1-11″ taken as a fraction is …. wait …. 9.09% is just coincidence?

      As long as it tastes good, no harm done, right?

      • Davin:

        Hi Marc,
        Yes, I really enjoyed it. They are very patient and waited to get it right before going to market. Did you taste any of their malts? When I was there I tasted two especially good barrels.

        Hi portwood,
        One eleventh is indeed 9.09%, a seriously misunderstood figure among whisky fans. To my knowledge this must be aged a minimum of two years if it is spirit, but not if it is wine. I didn’t ask, but I imagine they added some of their maturing whisky although whether it was malt or rye I can’t tell. The whisky feels really ‘big’ and has hints of dry grain but does not have the cereal flavour of young malt. It does have the flintiness of rye though. Bottom line? It makes my tongue happy.

  2. Piers:

    Awww quit hogging it all! :p Still Waters, send some out to Alberta pleeeease

    • Davin:

      Hi Piers,
      Now I never thought I’d see the day someone from Alberta complained about selection! Good to hear from you.

  3. Richard:

    I met with Barry & Barry today. I thought they were very knowledgable and dedicated to bringing a selection of top quality whiskys to market. And by what I sampled they are well on their way. There are lots of challenges craft distillers are presented with. The quality of what I tasted made it easy to support them by stopping by the LCBO and picking up some to share and let others taste how good this is. Many US States have enacted legislation to support craft distillers. I would hope our provinces do the same.

    • Davin:

      Yeah, they seem to have the knack at Still Waters.
      As far as legislation goes, I’m staying right out of that minefield!

  4. The guys at Stillwater made really good stuff and we’ve been waiting for this new release for a long long time. Will get a bottle on the way to Spirit of Toronto in 3 weeks as it is not available in SAQ stores in Quebec

    Take Care.

    • Davin:

      see you at SoT, then, André.

  5. Andy:

    This is one great product…and for $35. I emailed Still Waters and they said in the coming weeks they will make another batch to sell on the market, and out of their Concord store. Most people think more age = better whisky. This whisky is a blend of 4-6year old whiskies and is perfect. Great review Davin. When some warmer weather hits I will take your advice and add a splash of ginger ale.

  6. Alex:

    Hi my friends and I are going to celebrate end of exams, so I was wondering is there is a Canadian Whiskey that mixed well with coconut water (mixed with water to decrease the sweetness), I’m from South-america and I loved the taste of Chivas 18 or Buchanan 18 (Scotch Whiskey) on coconut water. Any suggestion? Thanks

    • Davin:

      This sounds like White Owl territory to me. Congratulations on finishing your exams.

  7. Mike:

    Very accurate review. I think this whisky is okay but I find something off-putting about it; can’t put my finger on it. There is something artificial/plasticky in the flavour. I may put mine into the one-litre barrel as an experiment.

  8. Jesse Wood:

    I wish we could get some of these smaller releases down here in Texas. We do have a HUGE market for Canadian Whiksy down here, you know? ^__^

    I’m just going to have to break down and visit you guys up there one day. And bring an empty suitcase as well!

    • Davin:

      Hi Jesse,
      A lot of that goes on. We have some great whisky up here that you guys don’t get down that way.

  9. Mike from Sarnia:

    Finally arrived in Sarnia this week…gonna sneak by the LCBO tomorrow and buy one!

  10. Brian:

    Picked up a bottle in Kitchener. What a treat!

    It’s great to try something new and local that isn’t a craft beer for once. This is a bottle that reminds me a LOT of Alberta Springs 10yo.

    • Davin:

      Yes, isn’t it lovely.

  11. Yello to Mello:

    My first taste of this I was underwhelmed. I seem to be alone in my opinion so far but I still have 1-2 drams left from my sample to try again. I like Alberta Springs 10yo though as it was recently compared here.

    • Davin:

      Try it head to head with a couple of others that you like. But everyone has different taste preferences so if it’s not for you, trust your palate and don’t sweat it.

  12. [...] make vodka…a single malt vodka, no less. They’ve also put a blended Canadian whisky, Still Waters 1+11 Canadian Blended Whisky on the shelves, one that is made up of a bit of their own distillate as well as that from their [...]

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