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Still Waters micro-distillery unveils its first whisky

Posted by Ben Johnson / April 23, 2013

Still Waters micro-distilleryLast year we introduced you to Barry Stein and Barry Bernstein, the co-founders of Still Waters Distillery, Ontario's first micro-distillery. Back then the Barrys were distilling an award-winning vodka while patiently waiting for the day that they could unveil their small-batch distilled whisky to the world.

On Saturday April 27th, that whisky will finally hit the crucial three-year mark which is required by Canadian law in order to sell whisky and Still Waters will release the first few casks of their single malt whisky for retail sales.

Being sold under the brand name Stalk & Barrel, single cask offerings will be sold in a very limited run in individually numbered bottles. The whisky is handmade at Still Waters' custom-built copper still in Concord, Ontario and is made from 100% Canadian two-row malted barley.

The Barrys are quite pleased with the results of their three-plus years of waiting. "We think it tastes fantastic!" Barry Bernstein told me. "We are very proud of the results. We had our fellow craft distillers in the province taste this and they all agree it is excellent." As for tasting notes, Barry tells me that their whisky has hints of cloves, honey and butter pecan on the nose and is very smooth with honey, brown sugar, creamy vanilla and butterscotch on the palate.

This first run will be available for sale only directly from the distillery; however, interestingly, they'll also start selling their wares to Ontario residents online — a unique marketing angle for which Still Waters has only recently received permission.

Sadly, thanks in part to the lengthy process required to obtain LCBO approval and our province's high tax rates for liquor, Still Waters has opted to designate a majority of their whisky for sale outside of Ontario. "Our preference would be to sell it all locally," Barry Bernstein tells me, "but there is great demand for Canadian made whisky in other markets and we can get product out a lot quicker and even make a little more [money] in some cases by selling outside the province."

Still Waters WhiskyAs for future offerings, the idea is to continue aging some whisky, but they'll be making decisions on quantity based on the success of this initial sale. "We will release our whisky to meet demand, while at the same time trying to hold some back for further aging," Barry says. "Although first indications are that we will have a problem meeting the demand."

Sales of Stalk & Barrel will begin at 10am on Saturday April 27th from the distiller's retail store at Unit 26 of 150 Bradwick Drive in Concord (a location that you can actually get within 2km of by transit if you've got the time..). They'll be bottling two casks at cask strength, which means it'll be the potent, undiluted booze exactly as it comes out of the barrel — roughly 60%-65% ABV — and these bottles will cost $99.95. A third cask will be diluted to 46% ABV and those bottles will retail for $69.95.

If you're interested, it's probably a good idea to get there early given the limited run and the fact that it's first come, first served. Otherwise you'll need to stay tuned to Still Waters' website for the opening of their online ordering system, which should go live later this week.

Lead photo c/o Still Waters, barrel photo by Paul Aihoshi.

Ben Johnson also writes about beer and booze over on Ben's Beer Blog.

Discussion

14 Comments

JD / April 23, 2013 at 08:44 am
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The LCBO must die!
Tippler / April 23, 2013 at 10:20 am
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$100 (cask strength) and $70 (46% ABV) for a 3 year old whisky is a little rich.

Springbank 12 year old cask strength sells for $102 at the LCBO. Bruichladdich 10 year old (46%) sells for $64 at the LCBO. Both are from established, world-class distilleries.

I like where their hearts are at and they've taken a great approach (non-chill filtered, no colour, no grain neutral spirit), but these guys are pricing like they're already in the big leagues when they're simply unproven at this point.
GL replying to a comment from Tippler / April 23, 2013 at 11:27 am
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They also have to make money and if the product is good, it will sell at the asking price. If it doesn't prices will fall. Who cares whether they are 'established'
AJS replying to a comment from Tippler / April 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm
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Look up the definition of "economies of scale" and you'll understand why their price point is much higher than distilleries with larger operations.
Dan / April 23, 2013 at 12:26 pm
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I'm eager to taste the whisky, but have to agree that $100 for three years of aging seems a little high. $100 is a pretty sweet spot for killer whisk(e)y.
Tippler replying to a comment from GL / April 23, 2013 at 01:38 pm
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In addition to being more established the whiskies I mentioned are aged for far longer than 3 years, which I guess was my main point.

I understand economies of scale; however, they can fund the proper aging of their malt by selling vodka, gin, and new make which can be turned out without any time in a barrel.

If the price simply reflects the hope that scarcity will draw in collectors, count me out. If it's quality whisky, then sure, $100 is on point for a cask strength single malt.

I'm excited to try what they've produced to see if the finished product warrants the price-point. I wonder if there will be a chance to taste before we buy on Saturday?
Polboron replying to a comment from Tippler / April 23, 2013 at 01:50 pm
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I must completely agree with you on this. The selling point for a first time batch is quite ridiculous without prior whiskey reputation makes it even more so.
GB / April 23, 2013 at 04:07 pm
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Still debating on picking up a bottle myself.

I agree with the above posts that the price points seems a little high for the age. I wonder how much of that is LCBO taxes and how much is profit?

The only thing I'll say is that from what I understand, these whisky's are aged in new casks (~2 years) and then finished in ex-bourbon casks (~1 year.) From my very limited understanding of whisky, I think new casks tend to mature whisky faster than used casks.

Tippler replying to a comment from GB / April 23, 2013 at 08:40 pm
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This is not technically true. A first-fill barrel will impart a stronger flavour in a shorter period of time than second and refill barrels. Weather also has a lot to do with maturity times with warm and humid climates leading to fully matured whisky in a shorter period of time (see Kentucky bourbon which reaches peak maturity between 6 and 10 years and Scotch whisky which takes 12 to 18 years, or longer, to reach maturity).
DSingh / April 27, 2013 at 07:29 pm
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Great job folks. Congratulations>
GB / April 28, 2013 at 11:33 pm
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Has anyone bought and tasted their single malt yet? If so, what's your impression? Worth $100?
Malt whisky / May 3, 2013 at 05:33 am
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Yes i agree with Tippler.There is no doubt that it is not technically true. A first-fill barrel will impart a stronger flavour in a shorter period of time than second and refill barrels. Weather also has a lot to do with maturity times with warm and humid climates.I think Dewar's full fill all the criteria of whisky lovers.
Steve / September 12, 2013 at 03:27 pm
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The mark up by the LCBO is 140%! Add 13% HST. Add $11.70 per liter of absolute alcohol (LAA) (also known as the Federal Excise Tax), add some environmental fees, container fees and a bottle levy and the Still Water will be lucky to get $23 from that $100 charge. Don't blame the distillery blame the ridiculous LCBO!

http://hellolcbo.com/ci/fattach/get/41462/0/filename/Pricing%20Examples%20March%201%202013.pdf
Iliana / February 20, 2014 at 09:35 am
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We visited this micro-distillery last month.
This is a business delivering an exceptional product at a competitive price. We would highly recommend visiting the Still Waters Distillery for a tour and seeking out their products on the LCBO shelves shortly thereafter – you are in for a delightful treat. They will soon have their wonderful scotch-style whisky line up at the LCBO as well. We will definitely be back to buy some of these outstanding liquors for our friends and family.

Read our full experience:
http://ilianaspalette.blogspot.ca/2014/01/still-waters-distillery.html

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