September 2017 Whisky of the Month:
Introducing to Australia for the first time ever, the incredible Shelter Point Single Malt, an extraordinary International Exclusive produced under the guidance of none other than Jim Murray himself.
We’re making our long overdue hop across ‘The Pond’ from Scotland’s bonny shores to Canada to taste the next big thing in world-class single malt. We land on an incredible oceanfront farm on remote Vancouver Island, where black bears roam and Shelter Point Single Malt is produced in small batches from ‘field to flask’ to huge acclaim.
Unsurprisingly, Shelter Point is leaps and bounds beyond what is generally known as ‘Canadian whisky’ in accordance with the official FDA classification. This is serious Single Malt of the highest calibre, in the style of Scotland’s ancient farm distilleries; made from barley grown on the farm, cut with water from the farm’s well and matured beside the ocean.
The result is a deliciously oily, full bodied malt with unmistakable marine notes, sweet vanilla malt, fresh melon, dark caramelised Demerara sugar and a near-perfect balance of complexity and delicateness that’s got the undivided attention of the whisky world, including rave reviews and endorsements from Murray and a Gold Medal at the World Whisky Masters – one of the most distinguished blind tasting competitions of its kind. And our International Exclusive means that as a member, you’ll be one of the first people in the world to try it.
If you haven’t already, click here to join the Club now.
Country of Origin:
Established in 2011, Shelter Point Distillery is spearheading a new wave of Canadian distilleries breaking the 200-year mould of traditional Canadian whisky by embracing the even older tradition of Scotch malt whisky. Established by thirsty and industrious Scottish settlers more than two centuries ago, today Canada is the world’s third largest whisky producer. The first Canadian whisky was released in the late 1700s (around the time that Scotch whisky distilling was beginning to gain serious momentum), and by the 1840s there were over 200 distilleries in Canada servicing a very willing and thirsty market both locally and across the border in the US. This was further bolstered in the 1930s when Canada became the biggest supplier of liquor to the US during prohibition, so much so that the Detroit River that separates the two countries became known as ‘the river of booze’.
Borrowing from their Scottish heritage, Canadian whisky is defined as a grain spirit that’s been aged in charred oak barrels for a minimum of three years, but there’re a few quirks that make it quite different to what we’d normally drink. Firstly, while the bedrock of Scotch and our Whisky of the Month is malt, the Canadians normally opt for rye, so much so that Canadian whisky is commonly referred to as “rye”, even though there’s actually no legal requirement for a minimum rye component and many Canadian “ryes” contain no rye at all. Be sure to remember this useful fact for your next quiz night as it’s a perennial favourite! Secondly, just like Scotch, Canadian whisky is generally a blend of neutral grain whisky (in their case mainly corn but also barley or rye) and a second whisky, called a ‘flavouring”, but while the Scots typically add malt, the Canadians add rye.
So, sufficiently educated on traditional Canadian whisky and armed for your next whisky quiz night, it’s time to meet the man leading the exciting new wave of Canadian distillers who’ve seen the light and are making the good stuff; single malt of course.
Enter Patrick Evans: distiller, dreamer, visionary, tractor-driver, and much to his relief, ex dairy-farmer. While his father and brothers operate a nearby dairy farm, Patrick took the wise decision to leave behind the unforgiving life of a dairyman, opting instead for the rather more rewarding life of a barley farmer and distiller, and very sensibly, that of a single malt distiller specifically. Patrick and his wife Kimm hold a strong connection to the land, having purchased the farm in 2005 from the University of British Columbia who’d been using it as a dairy research farm. It had been bequeathed to the University by a New York stockbroker, Barrett Montfort. Patrick’s family were BC pioneers, and his grandfather owned a 160-acre portion of the farm before selling it to Montfort in 1950.
Patrick bought the farm with the intention of nurturing single-malt whisky rather than dairy cows, and through thick and thin, he and his wife Kimm have seen the dream through, always sticking to their philosophy to produce a high quality, artisanal, field-to-flask single malt whisky in harmony with nature.
“As humans, we cannot help but have an impact on the areas we reside in. However, by understanding why we did something in the past, critiquing how we do things today —and allowing ourselves to be wrong – we can certainly change tomorrow for the better.” Shelter Point is farmed in a manner that pays respect to the environment, utilising practices such as no till farming, winter cover cropping, organic matter versus chemical fertilisers, and providing feeding grounds for migrating waterfowl and residential wildlife.
Located on picturesque Vancouver Island, off the West Coast of Canada, the distillery sits on 380 acres of spectacular oceanfront, a natural mosaic of streams, a salmon-bearing river, wetlands, forests and fields – all shared with native wildlife, from bald eagles and great blue herons, to blacktailed deer and black bears. It’s a match made in whisky heaven.”
The concept for the distillery has always been quality over quantity, coexisting with nature and sourcing locally. This field-to-flask and local-first philosophy extends beyond just building materials. In fact, Shelter Point is one of only a handful of distilleries that grow their own barley and distil on the same site. Virtually the only things that aren’t local are the oak barrels, which were sourced from Kentucky bourbon distillers, and the copper pot stills which came from Scotland. Even the water is sourced on-site – the distillery sits on an incredible aquifer, with wells up to 70 feet deep producing 500 gallons per minute. The water is soft with minimal mineral content and isn’t treated for the boiler or distilling.
As far as Shelter Point’s methodology goes, well, when you wait five years for a whisky to mature, you can’t help but learn to be patient. As a result, nothing is particularly hurried there. They took their time to get the distillery right, and they’ve done the same with everything else.
To ensure a premium quality spirit, Patrick and James went direct to the original source to acquire their copper pot stills – Forsyths of Rothes, the recognized experts who supply many of the major distilleries in Scotland. The equipment travelled on a long ocean voyage, through the Panama Canal, before being offloaded by US Customs, where it was subjected to a thorough inspection. After a delay of over a month, the pot stills were released and arrived at their new home on Vancouver Island. It took over 200 hours of cleaning to bring them back to life after the journey.
And then there were the barrels. Patrick says:
“I would like to say we only have brilliant single malt, but the truth is when we started we ordered some casks from Stateside, and being a new distillery I was not definitive on what I wanted. They asked where we were from. I said ‘Canada, on the west coast/British Columbia, on an island’. ‘Boy we have some casks for you’ was the response. After an 8000km journey from Kentucky, our first casks arrived and 50% were usable… after 8 months many had to be re-vatted, as they just were not working. This was a great learning experience in how critical the wood is! From this point, I flew to Kentucky and met with the warehousemen and had very good communication, dialogue, and discussion … and we both came to an agreement that only select casks would come to Shelter Point, and we are absolutely fine with paying a premium. I can say now we are on our game for maturation of our spirits.”
To ensure their first few releases met their high standards, Patrick and James enlisted the help of none other than the great Jim Murray himself, who’s spent a very long time in their cask warehouse providing guidance on barrel selection.
Aging takes place within a few hundred yards of the ocean, imparting unique flavour influences on the whisky. The whole production process is fascinating to Canadian and international visitors and the distillery has been specially constructed so guests can get an up-close view of the process and the final product on tour. We’re dying to go and are planning our own visit there very soon!
About Shelter Point Single Malt:
Patrick and the team say that sunsets and sea air are the crucial albeit unofficial ingredients in every bottle, and the personality of that statement and the region sure shine through in the dram itself.
Shelter Point Distillery produces a small batch single malt whisky in traditional copper pot stills from two-row barley grown on the farm. Water is sourced on farm from a series of wells, and matured in a temperature controlled warehouse a few hundred yards from the ocean exclusively in first fil, single use American oak ex-bourbon casks sourced from Kentucky distilleries including Maker’s Mark, Heaven Hill & Buffalo Trace.
But as with all single malt, what makes Shelter Point unique is how all of these elements work together, from Vancouver Island’s soil for growing barley, to the farm’s water and of course the way in which the unique, maritime temperate rainforest climate influences the maturing spirit.
The result is a deliciously oily, full bodied malt with unmistakable marine notes and a near perfect balance of complexity and delicateness that’s got the undivided attention of the whisky world.
The king of whisky gurus, Jim Murray, who of course had a hand in guiding the distillery to its success, raves about the dram in his Whisky Bible, particularly in terms of the way ‘the oils ramp up the intensity of the juicy malt to extraordinary levels’, as well as the charm and huge potential both of the wonderful people behind the whisky and the dram itself – which in his words all ‘ooze personality’. He scored it a whopping 89.5 and recommends you enjoy a dram at body temperature to get the very best from this next frontier in world whisky.
A glowing recommendation from Jim, but it doesn’t stop there. Shelter Point Single Malt has already picked up a Gold Medal at the World Whisky Masters – one of the most distinguished blind tasting competitions of its kind. With all eyes on Shelter Point from the international trade, their success is only just starting to sink in for the ever-humble Canadian:
“Early on we would test the whisky amongst ourselves and we would all nod. Then professional tasters seemed to like it, which was good. And then when the unsolicited good reviews started coming in, we were even more confident. But this (Gold at the Spirits Masters)… this is the icing on the cake and justification for many years of hard work.”
Up until now Shelter Point has only been generally available in Canada, with only a couple of bottles sent to boutique stores in Japan and China. The Whisky Club has an International Exclusive on this first significant shipment outside of Canada which means that as a member, you’ll be one of the first people outside of Canada to try it.
We’re incredibly privileged to encounter this remarkable little distillery just as it’s on the brink of international stardom and years from now we’ll all be able to sit back and remember when we first had Shelter Point, long before it was truly famous.
$125 per bottle + $15 postage
Age on release:
NAS (No age statement)
Matured in an oceanfront warehouse exclusively in first fill, single use American oak ex-bourbon casks.
Shelter Point quick facts
Region: Vancouver Island, Canada
Location: 4650 Regent Rd, Campbell River, BC V9H 1E3, Canada
Water source: A number of on-site wells
Washback: 5 x 5000 litre fermentation tanks
Number of stills: 1 wash, 1 spirit
Annual output: 146,000 litres
Nose: Fresh, toasty and honeyed. A touch of sour orange opens into oatmeal-raisin cookies right out of the oven. Corn syrup, caremalised sugar and vanilla.
Palate: Still fresh, malty and honeyed. The corn syrup is there along with melons. The orange note is drying with some Demerara sugar and Russian coffee. Still fruity and floral with loads of toasty oak. The oatmeal-raisin cookies are still there, right out of the oven!
Finish: Clean, crisp and toasty. More malty tones, sugars and honey with a floral finale.
Medium rare black angus rib steak