GrainHenge distillery is housed in the Troubled Monk brewery in Red Deer Alberta, Canada. Brewers turned whisky makers are nothing new in this part of the world and has so far seen some excellent results turning a brewer’s keen eye to subtleties and details move into the craft whisky world. To date, GrainHenge have released two single cask single malt bottlings that took their mashes and inspiration from two different beers the brewery has released. Their third release was a single cask as well but released as part of the Wine & Beyond (a western Canada based liquor sales chain) 10th anniversary celebrations. This changed course for GrainHenge as it was a mash that is used to make Bourbon in the USA, which gave it the nickname “Alberbon”. This most recent release, Arrowwood, also sees another turn from centre as it is released as an homage to the “Canadian Renowned spirit” that being Rye Whisky. One small caveat is summed up by Head Distiller at GrainHenge, Garrett Haynes, in this quote, “I’m not creating Rye Whisky, I’m creating whisky from rye.”
Mash of 61% Flaked rye and 39% malted rye grain
Aged in a #4 char level Virgin American white oak
39 months aged (3 years, 3 months)
Price is $99.95 Cad + taxes available from www.grainhenge.com
Tasted in a Glencairn Glass
In The Glass
I immediately dove into this one. The first thing I noticed is that the oiliness from the previous releases from GrainHenge seems to be missing in the glass. A quick swirl and the tears fall quicker than expected. The natural colour (assuming its natural) has the colour of a fully matured Albertan grain field after a hot summer, waiting patiently to be harvested.
As I poured this into my glass, I couldn't help but take a quick sniff from the bottle before I closed it back up. A bright nose, with typical rye whisky notes met me instantly. As I transition over to the glass I am surprised by how bright and open the nose seems right off the hop. Rye herbal notes stand out right away. There's a sweetness hiding just underneath those herbal notes. A lightly burned brown sugar note. Followingthat, I find more influence from the #4 charred white oak, as well as a slight dustiness to it. The nose for me is very typical for a young Canadian rye, but I am actually surprised by the lack of any fruitiness at all so far.
On the initial sip, immediately the herbal rye notes hit again. A warming spice, akin to cinnamon and a toned down clove type note fill the tongue. This isn't to be mistaken for alcohol heat as I don't get any of that at all. Pleasant in the mouth, a little coating and slightly buttery feeling. I’m missing any sweetness that carries over from the nose. Baking spices again return on the back palate and this is where I find the only slight tingling from the ABV. On the swallow and finish, those spice notes with cinnamon and maybe a touch of allspice are slow to fade but are met with the tannins from the cask.
I was very curious after two single malts, and then an “Alberbon” to see what GrainHenge would possibly do next. When I was finally told it would be a rye whisky, my curiosity only grew. I have really begun to dig into rye whiskies from around the world, and so this piqued my interest. I was a bit shocked to find out that the decision was made to proof this down to 46.6 after seeing cask strength on the previous releases. I can kind of understand it, 100% rye whisky isn't the most palatable for a lot of people. I do think this whisky would shine much brighter with a slightly higher proof of say 100 or even 105 proof. This time around for me, I found this GrainHenge release to be a safe play, one that has a good taste, and hopefully gets better and better with subsequent releases. And who knows, maybe in the end it works out well for them. I sure hope it does, because we need more and more home born craft whiskies to hit the market.