Sunday, 18 October 2015

Caldera Hurricane 5 (Batch 0001)

50th post!  How fortuitous it is that it should happen to coincide with the release of Caldera Distilling's first bottling, Hurricane 5 Canadian Whisky.

It was only a couple of weeks before the product launch that I even became aware, accidentally, of Caldera's existence.  I was scrolling idly through my seldom-viewed Facebook feed and found a post from The Viral Barman promoting the NS Spirits Festival in Lunenburg, and thinking that NS has very few distillers I could actually name I clicked the link to learn more.  Well learn more I did, discovering that no fewer than eight local distilleries (five of which I had never heard of before) would be in attendance.  From there I found Caldera's website, and a local distiller that promised to make all of my nerdy whisky fantasies come true.

Caldera Distilling is located on an old farm in River John, NS.  Their goal is to run a true field-to-glass operation; they will ferment, distill, and mature whisky crafted from their own organically estate-grown grains.  I say "will" because the company's establishment date of 2013 raised some obvious mathematical questions given Canadian whisky's minimum three year ageing requirement.  Fortunately Caldera is really good about answering questions.

The mathematical impossibility of Hurricane 5 is explained like this: Caldera started distilling before they were called Caldera.  While this pre-Caldera distillate is 100% their own grain, the other half of the current bottling is not; it was distilled under contract by another large Canadian distillery according to Caldera's specifications.  This distillate is not "sourced" in the usual sense (ie. Caldera didn't buy existing stock from the other distiller).  The arrangement was described by Caldera's Jarret Stuart as "our recipe, different kitchen."  The newest barrels, however, are 100% Caldera's juice, so the 100% estate grain goal should be achieved by the end of 2018 (provided the spirit and the barrels decide to cooperate).

Hurricane 5 is available in select NSLC stores now.


Hurricane 5 is sold in a round, stocky 750ml clear glass bottle.  It is sealed with a soft plastic stopper topped with a wooden (or does it just look wooden?) cap, which is stamped with Caldera's anchor logo.  The wrap on the short neck displays a four digit batch number and a short informative statement regarding the distillery's story.

The front label is a beauty.  An irregular octagonal shape, elegantly stylized depictions of grain, and great font choices are all pleasing to the eye.  Even better, the look and feel of the label is of unfinished wood.  I'm not sure what material they used to achieve this effect but I love it.  I guess CFNapa did the branding, and a hell of a job they did.  (Update: Jarret told me in a new email that that the cap is indeed wooden, and so is the label [birch].  Over a year of collaboration with CFNapa went into bottle design alone).

Hurricane 5 has no added colour and is not chill-filtered (though Jarret informed me they are looking at adopting a chill filtering process in the future).  It's bottled at 40% abv.

The Whisky

Colour: Copper.

Nose: Opens with butterscotch and light ground ginger.  Honey, undefined fruits, and light rye spice.  A hint of cedar wood and a youthful spirit undertone.

Taste: Creamy butterscotch sweetness, balanced well with spicy rye and light oak.  Roast nuts.  Minimal heat.

Finish: Cereal, vanilla and baking spices (ginger and cloves).  Fairly short, turning dry and woody pretty quickly.

Overall: This is a true Canadian style blended rye whisky.  The rye component balances out the creamy, sweet characteristics of what I assume is a corn base whisky, resulting is a well-balanced and approachable sipping whisky at a reasonable price.  It reminds me of Forty Creek's core range (Copper Pot in particular), which is never a bad thing.  This is a very nice first bottling from Caldera and a good buy at $34.