The Importance of Provenance: Alberta
Troubled Monk, a genius name for a Canadian microbrewery/distillery pumping out exciting experiential beer and spirits from Red Deer, located in Central Alberta, has created an exciting new whisky brand on the Canadian scene: GrainHenge.
Their head distiller, Garret Haynes, has released two experimental new world whiskies in the past year: Meeting Creek (December 2021) and Elevator Row (April 2022). Both of these whiskies were inspired by Troubled Monk’s flagship beers, Open Road and Pesky Pig.
As we all know, whisky is essentially beer’s more mature, distinguished, “hotter” older brother. Whisky starts it’s life as a beer and once distilled and barrelled, becomes more refined with age. The things that make this whisky brand unique, however, are the quality, the craftsmanship, and the provenance of the ingredients.
First, let’s talk about water source. GrainHenge whisky’s water comes from the Red Deer River, which originates from the eastern slopes of the Sawback mountains, near Lake Louise in Banff National Park. The river flows through the mountains and foothills of Sundre, making its way through the heart of Red Deer. Many whisky distilleries around the world pride themselves on their water sources. Not many, however, can boast that the source of their water comes from the most pristine location on earth!
Secondly, let’s talk about the grains. GrainHenge has released two single malts made exclusively from barley. Single malt whisky is the most complex spirit in the world and barley is the essence of single malt. When you have new make (unaged spirit), its entire spectrum of flavour compounds come from the grain. Canada is known throughout the world to have the cream of the crop when it comes to grains and while grown across Canada, Alberta is the main hotspot for barley. Canadian malt is in high-demand all around the world and we export about 65 per cent of the malt we produce to about 20 different countries.
Where does GrainHenge get their grain? The fun part about these experimental batches is that the grains used to make GrainHenge whisky are the same ones used in their beer mashbills. Having a brewer’s perspective makes the process unique, as most distilleries use distillers malt, which is less flavourful than brewers malt due to the enzyme package. GrainHenge uses malts from around the globe to meet the specific envisioned flavour profiles but the majority of the malt used is from local maltsters and farmers here in Alberta. As more and more local producers are diversifying and making desired products, more of those local products will be used in future releases of Grainhenge.
Different strains of barley grains are used for malting, just like different grapes are used for wine, however, the same type of barley also can be made into many types of malt.
The mash bill for Elevator Row is made up of 2-Row and Dark Munich, which have distinct flavors on their own:
- Two-row: a base malt that normally has two grains on the head of the barley and often the barley of choice for maltsters. The grain flavour is mellow and malty.
- Dark Munich: Originally a German malt, the grain flavour is biscuit-forward and malty sweetness.
The ending result (after being aged in American oak) gives an aroma of golden sultanas, dried fruit and baking spices. A fine finale!
For both releases, these rare and exclusive whiskies are produced in small batches of only 500 bottles each, making them highly sought-after by whisky-lovers across the nation. The whisky is available for shipping across Canada and can be purchased directly from the GrainHenge website. As there are very limited quantities, purchase one quick!
I am very excited to see the upcoming releases, knowing that there will be more funky experiments in the works and the idea of terroir becoming more prominent.
Author: Whisky Femme
Purchase Elevator Row here
photo credit: Ken Duncan