Review: Canadian Rockies 17 Year Old Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

This whisky was recently released to the Canadian market - originally it was only available in Taiwan. released by the Fountana group. Currently, it is available in BC but it doesn't appear that it is coming to Ontario. This whisky, much like the other well aged corn whiskies out of Highwood, was sourced elsewhere as Highwood does not distill corn. The recipe is 100% corn, and it is released at 21 years old and a very nice 46%. It was a hugely popular at the Victoria whisky festival in 2016.

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Review: Foursquare 2004 Fine Blended Rum by Jason Hambrey

Foursquare 2004 2.jpg
ABV
59%
Aging
11 years; Ex-bourbon barrels
Recipe
From molasses
Distiller Foursquare Distillery (St. Philip, Barbados)

Foursquare is becoming an exceedingly popular rum brand, offering high proof, quality rums with transparent information (cask type, aging, etc.). Sadly, I've never seen it in Canada but it's not too hard to find in the states. They produce rums from pot and column still, and this is a blend of both distillates bottled as part of their exceptional casks selection.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Exceptional Cask Selection Mark III
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2015

Bright, earthy, interesting – orange, molasses, sweet oak, butter, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, coconut – still very sweet and dessert like - some spicy grassy notes balance it out on the backend too. Oak is quite dominant for an ex-bourbon cask – the warm weather must really work on the oak extraction.

Palate starts slightly sweet, with more orange, blueberry, before finishing in a slightly earthy, molasses laden and spicy finish. The oak fits in very nicely – I imagine it’s a rum bourbon whisky drinkers might relate to because of the big oak integration. The finish builds very nicely, seemingly picking up flavor and viscosity as it builds – starting with dried fruit, then adding in dry spice and eventually oak – in the end drying out. Nice dried berries on the finish, too. I really like it at full strength – it swims well but there is a bit of tarry, medicinal notes that seem to be lost as water is added.

Very nice. Stylistically, I like sharper pot still rums (like the Jamaican Smith & Cross, which is sharper and almost smoky) – but this is terrific, complex, balanced, and interesting.

Score: 89/100

Value: 55/100 (based on $104)


Review: Caroni 2000 High Proof Trinidad Rum by Jason Hambrey

Caroni 2.jpg
ABV
55%
Aging
17 Years; Matured in Trinidad
Recipe
From molasses
Distiller Caroni (Trinidad)

Caroni is a legendary rum distillery which shut down in 2002 after the shut down of the sugar refinery which the distillery used as an ingredient source. It was noted for its heavy rum which supplied the British navy, but now it's known for a strong, unique and exceedingly complex rum. This rum was bottled from 7 casks which yielded 2700 bottles - over the 17 years there was an evaporation loss of 80%. But, what remains - remarkable rum.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: B35L6
  • Bottling Date: 2017

What a fascinating nose. I’m not that exposed to premium and boutique rums, only having explored the largely mass produced and commercial rums. This is exactly what I have been looking for in exploring connoisseur rums – extremely unique. Warm rubber, tar, iodine, black pepper, clove, peat (not peat smoke, but rather peat bogs), dust, orange peel, dried orange, dried apricot, prune, bamboo, tamari – absolutely fascinating. Things become clearer with water, but it’s remarkable how much complexity is maintained at the higher ABV levels.

The palate continues with the medicinal and rubber notes, along with all the spice and citrus – but adding some cacao nibs and vanilla cream. I love the effect – it starts out big, dips down for a second or two, and then the flavor starts to grow and grow – sort of like a „U” in terms of the impact of flavor. The finish is full of almost every note in the nose – fabulous, rich, and enduring – but has maybe even more, with the vanilla cream, cacao, and some milk chocolate and oak coming in as well. Ubelieveable – in my top echelon of spirits.

Score: 95/100

Value: 7/100 (based on $280) – but if you want to spend the money, I would!


Review: Pike Creek 10 Year Old Double Barrel Canadian Whisky (Rum Finish) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
10 Years; Finished in Rum Barrels
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

Corby, the company which owns the Pike Creek brand, seemingly slipped this one right by us - without much fanfare, pike creek switched from having its second maturation in port casks to rum barrels. Slowly, rum appeared on the label and the whisky is quite different - the reason - rum casks are cheaper and easier, given the global shortage of port casks. Simple economics, but I think this one panned out well for the flavor as well:


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

This is actually quite a bit different than the port finished product. I find the finishing actually fits in better here than the port finished version – this somehow better elaborates some of the rich grain notes underneath. The palate and finish, particularly work better than before and it’s a bit cleaner. The fruit notes are completely different than the port finished product – you can see how these whiskies are from the same family - started off the same but they are completely different now.

Rich grain, plum, and fruit – yet definitely with a rum influence with molasses, berries, and a different set of spices than before. Light new oak, corn husks, vanilla, and still with lots of spices – not vibrant but more like the dulled notes of a stale bag of mulling spices. The palate brings forth a classic rye centre, with more wood, spices, with brown sugar and rum notes coming in on a rolling sweet and creamy finish full of oak, brown sugar, pine and light molasses. Great feel on the finish, as the sugar wave dies down we are left with more green wood, tannins, and dry spices.

Though a necessary innovation, it appears to have paid off.

Score: 84/100

Value: 77/100 (based on $40)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

A rich, structured whisky full of hibiscus, prune, raisins, currants, maple, rich corn, and concord grapes which finishes in a flourish of spice and old wood. The rum character is really here – rich spices, full of molasses, and sweet too. I wonder if they use Lamb’s rum casks to finish (it would make sense, but no evidence, just musings). Those rum spices are really good – especially at the end the whisky rides on a wave of sweet and oaky molasses.

Score: 84/100

Value: 77/100 (based on $40)


Review: Wiser's 18 Year Old Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
18 Years in refill casks (that have been used at least three times)
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

Canadian whisky is often made with a base whisky - usually a softer whisky to give body, typically made from corn - and flavouring whisky - spicy, flavourful, whisky which is often rye-heavy. This whisky, 18 years old, is made entirely of base whisky which is often thought of as bland - though you can see, here, that it is far from that. There can be a good bit of batch variation, as you will see below. But - this is quite the whisky. Much of the flavor comes from the wood - it is distilled to 188 proof (94%), and only aged in refill casks. Pretty phenomenal.


Review (2012)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2012

Nose: Fruity, woody rye comes in sharply at first. Plum, lots of vanilla, apricot, brown sugar, toffee, some maple syrup, along with other wood – cedar and pine. I think of brown sugar bubbling with cinnamon, and butter on sticky cinnamon rolls as I smell….It’s a touch creamy, and a touch bitter. Dark rye bread also comes off on the nose. There’s a fair bit going on. I do like the woodiness of the nose.

Taste: Full bodied, thick and smooth as a nice coating of oaky vanilla along with spice come onto the tongue. The rye comes on quite heavily too as the oak picks up and eventually wins the battle with a touch of bitterness. The mouthfeel is excellent. There are spices at the end alongside the oak that keep the tongue engaged. The interesting thing about the touch of bitterness is that it seems constructed. In other words, it plays its part in the taste but doesn’t stick around and linger and ruin anything. It is there, but is limited and doesn’t dominate. In that way, I enjoy it. Thick and woody, and not overly bitter for the amount of wood that is present. The spices! I love them. They change up a bit, and softly prickle the tongue delightfully. The spices alone have put this score up a percent or two….

Finish: A fairly clean finish with some depth to it. Vanilla, freshly baked light rye bread, brown sugar, slight citrus, and, of course, oak. As I drink more, I see more of the spices come through – cloves, pepper and some nutmeg. Even a bit of pear! Not sweet, soft pear – but when it’s hard and a few days from being ripe and sweet. It’s also fairly dry – I always like those finishes. It lingers, and despite the touch of bitterness on the palate the finish is without it (which is great). There’s a bit of what I might describe as starchiness which reminds me of the finish on Wiser’s small batch. As with the entire drink, oak reigns supreme.

Score: 88/100

Value: 78/100 (based on $70)


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L140062204B

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Mighty in oak, fruit, and grain. Molasses is present, with the typical rum notes I find in the Wiser's products. Maple, caramel, orange peel, and light musty sesame seed like notes. Depth is certainly there, and it is pleasing. Spices, too, are present. Classic Wiser's.

Taste: It has a nice feel - candied orange peel and a large maple kick before developing spices carry the weight of the whisky into a lightly dry finish. That description perhaps gives it much more of a candied feel than it should convey - it is grain, spice, and wood heavy, overall, still holding on to those molasses notes. The smoke from the barrel char comes through nicely too. Very nice delivery.

Finish: An oaky, spice-laden finish with wheat-like grainy notes and some almonds and maple. Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, star anise - all there. A bit of light bitterness unfortunately comes through. The elements, other than the bitterness, is quite nice - a plethora of spices which match well with the dry woodiness and light fruity suggestions. But the bitterness detracts quite a bit from this experience for me - it really doesn't help and drops this score a good bit.

Score: 85/100

Value: 65/100 (based on $70)


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Led by the grain here- lightly creamy, and light in body balancing slightly oily grain (with a wheat character) with spice, vanilla-laden oak, and berries. The age, as usual, shows, with some leathery notes and distinctive dry, dusty grain - the brilliance flashed by that old whisky is my favorite part of this whisky. Very nice mouthfeel, and a good balance of grain, sweet, and tannic oak, leading into a slightly sour and spicy finish.

Score: 85/100

Value: 65/100 (based on $70)


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 54SL24 L16287 EW16:06

  • Bottling Date: 2016

A classic, rich Wiser’s nose, full of wood and spice, with lots of maple, oak, beeswax, dried berries, leather, light molasses, and green apple peel. The nose this time is richer than I remember with the last batch. The spices are there, though they play around in the background rather than being upfront as with most Wiser’s whiskies. The palate carries on from the nose, with light fruits, lots of oak, and very light bitterness. The finish is full of rich corn, cinnamon, clove, and brilliant oak – at times maybe a bit too woody. If not for the slight bitterness, this would be a slight notch higher. Still, one of the better Wiser’s 18s I’ve had in a while (I tend to stock them to blend with) – the nose and finish are just spot on.

Score: 88/100

Value: 78/100 (based on $70)


Review (2017)

Batch: N/A

Bottling Code: N/A

Bottling Date: 2017

I have to keep trying these year after year…

Fall marshes, mixed baking spice, cedar, oak, coconut, beeswax, and sharp apple combine on a rich, integrated whisky which carefully walks the line between elegance and boldness. Rich – with a character that grows and grows as it sits in the glass.

Score: 89/100

Value: 82/100 (based on $70)


Review: JP Wiser's Triple Barrel Canadian Whisky (Canada) by Jason Hambrey

Wiser's Triple Barrel 2.jpg
ABV
43.4%
Aging
Virgin Oak (char #2), First fill Ex-Bourbon, & Refill Casks
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

This whisky is different from the triple barrel released a few years ago in Australia, sharing only the characteristic of using three types of barrels in the blend. This whisky is based on a blend of whiskies from new charred virgin oak (char number 2), refill casks, and first fill bourbon casks - and has the characteristics of marvelous column distilled rye. It is apparently the same recipe as Double Still Rye, just rebranded based on customer input - the mid level wiser's brand which can never quite make up its mind as to what it is - in a few years it has evolved from Wiser's Small Batch to Double Still to now Triple Barrel.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L17206 AW 8:39

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose has some rich, broad, grainy rye – a gorgeous combination of grain, spice, dried rose, and dried fruit. Prunes, sour dried cherries, lilacs, toasting bread, old fermenting dough, dried apricot, and oak. Complex, and very integrated. The palte - lots of lilac – wow! Rich, toasted grain notes, mixed dried flowers, sharp rye, fresh oak, fresh strawberry, and black tea. The finish has tea, mixed dried fruit, clove, cinnamon, oak, and baking bread. Rising spice on the end. Gorgeous rye.

This may be the same recipe as Double Still Rye, but this is better than any double still I’ve tasted (which is three different bottles!).

Score: 88/100

Value: 91/100 (based on $32)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Light fruit and spice – almost bubble gum like with the candied fruit notes. Despite all the fruit, it’s still a bit dusty and spicy – with rye porridge, crackling, and a touch of 5-spice. The palate continues on with fruity and rich spice, with a drying, slightly vegetal finish carrying loads of white grape, white pepper, and nutmeg. This is such a terrific whisky for the price!

Score: 88/100

Value: 91/100 (based on $32)


Review: J.P. Wiser's Deluxe Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Wiser's Deluxe.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
~8-10 Years; First Fill bourbon barrels and refill casks
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

Deluxe, I suppose, is a common descriptor of the cheaper lines of Canadian whiskies, with both Crown Royal and Wiser’s offering some of their cheapest range under a “Deluxe” label. This whisky focuses on vanilla, with lots of bourbon notes - in terms of casking and character. It's the flagship Wiser's...


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Oaky and bitter, with some orange peel, spice, brown sugar, maple cookies, and burnt biscuits. Time opens up a light fatty grain in the background, with light nuttiness and rye spice adding in intrigue. It follows the nose on the palate, with some bitterness - and there's a bit of a sweet oaky middle and finish with some vanilla, strawberries, and cranberries coming through on the lightly creamy finish.

Score: 68/100

Value: 70/100 (based on $28)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L17195DW14:36

  • Bottling Date: 2017

 

The previous review was some time ago, and, I keep hearing about this – so time for another go.

The nose has pine, burnt toast, vanilla, orange, light nutiness, butter, and orange peel. The palate is about the same – medium creaminess, and slightly bitter, with light caramel notes coming in mid-palate. Some white raisins, too. The finish has light evergreen wood (pine, cedar), with some clove and some very light dried apricot.

It’s still not my favorite – oddly, I think the added bourbon to this (from the cask or otherwise) is what is responsible for the worst parts of it, namely the slightly bitter finish („smooth” as they call it...). Much better than I remember. I don’t grade enough whiskies in this range to know if my tastes have changed (my early review was towards the beginning of my formal reviewing), or if it is batch dependent. I have heard that it is ...but I’d still much rather pay a bit more and get a better lower end Canadian like Northern Harvest or Copper Pot.

But, what shall we say – it’s more made for mixing. Makes some great lemonade, that’s for sure! 45 ml lemon juice, 50 ml deluxe, 50 ml vanilla simple syrup, and 5 ml homemade bitters (or 4-5 dashes Angostura/other purchased bitters). Shake and dump over ice in a glass; rim with black pepper if you feel adventurous. Bottles don’t last that long if you are drinking it this way in the summer...

Score: 79/100

Value: 72/100 (based on $28)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Old baking spices, old oak, orange peel, clove, coconut, beeswax, and a light oily character. The palate is easy and smooth, yet with a slightly spicy and drying character. There is a thread of complex spices under the whole whisky which is terrific. Lots of creamy notes, and some light candy characteristics too (like vanilla frosting).       

Score: 79/100

Value: 72/100 (based on $28)


Review: Wiser's Special Blend Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

The bottom of the line for Wiser's in Canada - in price and in quality. The first time I tried this, I bought it on accident meaning to pick up a bottle of Wiser's Small Batch - a definite mistake.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2013

Nose: fresh wood, hints of vanilla, and a slightly sour, meaty aroma arising due to the corn with a bit of rye spice. Unbalanced and not great.

Taste: Light to medium bodied with some rye spice, vanilla, and sour corn. There’s a bit of a burn as it goes down…it’s simple, with corn providing the background flavours and rye the forefront flavours. There’s a bit of fruit as well – plums or cherries, perhaps, carried by the sweetness. It dies down with some spice with a bit of bitter rye. Some of the sweetness coming off the nose is a bit rum-like.

Finish: The taste kind of collapses in mouth and then carries on into a not altogether pleasant aftertaste – a bit of bitterness and some woody notes which remind me of casks which have gone past their usable life. Seems to sort of tease you into hoping an aftertaste might come which never does. A bit of a short finish, with a bit of fruity sweetness to it as well.

Wiser’s describes it as an “approachable” Canadian, but I would disagree in that the strong rye is a bit too harsh, I would think, for a beginner.

Score: 71/100

Value: 71/100 (based on $26)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2017

Grain and spice, at the centre here: Light, earthy, dry, and spicy – baking spices, almond, and soft grain, too. The palate is sweet, citrusy, and spice - but lightly bitter providing an edge to an easy whisky. The finish is light with slight dried fruits and spices.

Score: 71/100

Value: 70/100 (based on $27)


Review: Rich & Rare Reserve Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

It is an odd experience for a Canadian to travel to the United States and find Canadian Whisky in liquor stores which cannot be purchased in Canada. It’s not solely a Canadian experience, as there are some export and duty free bottlings not available elsewhere (like Four Roses, which produces 2 offerings only available in Japan). However, there are quite a few labels I could not find in Canada. I picked up a bottle of Rich & Rare Reserve to taste (at a cheap clip! I don’t think you’d find this in Ontario for 13$…). Rich & Rare Reserve is distilled and aged in Canada, and then shipped to the States for bottling. It’s another Canadian whisky owned by Sazerac.


Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2013

Nose:  The rye off the nose in this whisky certainly takes the fruity road, particularly with berry notes – raspberries in particular. There is also maple, a bit of sappy oak, and butterscotch. It lacks a bit of depth which I was looking and hoping for. There’s also a sour rye-corn aroma which I don’t love, but I didn’t notice it the first time I nosed the glass. It seemed quite a different nosing experience the second time – this time the spice of the rye dominated over the fruit, which I found interesting.

Taste: Soft, mellow, and watery corn to start before the rye kicks in and takes command. There are stronger notes of caramel at the end of the taste, and more sweetness alongside the ginger and white pepper which gradually dries out over the palate. A clean, unobtrusive, and mellow whisky which would likely be a good rye for beginners, or those not used to whisky. There is not much I can find in the palate which I don’t particularly like, but it does lack depth and intrigue.

Finish: A pretty strong finish which certainly does develop. Initially spicy with some ginger, and then the rye takes over and remains with a touch of caramel and a bit of raspberry.

Score: 76/100

Value: 78/100 (based on $12)


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2015

Rich grain leads with some oak, white pepper, red apple, maple, musty oak, and marzipan carrying through from nose to palate until the almond finish. Clean, and lightly creamy.

Score: 77/100

Value: 78/100 (based on $12)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2017

Dry, oaky spice. Juniper, and loads of terrific grain notes with light caramel and clove on the finish. The palate is lightly sweet and bitter showcasing dried fruits and a drying finish full of spices.

Score: 79/100

Value: 73/100 (based on $26)


Review: Royal Reserve Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

Here’s another whisky from Hiram Walker distillery, and one of the budget brands of Corby (also producers of Pike Creek, Lot no. 40, Gooderham & Worts, among others). According to the label, it’s been around since 1881 – which would have been a time when Henry Corby would have been around (though at 75 years of age) and his son, Harry,  was about to take the reigns at the Corby distillery in Corbyville, near Belleville. Henry Corby is one of the founding figures of Canadian whisky, and, among other things, was a member of parliament and, obviously, now has a town named after him. And, of course, he made a lot of whisky.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Pine is the first thing I get off the nose. There’s some rye, brown sugar, and light corn oil. There is a bit of a light molasses note I often find with Hiram Walker distillery whiskies. There’s also a bit of a slight bitter aroma, and an aroma which just reminds me of stale grain – which are not that pleasant – but they are slight. There is a bit of spicy pepper on the nose as well, and a light, almost vegetal, fruitiness – like starfruit.

Taste: It takes a while to get going – at first it’s just lightly sweet, with a slight fruity rye and light molasses note. It’s peppery, and nutty (hazlenuts and almonds with the skins on) with some brown sugar and sweetness coming in after some time – but the experience doesn’t last that long. There’s a very interesting sour and spicy note just at the back of the tongue I find – interesting not because of its flavour but it’s effect. After all that was in the nose I’m surprised to find so little of it on the palate.

Finish: Surprisingly tannic (though not overly so), with light, fruity rye and some vanilla, fresh coconut, and almond. Some sweetness, without a lot of accompanying flavour is present – like white sugar.

Score: 73/100

Value: 68/100 (based on $26)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: 2017

Sharp, spicy, with classic notes of pine, orange peel, and baking bread. The palate is classically Canadian – sweet with a slightly dry and spicy characteristic. Light bready and cedar notes throughout, with a finish with light citrus and drying spice. Slight saccharin finish.

Score: 76/100

Value: 71/100 (based on $28)