Canadian Whisky

Review: Lot No. 40 Cask Strength Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Lot no. 40.jpg
ABV
55.0-58.4%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
100% Rye
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

Here we have a rarity - a cask strength, 100% Canadian Rye whisky, well matured and released by a major producer. The only other bottle I can think of which fits into this category (so far) is Whistlepig's Boss Hog, an independent bottling from Alberta Distillers (though I must note that there are some notable young cask strength ryes from micro distilleries like Stalk & Barrel). Basically, it is the connoisseur's dream - this juice.  Given the splendor of the standard Lot no. 40, you'd expect this to do some good work too. Originally single casks of this were handed around at whisky festivals, but now we have an annual release - beginning at a very commendable 12 years of age. The golden age of Canadian whisky is here! 4968 bottles.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 05 05100 (55.8%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: June 2016

This sample was generously sent to me by Mark Bylok of whisky.buzz, who also reviewed this batch of Lot no. 40 CS.

Lots of onion pickle, in fact, in this tasting. Dill, floral rye, new wood, and lots of nuts - hazlenuts, walnuts, almond, clove, floral rye, black tea, terrific caramel, cinnamon, dried rose, dried hibiscus, praline, rosehip….

Brilliant tingling spices on the palate, with lots of spice, caramel, orange, clove, blood orange, cola, walnut…immense at cask strength and lots of rye! But it comes easy with lots of nut, tea, and oak notes surrounding. Some terrific dried floral notes too. Dries off in a huge, spicy finish still with lots of nuts and more light rye notes – almost jasmine-like in their floral nature - and cinnamon, tobacco, drying reeds in the fall, arugula, nut brittle, and some orange peel. Not to mention lots of continued floral notes. Not hard to drink and balanced at cask strength.

This is amazing – but I can only imagine a batch version. As it is, you can tell it is more of a single barrel given the profile and doesn’t quite have the breadth of complexity in some lot. No 40s, but it makes up for it with emphasis and magnitude.

Score: 91/100

Value: N/A (not available on the market)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 1st Edition

  • Bottling Code: 54SL24 L17200 EW13:27

  • Bottling Date: 2017

What a whisky! What a nose. This is definitely Lot no. 40, and exactly what you would expect – a lot of punch and flavor! Coincidentally, natural colour too. Rich: caramel, lilacs, loads of spices, dried fruits, apricot, brioche, lilacs, clove, nutmeg, icing sugar...it gets better with air. The palate has lilacs, loads of rye, dried apricot, patchouli, cedar, dried apricot, black tea – wow. This batched version is better than the barrels I have tasted. The finish is loaded with rye and oak, along with dried fruit (prunes, raisins, dried apricot), cumin, lemon zest, orange peel (dried), icing sugar, fresh spinach, and a touch of dill.

This batch smells older and a bit more developed than the lot no. 40 which is on shelves now, though I think I’ve had a bad batch in my last bottle – but this still smells a bit more mature than the lot no. 40s on shelves now.  If you like Lot no. 40 (at all), you should buy this. Amazing whisky.

Score: 94/100

Value: 98/100 (based on $70)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Second Edition (11 Years Old; 58.4%)

  • Bottling Code: 54SL24 L18204 EW1325

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Very different than last year’s release (but still lot no. 40) - it came from a different bond, and each bond has different characteristics. It is very fruity – strawberries, cherries, plums, prunes, and green apple – but also with floral notes – lilac, spice, clove, loads of brown sugar and oak. There’s a nice caramelized nut characteristic too, verging on corn – like candied pecans or caramel popcorn. Rich, deep oak opens up as it sits. Gorgeous. The sweet nature of the oak really comes out too – it is a nice complement to the massiveness of the whisky everywhere else.

The palate is rich, oaky, fruity – tons of lilac and tons of spice. It’s what you expect from the nose – but the fresh fruit character, like strawberry jam that has just started to boil when you make it – is central and exceptional. Still, it’s tempered by loads of spice and oak. Really big, even with water added. Also, a bit less of a “grip” and movement on the palate compared with last year, even with a bit less ABV. But, still absolutely awesome.

Really nice tannins on the finish, and dries out really well. Spices slowly unfold, alongside dried fruit, green apple skins, and tannins. The more you drink, the bigger and better it gets. Lovely.

In comparison – last year’s release was more woody, richer, and heavier – and you get the full range of coconut and rich nut oils and black tea there which aren’t as big here. Think spicy/oaky /floral/fruity vs fruity/spicy/floral/oaky in terms of flavour impact. And the fruit is more vibrant – like fresh berries – vs say berry jam. This is still epic, but I liked the darker richer character last year – and it was a bit deeper.

Score: 92/100

Value: 85/100 (based on $100)


Review: Forty Creek Unity Limited Edition Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Forty Creek Unity.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
4-10 yrs
Recipe
Blend of barley, corn, and rye whiskies
Distiller Forty Creek (Grimsby, Ontario)

One of my favourite times of the Canadian whisky calendar is when Forty Creek releases their annual special release. Perhaps more than with any other release, I don’t have any desire to rush my analysis because these releases have truly represented some of the best Canadian whisky has ever offered. There were a few years which I didn’t like as much, yet, generally, the whiskies coming from Forty Creek have been in contention for my favourite whiskies of the year. Last year’s heritage fell into that category – I really liked it, and Evolution (2013), Heart of Gold (2012), and the initial Confederation Oak special release are among my favourite Canadian whiskies ever.

This whisky was a blend selected by five Forty Creek fans from a variety of potential blends developed by Forty Creek’s whisky maker, Bill Ashburn.

The whiskies have followed something of a wine theme few years, with Evolution and the two portwood releases all being blended with wine (it worked well). This year, Forty Creek did use some wine, but in a different way. The same style of wine used to make the barrels for the Portwood releases was added directly to the blend, being added in a small quantity directly to the whisky. Chemically, this is no different than the effect a short finish of a few months, as a “finish” is just the diffusion of the liquid soaked in the barrels into the whisky within the barrel (unless the maturation time is more than a few months, at which point actual aging effects from a different wood can take place). The whisky is made from a 4 year old sub-blend which was then matured further in a barrel with mocha staves. To this was added a 10 year corn whisky and a touch of 15 year old starboard wine.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Lot 012

  • Bottling Code: BG/GG17176

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Terrific nose: Rich, nutty port notes and tannic red wine, hazlenuts, sharp rye spices I don’t see often in contemporary Canadian whiskies but rather older spicy ones, chocolate, toffee, and a light oiliness. I love the oaky, spicy house style of Forty Creek – it is present in all their whiskies and it is great. The nose develops over several minutes (impressive) before fading out. We also get wine gums, dried cherries, and green pear.

The palate is spicy and rich, and slightly oily in a similar manner to Forty Creek Copper Pot. However, it has a really nice subtle port influence and the finish has a developing wine influence with a good kick of oxidized wine. Very rich, with light earthiness too – the richness seems to grow as you drink more, which is great for both the analytical and casual enjoyment of this – it is gripping. Some of the youth isn’t ironed out, but I don’t mind – I find quality distillates are enjoyable, even younger than others might be in order to be similarly enjoyable.

White pepper on the finish, orange peel, toffee, tannins, toasted oak, prunes, almonds, and Ferrero rocher.

Too bad I don’t have a portwood to compare to. It would be quite an interesting comparison, I expect. The nose has complexity but not the depth of the best Forty Creeks – but I am now being perhaps overly critical – the benchmark has been set very high. Great stuff, and some of the best stuff in the past few years (but…don’t forget Confederation Oak – it’s always around, and it’s often better than the special release and the best thing on the shelves…).

I should note that I have liked the portwood releases less than some of my esteemed friends with good palates, so readers may like the wine integration more than me. It’s worth noting that Davin De Kergommeaux rated this a 93, very highly, and Blair Phillips a 92, similarly highly. I trust their ratings and palates, so I put that as an aside to those who have liked the more wine-driven Forty Creeks - you will probably like this. However, I also liked Evolution more than most of those friends, so maybe it’s not only the wine…

It took me a long time to grade this. That’s always a good thing - it means it could have gone a lot higher - rating whisky is more than a linear scale. Highly recommended if you like to analyze, assess, and savour whiskies - this is very entertaining.

Score: 87/100

Value: 71/100 (based on $75)


Review: Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Blend of rye, corn, and barley whiskies
Distiller Forty Creek (Grimsby, Ontario)

Whisky is a fascinating process, packed with flavour, partially because of the amount of time it takes to make whisky. Not only does whisky spend years in a barrel, the flavour for whisky really starts with the wood – which takes years upon years to form before being put into a barrel. This whisky pays homage to that fact in name as the trees from which the barrels come were around 150 years old – meaning that they started to grow in the 1860s – sometime around the time of the Canadian Confederation, which was the process by which Canada was formed into an independent nation in 1867. Hence, it is called “Confederation Oak”, and the the batches are labeled 1867.

John Hall, the whisky maker at Forty Creek, always wanted to see what whisky would taste like which is aged in Canadian Oak, as most whisky is aged in either American or European oak – different species which yield different flavours. Canadian oak is still the same species as American oak, but, because of the harsher winters it tends to be more dense resulting in a slightly different chemical composition interacting with the whisky. At present, this is the only whisky aged in Canadian oak.

Sourcing Canadian oak was not easy, and it happened nearly by accident – John Hall noticed some trees being cut down near the distillery, and went over and ended up buying the three trees. 90 barrels were made out of the trees, and, if my memory serves me correctly, the staves made from the oak were air-dried for 2 full years before being dry enough to make into a barrel. The trees were taken down to the US and made into barrels by the same supplier which makes most of the barrels used to make Kentucky Bourbon. John Hall says they are perhaps the most expensive barrels ever produced with all the work he had to put into them.

This whisky is made in line with the Forty Creek process, with aged, single grain barley, rye, and corn whiskies being blended together before being finished in the Canadian oak barrels for two years.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: 1867

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2010

Here is a legend of a Canadian whisky, near impossible to find now- the first batch of Forty Creek Confederation Oak. It was the first whisky to be matured in Canadian oak in the modern era, and was originally a limited release from Forty Creek before it was put into regular production. This sample was graciously sent to me by a friend, who gave me the last half oz of his bottle (#548) which had been open more than 4 years, so oxygen has done some work on this, but here is the review of the sample.

Nose: Caramel, toasted oak, vanilla, woody earthiness, dried corn maple, and some fruity elements as well. It evolves to show more nuttiness, maple, and lots of dried fruits with a sherry-influenced feel.

Taste: So syrupy - maple syrup dominates the palate, and the feel is very syrupy and mouthcoating - as if you are drinking oil which coats the mouth and lingers a bit. Toasted oak, candied orange, cinnamon, milk chocolate, nutmeg, clove, and a lingering sweet, dry, vanilla-tinged spiciness at the end. Fabulous creamy mouthfeel - magnificent. Being open so long certainly can't have brought too much disintegration to this whisky. On the palate, one of the best I have ever tasted from the feel to the complex layering of flavour.

Finish: Fabulous mouthcoating feel. Largely vanilla, spices, and oak, though there is more subtlety bringing in other elements - it lingers very nicely. Elegant.

There aren't too many canadian whiskies that I would describe as "elegant", a sublime whisky put together well and with a great mouthfeel, integration, and subtlety - but this is definitely one. Fabulous stuff from Forty Creek. This is a bottle I would have loved to have in reserve. The confederation oak series has changed batch to batch, but this one is pretty magnificent. This, along with batch B, are both stuff of legend.

Score: 95/100

Value: 99/100 (based on $70)


Review (2013)

  • Batch: 1867-B

  • Bottling Code: 31A12 13:01:15

  • Bottling Date: ~2012

Nose: The nose is complex, and multifaceted – there appears to be a grain, cream, fruit, sweet, wood, and spice component all in this one nose, brilliantly integrated together. On the grain side, rye shines through brilliantly, with a fresh bread element – like fresh and hot rye bread. The rye is slighly grassy, reminding me a bit of a an irish pot still type grassiness. On the cream side, there’s wonderful creamy butterscotch and brilliant sweetness in the nose. The creaminess is fascinating – there’s butterscotch, whipped cream, caramel, and vanilla all shining through. On the sweet side, there’s honey, with some floral hints of lavender, and maple, which takes its place ahead of the oak that is present in the nose as well. In terms of spice, there is slight, subtle cinnamon spice and some pepper. I also get some stewed, slightly sour fruit like apricots or plums along with a bit of tartness as with blackberries.The nose evolves, with a bit more smokiness and fruitiness coming out as it sits and I incredibly enjoy appreciating all that is going on. It’s wonderful too, that it changes as you continue to sip through the bottle. On this, my third evaluative tasting, navel orange peel is rising like mad out of the glass. An absolute pleasure.

Taste: Silky smooth, with sweet citrus entry with some orange, as rising rye spice is balanced with beautiful vanilla sweetness which gives way to more vanilla and some nuts. A bit oaky as well, not too much, but just enough. it’s fruity, sometimes even showing some brandy character, as well as some raisins – a touch of a fruitcake comes in at times. A touch smoky, with the signature forty creek toasted oak present in the middle. The sweet/spice dynamic is brilliant, and the fruitiness is just about perfect to compliment the two. And even with that, there’s some intriguing tartness.

Finish: Long, slow, tingly, warming, slightly dry, and sweet. Very pleasant – you can chew on the flavour for some time. A bit earthy, with good depth and some maple syrup, nuts, vanilla, and some grassy rye. The tingly spice is also brilliant, with a touch of clove, and it is one of my favourite mouth experiences. Also, the tartness is also ever so slightly present just asking you to take another sip. As I sip, I find the finish has a bit more and more oak.

Hugely enjoyable with a fantastic (and approachable) flavour profile and brilliant balance. The soft, sweet flavours sit beside the spicy and bolder flavours, and a remarkable amount is going on. This is one of my absolute favourite Canadians.

Score: 95/100

Value: 99/100 (based on $70)


Review (2015)

  • Batch: 1867-C

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Showing some bourbon-like creamy vanilla notes, some different profiles of oak - musty, toasted, and charred - light rancio, and some fatty corn. Complex, and well integrated, but lacking some of the multi-dimensionality of the best Confederation Oak releases. A bit of light fruit (like grape) emerge as it sits, too.

Taste: Classic smooth delivery, with good viscosity in the mouth and a balance of sweet and spice. Toasted oak, citrus, and a spicy underbelly to this one, and light acidity once again doing some good work to hold everything together. The spice, in fact, I like in this - but it makes it less elegant than some of the releases. As might be expected, the palate finishes off with a touch of nuttiness.

Finish: Vanilla and oak come through at first, with some tingling spice (clove and dried ginger) and citrus and a very light bitterness, but not one that detracts much - perhaps more like a strong tea than a bitter coffee. Lightly creamy as well.

Conclusion: Interesting - this release seems a bit more driven by the grain than any of the other Confederation Oak releases that I have tasted - Batch D seemed more cask driven, and Batch B and F had a better balance between them (the better releases, in my opinion).

Score: 87/100

Value: 74/100 (based on $70)


Review (2015)

  • Batch: 1867-D

  • Bottling Code: 21D14 09:42:33

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: Sweet, with light corn and some rich, buttery maple notes too which continue to grow with time. Vanilla, also, emerges with time. It still holds the signature toasted oak, baked bread, and lightly earthy characteristics which are prevalent in Forty Creek. There is a touch of stale bitterness here, unfortunately. Still quite a complex offering but it doesn’t fit together as it should.

Taste: Rich and sweet, with grape and vanilla – but not that spicy or sharp. Toasted oak notes and tannins are felt, and some of that oakiness is quite rich. The light acidity also keeps it nicely in check. Delivery is quite nice, but here the balance is such that the sweetness is a tad too high, I think. Still controlled, and long though – it draws out the flavours nicely.

Finish: There is lots going on – vanilla, oak, currants, dried fruit, coconut some tingly spices…a bit dry with touches of tannin too and a bit of bitterness. The bitterness doesn’t help, and it’s not singing in harmony, though the feel is good.

Frankly, I’ve been quite surprised at this. It’s still quite nice – but it shows flashes of brilliance with some awkward bits rather than just being brilliant, as I’ve seen from this bottling before.

Score: 86/100

Value: 69/100 (based on $70)


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: 1867-F

  • Bottling Code: 4G/DF29226

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Nose: Fresh oak, vanilla, and creamed corn along with some underlying nuttiness. The nose is quite sweet, and evolves to more maple. The nose has more oak than some of the previous confed oak releases - batch D at the least. Slight acidity too - there is a good amount of complexity for those who are willing to take time with this.

Taste: A nice, rounded mouthfeel. On top, maple with some underpinning toasted oak, caramel, spices, and dried fruit. It's more oaky and less fruity than some of the previous confed oak releases.  The texture is very intriguing - both syrupy on top and dry and spicy underneath, and ever so lightly creamy, along with a very light tannic structure. It still has a berry fruitiness to it - like raspberries. caramel. Quite elegant, but at times a touch simple - yet excellent, overall.

Finish: An evolving dry and spicy finish, with some orange rind, clove, raw almond, butterscotch, vanilla, and a decent amount of body and weight.  There's some berry-like fruitiness in here, with soft raspberry influences which lifts the finish up pretty well. Lightly creamy too, with the raspberry it is a bit like a campino candy.

The nose, unfortunately, is a bit restrained, but the palate does make up for that. Good to see quality coming out of the new casks at Forty Creek. Having been slightly dissapointed with batch D, it's good to see that the quality is not simply declining.

Score: 87/100

Value: 74/100 (based on $70)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: I

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Baking potato (i.e. earthiness), pencil shavings, vanilla, light oak, vanilla, and lots of classic dry Canadian spices – nutmeg, clove – and a light oily character too. Develops really nicely – older oxidation notes come through. Well worth pondering – I quite enjoy it, the most of the past 3 years of confederation oaks that I’ve tried. The palate brings forth floral notes, a dry spicy character, and a light bitterness on the end. A nice finish with waves of spices and vanilla. Really nice dried fruit, too. I do like the toasted oak house style, as I’ve said many times before…

It’s hard to put a finger on this one. The last few years haven’t given us what the first few years have supplied.

Score: 88/100

Value: 78/100 (based on $70)


Review: Forty Creek Double Barrel Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Blend of rye, corn, and barley whiskies
Distiller Forty Creek (Grimsby, Ontario)

This whisky was originally a special release of Forty Creek, but is now a part of their regular line. Every year John Hall, the whisky maker, drives down to Kentucky to hand-pick the bourbon barrels that go into this whisky – and he doesn’t accept just any old cask – it must match the profile he wants. In the style of forty creek whiskies, the barley, rye, and corn are distilled and aged separately in different casks, and then married together and combined into a bourbon barrel. The bourbon barrels are sourced from a number of different distilleries in Kentucky (not Wild Turkey, as many assume - they are both owned by Campari).


Review (2013)

  • Batch: Lot 240

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: It’s forty creek with a bourbon edge! there is the Forty Creek signature toasted oak, alongside bourbon aromas of earthy corn, dried apricot, and caramel. Honey and rye comes through very nicely, as well. A nice graininess comes through as well, reminding me of white flour and oats, and, interestingly, hot green pepper.

Taste: The bourbon flavours make up the base to this one, upon which sit rye, toasted oak, vanilla, a slight sweetness, and cinnamon, a touch of clove, and warm spiciness. There are some dried fruits as well – raisins, prunes, and dried apricots. The toasted oak and wonderful subtle sweetness and spiciness is still present, and is wonderful. There are some strawberry notes too.

Finish: Dried fruits slowly fade to a slightly dry spiciness and oakiness. Nice mouthfeel as well, with the whisky coating the inside of the mouth and slowly breaking down as well.

The bourbon cask wonderfully complements the forty creek style, and the style is still very much present – the cask does not overwhelm it at all. However, it’s not as deep or as rich as some of the other releases (and I find the price point a little difficult when it’s so much cheaper to go with copper pot or barrel select, which are both fabulous whiskies).

Score: 84/100

Value: 67/100 (based on $60)


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: Lot 258

  • Bottling Code: 4G\DII5313 09:38:29

  • Bottling Date: 2015

The nose is interesting and complex with vanilla, caramel, milk chocolate, vanilla, almonds and fresh oak with a bit of a chemical solvent-like backdrop. Some beautiful bourbon casks here. On the palate, the oily youth of the spirit comes through, though the backdrop is quite good. The grains, the spices, the wood, are all nicely balanced but just need a bit more time together - the whisky is brimming with potential but for a bit more time in the barrel.

Score: 79/100

Value: 55/100 (based on $60)


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Lot 256

  • Bottling Code: 27J14 13:10:16

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

A dominant, clear, first impression of toffee - also creamy and lightly earthy, with nutty notes, the classic Forty Creek toasted oak, maple, cacao - complex and full on the palate but still showing too much youth on the corn whisky in this batch for me. Otherwise, well integrated and very delicious, with some fabulous spice in the mix too. The finish is creamy, and full – very nice.

Score: 85/100

Value: 71/100 (based on $60)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Dry and spicy, with coconut, clove, prune, toasted oak, and a rich underlying grain character. The palate has a rich, oily base which carries lots of toffee, dried apples, and a variety of classic baking spices and brown sugar. Nicely distillate driven, but still too raw and young. I do like the classic Forty Creek characteristic which comes through – the toasted oak, yet it is different than the other expressions (nicely so).

Score: 81/100

Value: 61/100 (based on $55)


Review: Forty Creek Barrel Select Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Blend of rye, corn, and barley whiskies
Distiller Forty Creek (Grimsby, Ontario)

“Barrel select”, the flagship rye of Forty Creek, is so named because no two barrels of whisky taste the same – each are hand selected. Some young barrels taste “older”, and some older barrels taste “younger”, depending on the barrel, even in a climate controlled warehouse. Barrel select is formed from single grain whiskies typically 6-10 years old, after which time they are blended and further aged in a sherry cask.


Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Quite the nose! Spicy rye, vanilla, marmelade, and a very distinctive toasted oak smell. A bit of lighter tropical fruit, almost like guavas. Oak also comes through, with heavy vanilla notes and caramel. The spiciness in the rye is very inviting. Additionally, it’s quite creamy, with scents of buttercream. The vanilla, the rye, the toasted oak are all quite prominent and well balanced. Black currants, plums, and orange peel are also to be found lift the nose to be fresh and light – in some ways, the fruitiness is reminiscent of port wine. Cinnamon is present in the nose too, which builds as it sits…

Taste: Slightly viscous, with a dry rye spice build up, which dies down and subsides to vanilla and a reasonably complex grain taste and toasted wood. In the middle, malt seems to come a tiny bit forward with a bit of a grassy note, and creaminess from corn also comes in. Fruity, with a bit of a sherry note, and a few dried berries seem to emerge at the end with some of that marmelade from the nose. The spices tingle slightly at the end, with touches of clove and ginger. The toasted oak plays center stage, with the rye vying heavily for it. The sweetness is at a great level, I think too, for this whisky – just enough, but not too much for the profile.

Finish: A bit dry…light with a bit of rye and the oak, but it’s not very complex or engaging. I find that as I drink more the spices come out a bit more, which I certainly don’t mind, with come cinnamon and ginger and white pepper. A bit of the creaminess comes through as well, as well as a bit of black currant after some time…I did hope for a bit more than this after the nose and taste.

Great for the value; with a beautiful nose, enjoyable and complex taste, a bit of a lacking finish. Very enjoyable, and incredible value – good to sip and also good to mix. Additionally, I have to say, the flavour profile of Barrel Select is just about perfect for a rye and coke, and is my rye of choice for the drink as the flavour does not get lost or forgotten, but still wonderfully complements the coke.

Score: 81/100

Value: 73/100 (based on $28)


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Oakleads the way - slightly musty and earthy, with some clove and almond and some vanilla, coffee cake, butter icing playing about subtly in the background. The grain and spice balances out the oak quite well. Cacao on the palate, with a bit of saccharin sweetness, and some maple in the mix too. A bit of rising spice at the end, which adds nicely to everything.

Score: 80/100

Value: 71/100 (based on $28)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: AEG297279 09:58

  • Bottling Date: ~2016

It’s been too long since I’ve reviewed a nice portion of this - this was from a 200 ml bottle. I had a batch that tasted quite young last year, so I was curious to see how this one fared since that might have been a botched taste (I had a cold at the time).

Toffee, toasted oak, nice corn husks, and some rich malted barley come off the nose along with some green grassy spices. The palate leads with toffee, old oak, vanilla, and some tingling clove and cinnamon on the finish. Though I’ve had my issues with the more expensive bottling of Forty Creek the last few years (special releases and double barrel) – this is still terrific whisky. The full finish develops with tannins and spices.

Not as complex, but I’d still take a bottling of this over the past two special releases at Forty Creek. Did this get better or change? No…I just don’t think I got it right the last few years.

Score: 83/100

Value: 79/100 (based on $28)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Toasted oak, prune, green pear, maple, and clove on the nose. The palate reveals oily grain, prunes, dried apricot, and some lettuce. Light tanginess on the finish makes it quite intriguing. The whisky has medium body, but a nice middle of dried fruits and spice which bring things together nicely.

Score: 81/100

Value: 74/100 (based on $29)


Review: Collingwood Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
Oak, then toasted maple stave finish
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Canadian Mist (Collingwood, Ontario)

This whisky is aged in white oak barrels and finished with toasted sugar maple wood. The whisky is blended together and then put in a marrying vat for nearly a year with toasted maple staves, to "mellow" the whisky – producing a very similar effect to placing them in maple barrels.


Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Fresh cut wood (green), brown sugar, light floral and fruity rye, pear, and a bit earthy and candy-like… maple syrup and caramel also is present. Integrated is a light floral note, perhaps peonies.  A very enjoyable nose. There’s also orange peel and some berry notes – raspberry in particular- which I notice more clearly the farther my nose is from the glass. Oak is also in the background ever so slightly. The one thing I don’t love is that the rye sometimes seems a bit misplaced in the nose which doesn’t help it, and there’s a sour, meaty note coming from, I assume, the corn…

Taste: It’s quite sweet…the fresh wood from the nose comes in and gradually heats up with some rye flavour and spice before being covered for a second by sweet, syrupy wood notes before finishing with rye spice once more. It does a decent job of going with the theme but I wouldn’t object to more complexity. I like the combination of the sweet and the spicy in this whisky – there’s not too much of either for me but they’re both distinctly there. It’s pretty easy drinking too.

Finish: Dusty and spicy rye, framed with a bit of sweetness from the maple. It fades slowly into a more oaky, dryfinish. Quite pleasant – I like the changing nature of the finish and the final result is good.

Decent, and quite approachable. My uncle doesn’t usually drink whisky, but he says he loves to have guests over and set a bottle of Collingwood in the centre of the table and watch as it is gradually drained dry over the evening. This is a fabulous mixer, for sure, and an enjoyable sipper.

Score: 79/100

Value: 69/100 (based on $35)


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Rich grain, chocolate coated cranberries, raspberry creamsicle, spice, and still creamy with some creamed corn influences. Oak and dark brown sugar come through with good mouthfeel on the palate, which turns dry as it closes with dried berries, caramel, and bean sprouts.

Score: 81/100

Value: 72/100 (based on $35)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Mixed porridge, apple seeds, rose, vanilla sugar, barrel char, baking bread – all sorts of nice grain notes, in fact. Toasting blueberry eggos, buckleys, grape drink – loads of candy syrup notes. The palate continues on, continuing an easy path forward despite the spices and the caramel pulling you back in. Great body on the finish, full of toffee, spice, dried fruit, and a bit more rose. Lots of sweetness – wow. Like rich maple syrup.

Score: 81/100

Value: 71/100 (based on $36)


Review: Canadian Mist Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
3 yrs
Recipe
100% corn whisky blended with rye-heavy whisky
Distiller Canadian Mist (Collingwood, Ontario)

This whisky is distilled at Collingwood Distillery, a town about 150 km north of Toronto. It is a distillery owned by Brown-Forman (who also own Jack Daniel’s and Woodford Reserve) which was developed to create Canadian whiskies tailored to American palates. Initially, Canadian Mist was formulated for one market and made in this single distillery. The distillery now also produces Canadian Mist Black Diamond and Collingwood. According to Davin De Kergommeaux’s excellent book, Canadian Whisky, Canadian Mist is made from a single base nearly 100% corn whisky and a flavourful rye whisky (which we tasted the likes of in Collingwood 21 Year Old). The corn is fermented for a shorter time (about 3 days), bringing out cereal and nutty notes, and the rye is fermented for about 5 days, which enhances floral and fruity flavours.

Though this bottle was bought in Canada, it even says “Imported from Canada” on the label – it is all bottled in Kentucky. The bottle says it is at least 36 months old on the label, which means, for sure, that there is a good bit of young spirit in it.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: Fruit comes nicely off the nose, with some white grape, granny smith apples,  gooseberries, and some bourbon nods. A bit of this “whitish” fruit is similar to that found in Collingwood, the premium brother to this whisky, also produced at the same distillery.  There’s also a slight bit of malt coming through, and a good amount of dry oak as well. It’s a bit spirity, and has a bit of a meaty character, which detracts. Vanilla, as usual, comes out increasingly as the glass sits. It has a bit of a spicy edge (which doesn’t meld too well with the harshness of the nose), though it doesn’t resemble clear spices to me.

Taste: Still a decent amount of fruit, with some young corn flavours and rye spiciness coming in with more force than noticed on the nose. There is some movement, as the palate starts largely with fruit and moves towards more oak, maple, cedar, and vanilla near the end, with a bit of spice. It tastes quite young, which lends some harshness and raw-ness which doesn’t help the effort. Because I get many of the harsher, young notes, and still a decent amount of wood, I wonder if they blended some old whiskies into a generally young whisky blend to give some backbone. There’s also a really interesting flavour, perhaps from the yeast, that is reminding me of plain greek yoghurt, interestingly enough! At the end, there’s a bit too much undue bitterness – but it doesn’t detract as much as it might. Overall, as well, it is a bit sweet.

Finish: The flavour does a good job of continuing on the palate after swallowing, but is a bit flat and fairly quickly fades off to a bit of bitterness, but doesn’t die out for some time. The finish is fruity, but a bit darker than the nose and the finish with some earthiness and a bit of rye spiciness.

One thing I like about this whisky is that there’s a bit of movement – the nose is light and fruity, and the palate goes a bit heavier and darker until, I find, the finish is the darkest and heaviest of all. However, it’s a bit raw and unpleasant – despite some promising elements of light fruitiness and some decent bourbon notes on the nose.

Score: 70/100

Value: 70/100 (based on $26)


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Interesting in style - a bit yeasty, with white wine notes, vanilla, floral soap, nail polish remover, and a bit of baking bread. On the palate, a bit sour and spirity, with fresh bread and some oily spice that comes with young whiskies, and a touch of bitterness and oak on the end. Some nuttiness comes through as well, though I don’t know if this is more from the alcohol than the grain itself (in the way that many vodkas are a bit nutty).

Score: 70/100

Value: 70/100 (based on $26)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Probably a whisky I should stop following…oh well.

Some very interesting, rich spicy notes – sesame oil, toasted coriander, cinnamon – but also dried apricots, dried peaches, vegetable oil. The palate is full of vanilla, toasted coconut, dried peaches, and light confectionary notes, yet also a touch of dried cherry and dried apple. Nice earthiness. The finish is lightly spicy with earthy and spicy notes, and light saccharin.  But the youthful oiliness is still all over this…

There appears to be a candied fruitiness reminiscent of Canadian mist – it’s in the Collingwood products too. Interesting.

Score: 70/100

Value: 70/100 (based on $26)


Review: Caribou Crossing Single Barrel Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Caribou Crossing 1.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Producer Sazerac

You don’t find many single barrel bottlings in Canada, but here is one. In 2010, Sazerac, owners of Buffalo Trace distillery (among others), set their sights toward Canada and bought 200,000 Canadian whisky barrels from which they produced two products – this bottling, and Royal Canadian Small Batch. It is bottled in Kentucky though the liquid is sourced from an unknown distillery in Canada.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: B13 D60 16:37K

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: A grassy, pine-rich nose, with a hint of dry oak and a bit of an oily presence – the woody notes are pretty strong – oak, pine, and cedar. Some vanilla is present as well, with some corn chips, and hints of buttery caramel. Some nuts and spice come through – sharp cinnamon, allspice and pecans. There’s a bit of creamy fruitiness that comes in as well, a bit like some sort of pudding – that is quite nice.

Taste: Nicely loaded with spices (cinnamon and a hint of allspice), while retaining a relatively light profile and good body. There are woody notes of oak, pine, and cedar and also maple syrup. There’s a nice development of rich, oaky vanilla in the middle too, which is quite nice – in fact, without it, the taste might be a bit boring. The mouthfeel is very nice, though, and this does elevate the drinking experience. It seems to start, and end, with wood – in fact, I think it has a bit too much.

Finish: Cinnamon, a bit of a buttery flavour, and it is a bit nutty with some almonds on the end. A bit too much oak bitterness, I think, and quite dry…but it’s reasonably developed and involved.

It is similar in profile to Royal Canadian small batch, and, at least this barrel, in quality. The amount of wood influence in this one seems to be borderline…I am not sure what to think of it. Sometimes, it is too much, and sometimes, it is just heavy. I have also noticed that, as the bottle has been open longer, more prominent creamy and fruity notes than at first.

As they are both Sazerac bottlings from the same stock of acquired Canadian barrels, it is natural to compare this whisky to Royal Canadian Small Batch (RC). On the nose, the bourbon influence seems stronger in RC – I think the RC nose is better, but in Caribou Crossing there are more prominent notes of pine and rum (though those are also present in RC). The mouthfeel in Caribou Crossing is a bit better and it is a bit more “patient”, with the spices developing more slowly and the finish developing longer, with a bit more of a dry character. It’s also more woody, and a bit over the top, at times, I think. RC is also a bit sweeter. Of course, as Caribou Crossing is a a single barrel, the profile will vary slightly from barrel to barrel. Also, all the pine and rum notes make me wonder if at leats some of the Sazerac stock was sourced from Hiram Walker distillery…

Score: 82/100

Value: 49/100 (based on $66)


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

A light beauty of a whisky. Rich, lightly creamy corn and slight barnyard aromas, wafts of bourbon, and a bit of a smoky touch on the end which is just brilliant. Well integrated and complex, with some intriguing elements - almonds, some earthy elements, prunes, apples, and, surprisingly, some salt. The grain is lovely here.

After the above review, I compared the two batches head to head, and, indeed - this is a lot better than the last barrel I tasted.

Score: 87/100

Value: 75/100 (based on $66)


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Oak, vanilla, bean sprouts, fresh bread, canned peaches and baking spices on a nose that holds cereal notes in the center. The palate is elegant, complex and sweet, with a great grain and confectionary character on the complex palate.

Score: 86/100

Value: 69/100 (based on $64)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Christmas oranges, oak, celery seed, coconut, a biscuit tin – does the orange ever come out! Buttery, creamy, nutty – this is a great barrel! Nice grainy notes too – like corn husks and a grain silo. The oak, throughout, is rich. Clean and very easy on the palate, with light citrus, vanilla, buttery toffee, bamboo, and a green wood finish which develops into rich spices amidst mixed dried citrus peel.

Score: 88/100

Value: 66/100 (based on $94)


Review: Royal Canadian Small Batch Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Producer Sazerac

This whisky is produced by Sazerac, a large drinks company who are known for innovation and own distilleries like Buffalo Trace and Barton 1792 Distillery (producers of 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon, Very Old Barton, and more). This bottling, along with Caribou Crossing Single Barrel Canadian Whisky, are produced under the supervision of Drew Mayville, the Master Blender at Sazerac. Mayville originally came from Canada, a Waterloo grad who worked at Schenley for a large number of years before moving over to Sazerac. This whisky has been crafted, along with Caribou Crossing, from a very large purchase of Canadian whisky barrels bought a few years ago .

Sazerac was one of the first companies to look to buy whisky that has been distilled and matured in Canada, and then export to the States for bottling and blending. This is a growing trend, with ultra-premium products such as Masterson’s (rye, barley, and wheat whisky), Whistlepig, and new products such as Lock, Stock, and Barrel. As the whisky boom increases, particularly the rye boom, Canada has been noticed as one of the only places with reserve rye whisky in stock, particularly older rye. Though many of the companies, like Masterson’s, which import Canadian rye, craft it toward more of an American style (with bolder flavours and more wood influence), this whisky stands a bit between the softer and subtle style of many Canadian whiskies and the big bold American ryes.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: Light and pleasant, with vanilla, light oak influences, pleasant fruity notes of sweet plum, fresh and canned peaches, yellow apple, distinct notes of cherry juice, light bourbon aromas, red grape skins, and some very light ruby port notes as well…along with some grassiness akin to that found in irish pot still whiskey. It’s light, but subtle, and well put together.

Taste: It follows the nose, with light sweetness and fruitiness. There’s light apple, prunes – but not quite as intense as prunes – more like boiled or stewed prunes, with vanilla, very light oaky bourbon notes, light cherry, raisins, and more hints of ruby port. It is nicely balanced, light, and subtle, much like the nose…

Finish: The palate dries out a bit, and there are hints of spice, but the flavour is a bit absent other than some light sweet vanilla with some vague fruitiness – largely in the form of light apples. The body and feel of the finish (i.e. other than flavour and complexity), however, are quite decent.

Score: 82/100

Value: 72/100 (based on $40)


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Granny smith apples in a glass - it's almost hard to get around them! Yet, it’s a bit creamy, too, giving almost a sense of an apple crisp with cream or custard. Behind, there's some oak, spice, and some candied fruit and some threads of smoke. The apples lift off after some time...with some underlying complexity which is quite nice including some spices which almost give the feel of a diluted home-made bitter (licorice, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns). On the palate, some lovely oak fits in the background with some underlying spice and dried berries. Interesting to compare with the tasting notes above- it’s the same, and in many senses these tasting notes convey the same thing in a similar way, though there are some differences – for sure.

Score: 83/100

Value: 74/100 (based on $40)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Apple juice, clove, oak, plums, and vanilla – an easy whisky, full of vanilla and light spice. Light bourbon notes throughout the palate, mango, with pleasing dried spices. Lots of mango, too. There is a light grain character which is terrifically present, too. Lots of almond on the finish.

In this tasting, it’s oddly a bit like a Crown Royal, with all the bourbon nods and light fruit.

Score: 83/100

Value: 74/100 (based on $40)


Review: Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
21 yrs; Ex-bourbon cask
Recipe
100% Corn
Producer Highwood (High River, Alberta)

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.


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: 1

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Apple and wet, old oak with brilliant oiliness and age - with a daisy-like floral element too. Balanced on the palate with the oily richness characteristic of well-aged corn whiskies - nutty and spicy on the finish for brilliant effect as well. And, though so simple, a whisky like this reminds us all of why oak and vanilla fit so well together, and how sturdy a well-aged whisky can be. Well aged, smooth, balanced, yet supplying tannins for intrigue and effect. In the same mix with the best Japanese and Scottish grain whiskies.

Score: 91/100

Value: 90/100 (based on $68)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 2 (new bottle)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Well this is nice…dense and oaky, with just amazing old corn whisky notes. It is so rich, one of a few I’d call truly decadent. Beeswax, light oak, vanilla, leather, blueberry, coconut, and an array of spices. There’s a slight white-wine like fruitiness to it, too – like a light and floral dry pinot grigio. It is awesome, but the tannins are a bit out of balance compared with some other Canadian Rockies that I’ve had which were more in balance. The finish is nice too, with a richness that builds as you continue to drink. This is one of the best regular bottlings of Canadian whisky you can buy.

I like this slightly less than the first release because of less balance from the tannins, but still excellent.

Score: 90/100

Value: 81/100 (based on $80)