Canadian Whisky

Review: Prospector Canadian Rye Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Prospector+2.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
Virgin Charred American Oak
Recipe
100% Unmalted BC Rye
Distiller Odd Society (Vancouver, British Columbia)

This new 100% rye whisky is going to be one of the core whiskies produced by Odd Society, along with a continual set of experimental releases. It is 100% rye, matured in new oak - so expect this one to be a big, flavourful whisky.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 1

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

A rich, spicy, woody nose – cedar, oak, balsam – but loaded with baking spices, black tea, mixed grain porridge, brown sugar, and more. I do like rich, dense noses – and the cedar in this is awesome. Further, there is a good kick of dried fruit – apricot and peach, here – and some deeper, intriguing notes of sundried tomato and hibiscus. Some of the fruitiness and sweet toffee character are similar to Commodore – but this is very spicy and woody in comparison. The palate is rather pleasant, with loads more wood notes, tea notes, spice, and dried fruit – with a very agreeable level of tannin. The finish is spicy and dense, with wood and more dried fruit unfolding. Very nice! It opens up nicely with time, with more floral notes emerging.

I love to see the diversity of rye whiskies being released by Canadian producers. This is a completely different take on rye compared to Stalk & Barrel, Dillon’s, North of 7, or any of the big producers.

A nice release beside commodore! I like them both. This is more up my alley, to my preferences, and has a bit more complexity to it, but with that comes a sharper set of flavours and astringency so many might prefer Commodore. This, also, doesn’t show its youth as readily as commodore.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Another nice take on Canadian rye!


Review: Commodore Canadian Single Malt Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Commodore+2.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
56 litre first fill ex-bourbon
Recipe
100% BC Malted Barley
Distiller Odd Society (Vancouver, British Columbia)

This is made from 100% malted BC barley, and will be one of the core whiskies going forward. Odd society has lots of experimental whiskies which will be released in 500 ml bottles. This is matured in a 56 litre ex-bourbon barrel. Previous releases were in 30 L ex-bourbon or ex-rye casks. Slowly graduating to larger barrels, and releases are expected to continue to get older as aging time increases.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: 1

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

This has a richer oak characteristic than the previous single malt from Odd society (to my memory) – hazlenuts, green pear, caramel, and a slightly dusty baking spice characteristic. The “texture” on the nose is fairly dry and spicy, but a creaminess emerges with time. A nice deep nose – the youth is felt but the aromas are vibrant. The palate is loaded with sweet wood – caramel, toffee, creamy vanilla – but we still have a spicy woodiness, pear, honey, and light tannins directing the show. Slightly tangy, for a good effect. The finish is slightly sweet, creamy, and has a nice kick of cinnamon. With time, the finish develops into a more complex set of spices – coriander, light cumin, and white pepper – and some dried coconut.

I like this quite a bit more than the Odd Society Single Malt I tied last year. The BC distillers are really coming along!

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. It’s not expensive as far as micro-distilled single malts go, and it’s nearly in the “average” category - but not quite. If you’re wanting to explore some of the more handcrafted/unique single malts, this is not a bad place to start.


Review: Canadian Ltd Whisky with Natural Flavours by Jason Hambrey

Canada+Ltd.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller N/A

This is a whisky that I picked up in New Hampshire, for one reason – it was 5$ for 750 ml. I was curious what the cheapest whisky in New Hampshire tasted like. While I was checking out, I saw two of the five people in line walking out with a 1.14L bottle of this stuff, so evidently it has some popularity! It is classified as “Canadian Whisky with Natural Flavours”. It has the distinction because, unlike American Whisky (not bourbon), Canadian whisky cannot have flavouring added to it (the 9.09% rule allows the addition of up to 9.09% of wine or spirits over 2 years old, not flavouring).

It is produced by Fleishmann Distilling Co., out of Owensborough Kentucky. Fleishmann’s is owned by Sazerac, who import a lot of Canadian whisky (and are starting to build a distillery in Montreal).


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L18005101411B 531731700:298

  • Bottling Date: 2018

A yeasty, young, and raw nose – fermenting bread, hazelnut oil, vanilla, a mix of spice, fresh orange, and some pine. The vanilla smells not like whisky vanilla, but like extract. A bit bready – but generally light and spicy. There are definitely some notes I would describe as “nasty”. The palate is light and sweet, with more nut oil and lots of vanilla and a rough grain character, with virtually no finish other than some vanilla. Definitely better on the palate than the nose, but this has a way to go! I have to force the whisky down, it isn’t out of desire for the flavour.

That’s about all I want to write for tasting notes! I’ve had a number of worse whiskies, but this is definitely not a sipper (or mixer, in my house).

Value: Well, it only costs 5$! But I’d rather have one bottle of Ardbeg 10 than 20 of these…


Review: Two Brewers Classic Yukon Single Malt Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

ABV
46%-58%
Aging
7-8 yrs
Recipe
100% Malted Barley - mostly pale malt
Distiller Two Brewers (Whitehorse, Yukon)

Two Brewers is an interesting distillery because they started (as in the name) in brewing, so they had expertise in that important flavor generating part of the whisky making process. Their whiskies are about 7-8 years old, very mature for a micro distillery compared to most which are releasing their product as soon it is legal to do so, after three years. They also run with four different streams of single malt - "classic", "peated", "special finishes" and "innovative" whiskies. Each release has about 800-1600 bottles per release, and they use different malted and roasted grains along with varying fermentation techniques and a mix of barrels to get the sort of flavors they want. It's about time for a taste!


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Release 01

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

A Yukon-only release. Earthy, and lightly smoky, with apple, pineapple, pepper – the earthy and smoky elements of the nose lifts off with time leaving heavy fruit and porridge behind. The palate continues on with some very interesting elements – vegetal notes, yet still holding on to tingling spice and earthy grain. Nicely done!

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 06

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is incredible. Remarkable fruity – loads of ripe yellow apple, ripe pear, pineapple, guava, custard – and yet full of underlying spicy bready notes. There’s a bit of sharp grassy spice and some unripe green pear, as well as hard banana candies. It’s quite complex and very well integrated. It doesn’t nose or taste immature at all. The palate is gorgeous – it has some vanilla but finishes with some rich, dark, roasted malt. Great underlying grain and earth, too. The finish, then, maintains all the fruit but is loaded with roasted malt notes and light spice and oak. Figs, too. Brilliant!

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High. This is just good enough to scrape into a high value category, even at $100.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 10, 58%

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Our first cask strength two brewers!

This is what you might expect – a solid two brewers classic single malt, but with a much bigger paintbrush. Apple juice, apricot jam, tropical fruits, and all the beautiful grainy notes. It smells much like a bourbon cask – creamy, herbal, and lightly oaky. On the palate – it’s awesome. Big, creamy, with tropical fruits balanced by oaky spice, rich grain notes, and sharp spice. The finish comes out even bigger at cask strength, as might be expected. Lots of tropical fruits on the finish, too.

Not necessarily a better spirit than previous batches of the „classic” single malt, but it really gets carried through nicely at cask strength. It retains all the key notes, but adds some – the oaky spice and vanilla and caramel are front and center here, while they play a backburner at lower strengths. Well done – very well done.

As usual, the upped ABV reallly does well on the finish. I need to find a bottle of this....

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Really good whisky, but at $130 it starts to compete against other possibilities in that range.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Release 13

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

What a nose! This is loaded with caramel and vanilla, but still offset with light stone fruit, pineapple, banana, vanilla, and oak. The palate is creamy, rich, and with a very nice kick of spicy greens (arugula, watercress) before a drying finish which remains slightly sweet and fruity. Earthiness grows on the finish, still being offset by a bright fruitiness and spice. Compared to other batches, I find this has a huge degree of caramel and toffee, and a light elegance to it.

I loved batch 10, which was really big – this is perhaps a bit broader and richer, but not bigger.

Is this the best single malt in North America? Perhaps…

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Really good whisky, but at $100 it starts to compete against other possibilities in the $100 range.


Review: Two Brewers Peated Yukon Single Malt Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

ABV
43%
Aging
7-8 yrs
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Two Brewers (Whitehorse, Yukon)

A bit of a rarity- you don't often see Canadian peated whisky! This, however, gets its smoke from UK sourced peated barley. Canadian peat has been used in quite a few distilleries in the states, but for now it seems Canada is still looking to the UK for their peating demands.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Release 03

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

1750 bottles released. Fruity, and rich – guava, candied apple and pear – and still a bit of a spicy background alongside cacao, smoke, peat, leather, and dried apricot. Lots of pear. Develops a bit more broadly with time. On the palate, continues with pear, smoke, peat, cacao, dried apricot and peach - but arugula and spice start to sweep in! It finishes with more candy, caramel, smoke, and spice.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Good whisky, but starts to compete with the other best $100 whiskies.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Release 07

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The only gold winning medal from a micro-distillery at the Canadian whisky awards. Quite remarkable!

The nose is smoky – lots of it - with some nice minerality and medicinal notes – while also being bright with terrific earthy notes. Vegetal and rich – dry straw, white pepper, ripe yellow apple, young leather...

The palate starts with limestone and rich orchart fruit – apples, pears, and ripe peach - closing out with smoke and a burst of wet earth. The finish remains on the earthy, smoky notes with some roasted malt too. Eventually it fades to malt and the enduring fruit – pear, apple, pineapple. I don’t know if I’ve ever encountered a peaty whisky which integrated such bright fruit. Impressive.

It has just a terrific collapse of smoke, minerality, and peaty earthiness with an earthiness from the barley malt. Just terrific. Smokier than batch 03.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Good whisky, but starts to compete with the other best $100 whiskies.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Release 12

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

An earthy nose which has smoke, spicy earthiness, vanilla, and dried fruit. The palate carries through the peat, but offsets the flavour with some rich grain (think whole, mixed grain cereal like red river) and dried stone and tropical fruit – dried peach, papaya, pineapple, and prune. Rich, but not quite as bright or balanced as release 07 which was rather fantastic. However, this has a strong and dry earthiness which isn’t in release 07, so from a peat perspecitive, this is a bit stronger, but it isn’t quite as balanced. Nonetheless, it’s still terrific!

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Really good whisky, but at $100 it starts to compete against other possibilities in the $100 range.


Review: Two Brewers Innovative Yukon Single Malt by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

Image courtesy of Two Brewers, photographed by Michal Kostal.

ABV
43%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Two Brewers (Whitehorse, Yukon)

Two Brewers has an innovative line, alongside their classic, special finishes, and peated lines – in this line of products, they bring their brewing expertise to the table to generate unique expressions through the use of special brewing techniques during fermentation.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Release 5 (Sour Mash Single Malt)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

This batch is the first in the innovative line, and it is brewed using a sour mash – where the spent mash (the remains of a previously fermented mash) is poured back into the fermenters of the next batch to increase the acidity in fermentation – originally done to help the yeast do their job better and sometimes to create sour taste profiles in beer. You see this everywhere with Kentucky bourbon, but rarely with single malts (at least I haven’t heard of any doing this) – so this is indeed unique.

Vibrant fruit, and very reminiscent of the Two Brewers style. Interesting, though, with cinnamon coming in amidst the over-ripe banana, pineapple, guava, orange, and raspberry (yes, this is fruity!). Sweet roasted red pepper, dill, acacia honey, and even a light mineral backbone. The palate is surprisingly malty, but also with some spicy vegetal notes – dill, water cress, and arugula. Creamy porridge, too, with lots of cereal notes – which also I find all over the nose after I’ve taken a sip. Lightly sweet, but nicely balanced. The finish is lightly spicy, oaky, and still carrying sweet fruit notes. Another winner from Yukon!

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Really good whisky, but at $100 it starts to compete against other possibilities in the $100 range.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 08 (Hopped)

  • Bottling Code: L1 50781D 17/11/2017

  • Bottling Date: 2017

I’ve been eager to try this one. It’s from the Yukon distillery, but this time they used hops in their mash and distilled the hopped distiller’s beer. I asked Bob what hops he used, and he said "I think cascade – but it was so long ago that I don’t remember!”. Pretty rare to hear a micro distilery say that!

At first, you get all the broad and rich Two Brewers fruit notes – mango, apple, pear, banana – but this has some unique and lovely notes to it. Pine, cedar, vanilla, baking bread, rich barley, anise, a slight marshmallow character, with more pear and a bourbon-like dried fruit character arising with time. The palate starts sweet, but, as usual, there comes a great Two Brewers roasted grain character alongside a saccharin sweetness. It has a great edge to it, between the sharpness of the grain and the light piney bitterness of the hops. There’s also a bit of szechuan peppercorn, here, too.

The palate comes through with great grain, and on the end there’s a very nice bitter touch from the hops. The finish is quite reminiscent of when you drink beer and whisky together, the hop notes staying in the background but full of the fruity character of the whisky. Lots of rich grain notes, a bit like a rich stout. I like the bitterness and it has a pleasant drying sensation.

In some ways I like it more, but it is not quite as bright as some other releases. The hops work well - it is the best hopped whisky I’ve tasted, and it is unique.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Really good whisky, but at $100 it starts to compete against other possibilities in the $100 range.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Release 11 (Munich Malt)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

This is a Two Brewers, but made with Munich Malt, a malt known for bringing in a rich grain characteristic to beer.

The nose is rich, very much Two Brewers but with a richer and deeper grain characteristic. We have honey, rich mixed grain, light woody spice, and lots of fruit: peaches, plums, and mixed tropical fruits. The grain blossoms on the palate right through to the finish, which is still grainy, lightly sour, and herbal. The tropical fruits remain, and we get a typical hit of arugula in the middle. – but the fruit continues, and we get a nice hit of milk chocolate towards the end. Terrific! The finish is lightly sour, lightly herbal, with oaky vanilla and baking spice with touches of tannin. Quite different than the sharp and piney spiciness in the last innovative release, the hopped single malt. This is really good, the best of their innovative line so far, from a taste perspective.

I just love the stuff Two Brewers is putting out – this is perhaps my favourite of their categories because of the uniqueness each batch brings.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Really good whisky, but at $100 it starts to compete against other possibilities in the $100 range.


Review: Forty Creek 22 Year Old Rye Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Forty Creek.

Image courtesy of Forty Creek.

ABV
43%
Aging
22 yrs
Recipe
100% Rye
Distiller Forty Creek (Grimsby, Ontario)

This is a real rarity, and a real “limited edition” - only 102 bottles made. Furthermore - it is in rarefied territory - a 100% rye whisky over 20 years old. So far, there are only a few in recent memory - the dazzling Alberta Premium 25 year old and 30 year old whiskies, and the Collingwood 21 Year Old - all very distinguished bottlings. It was a pet project of Forty Creek’s chief Whisky Maker Bill Ashburn, who carried all the grain to the fermenter, pot distilled the lot, and selected the barrels - even hand bottling each of them himself! When it was distilled, John Hall and Bill Ashburn didn’t think it was very good, but a long time in the barrel did some real good! This whisky won the 2019 Canadian Whisky Awards, beating out over 100 other whiskies as part of a non-profit whisky competition judged blind by a panel of 10 people.

These notes are from my sample as part of judging the Canadian Whisky Awards, so no, the bottle hasn’t been released yet - I know many have been eagerly awaiting its release.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

This is quite unlike any Forty Creeks I’ve ever tasted. It’s very grainy, with a rich fruitiness – licorice, fennel seed, rye oatmeal – and a very rich oak character. We also have banana, rhubarb, spice cake, red river cereal, and rich oak. Awesome complexity, with both a subtle earthiness and creaminess which add significant intrigue.

The palate is clean, with oak, loads of rich rye, sharp spice and dried fruit, and a slightly drying, tannic finish full of spices and grain. There is a terrific size to the grain here, and fascinating notes of chilli pepper and roasted grain throughout – not to mention rye-heavy bread loaves. The whisky, throughout, has a great sense of umami. The finish has oak, dusty earth, mixed dried fruits (including prune, raisin, and dried apricot) and more sharp spices like fennel and white pepper. If you’ve ever had a rye loaf full of whole wheat rye - sharp, spicy, and earthy – this is similar.

In my blind tasting, I actually mistook this for a micro distillery product (it’s similar to North of 7) because of the rich grain focus and sharp spice, which most big distilleries don’t do in the same way – but this has a terrific depth to it, and the roundness and intrigue of the entire product is just fantastic. One of my favourite Forty Creeks of all time, vying for greatness alongside the best of Forty Creek (indeed, some of the best of Canadian whisky): early batches of Confederation Oak, Heart of Gold, and Evolution. Just brilliant.

Very Highly Recommended (16% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). It’s great to see Forty Creek release more spectacular liquid.

Value: Low. While it is true that it is extremely hard to find rye whiskies above 20 years old (near impossible), $225 means that the whisky has to be near perfect - to me. This is excellent, but there are better value buys.


Review: Lohin McKinnon Tequila Finished Single Malt Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Lohin McKinnon Tequila Finished.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
Ex-bourbon and Tequila barrels
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Central City (Surrey, British Columbia)

This is a Lohin McKinnon which has been finished in Tequila casks which were described by the barrel broker as “Mexican Heaven” barrels. This is the only Tequila finished whisky that I know of, certainly the only one in Canada. I know Wiser’s has experimented with Tequila finished whisky but they haven’t bottled any. This is one of the annual special releases from Lohin McKinnon (last year we saw the excellent chocolate malt).


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is spicy, intensely grainy, and full of rich earthy notes: roasted root vegetables, orange, cacao, toasted coconut, and pear. There are some nice floral notes, too – which sit on top. This would be an example of a nose that I would call “layered” – the floral notes sit on top, with citrus and plum beneath, then some sweet spice and a touch of tequila, and then earthy notes at the bottom. Quite a nice, rich maltiness with this one.

The palate has dark brown sugar, a mild oakiness, vanilla, a touch of jalapeno, oat cakes, rich honey, and a bit of sour agave just towards the end. The middle of this whisky is so rich – it’s quite fascinating. It still sits a bit “heavy” as if from youth, or maybe that comes in from the barrels. I like how the whisky has a tequila characteristic, but it isn’t dominated by it.

I’ve found that I’ve liked Lohin McKinnon more and more as I’ve tried more of it.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). It’s very rare to find Tequila finished whiskies – in fact this is the only one I know of which has been bottled (I’ve tasted some which weren’t bottled), so on a uniqueness scale, it’s up there. It’s a fun one for blind tastings.

Value: Average. It’s pretty unique, and is on the cheaper side of micro-distilled single malts in Canada (70$).


Review: Signal Hill Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Signal Hill 1.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
Refill Casks, Virgin White Oak, Ex-Bourbon Casks
Recipe
95% Corn, 5% Malted Barley
Distiller N/A

This is a new addition to Canadian whisky, a non-chill filtered combination of corn and malted barley whiskies matured in Canadian Whisky Casks, New White Oak Casks, and Ex-Bourbon Casks. It is an independent bottling of Canadian whisky, so it wasn’t distilled in Newfoundland, where it was bottled (no distiller is listed). It is bottled by Rock Spirits, who also bottle Screech and George Street Spiced Rum (I like to mix with George St.). The presentation of the whisky is fantastic, too – I find the bottle quite attractive. The whisky is named after Signal Hill, right near where it is produced in Newfoundland - the site of the first reported  transatlantic transmission by Guglielmo Marconi.

They recommend Old Fashioned, Whisky Sours, and Manhattans with this. They all work pretty well, though the manhattans need a lighter vermouth.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is fresh and clean, with light notes of dried berries, floral rum, and gentle oak. There is a nice rich spiciness to it, one that is a bit bitter, in a pleasant fashion that provides some grip. The fruitiness tends to grow with time, revealing more dried fruit and a bit of citrus. The palate is lightly sweet, and very easy. It has light brown sugar, light oak, dried blueberry, clove-studded oranges, and a flourish of vanilla and rum at the end. The finish has a touch of molasses, vanilla, some tannins, hard caramel candies, and clove and white pepper.

This is a very easy whisky to drink, and I find it very pleasant and well balanced – a great choice for a casual whisky. How about a comparison the 10 year old, rum-finished Guy Lafleur whisky from Wiser’s. That has a much deeper grain character and is more full bodied and rich, with less of what seems to be a rum characteristic. But Signal Hill is a bit more straightforward, and doesn’t emphasize the grain as much.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. It’s a good whisky, and the price isn’t too high. It is perhaps a bit more than I would like to pay for this whisky (35$ might be the sweet spot for me), but that’s still only a difference of 5$.


Ranking the Last 7 Years of Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

I started tracking with Canadian whisky 7 years ago, and it is remarkable how things have changed since then. I expected this would change, and indeed it has - for the good, and also for the worse (releases harder to find, more expensive). And, indeed, as I predicted in 2016, Diageo found in 2018 Canadian whisky to be valuable enough to decide to lose a barrel in Diageo’s Crown Royal warehouses, releasing a “Lost Barrel” of 25 year old Canadian whisky as part of their premium Orphan Barrel set of releases.

So, how do I rank the last few years? I’ll rank them and give a snapshot of some highlights. I’ll focus on my favourite gains/losses, and the micro distilling market is largely absent from this list, in part because it’s young, and in part because they’re still dominated by whiskies that aren’t quite there yet (though I will mention a few highlights).

I’ll rank them in ascending order to my favourite.

7. In seventh place, I have 2012. We had a few very notable releases, headlined by the release of Lot no. 40, Forty Creek Portwood, and Highwood Stampede 25 Years Old. Then we had a number of other notable whiskies come to the scene, that seem to have been around much longer - Pike Creek 10 Year, Crown Royal Black, and Alberta Premium Dark Horse. Also, around this time Still Waters came to the scene with their impressive rye as one of the earliest craft distillers.

6. In sixth place, we have 2016. It contains one of my all time favourite whisky releases, Lock Stock and Barrel 16 year old - an amazing cask strength rye from Alberta, along with its cask strength sibling, Hochstadter’s Family Reserve. But, beyond that, a bit of a flat year - Wiser’s started finishing Pike Creek in rum rather than port barrels (I like the change), they introduced a terrific expression in their (very affordable) Double Still Rye, and introduced the sour-milk mashed Last Barrels. Crown Royal started the noble collection with their respectable Cornerstone Blend and Forty Creek released a subpar release in Founder’s Reserve. I think we lost Wiser’s Small Batch in here somewhere.

5. 2013 wasn’t that busy of a year, relatively, but we had the release of a number of very solid whiskies: Masterson’s Rye, Forty Creek Heart of Gold, and Collingwood 21 Year Old rye headlined the year, with notable contributions from Whistlepig (their 10 year old and Boss Hog), and Wiser’s Red Letter.

4. 2015 might have bumped into third place, but around this time we lost the terrific Danfield’s 21 year old which was a dazzling and very affordable expression. We also got a 35 year old Canadian Rockies at a blistering 79.3%, Canadian Rockies 21 to Canada, the amazing Crown Royal Single Barrel, Gooderham & Worts (yes, it’s only been around for three years…), and Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye. Forty Creek had another dip with Three Grain Harmony, but there was enough good stuff going on elsewhere to offset it.

3. In third place, 2014. A number of great baseline expressions were released - Canadian Club 100% Rye, Crown Royal XO, Lock, Stock, and Barrel 13 year old, and Ninety 20 Year Old (nice). But, no shortage of great limited editions either - Forty Creek Evolution, Masterson’s Straight Barley, Masterson’s Straight Wheat, Wiser’s Red Letter, and Crown Royal Monarch. We lost Crown Royal Cask no. 16 and Century Reserve Lot 15/25, good whiskies but not too big hits given the gains.

2. 2017 would have been number one, except for something of a tragedy - Wiser’s Legacy, one of Canada’s legendary whiskies, was discontinued. It was one of the best Canadian whiskies, and it was quite affordable. Also, the Lot no. 40 recipe changed, and in my opinion the bottlings just haven’t been as good since (likely due to younger age rather than a fault of the recipe). But Canadian whisky really buzzed this year - Canadian Club went head to head with Wiser’s, releasing a stunning 40 year old. Wiser’s released a magnificent set of releases - Dissertation, Union 52, Lot no. 40 Cask Strength, Gooderham & Worts 17 Years Old Little Trinity, a 21 year old Pike Creek finished in Speyside casks, Wiser’s Canada 150, and a 15 year old. Crown Royal got in the action with a great wine barrel finished special release and a Blender’s Mash release of some of their Coffey Rye. Forty Creek came through in a big way with Heritage, my favourite release from them in the past few years. We even saw something special from Collingwood in their double barreled Town Whisky. Also, Lock Stock and Barrel released a great 18 year old 100% rye from Alberta, though it is pretty hard to find. Oh, and Two Brewers came to the scene, producing Yukon single malt which I adore.

1. My favourite of the past 7 years was 2018, though 2017 only lost out because of the loss of Wiser’s Legacy, a magnificent core expression which special releases can’t quite replace. Two Brewers shone through with a great cask strength and hopped release, Forty Creek had a very well regarded limited release in Unity, Canadian Club dazzled again with a 41 year old, Diageo got in the mix with a 25 year old corn whisky from Crown Royal, Crown Royal released a terrific 13 year old “Bourbon mash” alongside a more mediocre non-age stated Bourbon (or Blender’s) Mash. We had some more great old corn whiskies from Highwood - a 30 year old special for BC liquor stores, and a 17 year old at 50% released from Canadian Rockies. Oh, and Wiser’s continued at breakneck pace - three whiskies for an NHL Alumni limited release, a 19 year old seasoned oak expression (terrific), a 2018 commemorative release, an oaky 21 year old pike creek matured in three oaks, a gooderham and worts special release from 11 spirit types, another terrific lot no. 40 cask strength, and another great 35 year old. Now that’s a year!

I didn’t try everything, but I was able to try most, so it’s been a privelege - and we are trending upwards! 2019, I expect, will have its share of great releases.