Canadian Whisky

Review: Crown Royal Hand Selected Single Barrel Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
51.5%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
64% Corn, 31.5% Rye, 4.5% Malted Barley
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

 This whisky is another beauty from the stocks of Canadian “flavouring” whiskies – strongly flavoured whiskies used as flavouring components in blends. More of these are being released as the connoisseur market is growing. This whisky is made very much like a bourbon – it has a recipe of 64% corn, 31.5% rye, and 4.5% malted barley, and is matured in new oak for around 7 years. At present, these are being released as single barrels. This whisky is my favorite Crown Royal, if not a bit sweet some of the time.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L4303K1019

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Nose: Orange, vanilla, dried corn, and oak on the nose. Very crown royal, yet very bourbon-like. The oak is big, sweet, and very central – and slightly smoky, very much smelling like new oak casks (which is what is used to mature this whisky). Lots of lovely creamy, butterscotch notes and apple is around. Spice is present from the rye as well – stale cinnamon.

Taste: Big, bold, and creamy with lots of heavy vanilla, butterscotch, cherry, canned peaches, and oak. Candied orange peel underneath, along with dried cherries and blueberries. This is delicious! The oak integration is fabulous – on the palate, this is perhaps my favorite crown royal. It works well at 51.5% ABV, and the berry spice under the oak is fascinating, and the tannins from the oak are just about right.

Finish: A light, floral, slightly pithy, finish with lots of vanilla, oak, dried berries, butterscotch, canned peaches, raw almonds, and rye spice.

A very different, and very good, crown royal. Lots of creamy oak and flavour. Highly recommended. This really, to me, does seem like the heart of crown royal – you can taste influences of a whisky like this across many of their products, from their base blend on up.

Score: 89/100

Value: 81/100 (based on $74)


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: Bottled Exclusively for Davin De Kergommeaux

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

A different barrel than above. Of all the whiskies I tasted for the Canadian Whisky Awards, this was my absolute favorite and one of the best Canadian whiskies I have tasted.

Rich and deep- it opens up to show earthy notes (think something like the spicy earthiness like in black eyed peas), plantain, banana leaves, spices , wafts of bourbon, barrel char. But, this is at first! As it opens, it becomes sweet and creamy with banana cream pie, tapioca pudding, and some rich vanilla, while retaining the other elements. On the palate, lightly tannic with cherries, banana cream pie, and absolutely brilliant creaminess and oak integration carrying through to a long creamy finish.

Score: 95/100

Value: 99/100 (based on $70)


Review (2016; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Here is a nose! Rich, with a great confectionary balance between the grain, the oak, and the fruit. Vanilla, custard, clove, corn husks, dry rye, banana cream pie, butterscotch candy – gorgeous, no question. The palate is unbelievable – soft and creamy yet full of flavor as cereal spice, baked peaches, steel cut oats, and oaky tannins yield an unbelievable taste. The finish has oak and light olive oil with light tannins. Stunning.

If it were a lower proof it would be too sweet, but the match of the complexity, the sweetness, the mouthfeel, and the spice with the punchy alcohol is just perfect.

Score: 91/100

Value: 89/100 (based on $74)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code:L41462S 14250815SL143

  • Bottling Date: 2016

I love this stuff so much, and I like following it. It is so unique. A creamy, buttery, oaky, banana cream pie, and cherry laden nose...this batch is more oaky than the previous ones I remember. The palate is full of banana cream pie, oak, cherry, and light corn. A sweet, spicy finish with some cinnamon and more banana. Brief tasting notes, but very similar to the above but not as complex and the high rated batch. I had another batch in the 2017 canadian whisky awards which I would have rated similarly.

This is terrific, but there is definite batch variation in these barrels, as expected from single barrels. This whisky is similar, but a notch below in complexity, nose, and finish from the previous bottlings. Still terrific – but I guess the batches I have tasted in competition have actually been the best.

Not as complex as some 89ers, but I just love the profile. So delicious. I do love good Canadian whisky...

Score: 89/100

Value: 81/100 (based on $50)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Very floral, light, and dessert-like: Banana, wood, toffee, icing sugar, cedar, and a rich grain-like oiliness. Wood smoke and coconut cream pie, too, on the rich nose. The palate does not disappoint, with rich grain notes yet retaining all the richness of the fruit and spice. Yet, with all this, lightly tangy too. Brilliant.

Score: 84/100

Value: 60/100 (based on $77)


Review: Century Reserve Rare Cask 30 Year Old Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Century Reserve 30.jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
30 years
Recipe
100% Corn
Producer Highwood (High River, Alberta)

Now here is a whisky for you - a 30 year old single cask, 100% corn whisky distilled in 1988 and bottled for BC liquor stores. There is growing traction now for old Canadian corn whiskies, which are full of complex subtlety - though not all love the style. Production wise, it’s similar to an old Scottish grain whisky (or Japanese). However, I find, for the style, the Canadians to be better - though they are limited - we’ve really only seen these from Highwood (Ninety 20, Century Reserve 17, 21, 35) and Hiram Walker (Canadian Club 40, Wiser’s 35 - though Wiser’s 35 has younger rye blended in).

Also, only $150…but only available in BC.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Distilled 1988, Bottled 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Yes! What a rich, nice, easy nose. The age shows through incredibly – loads of light coconut, sunflower oil, beeswax – it is the best of old Canadian corn whisky. Very elegant. The best thing about the style is it seems to keep getting better with age and doesn’t usually over-oak…awesome!

It’s in the same class as whiskies like Canadian Rockies 21, it isn’t even worth writing additional notes to the above. If you want to see similar flavours, take a look at my review for that. It’s perhaps a bit richer, this stuff - awesome.

Score: 92/100

Value: 63/100 (based on $150)


Review: Crown Royal Noble Collection Blender's Mash 13 Years Old by Jason Hambrey

 Thanks to Crown Royal for the image. Note that this is the wine barrel finish - the bottle is the same as the blender’s mash.

Thanks to Crown Royal for the image. Note that this is the wine barrel finish - the bottle is the same as the blender’s mash.

ABV
45%
Aging
13 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
64% Corn, 31.5% Rye, 4.5% Malted Barley
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

This whisky highlights the column-distilled, rye-heavy mashbill that is matured in new oak which Crown Royal makes - the process is very much the same as that used to make straight bourbons, with a mashbill, a column still, and new white oak casks. This is an older version of the Blender’s Mash (“Bourbon Mash”) released earlier this year by Crown Royal.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Noble Collection 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Clean and fruity – with rich rye, corn, and oak notes. Much cleaner, richer, and tightly held together, and more elegant, than the regular blender’s/bourbon mash. The nose is surprisingly elegant – not many bourbon style whiskies are so. It also is closer to a bourbon in taste profile than the blender’s mash.

Back to the nose…brown cardamom, clove, rich oak, dried chilli, cacao, corn husks, maple sugar, and ketchup chips! The palate has rich corn and wood, and has a sharp set of spice. Also there we have rich oak, prunes, dried apricots, clove, toffee, creamy oak, and fall marshes. Caramel and toffee really grows. As does oak and char.

The finish has a bit of tobacco and is drying. Lots of dried fruit, oak, and baking spices, too. Brilliant whisky.

Ever so slightly tannic, but I quite like it. I like it when whiskies play close to the line of too much bitterness and tannin for balance.

Easily on my favorite of the year list. Last year’s release was also exceptionally good (as was the year’s before) – great! If anyone thinks Crown can only blend whisky of different mashbills, they are missing this. But they are continuing to get a bit better…one of my favourite Crown Royals ever.

I’ve had this mashbill at cask strength – it is absolutely awesome. If they released a cask strength version at this age I’d be over the moon. If I’m on a wish list, I’d also take a few vattings of their favorite barrels of coffee rye at cask strength too!

Score: 92/100

Value: 91/100 (based on $82)


Review: Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
90% Rye Blend
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

Crown Royal has a number of different whiskies which are produced – 5 in fact. There are two base corn whiskies, and three different flavoring whiskies, two of which are high rye recipes (from which this whisky is crafted), and another of which is a bourbon style whisky (the Hand Selected Single Barrel).

This whisky was Jim Murray's top whisky in the world in 2015. This created a lot of buzz, but many people don't even know where this award came from (or what it means) and consequently are very dissapointed with this whisky because they expect something else, drink this too quickly, or just don't like the profile.

There’s no best whisky in the world. Every palate is different, often surprisingly so. Jim Murray, expert and experienced though he is, is one man and his awards come from himself alone. If you are ever tasting a number of fabulous whiskies with friends, people often have different favorites – suprisingly so. If any of us were to taste all the whiskies Jim Murray did this year, the chance of any of us picking the same whisky as him to be our top is miniscule. So, yes, it’s an achievement, and shows that the whisky has the stamp of approval of a very experienced taster, but it doesn’t mean at all that you’ll love it. I know many who love the whisky (I do), and also know of many who have picked it up in a rush after the award and been dissapointed.

Also, this doesn't encapsulate Canadian whisky, so don't define Canadian Whiksy by one experience of this. While the publicity is probably good for Canadian whisky – some things haven’t been good. Jim Murray’s love for Alberta Premium has probably not been good for Canadian whisky – I have tasted over 5 different batches of Alberta Premium, and been indifferent to it. Many, excited for a whisky rated 96.5/100, flock to the whisky as their defining experience of Canadian whisky – to walk away disappointed. I can say, with many other laymen and experts, that Alberta Premium wouldn’t be in our top list of Canadian whiskies at all. If that’s your experience with Northern Harvest Rye, don’t give up on Canadian whisky – there’s lots of great whisky to discover.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L5240 N5 13:53

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Nose: Very fruity, with both a bit of a fruity rose wine and a bourbon profile. As I said, very fruity – fresh and dried blueberries, fresh and dried cherries, peaches, guavas, pineapple, dried apricot, and a bit of a candied fruit character as well like candied mango and candied pineapple, and hard tropical and berry candies, dried apricot….there are wisps of bourbon too, mint, oak, vanilla, honey, and light earthiness. And, as well, spices – cumin, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Yet, this is not a heavy winter rye! But rather a lighter spring one. Water brings out the nose even more, too, and more of a floral nature comes in.

Taste: Surprisingly tannic, and now the rye comes in full force with its herbal essence – arugula, tobacco, jasmine tea, all with a pretty bright berry-like fruitiness as you might find in a fruity cigar. After tasting, I picked up a lot more of these notes in the nose. The rye presentation is quite clean, and works well amidst the light fruit, surprisingly enough. It reminds me, in effect, of the trappist beer Chimay Extra Strong (the little blue bottle – a fabulous beer!) in its balance between heavy grain and bright fruit. The mouthfeel is medium – not super thick, but not watery. Very well done.

Finish: Dried apricot, black tea, jasmine, raw ground almonds, with a slightly sour profile and a bit of a peppery bite. The tannins take their toll, and the rye fades quickly – this is the weakest part of the whisky, but it’s still very good.

Conclusion: There you go folks – I’m very pleasantly surprised by this. I expected something better than the standard Crown Royal, but wasn’t expecting something this good. This whisky is now my top budget whisky, sitting alongside the likes of Forty Creek Copper Pot, Lot no. 40, and Gooderham & Worts – very good company. The match between the complex fruitiness (I rarely find a whisky with such complex fruit packed in it!) and the heavier herbal rye and spice is brilliant, and continues to impress upon subsequent tastings. Quite a bit different, and significantly better, than the standard Crown Royal – not nearly as dry or harsh. Highly recommended – and, also, $30.

Score: 89/100

Value: 95/100 (based on $35)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Lots of floral and fruity notes, with a touch of spice on the nose. Lilacs, rose petals, bubblegum, menthol, clove, and rich, tangy dried fruit notes. The palate is easy, still dominated with fruit yet having a growing, spicy vegetal characteristic with black pepper, lilacs, and clove.

Score: 89/100

Value: 92/100 (based on $36)


Review: Crown Royal XO Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
Finished in cognac casks
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

This whisky was introduced in what seems to be a replacement for the cognac finished Cask no. 16. It is created from over 50 whiskies which are blended together and finished in cognac casks. So, why 50 unique whiskies? That’s a lot of work for a single regular product, isn’t it? This is basically because there’s so much variation of production at the Crown Royal plant in Gimli, Manitoba – there are a lot of different whiskies produced between 5 different recipes, 3 types of wood (newly charred, ex-bourbon barrels, and refill/reused barrels), alongside a wide range of aging length. The name, “XO” (extra old) , is a tribute to the cognac classification for their spirits, indicating the highest grade of cognac in terms of age.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L40932N001315251SL143

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: A hefty bit of rye comes through the nose, interestingly enough because that wasn’t my first impression with Cask no. 16, which I assumed this would emulate. Not so, this is a bit darker and, initially, I thought, less fruity, but after successive tastings I am not sure. There’s a good bit of maple syrup – it’s quite prominent –  it keeps reminding me of an overly crisp waffle soaked in maple syrup especially with some of the grains coming through. Vanilla comes through, and a bit of orange – overall it’s a bit of a dense nose, but it does lighten up as it sits. There are interesting spicy notes – green cardamom (quite prominent), cinnamon, ginger, and toasted black pepper – indicative of the French Oak which the cognac casks were made from. There’s also some nice light grape notes which tend to go quite well with Crown Royal.

Taste: After the pretty dense and dark nose I was surprised to find a light-feeling and delicate whisky enter my mouth. Starts off with some rye emphasis before some light fruit and vanilla come through with some bourbon notes before the end turns to oak and spice. A very interesting movement in this whisky is that it seems to start off quite light before upping both in flavour and feel until the end which feels quite dense and a bit dry. Towards the end there’s a bit of an oxidized sherry-type flavour too. Very nice, I must say – the main knack is that it is just a bit too dry, I think, without something to counteract it.

Finish: Mainly spices – ginger and green cardamom, with some cinnamon mixed in too. There’s a bit of oak in the background and a light orange citrusy background as well, and a bit of nuttiness. Nicely done. It’s slightly dry, but not too dry, and I like finishes that are a bit on the dry side.

I quite enjoy this, and I like this a fair bit more than the Cask no. 16 bottlings that I’ve tried. It’s perhaps most surprising to me how rye-forward the profile is – I expected a bit more of a hybrid with this one. But the fruit, spiciness, and complexity do good work in this one.

Score: 88/100

Value: 80/100 (based on $65)


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L42812N00114 4451SL143

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Grain and spice heavy, candied orange peel, cola, lime, rich oak, and apple. On the palate, caramel, vanilla, macadamia, and white chocolate. Spice and tannins are also at play, with some excellent complex fruit on the finish.

While still very nice, it doesn't have the depth of the previous bottle I own (above), which shows more spice, complexity, and particularly a better integration of rancio and a bit more of a dried fruit character rather than candied fruit.

Score: 86/100

Value: 72/100 (based on $70)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Apple, oak, brown sugar, nuts, green grape, fennel, and a variety of dried fruit come together on a slightly tangy and spicy whisky balanced with pleasant brown sugar and sweet potato in the mix.

Still good, but not what it was when it first came out and the oak, finish, and spices shone through quite uniquely.

Score: 86/100

Value: 67/100 (based on $75)


Review: Crown Royal Reserve Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

This whisky is bottled from select barrels from the Diageo plant in Gimli, Manitoba, where all Crown Royal products are produced. Less than 1% of supply goes into this blend – the barrels are hand-picked by Crown Royal master blender Andrew MacKay, and then blended together. The word “reserve” is often overused in wine and whisky, and may denote simply the standard bottling or spirit, which is too bad. In the case of this whisky, it is actually a reserve, and in my opinion one of the best of the Crown Royal range.


Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 0713A51231

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Creamy, rich, and full. green melon, honey, vanilla, with many a touch of bourbon. There’s caramel, a touch of grassy and dusty rye, stewed apricots, loads of plum, fresh cherry – it’s quite beautiful. It’s slightly sour the same way that some bourbons are, with the slightly tart stewed fruit. There’s some nice maple and oakiness, as well. My only qualm is at times a bit of a slightly bitter corn whiff which comes from time to time. Wonderfully fresh, though.

Taste: Thick, sweet entry, with lots of caramel and warming rye spice held in check by the richness and sweetness of the surrounding whisky. There’s a distinct touch of dried corn at the end and sweet dried apricots, and it finishes in a flourish of developing spices and heat, and it’s a broad range of them – ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cacao…with some sweet vanilla lingering in the background. Beautiful balance. It’s deep, full, and with great feeling in the mouth.

Finish: Mouth-coating and flavourful. There’s lots of spice as above, which fades to wood as the mouth dries. There’s some grassy rye slightly in the background with, of course, some vanilla and fruit. It remains coating the mouth with a slight bite of spice, clove in particular, before opening up to reveal some slight maltiness and residual corn which lasts for quite a long time.

Distinctly crown royal – it’s the basic blend, done better, and it is wonderful. Complex, very sip-worthy, full, and elegant – this is a wonderful gift with the Presentation, approachability, and complexity. this makes me want to come back for more, more, and more… certainly a Canadian which is pretty wonderful to sip.

Score: 86/100

Value: 74/100 (based on $60)


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 0713A51231

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Apple, pear, bourbon, nuttiness, some oak and orange peel with some nice earthiness balanced with some vanilla and the fruit. On the palate, a rich toffee undercurrent and notes of nuts, pears, apples, oak, and spice - cinnamon, nutmeg, and a touch of allspice - all doing their thing pretty well. Very enjoyable.

Score: 86/100

Value: 74/100 (based on $60)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Elegant and spicy floral characteristics sit overtop a clean base. All sorts of baking spices combining with all sorts of fruit – apple, peach, pear, white grape – with a lightly buttery base. Elegant, clean, and complex. A pleasant set of drying spices which build up towards the nice finish.

Score: 85/100

Value: 71/100 (based on $60)


Review: Crown Royal Black Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

This whisky was (relatively) recently introduced – a higher strength (45%), “robust, full-bodied” whisky. It certainly is, relative to the regular offerings such as Crown Royal Reserve – but it is still quite smooth and creamy (in line with the other Crown Royal products), and certainly does not have as big a body as I was expecting from the label.


Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Fruity, with light bourbon notes, chocolate, and some gooseberries. There’s a bit of grainy rye and it is a touch sour; the fruitiness is interesting – it’s quite light, with just touches of apple and starfruit, but more dominated by soft fruits (apricots, peaches) and even marula fruit (which I only know from the liquer Amarula). There’s also a bit of cedar which fits in nicely, with some brown sugar, bitter orange, rye bread, and a touch of stale rye with just a hint of bitterness. It also has distinct hints of the blackberry and black currant notes you get in some big red wines. This comes alongside some stale, slightly mineral notes, and even some hints of fried onion (which I had to verify I wasn’t getting from the kitchen – I wasn’t!). Very interesting.

Taste: It starts out with some juicy, fruity rye and ends delicately with corn, vanilla, oak, and some light fruitiness after a touch of rye. It’s actually quite tangy, which is interesting – and it is yet creamy and rich. There’s some cacao, cinnamon, ginger, and brown sugar in the mix, too. Quite enjoyable, but not outstanding.

Finish: Some cedar, ginger, vanilla, orange peel, and oak appear, with some subtler notes of nutmeg and cinnamon and a touch of smoke. The fruitiness is not as present as I would expect. However, the finish is quite light but still full.

The colour is actually not very black…I find it a touch off-putting. Jim Murray described this whisky as “russet” – he got that right. It interestingly treads through both bold and delicate, as you might expect from a Crown Royal.

Score: 81/100

Value: 72/100 (based on $33)


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Nutty and woody, with some light apple, dried apricot, white grape, dry oak and beautifulbourbon notes, and balsamic vinegar. The grain is quite rich and buttery overall. On the palate, the whisky comes more alive with some apple and a balance of sweetness, grain, and spice concluding with a dry, spicy finish. Can't escape that bourbon influence...

Score: 81/100

Value: 72/100 (based on $33)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Light fruit – banana, pear, gooseberry – but also rich vanilla, custard, and fresh apple. The palate is easy, with lots of apple, vanilla notes, and a light finish still focused on vanilla, but with clove and light oak.

Score: 83/100

Value: 77/100 (based on $33)


Review: Crown Royal Fine Deluxe Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

This is Canada’s number 1 selling whisky – and it does have a story. Sam Bronfman, who originally oversaw the production of the whisky, waited 25 years to export to his largest export market (the US), to ensure he would have enough mature stock to keep up with demand. This blend was originally crafted to mark the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939. It was supposed to be a whisky fit for royalty, with the original stock, apparently, including whiskies well over twenty years old.


Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: It’s quite clean, with a slight bourbon aroma – some of that stewed fruit and caramelized oak , vanilla, and then a whisp of sour corn. The light oaky vanilla is very nice, though. It also smells quite grainy, and is light (at times) to the point that I find myself sniffing rather than just letting the aromas come. The stewed fruits seem to come out a bit more, and there are aromas of prunes as well. There’s a fair bit of sourness and almost a slight bitterness in the nose which I find detracts from it, however.

Taste: A light vanilla entry buffeted by some thick corn before the vanilla comes through and a touch of drying ginger comes on at the end. It’s quite light – not hard in the spice or the rye department, but certainly has lots of fruits in line with the nose – the prunes and light flavour of dried apricots. Vanilla in this one plays center stage, and it’s light and reasonably clean. There is a tiny bit of sourness with a citrus character like slightly watered down orange. There are certainly many pleasant bourbon notes as well.

Finish: There’s a touch of dry spice on the finish with an almost salty character, and very light oak spice with a touch of acidity and a bit of stewed fruit. It’s quite light, and I even get a tiny wisp of smokiness from the char in the wood. There isn’t much that is negative, but you have to search for flavour and the finish is a bit dull and short. However, it does coat the mouth nicely and cause your mouth to water, which is always great.

It’s very common as a mixer, and it’s no surprise as to why – it is light, has a simple and versatile flavour profile, and won’t make cocktails run out of balance if the proportions aren’t quite right. Enjoyable to sip, but not one I’d be excited or look forward to getting into. This is a quintessential Canadian whisky, with a distinctive character with the corn creaminess and flashes of rye that is present throughout the entire range. The nose would be quite a bit better if it had a bit less sour and dull nature, but I am often pleasantly surprised at the quality of these “simple” mixers…quite enjoyable!

Score: 80/100

Value: 73/100 (based on $29)


Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Subdued on the nose, but with some spice - ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, musty oak, dried apricot, milk chocolate coated nuts, and very light apple. The nose takes time to come out, but then it is quite vibrant. Sweet and tame on the palate, with some vanilla and almonds which fade into a creamy yet tannic finish with prunes, dried berries, and vanilla powder.

Score: 80/100

Value: 73/100 (based on $29)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Fruity and buttery, with pear, guava, brown sugar, butterscotch, vanilla, and apple. The palate shows depth and a nice integration of vegetal, floral, spicy, and dried fruit notes. That’s some blending! Light spices on the finish. Pleasant bourbon nuances throughout.

Score: 80/100

Value: 73/100 (based on $29)


Review: Entrapment 25 Year Old Canadian Whisky (Orphan Barrel) by Jason Hambrey

 Image courtesy of Crown Royal.

Image courtesy of Crown Royal.

ABV
41%
Aging
25 Yrs; Refill Barrels
Recipe
97% Corn, 3% Malted Barley
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

Orphan Barrel's first release of Canadian whisky from Diageo's Crown Royal distillery in Gimli. It is old - 25 years, and used the batch base whisky distilled at Crown Royal (for more, see my post on Crown Royal's Five Distillates). The batch base whisky is an intensely creamy corn whisky distilled in a column still and then distilled again in a copper kettle and column still (something like a column still sitting on top of a copper pot still).


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 0630

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

A creamy nose - lots of custard, coconut, white grape, vanilla, blueberry, corn husks, oak, light moalsses, and light earthy undertones. Lots of nice aged whisky note. Classic, rich, well-aged Canadian whisky. It may seem simple at first, but if you keep nosing you’ll notice layers of richness. The part that sets this whisky apart is the rich creaminess that you don’t find in the old corn whiskies from highwood (i.e. Ninety 20) or Wiser’s (18 year old, etc.).

The palate is full of those creamy notes, with some brilliant underpinning oak, custard, and creme-brulee. However, it isn’t sweet – don’t get me wrong. There’s a very slight tannic edge to it which is quite nice, though some may not like it. Very easy, and I actually like it with a splash of water in it, though it gets a bit light. The finish is lightly sweet and creamy, with a touch of bitterness and white pepper – vanilla, custard, blueberry, apple, and corn husks.  For those who like „smooth” whiskies, this is about as smooth as it gets. And it’s very rich.

I’ve seen some reviews of this from reviewers who favour big bourbon-flavours. It’s no surprise they aren’t high – this is a soft, long-aged corn whisky (nothing like a bourbon) which I greatly appreciate, and is a style which has become a favorite of mine as I have had more of it – subtlety abounds in such a style. It’s a whisky that favours slow, small sipping not quicker drinking.

Score: 87/100

Value: 12/100 (based on $200)

Note: I reviewed this whisky a few months ago, but it was from a sample which I suspected (rightfully) had oxidized a bit. I re-reviewed a fresh, proper sample here, hence the rating change.


Review: J.P. Wiser's 35 Year Old Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Wiser's 35.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
35 Years; Refill and Virgin Oak Casks
Recipe
Double Distilled Corn and Rye Whiskies
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

The oldest release of Wiser's ever - in fact lots of old Canadian whisky is now coming on the market, quite affordably. This is largely double distilled corn whisky - distilled to a high abv, with a relatively light flavor - which would be an example of a "base" whisky used for blending - except that this is aged for a long time in a reused cask. At the distillery, it is very impressive - mature whisky is sucked right out of the casks from the top of the barrel after which point the barrels move about a metre and are filled with new whiskies, sitting empty for a matter of seconds. But, this light corn whisky picks up flavor as it ages years upon years in the cask, and becomes something rich and delicious. If you've had Wiser's 18, it has many of those characteristics, except - it is much older, richer, and contains about 10% column and pot distilled rye (matured in virgin oak casks) to give it incredible character.

This is part of the 2017 Northern Border Collection, originally released at the Victoria Whisky Festival. It is an annual release, and they have some great plans for next year.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose here is glorious – light oak, old rye, black tea, raosted root tea, arugula, blueberry, rich old corn whisky, slate, tobacco, molasses, tofee, burning oak, boiled tomato, amber beer, and even complex underlying vegetal notes reminding me of roasting agave. One of the best noses I have had the pleasure of enjoying – marvelously complex, balanced, and interesting. The palate is full of flavor, starting with old, brilliant corn whisky before the rye in all its brilliance creeps in – floral, with lilacs, aged tea notes, and spices – clove, cinnamon, fiery arugula, and also oak bringing with it light tannins and smoky notes. The finish is full, rich, and encompassing – with luxurious blueberry, green apple, tea, roasted fennel seed, and clove. Ever so lightly, and pleasantly bitter.

Corby’s and Canadian Club have a bit of a bitter history over who got the distillery, and, likewise, two of the best Canadian whiskies ever released – Wiser’s 35 and Canadian Club 40, overshadowing the Wiser’s in age, have been released – and they are both of them marvelous whiskies. Wow. I do love the rye in here, and I find it more interesting – but perhaps less luscious than the equally terrific Canadian Club 40.

Score: 97/100

Value: 94/100 (based on $165)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 2018

  • Bottling Code: 54SL24 L18205 EW12:47

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose has lots of stone fruit – peaches, apricot, flavorful plums – but also green apple. There is a brilliant thread of spice in the background – star anise, clove, and freshly cracked black pepper (with all the cedary implications). It’s quite creamy, too! And, interesting – it has a nice, subtle grassiness to it – like a freshly cut lawn, in the spring, when it’s wet – not dry like in the fall. Lest we not forget grain, there’s also lots of notes of high-quality multigrain cheese crackers. The stone fruit is really well done here – it is less “quirky” than last year and fits more into the generic style of a top-of-the-line whisky (no slight against last year’s fantastic release). Great nose.

The palate carries through with all of the expected fruit, but leading in a bit with that earthy, funky rye which adds a terrific layer of complexity. There’s almost a smokiness to it – it is immensely complex. The fruit is great – it’s a rich, intense, dried fruit characteristic – most like dried peaches. Oolong tea, too.

The finish is fruity (dried peaches), lightly oaky, and carries a terrific thread of earthiness and intense floral characteristic. The rye has a great vegetal characteristic – spinach, kale, and arugula…nice.

Doesn’t have the rye-forward complexity of the previous years release, which had lots of earthiness – I found it quite fascinating. This is more on the fruit, and it’s a little more typical in profile. While I find it a bit less intriguing, it is easier to drink, and I keep reaching for another – moreso than last year’s release.

Another stunning whisky.

Score: 93/100

Value: 44/100 (based on $200)