Review: Glendronach Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
~55%
Aging
Oloroso and PX Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glendronach (Forgue by Huntly, Scotland)

This is often an absoutely terrific sherry bomb, released in batches with some variation.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 4 (54.7%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Amidst all the sherry bombs I’ve been trying of late, not quite as much of a “bomb” – the oak plays in well, with good woody and vanilla notes which are balanced in well. Sherry, distinctively, comes through as well – with some nice cinnamon, raisin, currant, fruitcake, under-ripe pear, dried apple – oh, and it’s quite creamy. Slight earthiness comes through with some time. The spice sits so brilliantly alongside the sherry and the oak. On the palate, it’s quite a long drink – it develops and holds your attention for a good amount of time. The notes carry through from the nose – perhaps a bit less spicy, though cinnamon is certainly present in force – but the integration and balance remain terrific; not as hot as many would expect for 54.7%. An oaky finish, with butterscotch, sherry and dried fruit still playing second fiddle quite well. With water, it comes together very well and is remarkably integrated and soft diluted to 43%. I might even prefer this with just a drop of water (diluted to 46-48%), although there are definitely nights when all I want is this at cask strength.

Overall: 90/100

Value: 57/100 (based on $117)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 5 (55.3%)

  • Bottling Code: 2015/09/17 14:11 LJ10946

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Brilliant nose. Full of a rich, green maltiness – toffee, green grass, lightly roasted malt flavours – it is surprising that it shines through so clearly on a whisky which is so sherried. Cinnamon, prune, currants, porridge, mineral notes, and some salted caramel. Without water, it just smells so strongly of oak and casks – I love it.

The palate is sweet, the malt appears a bit more roasted here. Odd – this seems to have a strong, sweet bourbon influence, like a first fill ex-bourbon cask, amidst the strong sherry. (They only mention their sherry casks on the website – oloroso and PX). It all works, and works well. Lots of roasted grain notes, with an underlying sweetness and rich European oak spices – clove, nutmeg, green cardamom.  A great earthiness underlies it all. It works really well. The finish is great too – a slight funky sulphury note on the end, but also rich caramel and vanilla and oak – awesome. Lots there - red pepper jelly, clove, currants. Oak wins out in the end, and it is a dry finish.

Score: 89/100

Value: 41/100 (Based on $150)


Review: Octomore Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
~60%
Aging
Typically 5-7 yrs
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This whisky generally represents the most heavily peated whisky in the world, in terms of parts per million of phenol (the peat flavor components) in the barley before the whisky is distilled. The peating levels vary - often around 170 ppm but one release 6.3 was peated to 258! For comparison, Port Charlotte is peated to 40 PPM and Caol Ila and Lagavulin are peated to about 30-45 ppm. That is a lot of peat!

It needs to be noted, however, that the peat level is measured when the barley is smoked - not after it is distilled. Thus, depending on how you distill, you can bring out more of the smoky or earthy character of the peat - or not much at all. So it isn't really a proper measure of how peaty a whisky is, but rather an indication of its potential. Above a certain level, as with bitterness units in beer, I imagine our palates can't distinguish any difference. The whisky is expensive, but only 5 years old - it is a delicate balance with peat because the smokiness of a whisky will decrease with years in the cask - so it can be a balance of peatiness and maturity.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 6.1 (57% ABV)

  • Bottling Code: P/132371 26 MAR 14

  • Bottling Date: 2014

This batch was peated to 167 ppm and matured in an ex-bourbon cask.

The nose is full of smoke – not only from the peat but also seemingly from the barrel char, slightly. Incredibly earthy, too – with sharp peat, salt, brine, apricot, honey, bourbon barrel char (sure enough, it’s an ex-bourbon cask!), and porridge. The palate is thick and spicy, with lots of brown sugar and caramel alongside peppery peat, caramel, smoke, and chilli flakes. And rich chocolate mousse. It’s pretty soft for 57%! The finish has incredible marine, mineral, and peat character. Dark chocolate, clove, cinnamon (like mayan hot chocolate), white pepper, rockpools, and of course smoke, moss, and damp earth. This really is a clear cut representation of peat – really quite brilliant stuff.

Score: 87/100

Value : 0/100 (based on $230)


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 7.1 (59.5% ABV, 208 PPM)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

This octomore is big, smoky, earthy, and strongly youthful. The peat is sharp and rich, with interesting notes also of dried brown rice and bubblegum. Yet, the rich peat is incredibly balanced with the sweet toffee, brown sugar, and hazlenut skins. The finish is rich, earthy, smoky, and salty. Awesome stuff.

Score: 89/100

Value: 10/100 (based on $225)


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 7.3 Islay Barley (60% ABV)

  • Bottling Code: L/150264 15/218 10 05 15 12155114

  • Bottling Date: 2015

The barley in this release was sourced from James Brown’s Octomore farm. Distilled in 2010 from grain harvested at Lorgba field, peated to 169 ppm, and matured on Islay in American bourbon barrels and Spanish wine casks of Ribuera del Duero.

I do quite like most things Bruichladdich does. Here, extreme peat…extremely marine, and not as smoky as one might expect – though very peaty and farmy. Friends of mine have described this in terms of various animals – cows, sheep, etc. – lots of complexity and it’s not a grimy spirit by any means. I’d love to visit Islay as this is likely a whisky where terroir would come in – the surroundings, how it is matured, the landscape. Brilliant whisky.

Well, I suppose on to more proper tasting notes – lots of spice, lots of minerality, toasted sesame, and vegetal notes not unlike some clean mezcals. Long, and complex, drying as well. Iodine, milky tea, smoke, toffee, apricot, seaweed, salt stone, preserved lemons, smoke, vanilla, and light creaminess, with time. Ginger and melon on the palate, and melds so well with the earthy barley, peat, menthol, and smoke – finishes with lots of maritime character, spice, mixed dried fruit, the lightest touch touch of oxidized wine, and smoke. Brilliant, from start to very long finish.

Score: 92/100
Value : 7/100 (based on $230)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 8.1 Masterclass (59.5% ABV, 167 PPM, first fill ex-bourbon barrels)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Sooty, and intensely earthy – moreso than smoky. Rich, and deep, too – it is very much like a faceplant into peat. Spicy, too – cacao, cinnamon, and nutmeg. There is a light bracing of vanilla and oak, too – with yellow apples and pears gradually making a slight presence on the nose, too. My reference on this tasting is Octomore 7.3 – that one is much smokier, yet just as earthy – and more oily.

The palate is richly earthy, as one might expect, and very peaty. The orchard fruit and a sweet creaminess slightly offset the deep earth of the peat, and we have rich dark chocolate coming in too. Interestingly, Chinese 5-spice (with pronounced anise) and orange peel too.

The finish is so rich in peat, it tastes like I actually just chewed and spit out the funkiest peat you can imagine. Some light cinnamon and oak, but it is very much about the peat.

It’s quite complex in terms of the incredibly rich earthiness, so much so that I don’t have the vocab to fully describe it. It’s balanced, but not that broad in a way that some of the better Octomores are - not nearly as gorgeous as the magnificent 7.3, which composes a symphony compared to this one solo. Still, very good.

Also, goes very well with hoppy beers, if you were ever wondering…

Score: 88/100

Value: 43/100 (based on $135)

And yes, $135 was a steal….


Review: Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01 Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Port Charlotte CC01 2.jpg
ABV
57.8%
Aging
9 yrs; ex-cognac cask
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This is a cask strength travel retail edition of Port Charlotte, Bruichladdich’s line of heaviy peated single malts. This has been fully matured in cognac casks, not just finished, which means we benefit not only from the cognac liquid soaked in the cask but also the cognac oak because significant aging took place in the French oak barrels. I’m always surprised there aren’t more cognac finishes, but I expect it’s because cognac producers are less willing to give up barrels or “wash” new barrels for the Scotch industry.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: CC:01

  • Bottling Code: L/161648 17/329 2017 1106 13:23

  • Bottling Date: 2016

I love the farmy nature of Bruichladdich distillates. Intensely earthy smoke, like a peat fire, yet, it’s offset by the cognac character which comes through with surprising presence – raisins, rich dried fruit, baking spices, and cardamom. It’s quite sweet. The smoke is much more intense than my recollection of Port Charlotte Scottish Barley. Hmm...one of the better cognac finishes I’ve had, which is surprising given all of the peat. If you like peated Scotch and you like cognac, I think this one is a must-try. We also have green olives (Castelvetrano), green walnuts (very distinct, if you happen to have a walnut tree – it’s a nutty, piney aroma), coconut, lemongrass, and sea salt. Very nice nose.

The palate is ashy and smoky, yet contrasted with all the fruit-forward cognac notes. Again, I’m surprised at how assertive the cognac is amidst a powerful smoky single malt. It’s also quite sweet – quite a juxtaposition of flavours from lemon rind to sharp earthy peat to burning wood.

The finish is slightly sweet, carrying on tannins and baking spices with more peat fires. Grows in medicinal notes too. Takes water very well, and I think I like it most with a touch of water so it’s around 48%.

Score: 89/100

Value: 46/100 (based on $140)


Review: Great King Street Artist's Blend MomofUku Blended Scotch Whisky (Compass Box) by Jason Hambrey

Great King Street Momofoku.jpg
ABV
49%
Aging
~7-12 yrs; American and French oak
Recipe
Grain & Malt Whiskies (see below)
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

This great king street has been selected by Momofuku, an LA based restaurant (with a chain in Toronto) based on a single marrying sherry casks which was used to marry the whisky after an initial blending. It was married for some time – about 2.5 years. This secondary maturation used to be commonplace, according to Compass Box. It is also bottled at 49%, higher than the standard…this is probably going to be good!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Sherried Marrying Cask, Selected by Momofuku. Married 18 Feb 2016, Bottled 16 July 2018. Cask 3.

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Quite what you might expect – the white grape and clean grain character of Great King Street, but overlayed with dried fruit – orange, mango, raisin – and more baking spice and a touch of rancio. I actually really like it – the brightness of the original blend, in terms of its grain and its fruit – has been retained, yet more has been added on top. A bit of white wine, too.

The palate starts with bright grain, orange, and light earthiness – but then the raisins and clove kick in, finishing with a flourish of sherry and light tannin. The palate has great feel too – both feel, but also the movement of textures – from thick and fat to dry and tannic. The finish has green pear, a touch of earthy barley, and a bit more clove. Excellent! The 49% carries itself well, too.

Score: 90/100

Value: 77/100 (based on $92)


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)