Review: Caribou Crossing Single Barrel Canadian Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Caribou Crossing 1.jpg
Producer Sazerac

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

Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: B13 D60 16:37K

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

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

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

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

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

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

Score: 82/100

Value: 49/100 (based on $66)

Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

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

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

Score: 87/100

Value: 75/100 (based on $66)

Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

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

Score: 86/100

Value: 69/100 (based on $64)

Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

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

Score: 88/100

Value: 66/100 (based on $94)