Review: North of 7 Canadian Whisky (Four Grain) / by Jason Hambrey

Image copyright by North of 7 Distillery. Used with Permission.

Image copyright by North of 7 Distillery. Used with Permission.

ABV
45%
Aging
3 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
51% Corn, 26% Wheat, 12% Rye, 12% Barley
Distiller North Of 7 (Ottawa, Ontario)

An Ottawa whisky (I am an Ottawa native, so I'm interested!) - made in a bourbon profile - made largely from corn, matured in New Oak, and using a four grain mash bill. North of 7 was perhaps the last craft distillery to get a contract with Independent Stave Company - the renowned maker of barrels for renowned Kentucky Distillers like Buffalo Trace, Jim Beam, and Heaven Hill. Because of the whisky boom, they won't take any more clients! All that to say, North of 7 has some pretty good casks...


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Cask 1

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose has a nice grainy base with lots of caramel and a grassiness reminiscent of spicy pot still Iriish whisky. Vanilla, anise, methol, sharp new oak, corn husks, butterscotch, cucumber, and lots of grain notes – wheat flour, nutty grain, polenta, and light grainy earthiness. Surprisingly wheaty – cream of wheat comes through quite clearly. The youth of the nose is present, with a bit of rawness on the otherwise pleasant and grain-forward nose. The palate is corn and oak forward, with a light caramel rumble before a spicy and grain-laden finish. The anise is present throughout, and the spicy finish is lightly creamy with butterscotch – for good effect. They emphasize their casks, from Independent Stave Company (who also supply Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill, and most of the other successful distilleries in Kentucky) – and for good reason. These casks will treat this whisky well, given a few more years.

Based on the mash bill and how it is matured, you might be expecting a bourbon. It’s reminiscent of the style – but it’s not. Either it is simply not warm enough in Ottawa, or it needs more time – but that is of no matter. A thoroughly enjoyable whisky, this, and shows lots of potential as the years will add on.

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

Value: Average (based on $60)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Cask 2

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Centred on grainy notes, reminiscent of spicy mixed grain porridge, yet still with quite a bit of orchard fruit – peach and pear. Wheat really comes out. Tangy, too – the light bits of menthol, pineapple, and oak that play in nicely. Maltesers, milk chocolate, vegetal cacao, and a touch of green cardamom too. The oak and the grain are both so rich with this one – nice…

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

Value: Average (based on $60)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Cask 3

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

This now has more prominent notes suggesting wheated bourbon, which I didn’t get in the previous cask. Corn, vanilla, confectioner’s sugar, grape, light floral rye, clove, pear, toasted hazlenuts, blanched almonds, green tea, and a grainy, porridge-like character. There’s a sharp yeasty note too.  It really has come on – it makes me quite interested to know what this will taste like at 6+ yrs. The palate is lightly sweet, with a toffee backdrop with the grainy notes, coconut, and ripe banana on top. The finish has prune, cacao, lots of nuts, clove, and other baking spice. Lightly earthy, too, on the finish – nice touch.

There are still a few harsh notes which I expect to get ironed out as it gets older – but this is coming along well! These also lift off as the bottle is open a bit.

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

Value: Average (based on $60)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Cask 6

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Dried tarragon! Interesting that on this pass of the North of 7 whiskies there are more dried herbs coming out.  Oak, milk chocolate, vanilla, pineapple juice, caramel, macadamia, dried mint, freshly sawn pine, hazlenuts, fennel seed, toffee, and lemon. There’s corn, too....it might sound a bit diverse but it’s integrated together well. A nice nose! Perhaps the best I’ve had yet from the distillery. There is one note which I don’t quite know what to do with – a slightly sour, almost yoghurt like quality. It’s quite savoury, and I can’t tell if I like or dislike it.

The palate is full of mixed cereal, fresh oak, and sharp spices on the herbal side like fennel. Oak is present, but isn’t at the center – it seems to contribute quite a bit of structure and tannins, though. Dried fruits too – the usual suspects – apricot, peach, pineapple. It has a light-medium creaminess. The finish is drying and tannic, with spices, dried fruit, hazlenuts, and a spicy character like the feel of cayenne.

Better than the batch above but not quite enough yet to bump it another point. Its youth still shows through, and as this mellows out more I imagine it’s not far off an upgrade...

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

Value: Average (based on $60)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Cask 8DB

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

This one’s quite a bit different – it’s the four grain recipe but it’s been matured for 6 months in new oak. If the standard north of 7 is like hazlenuts or almonds, this is like decadent pecan in terms of nutty richness. Rich oak (think oaky bourbon), pine cones, celery seed, and toasted fennel seed. The usual complexity is very much so masked by oak. North of 7 makes whisky in the bourbon style, but it doesn’t taste like bourbon – the oakiness of this is approaching bourbon, but it is still quite grain (other than corn) centric.

The palate is oaky and tannic. Mixed porridge, dried apricot, rich fresh oak, light wood smoke, pencil shavings, and a bigger oaky creaminess. The oak is a bit too much here, with the tannins and a slight astringency taking it past a point of balance, but just a bit. Drying spices taking the finish, accompanying white grape, dried apricot,

The oak is the centre, here, and no sufficient counterbalance is offered – and the rich grainy character from the distillery is lost. That being said, I like the extra oak and probably a bit less time in the second barrel would have done a trick.

I actually like to mix this one with barrel 6 to tone down some of the oak. I like a ratio of 25% barrel 8 to 75% barrel 6. I find the mix better than either on its own!

Value: Low. All their other casks are better, and this is a bit much for this unless you really like oak!


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Cask 5

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

It’s coming up on 5 years of age now, and this is delicious!

Lovely dried fruits have come out, and it is very much a corn forward whisky with a balance of grain, berry notes, brown sugar, toffee, honey, and oak. The oak is beautifully integrated. It also grows quite nicely with time in the glass.

The palate is sumptuous, and this makes it very easy to drink. Again, there is a nice bright, berry-like fruitiness which contrasts with the corn and oak which grows through the palate. There is a really nice earthiness which is present through the whisky too – brilliant. It really seems to have come of age. The finish is sweet, easy, with oak, grain, a touch of toasted fennel, wet hay, and dark toffee. It has rounded out quite nicely and gained a lot of depth compared to my most recent batches.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). One of the best Canadian whiskies I’ve tried this year from a small distiller, and the best I’ve had from North of 7. . It’s perhaps a little too easy to drink…

Value: High. It’s very rare for a small distiller to break into this category, but this in my opinion is a great whisky for $60.