Review: Gooderham & Worts Canadian Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Wheat, Rye, Corn, & Malted Barley
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

I've been waiting on this whisky a while. In 2012, Corby released two whiskies (Lot no. 40 and Pike Creek) from what was known as the Canadian whisky guild - a series of three whiskies in the 1990s developed by Corby shortly after they took over management of Hiram Walker distillery in Windsor (the largest beverage alcohol plant in North America). There were three, very different whiskies- the bold, 100% rye Lot. no. 40, the spicy/fruity port-finished Pike Creek, and the softer and complex Gooderham & Worts. Gooderham & Worts has just been released this year, in 2015, and completes the three which only lasted a few years due to lack in sales. This, really, was too bad because the whiskies were creative works coming from the distillers for connoisseurs - but the market wasn't ready. Now, with the huge expansion in the category, the market is ready and the whiskies are out here for all of us that can access them.

The whisky is named after the Gooderham & Worts - a whisky which was introduced in 1837 to compete with the Molson distillery in Montreal in York, Upper Canada (now the distillery district in Toronto) - at the time, it was unimpressive production and quality. However, the production was massive at the time for Gooderham and Worts. The distillery sprung out of a wheat mill, where the excess grain could be distilled into whisky. The distillery had started production of whisky in 1837 shortly after two brothers,- William Gooderham and James Worts came from England in 1832 and 1831, respectively, to start the mill. Soon enough, their production was in such demand that as we headed into the 1860s the distillery was producing 2.5 million gallons per year, and was the largest source of tax revenue not only in Toronto but also in all of Canada! (This information is from Davin De Kergommeaux's book Canadian whisky, and only part of the story - I recommend you get a book to find out more!) Not many know the importance distilling played in the development of Canada and Toronto these days, and it's sad that the distillery district now doesn't pay homage to Gooderham & Worts past a few distillery relics which few understand.

A great whisky, which I didn't fully appreciate until I tasted it blind. It picked up a gold medal at the 2015 Canadian Whisky Awards, joining an impressive set of gold medalists.

Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: A.A1129
  • Bottling Code: 545SL24 L15238 EW0911
  • Bottling Date: 2015

This whisky was scored and tasted blind.

Nose: Lots of orange! As I so often find with whiskies distilled at Hiram Walker, there's also a molasses note which almost makes you think of a rum with lots of orange accents. Not lacking complexity - slightly buttery with coconut, hazelnut, plums, apple seeds, dried apricot, musty oak, rye, arugula, vanilla, creamed wheat, creamed corn, popcorn, maple, milk chocolate, and those miniature corn cobs you get in a can. The grain is very complex and rich - rye is at the centre, and brilliantly integrated. There also is a good amount of oak influence, suggesting good age or use of some new oak casks in this - from both the mustiness of the oak and the charred oak I smell I imagine both.

Taste: The rye and the oak come through beautifully, and this is a long, controlled, delivery. The backbone is rich rye and pumperknickel bread amidst lots of floral and berry notes on top. Caramel, dried apricot, and orange juice also prominently feauture. The end of the palate is a bit gritty with loads of spice - clove, cinnamon hearts, and a bit of white pepper. Still very complex.

Finish: Dry, with orange, light creamy oak, dried apricot, cinnamon, apple, and vanilla. In some ways, reminiscent of some flavour camps of Moroccan cooking. Very pleasant, especially with the oak integration.

Very very nice.

Score: 90/100

Value: 93/100 (based on $45)

Review (2017)

  • Batch: A.A1129
  • Bottling Code: 545SL24 L16110 EW13:40
  • Bottling Date: ~2016

This is just a terrific whisky.

Woody, yet sweet and confectionary – balancing also terrific rich dried corn notes, earthy oakiness, hibiscus, tobacco, and the smell of drying reeds in the fall. Fresh baking white bread on the nose, and rye wafts in and out. Opens up to be even more creamy, and woody, and slightly tart. The palate, though, is where it shines through as the spicy, earthy flavours come up against the sweet creamy icing, finally ending in a creamy finish with lots of terrific rye.

Don Livermore, the master blender for Corby, describes the whisky this way when you taste it- the wheat comes in first with bready notes, then the barley with nutty notes, then the corn with sweetness and body, and then the rye at the end with the spicy vegetal notes. I couldn’t agree more – you can find all the grains when you go looking. A masterpiece of Canadian blending, melding 4 different grains together into a cohesive and enthralling whisky.

Score: 90/100

Value: 93/100 (based on $45)