Review: Gibson's 18 Year Old Canadian Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

18 yrs
Distiller Valleyfield (Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec)

Gibson’s 18 Year Old is a reliable and elegant Canadian whisky which originated in Pennsylvania in 1856. Eventually, it was sold to Schenley and produced at the Valleyfield distillery in Quebec, and in 2009 the brand has shifted to William Grant & Sons (who also own Glenfiddich and Balvenie Single Malts, among others) and is produced out of the Hiram Walker Distillery in Windsor, Ontario. Thus, eventually versions of Gibson's 12 Year Old and this 18 Year Old will be made from Hiram Walker liquid, but not for a few more years yet.

Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: No. A 19463

  • Bottling Year: ~2013

Nose: Vanilla, honey, oak, caramel, creme brulee – it certainly develops as it sits.You can sense the sweetness of the whisky in the nose, and the oak combines with this to make me think of maple. There are some beautiful cedar notes, and intriguing notes of pickle. The nose has a slight floral element to it as well reminding me of the blossoming of a tree we had in our house growing up which grew big balls of white flowers. Most excellent!

Taste: Thick, slightly sweet, and creamy…lots of bourbon-like influence. There’s a good bit of oak and spice kicks in with some nice sweetness at the end along with some wheat-like graininess. There’s also a touch of cedar in the mix as well which pokes its head up here and there. The rye seems to be dusty, and the mouth dries out a bit as with other whiskies in the Gibson’s line. The cereals also come out for me in a way that reminds me of stale bread – which is not a bad quality. There are some fruit elements like grape juice. There’s a touch of acidity which seems to lift the whole experience up a bit and keep everything in check. Brilliant. Good mouthfeel to it as well.

Finish: Lots happens on the finish! There’s some nice honey, alongside some oak and tannin. It’s still wonderfully light even after all those years in oak. there are some really nice oaky and corn notes, similar to the smell of angel’s share if you ever have a chance to visit a distillery.

This is a fabulous offering by Gibson’s and this whisky is one that demands your attention – it is excellent. The wonderful honey, caramel and light fruitiness is balanced against the oak and cedar, and lifted up by just a touch of acidity.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very high. A whisky this good is worth the price, even at $75.

Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: No. A 38116; L14179IW 54SL24

  • Bottling Year: ~2015

Nose: This whisky demonstrates the style of much Canadian whisky (even though it didn’t originate in Canada) that is typically mixed into cocktails – but this is refined, complex, and creamy – a clear class above most of those. There is fruit – dried and dark, yet still holding some lighter elements like white grape, some nuttiness, vanilla, some grassy freshness…some oaky earthiness too. Rich, in a way similar to sherried whiskies though this doesn’t smell particularly sherried – but has some of the rich nuttiness and dried fruit. Here, the earthy woody notes seem emphasized over the vanilla and coconut of the review above, and it’s not quite as sweet on the nose. A bit darker and not quite as stunning as my sample from 2013, but nonetheless brilliant.

Taste: Rich, with a mix of fruitiness and nuttiness – and a decent bit of rye amidst it all. A touch bitter on the end – but it doesn’t detract. The richness of the grain meets the richness of the fruit and the oak quite well. Sweetness is nicely balanced.

Finish: Nutty, oaky. Dries out as well – it still tastes so rich. Praline, a bit mossy oak, and a bit of a spicy edge too – more on the side of nutmeg than other things, I think.

Very nice, rich…certainly aged well with a very nice profile. This bottling is still very nice, but it’s a tad below the last one in terms of some subtle complexity – but it still is very nice. The rich, complex, and creamy nature of this gives Forty Creek Confederation Oak a sparring partner in terms of rich complexity and subtlety.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High. Still great value, but this batch wasn’t quite the previous so it isn’t “very high”, but is still high value even at $75.

Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Playful– smoky wood, with some nice minerality and milk chocolate alongside green pear, clove, porridge, anise and a touch of banana. Great dried fruit, integrated with the vanilla. The milk chocolate is fascinating – and I don’t recall seeing it before in the Gibson’s 18. Nice drying tannins and spice on the finish. Grains tend to come out more as it sits. There is an old corn whisky aged note to it – and some remarkable light fruit, too. The finish is quite wonderful – lightly fruity and drying with everything from candied to herbal notes. Still, too candied for my taste here, relatively.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. A jump in price to $90 and a very slight decrease in quality (though nearly as good as above) bumps the value here from high to average.