Review: Crimson Rye Canadian Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

~3.5 yrs; Wine Cask Finish
100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller 66 Gilead (Bloomfield, Ontario)

This whisky is produced at 66 Gilead Distillery – a rye whisky finished in wine casks, most of which are pinot noir. As 66 Gilead is in wine country, wine casks are pretty accessible. The whisky itself has a light reddish-brown hue from the casks, and it comes without added colouring and is non-chill filtered. The whisky is about 3 1/2 years old.

Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Nose: That pinot noir adds quite a bit of complexity to this. Strawberries, mushrooms, a light bubblegum-type candy, some dried mango, some oak, maple, dried apricot, roasted tomatoes, with some of the youthfulness still showing. There’s a light astringency in the mix which isn’t enough to detract but rather adds sort of a spirity-spicy edge to this. Dates and raisins in the mix- the nose is very nice. Complex, for sure, and I like the mix, but it’s a bit over-jumbled at times. Still, however, quite solid.

Taste: Spicy and fruity, with some of the grains providing a bit of the structure for this one. There is a touch of that rancio oxidized wine taste too, but it is quite slight and lingers in the background – though it comes through a bit more on the finish. Raisins and figs here too, and a touch of smoke from the casks too. The wine takes up quite a bit of this one in flavour, I find, and at some times feels like drinking really high strength wine rather than whisky.

Finish: Some earthy-like pinot noir notes (sort of like mushrooms), raisins, lychee, strawberry, pine needles, and light grainy notes. Even just general notes, without breaking them down, that remind you of a bit of an earthy pinot noir. A touch of mint too, and some chocolate! A bit of a spicy bite on the finish too. The complexity of this just shines on the finish.

The wine casks are very nice, though they have drowned out quite a bit of the rye so I find it difficult to assess the actual rye whisky underneath. Though this is good, I’d be interested to see more age to this, so the rye has a bit more voice than just the cask. Nice to sip, but the fruity-spicy character with the complexity of this would make it quite intriguing as a mixer as well. This one is definitely higher up in my books than their Wild Oak Whisky. A really fun taste with friends who are into wine and understand that portion of this drink.

Value: Low in Canadian whisky terms, but against whisky in general it’s in the average category at $70. It is an interesting whisky, so if you go after unique whiskies and/or like pinot noir and want to see it in a whisky, it’s a worthwhile experience. I’ve also heard good things about the new owners who are trying to revamp the whiskies so the quality may increase with time.