Review: Proof Canadian Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Wheat and rye
Producer Proof Spirits(Toronto, Ontario)

This comes from a Canadian company, Proof Brands, which makes a whisky, vodka, and a white rum. Proof brands is based out of Toronto, but this whisky was produced (distilled, aged, and blended) in Alberta (though I don’t know where).  It is targeted to the cocktail community. The whisky is made from rye and wheat (no barley), and aged in charred oak barrels, and bottled at 42%. Centennial 10 Year Old is also made from rye and wheat, but it is altogether different.

On some level, I hesitate to grade this because it is produced for the upscale cocktail community (which I have consistently gained more respect for), and I grade for sipping whiskies. Regardless, I am giving this whisky a sipping score, and I have heard many enjoy to just sip this one, often on the rocks. On one level, to fully appreciate Canadian Whisky, you need to know cocktail - mixing is a different world from plain whisky. However, definitely - it is much more than a consolation prize for bad whisky, as is sometimes the presumption as spirits writers toss out bad whisky for "cocktails" so that they don't have to admit a terrible product. If you are putting something in a cocktail to cover up its flavor, it's not good for cocktails. That's not the case for this whisky - it is terrific in cocktails.

Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Very interesting – quite citrusy, fruity and different – it reminds me both of fruit brandy and tequila. Grapefruit, pear, caramel, wine gums, and an almost medicinal cough-syrup type aroma, orange, orange peel, guava – quite bright, and off the nose seems sweet and sour. This seems to be well crafted for cocktails, based on the nose. I do like the bright fruitiness, and I am not quite sure whether I don’t mind or don’t like the medicinal quality. Doesn’t have a lot of the typical notes of rye spice found in Canadian whisky – but this bottle is certainly packed with fruit.

Taste: Orange, and a bit of candy-like fruit punch to it, more touches of cough syrup, blackberry flavoured hard candy – the flavours are mostly surface level, and underneath there is a hint of the grains involved, along with a light bitterness, similar in feel to what is found in grapefruit juice. It’s a bit too candy-like for sipping (though not overly sweet), I think – though it is still very interesting and unique in what I’ve tasted.

Finish: A hint of rye comes through lightly at last, along with lots of orange (much like the chewy orange-flavoured vitamin C pills), blackberry, blackcurrant, and even a touch of dry wheat which outlasts the other flavours, though the slight fruitiness sticks through all of it. There’s a nagging touch of slightly sour bitterness.

This whisky is so different than any other that I have tasted that it almost seems more in the category of a brandy or tequila. It’s very interesting. It seems destined for good cocktails, and the fruity kick and bright profile would fit in very well in many cocktails - I think -  and could even be substituted for tequila in some cocktails for good effect . It doesn’t have the strong peppery and vegetal tones and would likely get overwhelmed in a drink like a tequila sunrise, but, substituting this in an el diablo (ginger beer, lime juice, black currant liqueur, and some of this) really brings out both the spiciness of the ginger and the fruitiness of the black currant – and I like it better than the tequila version. Their recommended cocktail, the urban, is also quite wonderful (see here for the recipe). As a sipping whisky, I’m not sure what to think, but as a mixing whisky – this is where my mind is really getting interested.

Value: Average. Pretty unique stuff, and comes in 500 ml bottles so my opinion is that it’s worth a first try based on its uniqueness. After that - you decide!