Canadian Whisky Awards

2018 Canadian Whisky Awards - Runners Up by Jason Hambrey

The Canadian Whisky Awards is quite an event - a nonprofit whisky competition with a revolving door of 10 judges from across Canada who each take a full month to plot their way through nearly 100 different Canadian whisky samples (all blind, the samples are numbered), tasting them each at least twice. It takes me about an hour a day for a month, if I have my way with time (which isn't always the case). This year, the winner was the wonderful Wiser's 35 Year Old. Remarkable, since older competitions usually don't get their due since all tasting is typically done in a flight, which tends to highlight big complex whiskies over subtle complex whiskies. However, Wiser's 35 year old is still bottled at 50%, so it's no slouch either...

As usual, I wanted to present the top whiskies of the 2017 Canadian whiskies awards, as defined by the average of all the 11 judges individual blind scores. To illustrate how close of a race this was, look at how minutely different the top 5 were in terms of score (all within 0.4%!!). Masterson's lost its chance at a repeat by less than 0.05%! All of these fared very well in the competition:

1.  J.P. Wiser's 35 Year Old

2. Masterson's 10 Year Old (behind 0.045%)

2. Wiser’s Dissertation (behind 0.045%)

4. Wiser's Union 52 (behind 0.3%)

5. Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel (behind 0.4%)

6. Canadian Club 40 Year Old (behind 0.5%)

6. Lot no. 40 Cask Strength (behind 0.5%)

8. Wiser's Last Barrels (behind 1%)

9. Gooderham & Worts 4 Grain (behind 1.4%)

10. Caribou Crossing Single Barrel (behind 1.8%)

So, the Hiram Walker distillery accounted for (at least) 7 of the top 10, and Corby's snagged 6 of the top 10.

As a (interesting) comparison, here were my top 5 ranked whiskies in the awards:

1. Wiser's Union 52

2. Masterson's 10 Year Old Rye

3. Lot no. 40 Cask Strength

4.  Canadian Club 40 Year Old

5. Lot no. 40

2017 Canadian Whisky Awards - Runners Up by Jason Hambrey

This isn’t any different, or more creative, than yesterday’s post. There were no 2016 Canadian Whisky Awards, since the judging in 2016 was called the 2017 Canadian Whisky Awards as they are announced the year after they are judged. Again, I wanted to present the top whiskies of the 2017 Canadian whiskies awards, as defined by the average of all the 11 judges individual blind scores:

1.  Masterson’s 10 Year Old Rye PSA3

2. Crown Royal Hand Selected Single Barrel (behind 0.1%)

3. Wiser’s Dissertation (behind 0.2%)

3. J.P. Wiser’s Double Still Rye (behind 0.2%) – now Triple Barrel

5. Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye (behind 0.3%)

Lot no. 40 and Gooderham & Worts were 6 and 7, respectively, with Stalk & Barrel Rye sitting at number 8. As you can see, it was an extremely tight race -  to illustrate, If I had ranked my top whisky (Crown Royal Hand Selected Single Barrel) 1 mark higher, it would have won. I was only one of the judges, so my results were different. As a (interesting) comparison, here were my top 5 ranked whiskies in the awards (note that the scoring methodology is different in the awards and on this site, hence discrepancies):

1. Crown Royal Hand Selected Single Barrel (93/100)

2. Crown Royal Cornerstone Blend (92/100)

3. Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye (90/100)

3. Wiser’s Triple Barrel (90/100)

5. Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve (89/100)

5. Stalk & Barrel Rye (89/100)

5. Lot no. 40 Rye (89/100)

5. Alberta Premium Dark Horse (89/100)

5. Gooderham & Worts (89/100)

The 2018 Canadian Whisky Awards get announced today!

2015 Canadian Whisky Awards - Runners Up by Jason Hambrey

I love the Canadian whisky awards, and I always anticipate their release. Despite having judged multiple competitions, I never find out the results until the public does. However, amidst the host of different awards, it might be confusing as to which whiskies the judges actually ranked best. So, in anticipation of this years awards (released tomorrow), I wanted to present the top 5 whiskies of the 2015 CWAs, as defined by the average of all the 10 judges individual blind score:

1. Lot no. 40

2. Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye (behind .7%)

3. Masterson’s 10 Year Old Rye Batch 1 (behind 1.4%)

4. Crown Royal Hand Selected Single Barrel (behind 2.3%)

4. Gooderham & Worts (behind 2.3%)

It was close, but lot no. 40 was the clear winner, with the others just a few precentage points behind. I was only one of the judges, so my results, obviously, were different. As a comparison, here were my top 5 ranked whiskies in the awards (note that the scoring methodology is different in the awards and on this site, hence discrepancies):

1. Crown Royal Hand Selected Single Barrel (96/100)

2. Masterson’s 10 Year Old Batch 1 (95/100)

3. Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old (93/100)

4. Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye (92/100)

5. Lot no. 40 (91/100)

5. Gooderham & Worts (91/100)

5. J.P. Wiser’s Legacy (91/100)

The 2018 Awards get announced tomorrow!

Why don't we talk more about Wiser's Legacy? by Jason Hambrey

In one month, Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary. A number of other writers have focused this year on Canadian whisky, in part to honor the anniversary, and in part because of the broader variety of Canadian connoisseur whiskies available. Canada has always had terrific whisky, at times some of the best, but never have we had so much high level Canadian whisky as now.

I wanted to give a nod to what I think is the best regularly available Canadian whisky - Wiser's Legacy. The 45% beauty has been terrific ever since its release in 2010 when it hit the shelves at $84 and soon dropped down to $50. It is a rye heavy blend of a lot of different whiskies - pot still unmalted and malted rye as well as column and pot distilled corn and barley whiskies. The rye whisky component is basically Lot no. 40 - another terrific Canadian whisky. It is matured in new oak for about 10 years, but the fermentation, blending, and distillation techniques all play as significant of a role in the definition of flavor. It truly is a tribute to the beauty of good whisky blending and maturation.

The hype these days for the best Canadian whisky seems to continue to sit with Lot No. 40 - perhaps because of the big, strong and oaky profile which consumers look for these days. Lot no. 40 has won two of the seven years of the Canadian Whisky Awards, but, as anyone who has judged a whisky competition knows - competitions favor immediate strong flavor to complex and subtle drams that reward patience. If you taste a spicy curry beside a nice cut of meat with a light sauce, the curry takes over.

I love Lot no. 40, let's not get that wrong, but for a quick head to head to show what others think - Serge Valentin (Whisky Fun), Andre Girrard (Quebec Whisky), Jim Murray (The Whisky Bible), and Mark Gillespie (Whisky Cast) all rate it higher than Lot no. 40, among others. For all that people talk about Lot no. 40, Legacy really should be getting a bit of the press. As for what I think? It's the only whisky I can buy today which has a 99/100 on my value score, my best "value" purchase. My desert island dram. If you haven't, give it a try...it might be yours too.

The Canadian Whisky Awards 2017 by Jason Hambrey

I recently attended a dinner regarding the Canadian whisky awards, for which you can see the 2015 results here, and, I thought it appropriate to post here on their merit. The Canadian Whisky Awards is composed of an international panel of experienced whisky tasters, typically of a size of 10, with Davin De Kergommeaux, former Malt Maniac and Mr. Canadian Whisky as the head judge and organizer. Here is what makes the awards unique:

  • It is completely independent and non-profit. The judges take no compensation. Some awards require memberships and high fees, etc. - this is not the case for the non-profit awards here.
  • The tastings are all done blind over the course of a month, with the judges not taking any sort of compensation and no membership fees, etc. for the participants in the competition. What is more, the blind judging over a month enables judges to take more time with the whiskies, rather than some competitions which blitz through whisky after whisky.
  • Only Canadian whisky is judged, in both the whisky and flavored whisky category.
  • Having a panel ensures that the best whisky selections are based on multiple preferences, not that of a single person's preference, ensuring good selection of the best whiskies.

More info from the Canadian Whisky Awards Factsheet:

Canadian Whisky Awards Factsheet

 Canadian Industry Background

The Canadian whisky industry has a rich history that goes back almost 250 years. By the late 1840’s, over 200 distilleries were in operation in Canada. Canada was once home to the largest distiller in the world, the Seagrams Distillery, based in Montreal, Quebec.  The Gooderham and Worts Distillery in Toronto’s (now known as the Distillery district) played an important role in the growth and wealth of the nation and once contributed more to the federal coffers than any other enterprise in the country. Today, that number has fallen to 200 but the quantity has only continued to increase.

Canadian Whisky Awards Background

Founded in 2010, the Canadian Whisky Awards recognizes the very best Canadian whiskies and encourages distillers to maintain the highest standards for making whisky. Entries into the awards competition are received from distillers operating across Canada.  The Canadian Whisky Awards operate on a not-for-profit basis, and are judged blind. They have always been independent of the whisky industry.

Founder and Host

Davin de Kergommeaux is a certified Malt Maniac and a trained sommelier.  For more than two decades he has been an independent commentator analyzing, writing and talking about whisky.  Davin has been frequently called upon to judge at international whisky competitions including the World Whisky Awards.  Since 2003 he has served as a judge for the annual Malt Maniacs Awards.

Qualifications

To qualify for the Canadian Whisky Awards, a whisky must be distilled and matured in Canada for a minimum of three years.

Selection Process

Entries are solicited from whisky producers.  To encourage broad participation, the panel of judges only reveals the names of the winners.  A roster of eminent judges pick the winning whiskies on a blind tasting basis based on a standardized score sheet. 

Categories

Winners receive gold, silver and bronze medals. Top winners in each category receive award certificates.

 Categories include:

  • Canadian Whisky of the Year
  • Award of Excellence – Best New Whisky
  • Award of Excellence – Innovation
  • Award of Excellence – Canadian Whisky Profile
  • Award of Excellence – Line Extension
  • Award of Excellence – Artisanal Distiller of the Year
  • Connoisseur Whisky of the Year (one award each for products intended for Domestic, Export, or Multi-year markets)
  • Sippin’ Whisky of the Year (one award each for products intended for Domestic, Export, or Multi-markets)
  • Value Whisky of the Year (one award each for products intended for Domestic, Export, or Multi-markets)
  • Flavoured Whisky of the Year (one award each for products intended for Domestic, Export, or Multi-markets)

Previous Winners

  • 2010 Forty Creek Confederation Oak
  • 2011 Forty Creek John’s Private Cask No. 1
  • 2012 Forty Creek Port Wood Reserve (2012 edition)
  • 2013 Lot No. 40
  • 2014 Collingwood 21-Year-Old Rye
  • 2015 Lot No. 40
  • 2015 Sippin’ Whisky of the year Canadian Club 100% Rye
  • 2015 Best New Whisky – Gooderham & Worts

Official Canadian Whisky Awards

The Canadian Whisky Awards are announced and awarded in conjunction with the Victoria Whisky Festival. Winners will be announced on Thursday, January 19, 2017.