Corn

Review: Signal Hill Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Signal Hill 1.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
Refill Casks, Virgin White Oak, Ex-Bourbon Casks
Recipe
95% Corn, 5% Malted Barley
Distiller N/A

This is a new addition to Canadian whisky, a non-chill filtered combination of corn and malted barley whiskies matured in Canadian Whisky Casks, New White Oak Casks, and Ex-Bourbon Casks. It is an independent bottling of Canadian whisky, so it wasn’t distilled in Newfoundland, where it was bottled (no distiller is listed). It is bottled by Rock Spirits, who also bottle Screech and George Street Spiced Rum (I like to mix with George St.). The presentation of the whisky is fantastic, too – I find the bottle quite attractive. The whisky is named after Signal Hill, right near where it is produced in Newfoundland - the site of the first reported  transatlantic transmission by Guglielmo Marconi.

They recommend Old Fashioned, Whisky Sours, and Manhattans with this. They all work pretty well, though the manhattans need a lighter vermouth.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is fresh and clean, with light notes of dried berries, floral rum, and gentle oak. There is a nice rich spiciness to it, one that is a bit bitter, in a pleasant fashion that provides some grip. The fruitiness tends to grow with time, revealing more dried fruit and a bit of citrus. The palate is lightly sweet, and very easy. It has light brown sugar, light oak, dried blueberry, clove-studded oranges, and a flourish of vanilla and rum at the end. The finish has a touch of molasses, vanilla, some tannins, hard caramel candies, and clove and white pepper.

This is a very easy whisky to drink, and I find it very pleasant and well balanced – a great choice for a casual whisky. How about a comparison the 10 year old, rum-finished Guy Lafleur whisky from Wiser’s. That has a much deeper grain character and is more full bodied and rich, with less of what seems to be a rum characteristic. But Signal Hill is a bit more straightforward, and doesn’t emphasize the grain as much.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. It’s a good whisky, and the price isn’t too high. It is perhaps a bit more than I would like to pay for this whisky (35$ might be the sweet spot for me), but that’s still only a difference of 5$.


Review: J.P. Wiser’s Alumni Series Guy Lafleur 100% Corn Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Guy Lafleur.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
10 Years; Refill Casks, Ex-Rum, and First-Fill Ex-Bourbon Casks
Recipe
100% Corn
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

An 10 year old 100% corn whisky, double distilled in a column still - but finished (smartly) in a few casks - first fill ex-bourbon, rum casks, and ex-speyside malt casks. I say “smartly” since it adds quite a depth to some corn whisky. I might add, it’s very easy to drink!

Exclusive to Quebec.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Alumni Series

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

A complex nose for a light corn whisky – musty rum, orchard fruits, dried peaches, corn husks, maple – still very light. And very much a corn whisky on the nose – quite nice. The bourbon notes seem to grow with time – a fascinating interplay of finishes. Easy to drink! It’s actually incredibly moreish. The palate is nicely textured, with dry spices, sweet oak, and light corn nuances – like dried kernels. The rum comes out more in the finish, with light spices and a bit of saccharin. It’s somewhat in the style of typical Canadian whiskies, but it isn’t as spicy as some (to be expected, given that there is no rye in here!).

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High. In the world of whisky, this is on the high end of what you can get for $45.


Review: J.P. Wiser’s Alumni Series Lanny McDonald Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Lanny McDonald.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
9 Years; Refill, First-Fill Ex-Bourbon, Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
Blend of Corn, Rye, and Barley Whiskies
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

This whisky is a blend of column distilled rye (matured in first fill ex-bourbon casks), double distilled corn whisky (matured in refill casks), and pot distilled wheat (matured in new oak). It’s blended around the wheat grain, to honour the prairies where Lanny McDonald comes from.

Exclusive to Alberta.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Alumni Series

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Very nutty, and spicy – yet still we have nice dried and candied fruit. Loads of spices – hazelnut skins, old baking spices, and nutmeg. The wheat comes through with time, growing slightly with time. It has a very nice light floral note to it, also – lilac – our good old rye comes in. The palate is nicely rich with grain notes, and there is a light cream of wheat characteristic in the middle. I wouldn’t say that it is “wheat forward” but the wheat is definitely integrated into the whisky. The finish brings in some nice dried fruit, and the column still rye with all its baking spices and floral notes comes in at the end, with light tannins and more nuttiness. Very well put together- the spiciness and nuttiness is very Canadian in style, and I like that – it’s a bit dusty, and I’ll never complain about that!

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. $45 isn’t much for good whisky, but there are better whiskies for the price.


Review: Entrapment 25 Year Old Canadian Whisky (Orphan Barrel) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Crown Royal.

Image courtesy of Crown Royal.

ABV
41%
Aging
25 Yrs; Refill Barrels
Recipe
97% Corn, 3% Malted Barley
Distiller Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba)

Orphan Barrel's first release of Canadian whisky from Diageo's Crown Royal distillery in Gimli. It is old - 25 years, and used the batch base whisky distilled at Crown Royal (for more, see my post on Crown Royal's Five Distillates). The batch base whisky is an intensely creamy corn whisky distilled in a column still and then distilled again in a copper kettle and column still (something like a column still sitting on top of a copper pot still).


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 0630

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

A creamy nose - lots of custard, coconut, white grape, vanilla, blueberry, corn husks, oak, light moalsses, and light earthy undertones. Lots of nice aged whisky note. Classic, rich, well-aged Canadian whisky. It may seem simple at first, but if you keep nosing you’ll notice layers of richness. The part that sets this whisky apart is the rich creaminess that you don’t find in the old corn whiskies from highwood (i.e. Ninety 20) or Wiser’s (18 year old, etc.).

The palate is full of those creamy notes, with some brilliant underpinning oak, custard, and creme-brulee. However, it isn’t sweet – don’t get me wrong. There’s a very slight tannic edge to it which is quite nice, though some may not like it. Very easy, and I actually like it with a splash of water in it, though it gets a bit light. The finish is lightly sweet and creamy, with a touch of bitterness and white pepper – vanilla, custard, blueberry, apple, and corn husks.  For those who like „smooth” whiskies, this is about as smooth as it gets. And it’s very rich.

I’ve seen some reviews of this from reviewers who favour big bourbon-flavours. It’s no surprise they aren’t high – this is a soft, long-aged corn whisky (nothing like a bourbon) which I greatly appreciate, and is a style which has become a favorite of mine as I have had more of it – subtlety abounds in such a style. It’s a whisky that favours slow, small sipping not quicker drinking.

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

Value: Low. Good whisky, but $200 is quite a price tag.

Note: I reviewed this whisky a few months ago, but it was from a sample which I suspected (rightfully) had oxidized a bit. I re-reviewed a fresh, proper sample here, hence the rating change.


Review: George Dickel No. 12 Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
84% Corn, 8% Rye, 8% Malted Barley
Distiller George Dickel (Tullahoma, Tennessee)

George Dickel is the other distillery in Tennessee, the second major whiskey producer in Tennessee after Jack Daniel’s – the largest American whiskey producer in the world. This whiskey is aged 12 years, and filtered through maple charcoal in regulation with the Lincoln County process which Tennessee Whiskey employs. However, unlike Jack Daniel’s, George Dickel chill their products before they filter it through the charcoal, and do so faster than Jack Daniel’s resulting in a different stripping process. Great value for this whiskey, and often a pleasant surprise for guests at tastings I have lead.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Nose: Creamy, corn-driven, lightly nutty, raisins, and some really nice oak integration, vanilla, spice – rich flavours here. It’s fairly bready, the yeasty-grainy smell of rising dough. Some of the grain is a bit funky at times and I don’t know whether I like it or not, which on one hand is a good thing because it keeps me thinking.

Taste: Dried corn, dried cherries, with some woody spice which continues on with some honey before gradually letting you down at the finish. The tannins are certainly felt in this one, but it’s not too bitter. Some nice wood smoke in the mix, too, which adds quite a nice edge. I once infused dried chipotle peppers into black eyed peas as they were boiling away, and the grainy-smoky characteristics of this whisky remind me of that.

Finish: Quite bold, retaining its woodiness and honeyed corn character and a decent punch of a spicy peppery feel. Some light apple and dried cherry comes into the mix as well. There’s a nice buttery aspect to the finish too, which I quite like. It makes me think this would do wonders as well whipped into a bit of cream and put on top of a dense chocolate cake…regardless, the spicy/dry dynamic is great here.

This is quite a nice product, particularly for the price. Nothing is out of whack, it’s well put together – though the nose is the weakest part. Certainly one I enjoy to sip…I really quite like their rye, which I might put above this one, but this is still a solid product. The spicy bite at the end makes this one quite addictive and really makes me want another sip. I think I would prefer the Dickel Rye more – if not for the lovely spicy finish on this one. Fabulous value.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, at $30.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L7177R60011413 0307110195531w

  • Bottling Date: 2017

A sweet, rich nose – slightly nutty (marzipan!), almond cookies, oak, green apple, wet marsh, brown rice, and a very floral vanilla character. The palate is sweet, oaky, spicy, and rich – still lots of green apple, vanilla. The corn mixed with the oak is just brilliant. The feel really grips on the palate, too. What a solid whiskey. It’s not breathtaking- but what a whiskey, and what value. The finish fades somewhat quickly, but with more dried corn, oak, and wood smoke.

Hard to do better than this in Ontario if you don’t want to dish out much money. Terrific.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, at $30.


Review: Bols Genever by Jason Hambrey

Bols 1.jpg
ABV
42%
Aging
None
Recipe
rye, corn, and wheat distillates
Distiller Bols (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Genever is where Gin originated - it was British soldiers fighting the Spanish in Holland who first developed a taste for this spirit, with a grain base (much like a whisky new make) which is steeped with botanicals such as juniper. It tastes much more like a whisky new make than it does a clean, citrusy gin. It is still the national spirit of Belgium and Holland.

Bols is the most influential genever brand in the world, with a recipe being produced which dates back to 1820. The distillery got its license in 1664, and Lucas Bols, the head of the company, had close ties to the Dutch East India Company which allowed easy access to spices for his genever. It's a very interesting spirit - I highly encourage those who haven't tasted it to give it a go! A lot of the flavour in the spirit comes from the triple distilled corn, rye, and barley - it is grain driven, unlike sister gins.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: ~2018

It really reminds me of new make, but it has an appeal to it. Early on in my whisky enjoyment, I probably wouldn’t have liked this. I like it now. Rough and farmy, with a real farminess to it, but, behind, an edge of woody juniper and mixed spices – largely coriander. The palate is grainy and slightly hot, with a finish flourishing in farmy grain notes (sorry for the repetition – I mean by this something like a fermenting mash of grain – like a malt driven beer or a distillery). The palate is oily and rich, and the finish is spicy and woody and sweet – it’s a nice contrast.

It’s not something I’d put down a lot of money for, but it has a really nice raw essence to it and it’s the kind of thing I am tempted to reach for after a social engagement to wind down. 42% is a nice strength for it, too.

Assessment: Recommended.


Review: J.P. Wiser's Seasoned Oak Canadian Whisky (Rare Cask Series) by Jason Hambrey

JP Wiser's Seasoned Oak 2.jpg
ABV
48%
Aging
19 Years
Recipe
Corn and Rye Whiskies
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

A blend of 19 year old double distilled corn whisky which matured in casks which were seasoned (air dried before being made into casks – „seasoned”) for 48 months and some column still rye. This is another "rare cask series” joining Dissertation and Union 52, both outstanding whiskies in their own right.

Also, except for a few whisky styles, 48% ABV is my sweet spot...


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L18114EW0801

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Complex nose. Dried currant, raisin, prune, and fresh red currants. Oak...and it’s spicy and sweet. Custard, caramel, charcoal, rich rye, cherry, blueberry, wintergreen, dried corn husks, creme brulee, cedar, cinnamon, nutmeg, lilac, clove studded orange – the spices are gorgeous. This is a huge nose with the complexity to keep changing for more than 20 minutes.

The palate is silky and rich, with oak and slight corn at the centre. There is a terrific light sweetness that builds mid palate before the oaky and spicy finish command the finish. Citrus is still central, but everything plays second fiddle to the oak. However, it’s so different than a big oaky bourbon – it doesn’t have the sweet fatness of the corn in a bourbon to combat massive, sweet, earthy and dessert-like wood – instead, it has a fruity, dense spirit which combats a dry, spicy oak. The finish is a nice mix of spice, citrus, candy, and spicy tannin. The finish is complex and interesting, but could be a bit bigger and more enduring.

We’re getting it in the summer, but, as the Canada 2018 commemorative is more of a summer whisky, this is more of a fall one. I really like the 48% - it definitely suits the whisky.

A favourite this year, already. I’m glad Wiser’s has started unleashing the floodgates and releasing impressive blends which showcase the diversity and quality of their product.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). I also found I liked this more and more as I consumed more of it.

Value: Average. Nice whisky, but $100 pits against a lot of terrific whiskies from a value perspective.


Review: J.P. Wiser's Canada 2018 Commemorative Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

JP Wiser's Canada 2018 2.jpg
ABV
43.4%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Corn and Rye Whiskies
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

A limited release to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the 49th parallel, bottled for Canada Day 2018. As Wiser's often does, it is bottled at 43.4% to represent the strength of whiskies in the mid to late 1800s where the ABV was higher to prevent the un-chill filtered whiskies going cloudy (they go cloudy because fats can dissolve in alcohol. Thus, at lower strengths (or temperatures) these fats can precipitate out of the spirit and make it cloudy in appearance.)


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L18064EW1332

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose reminds me of last year’s release, which I liked – it is similar in profile – a rich corn base with lots of citrus and candy notes. More candy than last year, to my memory. We have toffee, milk chocolate, caramel, orange, oak, and nice clean grain notes. The fruit is light and interesting – white grape and peaches. Some familiar clove, juniper branches, and slight oiliness. Nice creaminess.

The palate continues on with caramel and a nice corn backbone, with spices overtop and light oiliness. The finish has some light nut oil and more toffee, grapefruit peel, and toasted coconut. This is a great profile for a late spring or summer whisky! It’s light and easy, but not too sweet or earthy – it is still bright enough to „pair” with summer.

It’s a nice whisky, but it seems more youthful than a lot of Wiser’s special releases – it actually reminds me somewhat of Forty Creek Copper Pot in profile – both very different whiskies, but they share some of the candy notes and the spicy oiliness. Nice barrel char on the end.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). A very nice summer whisky.

Value: Average.

 


Review: Bib & Tucker Small Batch White Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
1 day; Ex-bourbon Casks
Recipe
72% Corn, 15% Malt, 13% Rye
Distiller N/A (USA; Produced by 3 Badge Beverage Corp.)

I was resistant to try this one, as white whiskeys only go so far - but after the president of 3 Badge said he was quite "bullish" on the category, my interest was piqued. Generally, white whiskey - unaged, or, in this case, barely aged - is quite harsh and unpleasant. It really is a category separate from whisky, in my opinion - and white grain spirit or a similar designation would make more sense to me. However, given that 3 Badge makes Masterson's (I love the rye and the barley), I'm always curious to see what else is up their sleeve.

This is matured (perhaps rested is a better description) for 24 hours in once-used Bib & Tucker bourbon barrels after it has been distilled first in a column and then a pot still. White whiskeys are more popular for cocktail uses than straight sipping, so I'll look at some of the recommended cocktails too.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 001

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

There is a lot of corn on the nose, but it doesn’t have the harshness or rawness of most white whiskeys. Sweet, grainy, and spicy – it seems to me that this is designed as a white whiskey, unlike most which are just the initial products before going into the barrel, full of fusel oils which turn into flavorful esters later in the process. Probably the second best white grain distillate, after stalk and barrel’s rye new make. The palate is easy and pleasant, with corn, dill, and a bit of spice and maple on the end – the end is drying, with a touch of coriander seed and clove. Clean, with a light finish. Not bad!

Value: Low (based on $75; yes, Canadian prices - in the US it is about $40USD....)

I must add that the above is a sipping score. This was made to be mixed. How does it fare? It  its own quite well as part of a boulevardier (better than the aged stuff!). Quite nice, in fact.  It also would work quite well as part of an improved whisky cocktail too (an old fashioned with a dash of marascino and absinthe). It makes a particularly nice black manhattan – though I like making a variant with 1 ½ oz bourbon/rye, 1 oz sweet vermouth, and 1 oz amaro. This is similar to their cynarly cocktail on the website, but I didn’t have any cynar to use on it at the moment. I was interested to try their lightning fizz recipe, because I like allspice – that one works a charm, though add 0.5 oz of allspice dram not 5 oz. Whoever put that cocktail together did a brilliant job - the allspice notes pair brilliantly with the nuttiness of the whisky.


Review: J.P. Wiser's One Fifty Commemorative Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Wiser's 150.jpg
ABV
43.4%
Aging
16 Years
Recipe
Corn and Rye Whiskies
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

Released to commemorate Canada's 150th Anniversary, Wiser's is continuing their impressive roll with this release - a blend of corn and rye whiskies which have been maturing since 2000 and before, split between new oak casks and refill casks. The base whisky was double distilled, with a small amount of column distilled rye which adds the underlying spicy character. One bottle was made to commemorate each week of Canada's 150 year history, with each bottle having a unique number and listing the week it is commemorating. A total of 7,827 bottles produced.

The whisky is made from 100% non-GMO Canadian grain. According to Wiser's, the 43.4% is selected to represent the strength of whiskies in the mid to late 1800s where the ABV was higher to prevent the un-chill filtered whiskies going cloudy (they go cloudy because fats can dissolve in alcohol. Thus, at lower strengths (or temperatures) these fats can precipitate out of the spirit and make it cloudy in appearance.)


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L17066EW1121 (bottle 6713, Week of Feb. 19 1996)

  • Bottling Date: ~2017

This is interesting – a classic spicy, woody Wiser’s nose – but also clean and light with a good kick of vanilla and char influence from the New Oak. It is similar in that regard to Wiser’s Union 52, and makes me wonder if Wiser’s limited releases are headed more in this particular direction – clean, spicy, slightly sweet, with lots of new oak (I would say Canadian new oak, it’s not like a bourbon oak overload). Somewhat of a cross between Wiser's Small Batch and Union 52, if you have to make a comparison. But, a crude comparison.

Anyway, to the tasting – pine, clove, cinnamon, vanilla, barrel char, mint, and some light earthiness. The grain notes play through nicely in this, and some nice porridge-y notes. We have some fruit too – sharp orange and some stewed apple and pear. The palate is sweet, oaky, spicy – lots of wood notes with cedar, pine, oak, and sandalwood – and mixed baking spices with old clove prominently. The finish is full of vanilla, oak, nutmeg, baking spices, and corn husks. Remains interesting, complex, and easy. Brilliant.

A great whisky, particularly for those that don’t know the category that well. It reminds me a bit of Wiser’s small batch, but a bit older and with more oak influence. A nice blending of the old with the new – fitting for Canada’s 150th!

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

Value: High. Against the market, a great whisky for $50.