Gibson

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

ABV
40%
Aging
18 yrs
Recipe
N/A
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.


Review: Gibson's 12 Year Old Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Gibson's 12.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
12 yrs
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Valleyfield (Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec)

Gibson’s whiskies used to be produced in Pennsylvania starting from 1938 until prohibition, and then in 1972 Schenley purchased the brand and moved production to Valleyfield, Quebec. After some more ownership switches the brand was bought by William Grant & Sons who have moved production to the Hiram Walker plant in 2009 (for more look at Davin’s post here) – so eventually we will start to see Hiram Walker distillate rather than Valleyfield distillate going into the blend (in this case, about 2021 for the twelve year old). However, the whisky is now blended and bottled at Hiram Walker – and this is evidenced through the changed bottles, now with a cap which is more square. The whisky has also been re-labeled “rare”, like the old 18 year old used to be, and the new 18 year old has been relabeled "venerable”.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2012

This bottling was blended and botted at Valleyfield.

Nose: I get some caramel, vanilla, bourbon, and I pick up a fair bit of corn and some plum. There’s a light touch of bitterness and sourness detracting from the nose, but they are quite light – however upon multiple tastings I found that it dominated too much. Like the other Gibson whiskies, there’s lots of creaminess to this nose. Amidst all else going on I nearly missed the rye which is sitting obviously in the middle of it all lightly directing the show. I find the nose doesn’t improve with time but grows a bit stale and bitter, which is too bad.

Taste: Thick, creamy and slightly sour with a citrus backdrop and a good kick of oaky vanilla and a touch of maple-like woodiness. At the end some dusty rye and spices kick in – clove and even a bit of allspice. The sourness/acidity is intriguing as it is a bit different and doesn’t go too far in one direction. There is a bit of bitterness right on the end – it isn’t horrible and I can’t decide whether I like it or don’t.

Finish: At first the spices take hold for a reasonable length before there’s some light dryness and oakiness remaining in the mouth, along with a touch of rye. The length and weight of the finish is decent, but the flavour could be improved.

This is smooth, thick, and easy drinking other than the touch of bitterness here and there. However, the whisky is a bit of an enigma to me – the first tasting was very impressive (probably would have come out in the low eighties), but the second and third time there was a lot of bitterness , staleness and it was way out of balance – and even tasting beside Gibson’s Sterling I found this to be inferior upon two tastings. I’ve never had such a different tasting experience two days in a row, even after conditioning my palate the same way each time. However, I’m standing with the scores from my two later reviews.

Value: Average for $30.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

This is bottling was blended and bottled at Hiram Walker.

Nose: Apple seeds and slightly dry, spicy, bitter grain – there is a richness to it as well. Dried ginger and oak comes out more as it sits. There is a thread of bitterness that detracts from the nose, especially as it is overall quite light with a bit of spicy sharpness. It is decent, but it’s really not fabulous – I find I tend to skip the nose for the palate here.

Taste: Maple – the wood comes in now out of nowhere with sweetness and light tannins – surprisingly rich after the nose, with a bit of a grain comeback to the end of it. There is some fruity richness to it as well which makes me wonder if this uses some refill casks pretty well – but maybe it’s just coming from some rich bourbon casks.

Finish: At first slight spice and tannins, with a sort of green/fresh wood feel and some light cinnamon and clove. A bit of a detrimental saccharin note at the end too, which really doesn’t help.

This is decent – I like this bottling more than the previous one I sampled in 2014 because of some new richness and vibrancy, though the style is a bit flat on the nose and finish and there seems to be less of a bourbon influence. I’m excited to see where this goes when they bottle some of the 18 year old out of Hiram Walker. Amazing to me, though, how much this whisky gains with age – all that’s best about this whisky is just enriched so much further. If they ever bottle any Gibson’s beyond 18 years, I’d bet that’d be good stuff, especially with the oak in quite good control even after 18 years! The dryness in this whisky lends itself very nicely to mixing as well.

Value: Average for $30.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

A dry, broad nose with light fruit, dry orange peel, oak, and a light grainy body with a touch of matchsticks and baking spice. The palate is soft, with drying oak and spice with a splash of citrus. The oak is really nice. Depending on the flight you take this one in, it seems to bring out very different characteristics. Interesting.

Value: Average for $30.


Review: Gibson's Finest Bold 8 Year Old Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
8 years
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Valleyfield (Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec)

This whisky is a new release of this year, with something you don't often see - a younger whisky coming in with an age statement, rather than just a non-age-statement. It's good to see - always nice to have a better sense of what you are drinking, and I am in high favour of knowing what the youngest part of the whisky is...this was released in 2016 to add to the lineup of Gibson's Sterling, 12 year old, and 18 year old - but it comes in at 46% compared to the other botttlings which are at 40%. Let's see how it does...


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L16134HW 20:45

  • Bottling Date: 2016

The nose is dark and rich – molasses, dark and dense rye bread, orange peel, mossy oak, roasted grain, butter – but goes more creamy and buttery as it sits – rich maple butter, coconut cream, hazelnut toffee. Terrific. The palate has a load of rich grain – corn, rye – alongside some peppery spices, stewed pear, plum, orange, and a light coating of oaky vanilla. Seeing this at 46% makes me wish Gibson’s did this with all their whiskies – it is a phenomenal difference in amping up flavour, spice, and finish – diluted with water this whisky becomes much more ordinary (though still full of flavour). The finish has lots of buttery grain, cinnamon, and clove. Slightly tangy- and very nicely dry. Very full. Too bad, though, that it looks like someone dropped some ink into the bottle (well…) – I think even someone really new to whisky won’t even think that is natural colour…

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

Value: High, at $30.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Green grape, coconut, celery, pear, clove. A really interesting floral thread is present, integrated with candied fruit, grape juice, prunes, and butterscotch. Yet, the grain characteristic throughout the whisky is brilliant. It really does work nicely at the bit higher proof.

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

Value: The extra 2$ is now tipping it into the top end of the “average” category at $32.


Review: Gibson's Sterling Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Valleyfield (Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec)

Gibson’s Sterling was first crafted at a time when Gibson’s whiskies were in high demand – the 12 year old version had much more demand than supply, so Gibson’s wanted to produce something to provide customers with the product they desired without having to wait a full 12 years for new whisky to be produced. Gibson’s sterling was the result, blended from some younger whiskies than in the 12 year old versions (and some considerably older ones too) and its popularity resulted in the continuing production of this whisky.


Review (2013)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

  • Bottling Code: N/A

Nose: fruity rye! I always get a breeze of white/green gooseberries as I pour this one. The nose comes off a bit buttery and creamy with some dry rye bitterness as well which doesn’t do it any favours. There is some light vanilla in the background, along with some light oakiness, maple, and light brown sugar. There’s also a fair bit of graininess to it – there are smells reminiscent of some of the grainy vodkas. As I spend some more time with the nose the bitterness fades slightly and is replaced by a bit of sweetness and molasses. Not a great one, but ok – the bitterness is a bit too much and is out of place.

Taste: It’s light and reasonably sweet with some rye, maple, and clove amid a lemon-like citrusy backdrop along with some very gentle oak. The mouthfeel is quite nice on this one and it feels juicy with the citrus and berry notes. There is a touch of bitterness in line with the nose but it isn’t as bad on the palate as the nose. Some spices come out on the end – clove and cinnamon – but the cinnamon doesn’t quite carry the spiciness of fresh cinnamon but has more the influence of cinnamon in pumpkin bread or the like. I get a lot of rum notes and am reminded a lot of Bacardi 8 year old as I sip this one. However, it is fairly easy-going and lacks complexity. It’s also reasonably dry, which doesn’t surprise me after the nose.

Finish: The spices start off the finish before some molasses and woodiness, which is slightly sweet and is pleasant. There’s some fruity rye which carries on for a decent bit afterward. It has medium length, but I was pleasantly surprised by it.

Conclusion: Reasonably pleasant, although the bitterness and nose could be improved and the taste is a little too laid-back. A decent value whisky, and, apart from a few off-key bits, it is quite pleasant.

Value: Average for $28.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Coconut, maple, baking spices, black tea, jasmine, juniper, green wood and light vanilla sweetness come through on a light, easy, whisky with a thread of spice. Quite tropical. An easy sipper - it’s light, easy and structured, with enough mouthfeel, spice, and tannins to make you continue to want more.

Value: Average for $29.


Review: Gibson's Olympic 16 Year Old Canadian Whisky (1960) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
16 years
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Valleyfield (Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec)

This whisky was distilled in 1960, an Olympic year, and bottled 4 olympics later as a special edition to commemorate the 1976 olympics which were held in Montreal. It was a one time release, aged in charred white oak.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: Bottle no. 3467

  • Bottling Date: 1976

The nose is full of sweet maple, oak, molasses, clean corn whisky, vanilla, and peppery spices and light earth. Creamy and buttery, smelling of sweet pastries and walnut. The taste very much follows from the nose – creamy, vanilla, corn, prune, and raisin with some nice spice and light smoke. It reminds me of the Gibson’s New Oak – only fuller and more complex. The finish is full of vanilla, oak, dried fruit, and mixed spices. It’s easy to drink, light to medium bodied, and quite elegant. The finish is quite dry with time.

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

Value: N/A


Review: Gibson's Finest Bourbon Cask Reserve Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
Ex-Scotch Casks
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Valleyfield (Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec)

Gibson's popularity among whisky drinkers has a number of times caused supply issues becasue of high demand (which is how we ended up with Gibson's Sterling). This bottling, alongside Gibson's New Oak, was put in place to fill the gap, and is no longer in production.

And yes, it isn't actually matured in bourbon casks due to fear of the very protective Scotch Whisky Association who might have taken issue to a name Scotch Cask (see more here).


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2006

Well, this smells like a bourbon cask…lots of spice – stale clove, cinnamon, and white pepper – alongside green bean sprouts, vanilla, maple, buttercream icing, and prune. Fairly viscous on the palate – sweet and dry, in the great Canadian style - with lots of spice, pine, and some oaky vanilla leading into a bitter, spicy, and dry finish. Something spicy and bready, like pumperknickel, on the finish too alongside a bit of smoky charred wood.

Pleasant, mostly. The nose showed some good promise but the bitterness on the palate doesn’t do any favors – this would be doing better without that…

Value: N/A