Hiram Walker

Review: Canadian Club Chronicles 44 Year Old Canadian Whisky "The Whisky Sixes" by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45%
Aging
44 Years; Refill American Oak
Recipe
100% Corn
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

The oldest Canadian whisky ever! We are at 44 Years now, still drawing from that special parcel of whisky from 1977. This whisky was matured in once-used white American oak whisky barrels that previously held rye whisky. The 44 year old part is corn whisky aged in those barrels, although the whisky kept getting regauged (combining barrels of whisky together so it doesn’t dry out in the barrel). After aging, a bit of rye whisky and sherry was added to the blend.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: Issue no. 4

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2021

The nose here is just so full of aged whisky notes – it’s quite intense. Underneath, there is a really nice earthy, spicy note and some rich, dried fruit. I’m glad it’s in at 45% - even at that strength, it’s pretty light. The palate starts with some honey and then moves on to some really nice spicy rye notes, plum, and some fall marsh notes (in a very good way). The finish is complex – light corn, light tannins, vanilla, dried fruit, white pepper, citrus pith, and baking spice.

Not as big or as rich as the 43 from last year, but this is still really great stuff.

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very low. But, my perfect whisky is worth $300, which I still haven’t met (a few have come close). So, it depends how much you value $$ vs something this old. If this were a Scotch, even a single grain….


Review: Pike Creek 22 Year Old Finished in PX Sherry Casks by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45%
Aging
22 Years; Finished in PX Sherry Casks
Recipe
Double Distilled Corn Whisky & Rye Whisky
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

We get an old Pike Creek this year that is finished in Pedro-Ximinez (PX) sherry casks, which are impregnated with leftover PX wine - a sweet wine made from dried PX grapes that is fortified with brandy. The last three Pike Creek special releases have been wine finishes - Oloroso, Cabernet Sauvignon, and now PX. What is next - Brandy? I’d take a look at that if they did it…

On another note, I think this is the oldest pike creek so far.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L21138EW2247

  • Bottling Date: 2021

Lots of fruit on the nose! Rich dried fruit – raisins, prunes – but also stewed plums which are complemented by spice and light oak. The spice is quite rich on this one. It has lots of aged whisky notes. The fruit notes from the pedro ximinez (PX) sherry are quite dominant, but the aged whisky apple/blueberry notes actually fit in quite well. On the palate, it’s quite sweet – this sweetness builds to a syrupy finish that has a nice kick of tannin and dry spices. The finish remains sweet – it is a bit cloying. Over time (as the finish is quite long) it fades and there is a really nice, slightly dry and oaky finish. Surprisingly, the fruit doesn’t come out on this one.

It's very different than the 21 year old oloroso pike creek, which was my favourite pike creek. That one had all sorts of subtle synergies between the sherry and the whisky, and it really revealed to me that oloroso sherry can work really well with old light Canadian whisky – which I doubted before the fact. But, I don’t think PX is up to the same task…

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). Sub-par for these aged Pike Creek whiskies, but it still portrays some interesting components. And, if the slight sweetness doesn’t bother you, this could be up your alley with the kick of fruity notes.

Value: Low at $90.


Review: J.P. Wiser's 22 Year Old Cask Strength Blend Port Cask Finish Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

JP Wisers 22 Port 2.jpg
ABV
59.7%
Aging
22 Years; Port Cask Finish
Recipe
Double Distilled Corn and Single Column Distilled Rye Whiskies
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

This whisky is a different take on the 23 year old cask strength blend from last year, which received much acclaim. It is the same recipe, other than a year younger - but it is finished in a port “seasoned” cask. The casks were impregnated with tawny port using a proprietary process (to the barrel supplier) where the pores of the wood were opened in order to saturate the wine in the wood. In this case, the team at Hiram Walker choose French oak to be used. This is the crown jewel of Corby’s releases from 2020 (bleeding into 2021) - but there is more exciting stuff planned for later in the year.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 54SL24 L202… 7:54

  • Bottling Date: 2020

Review (2021)

·         Batch: N/A

·         Bottling Code: N/A

·         Bottling Date: ~2020

The nose is rich with oak and fruit notes – fresh apricots, dried blueberries, tomato skins, white pepper, beeswax, bean sprouts, fresh oak, baking spice, cardamom, raisin, and with a slightly savoury wine characteristic. The palate is intense with dried fruit notes, clove, brown sugar, almond, and touches of rancio at the end. I notice the port character quite strongly about 2/3 of the way in. The finish has a really nice, creamy, vanilla character to it with a lot of fruity notes including red currant preserve. As you continue to drink, the port character builds until the finish becomes very similar to a ruby port. It has the old age whisky notes that you might expect, but with it a rich fruity/winey/oaky character. The savoury notes from the wine are quite interesting.

It is natural to compare this to the JP Wiser’s 23 year old from a year ago (same recipe, no port). There is  no close comparison, really – these are very different profiles. Although the components are the same – one is grain and age forward, the other is pretty focused around the port.

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

Value: Low, at $150.


Review: Lot No. 40 Dark Oak 100% Rye Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Lot 40 Dark Oak.jpg
ABV
48%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak, twice
Recipe
100% Rye
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

This whisky starts out as a standard lot no. 40 does, with 100% rye which has been distilled in a column still and then a pot still. The rye is then matured in a number 2 char American oak barrel, before being finished in a number 4 char American oak barrel.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L20254EW0751

  • Bottling Date: 2020

The nose is very rich in rye spices, dried fruit, vanilla, and some pretty intense woody spices (clove in particular). It is dense and woody on the nose – in fact, the tannic character on the nose remind me of a red wine, even if the tannic character is different. There remains some of the floral notes like lilac that are on the regular lot no. 40 – but the oak is the main player here, not the rye. That being said, the rye certainly offer intense oak with a sparring partner.

The palate is wood, wood, wood. There is a lot there – oak, caramel, clove, vanilla, butterscotch, mint, and a good kick of dried orange, dried apricot, and dried peach. The finish is loaded with tannins and spicy oak. The spicy buildup to the finish, along with the heavy tannins, is appealing. It does develop interestingly with time - perhaps because of all the tannins - and there is some chamomile that edges itself forward, nicely.

In comparison, the standard lot no. 40 is much more vibrant, with a deeper spice, floral, and herbaceous character. Dark oak is stronger, sweeter, and all about oak with rye around the edges.  I like it with a bit of water, as I find the cask character too strong at 48%. I would have preferred a brand extension with a couple extra years added on lot 40 and at higher proof. There, apparently, is a desire for more and more oak these days, but it’s not generally where I stand.

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

Value: Average against the whisky market at $60.


Review: Wiser's Red Letter Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Wiser's Red Letter 4.jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
10/15 Years; Virgin Oak Finish
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

This whisky, at least in terms of name, is a very old release – Wiser’s “Red Letter Rye” was a highly regarded whisky first produced in 1857 when Canadian whisky was often known for their quality relative to the other whisky or spirit producers at the time. This particular bottling pays tribute to that whisky (and its recipe). A similar Wiser’s Red Letter was released as a 150th anniversary of Wiser’s in 2007 – though I did not try that one, I have heard that this one is similar in profile.

This whisky is aged in American bourbon barrels and is then further “mellowed” in virgin oak casks. I say “mellowed” since virgin oak casks have capacity to impart some pretty strong flavour – but the whisky likely did not spend (relatively) long in those casks. It is bottled at 45% ABV, rather than the typical 40% found in almost all Canadian whisky. Additionally, earlier batches were non-chill filtered – both a process that isn’t often stated on a Canadian label and a practice not that common within Canadian whisky. In fact this is the only non-chill filtered Canadian whisky at the present time as far as I know (I’m not sure what the craft distillers are up to!). This should give better weight and texture to the whisky as the oils and fatty components in the spirit are not filtered out to increase clarity.


Review (2013)

  • Batch: 2013 Release (10 years old)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Nose: At first my nose picks up some fresh/baking rye bread notes, toasted oak, and toffee. Some cedar comes through, along with some wonderful earthiness that reminds me of moist soil with lots of vegetation and roots. Some vanilla and maple comes through as the nose sits some. It’s intriguing, and deep, but a bit quiet. There’s a bit of tawny port-like fruitiness and some interesting earthy vegetal notes of beets and celery root – though these are very slight. I smell a touch of sourness and spiciness, though it is slight. The nose seems fairly closed, and I find I get whispers of what might come rather than clear declarations. In that sense it is intriguing, yet also could be a little more outspoken.

Taste:  This one goes down easy! quite buttery in its feel and slightly sweet, with some spicy rye and a beautiful kick of spice at the end which keeps developing for quite some time. There is some sharp and grassy rye throughout, and with some vanilla and oak backing. The grains seem to shine through in this one as well, and you can taste the rye and the corn involved. Rye bread comes out quite nicely in this one, and the rye in this is just signature Wisers. It goes down quite easily, as I said, and is quite balanced. There are some citrus notes and grape-like fruitiness in the background, and are simply present just enough. You can sense the bourbon backbone of this whisky – it is fairly gripping especially towards the end – but I find I mainly notice this if I’m sipping it slowly, interestingly enough. I find just at the end of the palate the flavour drops off a bit and alcohol primarily comes through, which isn’t quite what I’m looking for. However, overall, this is fantastic stuff. This score would probably be a touch lower if not for the incredible weight and feel of the whisky, which does help it out a lot.

Finish: Dry with the tannins, and a beautiful glimpse of rye and vanilla with just enough acidity to keep you quite interested – the spiced picks up, with some cinnamon and clove, and the movement continues for some time in the finish which is excellent. I find I get some apple peel after some time as well. Quite excellent.

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

Value: Average.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Distillery Release (2020) - 15 Years Old

  • Bottling Code: L20329IW07:21

  • Bottling Date: 2020

These new-oak finished, lighter whiskies are becoming quite a trend, not only in Canada but also around the world. This was released as a distillery exclusive, with the age bumped up from 10 to 15 years. The previous labels embellished the fact that they were non-chill filtered, while this one makes no mention on the label.

The nose is as one might expect - the nose is greeted first with the barrel finish: generous new oak, vanilla, caramel, douglas fir, and woody spices like clove. But, of course there is more behind the oak – light dried flowers, lilac, almond, corn husks, blueberry, green apple, red river cereal, and orange peel. The palate follows suit, but with a rich, caramel-laden texture and a firm handful of tannins to direct traffic across the palate. The finish slowly unfolds, with a tannic texture, bean sprouts, vanilla, and yet fresh with citrus peel.

It’s always quite nice for those new to whisky to contrast this whisky with a bourbon – both corn based and both with new oak as a major flavour driver, and yet, completely different based on how they are made.

How does this compare to the 2013 edition? That one had less new oak (more ex-American oak influence, relatively) and had a more viscous, thicker texture without as much tannin. Although they are similar in flavour, the oak here is much more of a flavour driver and the whisky is a bit less dynamic - but it does have more depth. I preferred the balance with a bit less oak, but that preference will be person-to-person.

Nice whisky!

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: lower end of average at $100.