Pike Creek

Review: Pike Creek 21 Year Old Double Barrel Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Pike Creek 21.jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
21 Years; Finished in Various Barrels
Recipe
Double Distilled Corn Whisky & Rye Whisky
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

This is part of the very impressive “Rare Range” (previously Northern Border) collection, and, in the "Pike Creek" tradition which highlights the impact of finishing. In 2017, the release was finished in a scotch cask sourced through a chivas regal connection (both Pernod Ricard). They also sent over some lot no. 40 casks, for their finishing purposes - so if you see a "rye finish" somewhere in the chivas family/distillery set, it's a good chance it's lot no. 40.

In 2018, the whisky was finished in a variety of different oaks. About 50% of this blend was finished in French oak - both Quercas Robor and Quercas Petrea, about 25% of the blend was finished in Hungarian oak from the danube forest region (seasoned for 36 months), while the remainder was American oak. Each type of oak has a different set of characteristics, and the flavour compounds vary significantly - for example, in one sample of wood, vanillin was the highest in French oak, 20% less in American oak, and 35% less in Hungarian oak. Similar analysis can be done for other flavours - almond, smoky notes, etc. The finishing regime here highlights the breadth of oak, and, the best part is that it still isn’t too oaky.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2017 (Finished in a Speyside Malt Cask)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

It smells old! And, indeed, it is. A rich nose, that just develops. Not really the same thing at all as it’s younger brother, the 10 year old pike creek finished in rum casks – the brand is about finishing, not about necessarily having the same profile (as when they switched from port to rum casks, but kept the brand the same). Not nearly with the same buttery, brown sugar notes of the rum finish. In fact, though they’re part of the same brand, I wouldn’t really compare them at all.

The whisky is largely double distilled corn whisky matured in reused casks...e.g., what is in Wiser’s 18 Year old, but a bit older and finished in a Speyside malt cask (take a guess... a Speyside from Pernod Ricard – Wiser’s also sent over some Lot no. 40 casks for them to use in finishing, though I haven’t seen the result of this yet). However, there’s also a bit of rye added in this time too. But, from the nose to the finish, a different whisky than the 10 year old.

The nose has rich blueberry, mushy peas, green apple, white grape, corn oil, and some old oak. Maple, toffee, candied nuts. The palate is very clean – light grain, celery seed, prune, with a finish that is slightly dry and spicy – an ever so light touch of either earthy barley or peat. Nice mouthfeel. Ever so lightly bitter on the finish – as I have found with most Pike Creeks, in fact. The finish, though, is still bright and fruity – mulberries, spices, and dried fruit (raisins, apricot). Finish isn’t very long, but is nice and grainy while it sticks around. A very nice whisky – those old age notes present in this whisky are continuing to attract me, and this blows the other pike creeks out of the park.

An interesting pour beside Wiser’s 18. Much lighter, more elegant, refined, and less spicy. But, better...Don Livermore, the master blender, said if he were to have two whiskies to sip from the Northern Border collection, he’d have Gooderham Little Trinity and Pike Creek 21. Interesting.

Terrific whisky. Fun to see Canadian whisky stepping up its game.

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

Value: Average.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 2018 Rare Range (Finished in European Oak Casks)

  • Bottling Code: 54SL24 L18235EW1202

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Oaky, through and through – and it’s nice. But it’s not the bourbon sort of oaky, where it’s loaded with new wood. Also not the Scottish “too oaky” – it has a huge kick of oak, complex, but it still sits lightly above a fairly vibrant, aged corn whisky underneath. It’s very nice – there are nice grain notes lurking underneath, and rich spices – green cardamom, nutmeg, clove. If you like oak, but in a broad sense (i.e. not just heavily caramelized oak) you’ll love this.

The palate has dried fruits, light spice, and some jujube-like fruitiness at the centre – but oak sits overtop everything – like a freshly sawn pile of oak. Earthiness finds its way into the centre of the palate before tannins take over and we are left with light, sweet corn, spice, and white grape. Honey, too – and sweetness opposes the light oak quite nicely.

The finish has a rich, dried flurry of spice – a mixed old bag of baking spice (clove, white pepper, nutmeg, green cardamom) and a kick of dried fruit that slowly unpacks itself alongside some toasted almond.

Natural comparators are last year’s Pike Creek, or this year’s Seasoned Oak – a 19 year old whisky finished in seasoned oak. At a very basic level, this is more oaky, the seasoned oak is much more fruity and seems to have more influence from vibrant rye, and last year’s Pike Creek 21 has light barley overtones like Scotch (as one might expect) – think applesauce and green apple.

I like this a lot more than last year’s release (which was also great). Highly recommended. Also, I prefer the seasoned oak release, which is in a similar category (old finished corn whisky) but quite different.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average.


Review: Pike Creek 10 Year Old Double Barrel Canadian Whisky (Rum Finish) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
10 Years; Finished in Rum Barrels
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

Corby, the company which owns the Pike Creek brand, seemingly slipped this one right by us - without much fanfare, pike creek switched from having its second maturation in port casks to rum barrels. Slowly, rum appeared on the label and the whisky is quite different - the reason - rum casks are cheaper and easier, given the global shortage of port casks. Simple economics, but I think this one panned out well for the flavor as well:


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

This is actually quite a bit different than the port finished product. I find the finishing actually fits in better here than the port finished version – this somehow better elaborates some of the rich grain notes underneath. The palate and finish, particularly work better than before and it’s a bit cleaner. The fruit notes are completely different than the port finished product – you can see how these whiskies are from the same family - started off the same but they are completely different now.

Rich grain, plum, and fruit – yet definitely with a rum influence with molasses, berries, and a different set of spices than before. Light new oak, corn husks, vanilla, and still with lots of spices – not vibrant but more like the dulled notes of a stale bag of mulling spices. The palate brings forth a classic rye centre, with more wood, spices, with brown sugar and rum notes coming in on a rolling sweet and creamy finish full of oak, brown sugar, pine and light molasses. Great feel on the finish, as the sugar wave dies down we are left with more green wood, tannins, and dry spices.

Though a necessary innovation, it appears to have paid off.

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

Value: Average.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

A rich, structured whisky full of hibiscus, prune, raisins, currants, maple, rich corn, and concord grapes which finishes in a flourish of spice and old wood. The rum character is really here – rich spices, full of molasses, and sweet too. I wonder if they use Lamb’s rum casks to finish (it would make sense, but no evidence, just musings). Those rum spices are really good – especially at the end the whisky rides on a wave of sweet and oaky molasses.

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

Value: Average.


Review: Pike Creek 10 Year Old Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

This whisky, along with Lot No. 40 and Gooderham & Worts, were three fabulous Canadian whiskies, marketed for connoisseurs and produced for some time before production ceased. In 2012, the whisky was re-released. The whisky is double distilled, unlike the typical triple distillation of Canadian whisky. There is another version of this whisky, without an age statement, which is exported to the US. The whisky is named after the creek by the aging warehouses of Hiram Walker.

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