Rum Finish

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: Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Teeling SB 1.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
Rum Cask Finish
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Cooley (Louth, Ireland)

Jack and Stephen Teeling, the sons of the founder of the Cooley distillery (John Teeling) started up a sourced Irish whiskey brand with great success, leading to the first new distillery in dublin in 125 years in 2015 (at one point, Dublin was one of the biggest distilling powerhouses in the world). Whiskey is in their blood, with an ancestor having built a Dublin distillery in 1782 which is long lost - however, it leads to the brand image of a phoenix rising from a pot still as the Teeling brand is re-established (though, admittedly, Teelings have been involved in the business before the brand started up). The small batch is perhaps their most well known whiskey, non-chill filtered and a blend of corn grain whisky and single malt.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 04/2017

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

An oaky, and very spicy nose. It reminds me of walking into an Indian grocer, with all the spices sitting out and giving a rich, exotic, spice reminding me of countless curries. Fennel, cardamom, pickled mangoes, apple, toasted coriander seed,  and a rich oily, grainy character. There is fancy molasses, definitely, on the nose, but I didn’t notice it until I started to look for it.

The palate is rich, with a nice integration of a sharp barley character – terrific mouthfeel and spiciness – and telling a long story leading into a spicy and creamy pot still character. Banana, milk chocolate, and green pear - The finish is spicy with lots of white pepper, banana splits, green wood, pear, and carrot cake.

If it didn’t say so, I’m not sure I would have noticed the rum in this. 46% is a nice touch, especially given the youth – I think it would suffer significantly with a smaller punch.

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

Value: Average, based on $56.


Review: Balvenie Carribbean Cask 14 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
14 Years; Finished in Caribbean Rum Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Balvenie (Dufftown, Scotland)

One of the few rum-finished whiskies in Scotch - aged 14 years in refill cask before being finished for less than a year in rum casks.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L6A 6299 2202 08:33

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Oak comes off at first, with some rich malt, molasses, toffee, anise candies, vanilla extract, and a good dose of spice as well – fruitcake. The palate is quite buttery, and lightly sour, with a nice middle which is full of sugarcane, brown sugar, and finishes with some green apple, clove, and cinnamon. The rum influence is there – but it’s not overt, and it doesn’t take over (which is nice). A very nice presentation of malt, as well. A fairly sweet dram, at times, perhaps, a bit too sweet. I am glad for a bit of tannic influence at the end – otherwise I think it would just be all too syrupy. The end has some sugarcane, oak, and rich malt. A nice layering of flavour – a malt that makes me want a cigar to accompany it with.

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

Value: Low, at $140. I should note, here, that the Balvenie has recently gone under a price explosion in Canada - with this bottling going from $115 to $140 in the past few months. This made my value score plummet, but it was already a bit low even before the increment.