Seagram

Review: Lord Calvert Canadian Whisky (1970s/1980s) by Jason Hambrey

Lord Calvert Canadian 2.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
3 years+
Recipe
N/A
Distillers LaSalle (LaSalle, Quebec)

Lord Calvert was a brand, originally American (and now, once again, in American hands). It began as a blend of unaged American whiskies, sold by Maryland distillers – called Lord Calvert whiskey. The mighty Canadian Seagram acquired the brand in 1934 along with the distillery, immediately improving the blend by adding aged Canadian whisky to improve the flavour until aged American stocks could be built up. The brand went through various iterations, with American blends and Lord Calvert Canadian, a 100% Canadian whisky blend in 1964. The brand is owned today by Beam Suntory, but this bottle is from the Seagram’s LaSalle distillery before the brand was acquired by Beam.

Seagram’s had an interesting model for their whiskies – they let their top brands – 7 Crown, VO, Lord Calvert, etc., compete directly against one another, each with their own individual management, sales, and distributions teams. Talk about the guy at the head of it all!


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: AE760F

  • Bottling Date: 1970s/1980s

The nose is classically Canadian, though we don’t see the style much anymore in any of the higher shelf brands. Perhaps the most famous example of a brand today in the style would be Seagram’s VO. Dusty, woody, spicy, and slightly oily and sweet. Maple, brown sugar, light corn, and some dusty, earthy aromas. Very nice oaky notes, and interesting „aged” notes like a mix of flours that has been sitting in the cupboard for a few years. Sour mixed dried fruit notes, too – mainly currants, but apricots and prunes too.

The palate is sweet, with maple and oak softly surrounding corn and nutmeg. Lightly peppery, which lends a nice edge to the whiskey along with the dried citrus peel and pith. Grassy, oaky, spices come on the finish, along with orange and grapefruit. With water, it continues to open up – even though it is a light whisky there is a good bit of flavour build in. It is ever so slightly bitter, but I like it.

I do like this style of whisky, though I’m not in the mood to drink it often – but, from time to time, I am. I like it because modern Canadian whisky is so different (in large part), especially if you are mixing. The light, dry, sweet style is a terrific base for softer cocktails – though I don’t see too many cocktail bars using them these days.

Value: N/A. It’s not awesome stuff, but it’s not terrible - regardless, the vintage stuff tastes different than the modern stuff (which is still available) and you can’t buy the vintage stuff except at auction, so there isn’t a price tag associated with it.


Review: Lord Calvert Black Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
3 years
Recipe
N/A
Distillers N/A

A relatively new bottling from Calvert, originally an American brand though bought by Seagrams and ran as an independent brand within the company (as was their policy) until it eventually ran its course to being owned by Luxco today. I have reviewed an old Seagram's Calvert, too.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2017

The nose is pretty oily, dry, and lightly spicy. Orange peel, old clove, walnut oil, green cardamom, and butter. Dried fruit, pine – overall very much a classically blended Canadian soft and young nose – though it doesn’t smell immature. The palate is quite sweet – almost artificially so. It’s a bit oily with some central vanilla and not a lot else other than some evergreen wood and an old bag of baking spices. The finish is sweet and sugary, with light baking spices and old dried orange peel. Not nearly as good as the old vintage Calvert Canadian I recently had.

Value: Low. not one I’d spend money on….


Review: Seagram's VO Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distillers Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba) & Valleyfield (Valleyfield, Quebec)

According to Davin De Kergommeaux’s book Canadian Whisky, in 1914 Thomas Seagram (the son of Joseph Seagram, one of the big pioneers of Canadian Whisky) asked the distiller in the now defunct Waterloo Distillery to provide him with a good barrel of whisky to celebrate his marriage, and it was liked so much that it was decided to be brought to market – and this became Seagram’s VO. The meaning of VO, apparently, is still unclear. It was a key illicit whisky for thirsty Americans during prohibition, and continues in production today, though a few flavour nuances have changed. The crest of Seagram’s shows horses, which is fitting because Joseph Seagram loved horses and had award winning stables alongside his whisky interests.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Light, with some rye spice and light oak drifting in and out of the background. It’s a bit sour, with some light fruitiness. I find as the nose opens it improves, with some custard, bourbon aromas, and vanilla. This one noses a bit better in a wide glass.

Taste: Nice viscosity, with some light, rye-tinged vanilla, and some slight bitterness. There’s some light, sweet white grape-like fruitiness along with some bourbon notes fit in very nicely in the background. Quite easy to sip – it’s light and pleasant, though the bits here and there of bitterness detract from the experience. There’s even a light touch of acidity which is nicely balanced with the rest.

Finish: Some pretty good weight and substance to the finish. At first, it feels quite “clean” as the whole taste brightens up and gets lighter and some more sweetness emerges, along with some white grape and light fresh banana flavours and generic fruitiness. Eventually, we are left with some dusty rye, light spices, and light fruitiness, and, from time to time, nutty and almond-like notes.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). From a taste perspective, it doesn’t quite earn this ranking - but this is cheap stuff and represents a historic style of Canadian whisky and a large portion of what Canadian whisky continues to be - a light, slightly sweet, slightly spicy, style of whisky. For that reason, I think people who want to know what Canadian whisky is like, and where it came from, need to try it. Would I rank it in the best Canadian whiskies? No. But that’s not the point here.

Value: Average to high. that being said, it’s hard to do better with only $26 in Ontario.