William Grant

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: Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
Ex-Bourbon Casks
Recipe
100% Malt Whisky
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

Traditionally, and still performed in some distilleries, the barley germinates on a floor into malt. While it does so, it must be continually “turned” or shovelled over so that it doesn’t grow into a solid carpet of barley plants. “Monkey Shoulder” refers to a condition that some men picked up after long shifts turning the barley by hand, where the work caused one of their arms to hang down a bit like a monkey. It is a blend of three speyside single malts, Kininvie (rarely seen as a single malt), Balvenie, and Glenfiddich – all owned by William Grant and Sons. All of the whiskies going into this blend is matured in ex-bourbon casks, and each batch is made from 27 casks.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: 27

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: Baked apples with a brilliant buttery toffee base. Quite fruity, too, with notes of green pear and some fresh orange- overall it’s well integrated into the rest with good balance. It has some of that rich corn character found in some bourbons. There is really nice subtlety here, especially if it is sought out – bits of vanilla, light baking spices (cinnamon particularly), barley earthiness, and light brown sugar.

Taste: More malt driven than I expected from the nose, and quite malt-centric. The malt is soft at first before drifting to some more earthy components and some pear. It develops fairly slowly, which works well. The toffee and the fruit are still present, but it is the grain which dominates here. At times, it tastes young, which detracts.

Finish: A light peppery spicy feel on the finish, with the lightest touch of bitterness which isn’t the most pleasant. The barley notes remain central on the finish and the earthiness from the grain is very present, with some apple and pear too. A bit of a mishmash – lots of flavour, but it’s not particularly well put together.

I was hoping that some of the subtlety on the nose would be more present on the taste, but the malt blend seems to go downhill after the nose. I do quite like the embracing of the barley, and how it is presented on the palate.

Value: Average, at $46.


Review: Grant's Family Reserve Blended Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Scottish Malt and Grain Whiskies
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

When Glenfiddich was founded (1887), there wasn’t a single malt market – the money was in blends. So, in 1898 William Grant’s family launched the blend as a product alongside their single malts. It’s bottled in same triangular bottle as glenfiddich – and they are owned by the same company so this is not surprising at all.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Heathery peat is the first thing that comes out, fig, vanilla, overall with a texture of creaminess and slight spiciness. Some maltiness comes through, along with some cherries, milk chocolate – it’s quite complex, and dense. Lots of honey comes through, alongside sultana raisins. The grains bring out a slightly stale and very lightly bitter character, which I do not like the effect of too much.

Taste: Much softer than the nose, with a wonderful side of smoke alongside the malt, with apples, sultana raisins, prunes, almonds, oak, honey and a rich malty character also coming through. There is some graininess that comes through, and a bit of grassy character. The sweetness is just in balance. I also find that the smokiness fades as I drink more and I notice it well. There’s a good level of tartness, too – it makes the whisky very easy to drink.

Finish: There’s some malt, honey, raisins, cinnamon, and almond. The smokiness fades pretty quickly. The almond is quite distinct, I find, especially after some time sipping- it’s quite nice – like a fresh almond with the skin still on.

One of my favorites of the entry level blends, with Teacher's.

Value: High. It’s not an incredible whisky, but it’s also $28 and you can’t do much better at these prices for Scotch.