Centennial Limited Edition

Maker: Highwood Distillers, High River, Alberta, Canada.20170728_183830

Style: Blended Canadian rye (with wheat base whisky)

Age: NAS

ABV: 40%

LCBO: $27.45 ($22 US)

Appearance: Medium copper, medium, evenly spaced legs.

Nose: Caramel, tarragon, plum, roasted sweet corn.

Palate:  Medium bodied and spicy. Peanut brittle, black pepper, clove, serrano chilies, butterscotch hard candy, caramels.

Finish: Creamy and a little fruity. Vanilla cream, dried dates, brown sugar.

Mixed: Did well mixed but hampered a bit by the proof. Tried it in a Manhattan, 8e Arrondissement, Frontenac and Mammamattawa.

Parting words: Highwood Distillers is a relatively new distillery, founded in 1974 in High River, Alberta, in the Canadian Rockies. They’re Canada’s largest privately owned distillery. Centennial also comes in a variety of flavored iterations including spiced, maple, coffee bean and dark chocolate. In addition to the Centennial line, Highwood also makes the White Owl white rye whisky, Ninety, Century, Highwood, and Potters whiskies among others. They also produce vodka, gin, liquers and import rum.

I picked this one up during my last trip to the Windsor, Ontario LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) stores. The old ten-year-old expression of Centennial was a popular favorite with Canadian whisky lovers. The new NAS version is still popular from what I understand. I had heard good things, but never tried it. I was reluctant because of the low proof, but Centennial packs a lot of flavor into 40% ABV. It’s full of classic Canadian rye aromas with the wheat contributing just enough sweetness to pull it all together. It’s a well balanced but full flavored Canadian rye. Pick one up at your next opportunity. Centennial Limited edition is recommended.

 

Last Barrels

Maker: Corby, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Pernod Ricard)20170407_200835

Distilled: Hiram Walker, Windsor, Ontario, Canada (Pernod Ricard)

Style: Unblended sour mash Canadian whisky

Age: 14 y/o

ABV: 45%

Price: $65, Canadian ($48.50 US; Ontario only)

Thanks to Andrew for helping me acquire this bottle!

Appearance: Medium copper with long clingy legs.

Nose: Sharp young oak, black walnut, old oak, grape soda, alcohol.

Palate: Full bodied and silky. Dark chocolate covered caramels, caramel corn, bubble gum.

Finish: Plum juice, chopped walnuts, alcohol

Parting words: This whisky is weird. It’s made from a bourbon-like recipe of  80% corn , 11% rye and 9% malt (similar proportions to Early Times or Buffalo Trace) all mixed together before fermentation (unusual for a Canadian). Unlike most Canadian whiskies, it was also made with a sour mash like bourbon, but it was soured in an unconventional way. According to Canadian whisky sage Davin de Kergommeaux,  master distiller Jim Stanski placed a carton of milk on the counter in the lab at Hiram Walker and allowed it it to sour. He then poured it into the mash to lower the Ph. The idea seems insane but it’s hard to argue with the results.

This limited run (2,000 cases) whisky is called Last Barrels because it made up of the last barrels filled at Hiram Walker during Jim Stanski’s tenure as master distiller. Fear not, Jim didn’t leave the distillery, he just moved up the corporate ladder. The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) was looking for a special release for Father’s Day 2016 and the folks at Corby thought Jim’s wacky last batch would be a perfect fit.

I was not a fan of the nose at first, but it has mellowed since I first opened (that or my nose got used to it). It is too sharply woody, like craft bourbons aged in small barrels. It’s wonderful on the palate, though. Full bodied and lucious, it’s like cuddling up in a soft blanket with a soft friend on a warm winter night. It’s stupid cheap too, probably too cheap for how few barrels there are. I’m not complaining, though. There are a few still kicking around the LCBO system, but with the limited number of bottles and a strike looming, act fast. Wiser’s Last Barrels is highly recommended.

 

Jameson Caskmates, Stout ed.

Maker: Irish Distillers, Midleton, Cork, Ireland (Pernod-Ricard)20170317_163447.jpg

Style: Beer barrel finished blended Irish whiskey

Age: NAS

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $33

Parting words: The concept behind this whiskey is identical to the New Holland Beer Barrel bourbon I reviewed here, back in 2013. The only difference is that the whiskey producer is issuing this rather than the brewer. The brewer in this case is Franciscan Well brewery in County Cork. The beer that formerly occupied the barrels was their Jameson Aged Stout.

This is a much more successful whiskey than Beer Barrel Bourbon was. Like BBB, contact with the beer barrel has brought out fruity aromas and flavors that aren’t present in the whiskey normally. That fruit complements the floral aromas in Jameson where it clashed with the caramel and spice of the MGP bourbon used in BBB.

I’m not a big fan of the standard Jameson, so I like the idea of using finishes to flesh out its normally thin profile. I hope more editions of Caskmates are planned for the future (and are at this reasonable price). Jameson Caskmates, Stout edition is recommended.

Knappogue Castle 12, A & L selection

Maker: Castle Brands, New York, New York, USA20170112_143446.jpg

Distiller: Unknown. Either Cooley or Bushmills.

Selected by A & L Wine Castle, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA (216 bottles)

Style: Triple Distilled Irish Single Malt

ABV: 46%

Purchased for $50

Appearance: Brassy orange.

Nose: Alcohol, oak, tarragon, vanilla scented candle, pineapple.

Palate: Medium bodied. Green apple on entry, buttercream, persimmon pudding.

Finish: Big and creamy. Oakm then pineapple upsidedown cake.

chanin_building_side_up
The Chanin Building, home to Castle Brands.

Parting words: Long time readers will remember that Knappogue Castle was one of the first Irish whiskeys I really fell in love with. The love affair continues with this beauty.

A & L did a great job selecting this barrel. It’s creamy, fruity and complex, with power rare for Irish Whiskeys. In 2013 I wrote the following about the standard Knappogue 12: “My only quibble is the low proof. I would love to be able to taste this at cask strength, or at least 46% ABV.” I’m glad they took my words to heart.

These Knappogue selections are rare, but if you find one, I highly recommend that you buy it!

 

 

 

Photographs

Bottle picture taken by me.

Chanin Building picture By Doc Searls from Santa Barbara, USA – ny_mayday02_09.JPG Uploaded by xnatedawgx, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11332153

 

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

Updated 11/19 to include tasting notes! Sorry!

Maker: Crown Royal, Gimli, Manitoba, Canada (Diageo)20161118_190337.jpg

Style: Blended Canadian Rye

Age: NAS

ABV: 45%

Michigan state minimum: $32

Appearance: Medium copper

Nose: Bubblegum, spearmint, alcohol, dried wildflowers

Palate: Full bodied. Grape jelly, maple sugar, cut hay.

Finish: Grape soda, oak, butterscotch.

Parting words: Whisky writer Jim Murray proclaimed Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye his 2015 Whisky of the Year, to much internet snickering and mockery. His announcements are usually met with snark, but in 2015 it seemed to be stronger than usual. Many online whisky heads found it laughable that Murray chose a $30 or so Canadian Whisky from Crown Royal for his big award. The whisky itself got lost in the shuffle.

That whisky is good. It’s not a world beater, but at $32 it doesn’t need to be. It’s unlike Alberta Premium (or its kin). It tastes like something between that and an Kentucky style rye. Sweet, with a little spice and a little herbal aroma on the back.As I said in my last review the days of good rye for cheap is over, largely. Stuff like this is as good as it’s going to get in the near future. Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye is recommended.

Gooderham & Worts

Maker: Corby, Windsor, Ontario, Canada (Pernod-Ricard)wp-1472861776243.jpg

Style: Canadian blend (Four grain)

Age: NAS

ABV: 44.4%

Price: $45 Canadian (about $35 US)

Appearance: Dull caramel.

Nose: Fresh cut orange, roasted malt, oak, cut hay, butterscotch.

Palate: Brown sugar, black walnut, plum, alcohol, aniseed.

Finish: Grape soda, alcohol.

Parting words: Gooderham & Worts is an old name in Canadian whisky, originally manufactured in York, Ontario, now a part of Toronto. G & W was one of the biggest Canadian whisky brands during the nineteenth century. In 1923 it merged with Hiram Walker and production continued in Toronto until 1990. The area around the old distillery is now the distillery district development.

This latest incarnation is distilled at the Corby plant in Windsor, also home to Canadian Club and Wiser’s. The bottle is big and beautiful with a picture of the old distillery on the front and a picture of a windmill on the back, perhaps based on the windmill co-founder James Worts used to kill himself.

G & W is balanced and complex with a fairly robust ABV that adds enough punch to keep things interesting to the last sip. I only wish that it had even more punch and was available in the US. Maybe it will be eventually. Gooderham & Worts is recommended.

Alberta Premium

Maker: Alberta Distillers, Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Beam Suntory)wp-1467151542331.jpg

Style: Canadian Rye

Age: NAS

ABV: 40%

LCBO price: C$26 ($20 US)

Appearance: Pale copper.

Nose: Roasted corn, cut grass, leather, lavender, alcohol.

Palate: Semi-dry. Woodruff, jalapeno, butterscotch.

Finish: Hot and grassy. Hangs around a long time.

Mixed: Didn’t get a chance to try it in many drinks. It very well in an Old Fashioned and excellent in a Sazerac. OK in a Manhattan, but I that may have been the weird vermouth I used.

Parting words: Alberta Distillers is a unique distillery. Unlike most Canadian distillers, Alberta doesn’t produce a multi-grain blend, but whiskies from 100% rye. This made it very attractive at the beginning of the rye boom when rye was hard to come by. A few companies like Whistle Pig and Jefferson’s took to bottling Alberta rye and charging a premium for it. It was good stuff to be sure, but it’s hard to beat the original for the price. It’s not available on US shelves, but those of us fortunate to live near the border have no excuse not to grab a few bottles when we can. Canadian Club (also owned by Beam Suntory) has been using Alberta rye to fill its new Chairman’s Select label (Now available in the US for about the same price as Alberta Premium), so if this sounds like your cup of tea, it might be worth trying that one out. Needless to say I’ll be reviewing CC Chariman’s Select in the near future.

At any rate, Alberta Premium is a good solid whisky at a good price. Equally good mixed and neat. It’s recommended.

Amrut Fusion

Maker: Amrut, Kambipura, Bangalore, Indiawp-1466198284950.jpg

Style: Single malt from a mix of Northern Indian and peated Scottish barley.

Batch: No. 22, Sept 2012

Age: NAS

ABV: 50%

Price: $70 (Binny’s)

Note: Not chill filtered.

Appearance: Dark gold with thick legs.

Nose: Peat, smoke, freshly varnished wood, alcohol.

Palate: Medium bodied. Brown sugar, hardwood smoke, alcohol. Opens up with water. Cinnamon, mace, agave nectar, sherry, bit of peat.

Finish: A little sweetness then a sappy burn like that time when my dad tried to use turpentine instead of lighter fluid to get the grill going. More complex with water. Sherry, fruitcake and burn.

Parting words: Always on top things in the whisky world, I reviewed Amrut’s Single Malt back in 2014 and have been sitting on this 50 ml bottle ever since then, having intended to review it a week or two after. Amrut is no longer the hot buzzed about Asian whisky is was back then (Taiwan’s Kavalan

has taken over that role), but it’s now found its place in the world whisky firmament.

I can’t see Fusion replacing Laphroaig as my go-to peaty whisky, but it’s pretty good. The slightly annoying lumber note that appeared in the Single Malt is still there, but it is thankfully  shoved into the background by the spice, sweetness and peat. The high proof improves it too, adding a welcome bite to a category riddled with products in the 40% range. The price is higher than I would like, but it’s not too far off Single Malt Scotch prices these days and the high proof ameliorates that too.

Amrut Fusion is recommended.

Forty Creek Confederation Oak

Maker: Forty Creek, Grimsby, Ontario, Canada (Campari)2016-05-20-20.38.49.jpg.jpeg

Style: Blended Canadian Whisky

Age: NAS

ABV: 40%

Michigan State Minimum: $65

Appearance: Light copper.

Nose: Brown sugar, oatmeal, vanilla, a little oak, bubblegum.

Palate: Full bodied. A liquid granola bar. Honey, cinnamon, rolled oats, butterscotch, alcohol, toasted oak.

Finish: Grape soda, stronger oak, alcohol, lavender.

Parting words: Confederation Oak is so named for the old growth Canadian white oak trees that gave their lives to make the barrels that aged this whisky. The Confederation comes in because the trees were over 150 years old when harvested, meaning they were standing when the Canadian Confederation was created in 1867. The makers claim that the Canadian terroir makes a contribution to the taste.

I thought I had reviewed the standard Forty Creek Barrel Select a while back but it turns out I hadn’t. It’s a decent whisky, but it has an off note (similar to spoiled butter) that grows on me in a bad way. It’s not one I’ve found myself going back to. This whisky is a big improvement, as it should be at $44 more in price.

I did not expect this much grain character in a whisky this expensive but it’s not a bad thing here. Like I said above, it’s like a liquid granola bar. Sweet and grainy with a bit of spice, it’s delicious from beginning to end. If I have any gripes with this whisky, you can already probably guess them, dear readers. They are price and proof. At $65, I should be getting more for my money than in the Barrel Select, especially with NAS. Still, this is delicious and I love it. Forty Creek Confederation Oak is recommended.

Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix

Maker: Tullamore, Tullamore, Offalay, Ireland (Wm Grant & Sons)2016-03-18-21.07.50.jpg.jpeg

Distiller: New Midleton, Midleton, Cork, Ireland (Pernod-Ricard)

Style: Blended Irish whiskey

ABV: 55%

Michigan state minimum: $56

Appearance: Bright caramel with thin crooked legs.

Nose: Velvet, alcohol, oak, lavender, grape soda, serrano chiles. Water brings out a lot more oak.

Palate: Sweet and mild at first, then warms up. Alcohol, sherry, plum, golden raisins, oak. With water, shows butterscotch, mostly.

Finish: Alcohol, old sherry, almond paste. Not too different with water. Just milder.

Parting words: Phoenix is named in memory of what the label claims was the world’s first aerospace disaster in 1785. It seems like an odd thing to name a whiskey for, but I’m guessing that it’s also supposed to symbolize the brand’s rebirth with its purchase by Wm. Grant & Sons (owners of Grant’s blended Scotch, Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Hendrick’s Gin among others) and the opening of a new distillery in the village of Tullamore. The original distillery there closed in 1954. The Phoenix itself appears on the crest for the village and symbolizes the rebuilding of the town after the tragedy.

Recently I’ve posted a couple twitter rants or snarky photos involving Tullamore Dew, err, D.E.W. I’ve done this in the past and the usual thrust of the rants is how boring Tullamore is. It’s probably the mildest major Irish brand on the market and that’s saying something. It makes Jameson taste like Four Roses Single Barrel. One of the reasons Tullamore is so dull is that all their expressions (except this) are bottled at 40%. When your product is already mild compared to its competitors, bottling it at the lowest ABV allowed by law doesn’t do it any favors.

Phoenix is bottled at a stout 55% and finished in Oloroso sherry casks. The old sherry comes through in a pleasant way, never getting rubbery as in some sherried Irish and Scotch whiskeys. Fruit, oak, spice, this whiskey has it all and is one of my top five Irish currently. The price is not bonkers either. This is how good Tullamore can be when Grant gives it some damn guts. Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix is highly recommended.