R & R Reserve

Distillery: Unknown. (Hiram Walker? Brand owned and bottled by Sazerac).20180907_191155.jpg

Style: Canadian blend.

Age: NAS (at least 3 y/o)

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $10

Appearance: Bright copper.

Nose: Alcohol, rye toast, grilled sweet corn.

Palate: Full-bodied and round. Creamed corn, burn, a touch of oak.

Finish: Burn, Red Pop, tiny touch of oak.

Mixed: Did well with Ginger ale, on the rocks and in an Old Fashioned.

Parting words: When I was writing this review, I went back to look at my notes on Rich & Rare to compare the two. What I noticed was that I forgot to write the tasting notes and only had the basic information and parting words. I dug into the depths of my tasting notebook and found my R & R notes and I have now updated that post.

Ahem. So, how does it compare? R & R was heavy on the dessert notes, especially vanilla and butterscotch. R & R Reserve is more balanced and has much more rye character and fruit than its cheaper sibling. R & R R is better suited to sipping than R & R, but R & R R mixes just as well or maybe even better. So while R & R is a good value, it’s worth your while to lay down an extra $2.50 for the Reserve.

The bottle is very pretty too, for what it’s worth. R & R Reserve is recommended.

 

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Stalk & Barrel: Red Blend

Maker: Stillwaters Distillery, Concord, Ontario, Canada20180601_200954.jpg

Style: Blended Canadian whisky (Malt, rye, corn)

Age: NAS

ABV: 43%

Michigan state minimum: $42

Purchased for $35 Canadian at the LCBO ($27 US)

Appearance: Brassy orange.

Nose: New oak, corn whiskey, sweet cinnamon.

Palate: Medium bodied. Corn whiskey with a bit of rye spice with creamy malt on the back-end. Green cardamom, milk chocolate, oak.

Finish: Drying, chocolate covered pretzels.

Mixed: Stalk & Barrel Red did very well in all cocktails I tried: Old Fashioned, high ball with ginger ale, Manhattan, Trois Rivières, and a couple of others I don’t remember.

Parting words: Barry Stein and Barry Bernstein (actual names of two different people) founded Stillwaters Distillery, makers of Stalk & Barrel, in 2009. Their first blend was 11+1. It was entirely sourced. It has since been replaced by the Stalk & Barrel Blue (40% ABV) and Red blends which contain a combination of sourced and Stillwaters distillate. Stillwaters may be best known for their highly regarded Stalk & Barrel 100% Malt whisky which sells for $70 at the LCBO ($54 US). They also have a new (I think) 100% Rye whisky which sells for about the same price. Both are entirely made from spirit distilled by Stillwaters.

Red blend’s price is a great one in Canada. Not so much in the US. This is a good weeknight or mixing blend, but it’s not $42 US good. If you can get a bottle at LCBO prices, Stalk & Barrel Red Blend is recommended.

 

Canadian Club 20

Maker: Canadian Club, Windsor, Ontario, Canada. (Beam Suntory)20180307_101740.jpg

Distiller: Hiram Walker, Windsor, Ontario, Canada. (Corby)

Age: 20 y/o

ABV: 40%

Purchased at an LCBO store for $60 Canadian ($47 US). Not available in the US.

Appearance: Dark caramel.

Nose: Roasted corn, clove, oak, alcohol, dried flowers.

Palate: Full-bodied. Caramel corn, crème brûlée, oak, toffee.

Finish: Creamy and sweet with some heat.

Parting words: While the 8 y/o and 12 y/o expressions of Canadian Club have their own recipes, the 6 y/o and 20 y/o expressions share the same blend. The only difference is age and you can taste it. All the elements of Canadian Club are there but in much more mature form. It’s like seeing a picture of a your significant other in formal attire after looking at a picture of them as a drooling toodler. The spice, oak and sweetness are much better integrated than in baby CC. CC 20 manages to be both flavorful and very drinkable, an impressive feat at 40% ABV.

Like Scotland, Canada’s climate lends itself to long-aging periods for its whiskies. I wish there were more Canadian whiskies in the 20+ year range on the market.

It tastes even better when looking at the price tag. It doesn’t reach the dizzing heights of Wiser’s Legacy or special releases, but it’s better than it needs to be for $47. It blows away similarly priced Crown Royal expressions. If this were available in the states it would be on my regular rotation for sure.  Canadian Club 20 is highly recommended.

Rich & Rare

Distillery: Unknown. (Hiram Walker? Brand owned and bottled by Sazerac).20180105_160402.jpg

Style: Canadian blend.

Age: NAS (at least 3 y/o)

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $7.50

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Caramel blondies, tarragon.

Palate: Medium-bodied. Hard toffee, alcohol, vanilla.

Finish: Creamy. Cherry juice drink.

Mixed: Did very well mixed. Brings fruit and vanilla to Manhattans, old fashioneds and even eggnogg. I didn’t care for it with ginger ale or on the rocks for that matter.

Parting words: Rich & Rare is a pretty old brand. It was founded in the 1920s by Harry Hatch of the Godderham and Worts distillery in Toronto. G & W stopped distilling whisky in 1950 and R & R was moved to the Hiram Walker plant in Windsor. Sazerac now owns the brand, but chooses not disclose the distiller. It seems reasonable to assume that it’s still being made at Hiram Walker, though.

I was pleasantly surprised at how good R & R was straight and in classic cocktails. In the <$10 category, Canadian blends tend to fall into one of two categories. Either they’re flavorless or have a sappy pungency that resembes burnt creamed corn or kitchen garbage that should have been taken out two days ago. R & R has a bit of that pungency, but it’s kept in check by vanilla and fruit. The result is a wonderful, full-bodied (and cheap) sipping and mixing whisky. H2O is not R & R’s friend, though, causing the whisky to virtually disappear. It can be a little hard to find here in Canadian Club country, but it’s worth picking up. There is also a Rich & Rare Reserve (R & R R) available for $2.50 more in Michigan that I hope to review soon. Rich & Rare is highly recommended.

Crown Royal, Tippins Hand Selected Barrel

Maker: Crown Royal Distillery, Gimli, Manitoba, Canada (Diageo).20171110_194508.jpg

Style: Canadian rye.

Age: NAS

ABV: 51.5%

Michigan state minimum: $55

Appearance: Light copper.

Nose: Alcohol, roast corn on the cob, bubble gum.

Palate: Grape bubble gum, alcohol, touch of oak.

Finish: Aniseed candy, burn.

Mixed: Adds a fruity undertone to Manhattans, perfect Manhattans, and Old Fashioneds. Was also able to stand up to Benedictine when I used it in a Monte Carlo. Be sure to account for high proof if mixing this. It can sneak up on you.

Parting words: Crown Royal gets trashed a lot by whisky enthusiasts, and I think rightly. Crown Royal and Crown Royal Reserve are both garbage. I did like the Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, though. It is a solid value, if you enjoy Canadian style rye.

This whisky is closer to Northern Harvest Rye than the standard Crown Royal or the Reserve. The barrels used for these retailer/hand selected barrel CRs are flavoring whiskies. Like Scotch and Irish blends, Canadian blended whiskies are blends of relatively flavorless base whisky with bold flavoring whisky, often but not always made with rye.

Tippins is located on Saline road, on the outskirts of Ann Arbor Michigan. They’re known for good service, good whiskey selections and owner Dominic Aprea’s, uh, let’s say “eccentric” online persona. Aside from an irritating snub on FB, I haven’t had any negative experiences with him, although I have witnessed some strange online behavior from him. At any rate, the man knows how to pick a barrel. As with all CR offerings, the price is high, but $55 isn’t too bad for over 50% ABV. Crown Royal, Tippins Hand Selected Barrel is recommened.

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.

 

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.

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.