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.

 

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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.

Wiser’s 18 years old

Maker: Corby, Windsor, Ontario, Canada (Pernod-Ricard)wpid-2015-08-14-16.31.40.jpg.jpeg

Style: Blended Canadian whisky

Age: 18 y/o

ABV: 40%

Michigan State Minimum: $75

Appearance: Shiny orange.

Nose: Potpourri, vanilla, orange sherbet, alcohol.

Palate: Medium sweet. Rock candy, tarragon, vanilla, sarsaparilla.

Finish: Sweet and spicy with a little bit of heat. Thyme, anise, butterscotch, bubblegum.

Parting words: Wiser’s 18 sits atop Corby’s Wiser’s line, which includes the flagship Wiser’s Deluxe, Wiser’s Rye, and Wiser’s Legacy, a mong others. Canadian whisky ages very well (the Canadian climate makes for slower aging than in Kentucky) and so I had high hopes for this.

It is a good whisky. Unlike some other Canadians at double digits, like the 12 y/o Canadian Club or the 21 y/o Collingswood, Wiser’s 18 still has some teeth at its advanced age. There’s plenty of rye spice and vanilla and even some alcohol bite on the palate, even though it’s only 40% ABV. It also comes in an elegant rectangular bottle that looks very sharp on a home bar.

Long time readers may sense a big “but” coming, and here it is: $75 is much too expensive for this. It’s much better than the all-nose Collingswood 21, the only other venerable age-stated Canadian available in Michigan, but even that bottle of disappointment is $15 cheaper. The real kicker is that Wiser’s Legacy is superior in every way. It’s 45% ABV, was $45 the last time it appeared in Michigan, and is all rye whiskey, unlike this blend.

Wiser’s 18 y/o is good, but not good enough to justify being the second most expensive Canadian whisky on the Michigan list. It is mildly recommended.

Wiser’s Legacy

Maker: Corby, Corbyville, Ontario, Canadawpid-2014-10-16-18.21.08.jpg.jpeg

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

Age: NAS

ABV: 45%

Michigan State Minimum: $45

Appearance: Light copper with long thick legs.

Nose: Leather, spearmint, potpourri, coriander, green cardamom, woodruff, Habanero peppers.

Palate: Full bodied and medium dry. Butterscotch, white pepper, basil, cilantro, alcohol.

Finish: Eucalyptus cough drops, aged Alsatian Pinot Gris, hint of oak.

Parting words: Wiser’s Legacy is the legacy of now retired master blender David Doyle. Wiser’s Legacy is back in the U.S. after two year long absence. Named 2013 Canadian Whisky of the Year by Whisky Advocate, it’s a remarkable product.

It’s made from a blend of rye, malted rye and maltly barely and has loads of minty Canadian rye aromas (think early batches of Whistle Pig) that are elegantly balanced with candy sweetness and toasted barrel notes. It manages to be both unabashedly Canadian and a transcendent, world class-whisky on par with bourbons twice its price and single malt Scotches four times the price. I taste something new every time I pour myself a couple ounces.

Nobody knows how long it will be back on American shelves, so buy a bottle or two while you can. Wiser’s Legacy is highly recommended.

 

Lot No. 40, 2012 Release

Maker: Corby, Windsor, Ontario, Canada (Pernod-Ricard)Lot No. 40

Style: Canadian Rye

Age: NAS

ABV: 43%

Price: $60 (Binny’s)

Appearance: Auburn, with long thick legs.

Nose: Wintergreen, cotton candy, pine, leather.

Palate: Light mouthfeel, but spicy and hot. Butterscotch, oak, clove, curry powder, cayenne.

Finish: Hard candy, more evergreen and potpourri then heat. A little oak and tobacco rounds it off.

Parting words: This whisky is a reboot of a reboot, sort of. The original lot no. 40 was the farm plot of early Canadian and distiller Joshua Booth on the northeastern shore of Lake Ontario. His descendant Michael D. Booth created Lot No. 40 the whisky as a tribute to his ancestor as a part of Corby’s ill-fated Canadian Whisky Guild line in the 1990s. It was revived in 2012 and that’s the edition currently on store shelves.

If there’s a knock on Canadian whisky as a category, it’s that it’s dull. The overwhelming majority of them are blends built to provide lots of  “smoothness” for little money. As more flavorful styles of whisky like bourbon, rye and single malt Scotch have become more popular, Canadian distillers have begun to release bolder and even unblended whiskies to chase consumers who are tired of bland spirits.

Lot No. 40 is one of the greatest examples of these bolder offerings. It packs a wallop of flavor to rival ea bourbon or single malt Scotch. A lot of that is down to the 100% rye (10% malted and 90% unmalted)

recipe. Many Canadian distilleries make a whisky like this but it almost always gets blended away to add flavor to bland grain whisky in cheap blends. I’m very glad this made it into a bottle as is, and I can’t wait for the next edition.

The price is high for a Canadian whisky but it’s worth every penny. It may actually be cheaper in Canada, so make a run for the border if you can sometime soon. Lot No. 40 is highly recommended.

Wiser’s De Luxe

Maker: Corby, Corbyville, Ontario, Canada

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

Age: NAS

ABV: 40%

Appearance: Pale gold

Nose: Curry, sherry, horseradish.

On the palate: Medium-bodied. Ginger, coriander seed, mace.

Finish: Big sherry hit, followed by lingering sweetness and burn.

Parting words: Wiser’s De Luxe is what they call a grower. I found the agressive sherry and spice in the nose to be off-putting at first. But after a few months of drinking this, I’m at the point where I like it. It’s still rough around the edges, as any whisky this age is likely to be. But it has much more sherry and rye character than the competition. This is a nice, entry level Canadian whisky that also does well in soft drinks, particularly ginger ale. Wiser’s De Luxe is recommended.