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Archive for the ‘Whisk(e)y’ Category

Review: Crown Royal Limited Canadian Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on February 8, 2015

Crown Royal Limited SAM_1436Crown Royal Canadian Whisky is currently produced in Gimli, Manitoba, at the Crown Royal Distillery. The distillery and the brand are owned by the spirits conglomerate, Diageo, and I think it is fair to say that Crown Royal is Diageo’s flagship Canadian Whisky brand. Several years ago Crown Royal Limited was introduced as an addition to the Crown Royal family of whiskies. This Crown Royal is apparently blended from a selected group of batch distilled whiskies and bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume to provide a more premium alternative to the flagship brand Crown Royal Deluxe.

Here is a link to my full review:

Review: Crown Royal Limited Canadian Whisky

“… As the glass sat the rye spices seemed to build up filling the air with scents of ginger and coriander as well as some dusty dry scents of fresh grain and chaff. A bit of sweet punky corn began to assert itself making it known that this was indeed a Crown Royal brand, although I should add that these punky corn scents were quite muted as compared to the original CR Whisky …”

My review concludes with a new cocktail loosely based upon the 1878 Brandy Crusta as formulated by Leo Engels. My recipe is a more modern version and is of course designed for Canadian Whisky rather than Brandy. I call my recipe, the Resplendent Iced Cocktail.

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Review: Canadian Club Small Batch Sherry Cask

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 25, 2015

Sherry cask Port Manhattan SAM_1428Recently there have been some changes in the Canadian Club family. One of the brands which has undergone a revamping is the Canadian Club Sherry Cask which has been replaced by the Canadian Club Small Batch Sherry Cask. The newer version of the whisky has a new bottle and the two words, “Small Batch” have been added to the label. My understanding is the whisky is made from the familiar Canadian Club “blended at birth“  recipe of corn, rye, rye malt and barley spirits. The spirits from these grains are blended before entering the white oak barrel, and then set down for six to eight years to age. The matured whisky is then recasked for an additional finishing period  in Sherry Casks from Jerez Spain.

The second maturation allows the whisky to acquire some of the characteristics of the sherry (similar to sherry cask matured scotches); but this second maturation is of a much shorter time period which ensures that the core Canadian Club spirit remains the centerpiece of the whisky. When the Canadian Club Sherry Cask is bottled, it is done so at 41.3% alcohol by volume, just a hair over the regular 40 % strength of the rest of their line-up.

You may click on the following link to read my full review:

Review: Canadian Club Small Batch Sherry Cask

“… The initial aroma brings dark fruit (raisins and dates) and red licorice (Turkish delight) with fine wood spices running alongside which feature a smattering of ginger, white pepper and cardamom. As the glass sits, some rich tobacco builds up as does hints of orange marmalade, and rich baking spices (vanilla, dark brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and a hint of cloves) …”

Please enjoy the review and if you happen to have your own bottle already, do try my cocktail suggestion, the Sherry Cask Port Manhattan.

Cheers!

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The Year in Whisky (2014 Rum Howler Awards)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 10, 2015

It is timeRH-winner2014 for to unveil my Rum Howler Awards with respect to best Whisky I have tasted in 2014. As is the case each year, all of my Rum Howler Awards are based upon side by side tastings within each category of spirit. I taste the spirit neat, and I also mix a few cocktails with each spirit. All spirit samples which I receive to review on my website are automatically considered for my awards. I do my review, and then I set aside the remainder of the spirit for the end of the year judging. I also receive additional industry samples specifically for these awards. My side by side tastings are completed, and it is time for me to reveal the recipients of my 2014 Rum Howler Awards for Excellence in the Production of Whisky.

Here is a link to the Awards Page for the 2014 Rum Howler Award winners for excellence in the production of Whisky:

The 2014 Rum Howler Awards – The Year in Whisky

Posted in Awards, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Rum Howler 2014 – Canadian Whisky of the Year: Wiser’s Red Letter (2013 Release)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 24, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014Wiser’s Red Letter was re-introduced to Canadians in 2007 to pay homage to the 150th anniversary of John Philip Wiser’s distillery in Prescott, Ontario 1857 – 2007), as well as to the original Red Letter Whisky which Wiser’s produced in the late 1800s. In 2009, when I reviewed the inaugural 150th Adversary Edition (see review here), I was told by my contacts within Corby, that the spirit contained various blends of whisky which (although they ranged in age) were all ten years old or more. After these mature whiskies were blended they were then finished in virgin white oak barrels for 150 days. Once the final characteristic of flavour had been achieved, the Red Letter was bottled at 45 % alcohol by volume (non chill filtered). In developing the spirit, the folks at Wiser’s apparently researched the original J.P Wiser’s Red Letter 19th century recipe using it as a guideline to construct their celebratory whisky.

Red Letter SAM_1386Last year Corby once again in a tribute to their founder J.P Wiser released Wiser’s Red Letter Whisky (2013 Release). As with the 150th Anniversary edition the whisky was finished in virgin white oak casks and then bottled without chill filtering at 45 % abv..

Although it took me a full year to acquire my sample bottle, I am glad that I was persistent, as this year Wiser’s Red Letter Whisky is without a doubt the finest Canadian Whisky I have sampled all year, and well deserving of the accolade, Rum Howler 2014 Canadian Whisky of the Year!

Here is my review for Wiser’s Red Letter (2013 Release):

Rum Howler 2014 #1 Canadian Whisky – Wiser’s Red Letter (2013 Release)

“… I taste a firm presence of sharp wood spices and orange peel, however, this sharpness ( which I am sure is also due to the 90 bottling proof) is contrasted by the silky mouth feel of a luscious corn whisky. Honeycomb and maple flavours slide through the hot spiciness of the whisky, and soon the orange peel tastes more like marmalade, and the fine wood spices more like a nice spicy maple toffee. Underpinning everything is a impression of lovely chocolate flavours which seem to ooze from the whisky as it is swallowed …”

Every year I seem to encounter a whisky gem which knocks me for a loop. The 2013 Red Letter Whisky is full of spice and attitude, yet it has its silky softer side which makes it all the more engaging. A wonderful whisky, one of Canada’s very best ever!

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Note: You may find my full Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies of 2014

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Rum Howler 2014 #2 Canadian Whisky – Wiser’s 18 Year Old (2014 Edition)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 23, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014This year I noticed that Wiser’s had increased its Limited Release production for its 18 Year Old whisky from a total of 3500 cases produced each year to 5600 cases produced. In the past the number of whisky barrels selected to produce each batch rum was relatively small. In fact, according to Hiram Walker Mater Blender, Dr. Don Livermore, the number of casks selected for each bottling of Wiser’s 18 Year Old was in the range of only 15 to 20 ex bourbon casks per batch. With such a small group of barrels to work from, it is inevitable that variations will exist between separate batches.

Wiser's 18 SAM_1401And, I have noted in my previous reviews how this particular whisky seems to be spectacular one year, and then falls to a level of mere excellence in the next. This year, (perhaps because of a greater number of barrels used to produce a larger production rum) the whisky has moved back towards the realm of the spectacular, and the 2014 edition of Wiser’s 18 Years Old Limited Release Canadian Whisky, is number 2 on my Countdown.

Here is my newly written review:

#2 Canadian Whisky – Wiser’s 18 Year Old (2014 Edition)

“… I let the glass sit for several minutes, and when I returned the clean wood and rye spices have not abated; however, alongside the wood spice I sense a growing sweetness of maple and butterscotch toffee. There is some lovely marzipan underneath and given enough time in the glass the orange peel begins to turn to marmalade as the orange peel spice melds into the butterscotch …”

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies of 2014

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on Rum Howler 2014 #2 Canadian Whisky – Wiser’s 18 Year Old (2014 Edition)

Rum Howler 2014 #3 Canadian Whisky – Crown Royal Cask No. 16

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 22, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014Crown Royal® Canadian Whisky was originally introduced in 1939 (by Samuel Bronfman of Seagrams) as a special whisky bottling to commemorate the Royal tour of Canada by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in that year. Until 1964, the whisky was only available in Canada; however, today it is available world-wide and is in fact the number one Canadian whisky brand sold in the USA. Crown Royal is currently produced in Gimli Manitoba, at the Crown Royal Distillery which (since the dissolution of the Seagrams portfolio in 2000) is owned by the spirits conglomerate Diageo.

Cask No. 16 is according to the company website,

“handcrafted from more than 50 different aged Canadian whiskies and then finished in Cognac Oak casks from the Limousin forest in France”

Cask No. 16 SAM_1402Although rumours persist as to the demise of this outstanding blend, I note that as of the end of 2014, it remains listed on the Crown Royal website as part of the Crown Royal Family, and remains readily available in my home Province of Alberta.

And, I am quite happy that the Cask No. 16 is readily available, as I have placed it in the number 3 spot, in my Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown of 2014.

Here is my recently updated review:

#3 Canadian Whisky – Crown Royal Cask No. 16

“… The first sensation in my mouth was of an incredible softness that this whisky presents. It is almost chewy soft. A mellow corn whisky is up front on the palate, but rich soft butterscotch, caramel and sweet brown sugar sit under the corn flavour supporting and enhancing the experience. A nice spicy bite which has the hallmarks of pears and grapes grabs at the taste buds … “

For those who prefer a more subdued corn profile and a milder rye like burn, this is probably the perfect Canadian whisky. It is wonderfully luxurious and rich, yet full of character and complexity. Sip it neat, or on the rocks, and you will not be disappointed.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies of 2014

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off on Rum Howler 2014 #3 Canadian Whisky – Crown Royal Cask No. 16

Rum Howler 2014 #4 Canadian Whisky – Gibson’s Finest Rare 18 Years Old

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 21, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014In 1856, John Gibson purchased 40 acres and built a distillery along the shore of the Monongahela River in Pennsylvania. By the turn of the century, the Gibson’s Distilling Company was the largest producer of rye whisky in North America. Unfortunately, early in the new century, fate dealt the company a tragic blow, in the name of Prohibition. Consumption of legal whisky all but dried up, and Gibson’s Distilling Company went bankrupt. In 1923, the entire contents of the distillery including the stills, the aging barrels, all of the remaining spirit, (and even the grain which was on site) was sold via Sherriff’s auction to Schenley Industries of New York. Fifty years later this whisky brand, which was born on the US side of the border in Pennsylvania, was resurrected by the brand owner at the Schenley Distillery in Valleyfield, Quebec. Now, of course, it has become one of the iconic brands of Canadian Whisky.

802621_18YRAccording to my correspondence with the media company responsible for, Gibson’s Finest Whisky, the Gibson’s Finest brand is produced from of two sources: a base grain whisky (which would be a corn-based column still whisky), and a blend of rye based flavouring whisky which contains rye and malted barley (distilled by a single column still and a pot still). When aging their whisky, Gibson’s Finest uses a variety of barrels: ex-bourbon barrels, new oak barrels, etc. The ratio of each barrel-type used can differ from batch to batch because the whisky is blended to a specific taste profile rather than to a specific barrel regimen. Gibson’s Finest Rare 18 Years Old Whisky is limited to a production of not more than 12,000 bottles per year.

We have reached the number 4 spot in my Countdown of the Best Canadian Whiskies of 2014, and that spot belongs to Gibson’s Finest Rare 18 Years Old.

Here is a link to my most recent review:

#4 Canadian Whisky – Gibson’s Finest Rare 18 Years Old

“… The initial aroma is spicy with a firm oak presence. The breezes above the glass are filled with tobacco, rye, and (what I am going to term) clean firm oak spices. These dominant scents are accented by caramel, butterscotch and vanilla …”

There are only 3 spaces left in my 2014 Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown, and I hope that there has been a few surprises so far. The final three spirits were tasted against each other one more time just to be sure I had it right. I wonder if anyone can guess which three they are?

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies of 2014

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off on Rum Howler 2014 #4 Canadian Whisky – Gibson’s Finest Rare 18 Years Old

Rum Howler 2014 #5 Canadian Whisky – Ninety “Decades of Richness” 20 Year Old

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 20, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014In November of 2005, Highwood Distilleries Ltd. finalized the purchase of Potters Distilleries (founded by Ernie Potter in 1958). Part of this acquisition, was the purchase of all of the remaining barrel aged stocks of whisky in the Potters facility. These barrels of whisky were transferred from the Potters warehouse facilities in Kelowna, B.C. to the newly constructed warehouse facility in High River, Alberta, where they were allowed to continue to age at the foot of the Rocky Mountains on the western edge of the Canadian Prairies. The whisky brands which Potters Distilleries had established (Century and Potters) were added to Highwood’s portfolio of spirits where they have not only been maintained but also expanded upon. Part of that expansion was the recent addition of the ‘Ninety’ branded whiskies to the Century Distillers line-up. Like the other whiskies in the Century portfolio, the Ninety branded spirits are corn-based rather than wheat-based blends. (The Distillery uses the Highwood banner for all of its wheat based whiskies.)

Ninety 20 Year Old SAM_1400Highwood chose the brand name ‘Ninety’ because these new whiskies are bottled at 90 proof (or 45 % alcohol by volume) rather than the usual 80 proof (40 % alcohol by volume). The higher bottling strength means that the final whisky will retain a character closer to the original cask strength whiskies from which they were blended. In the case of the Ninety “Decades of Richness” 20 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky, the bulk of blend almost certainly has been drawn from Highwood’s treasured reserves of remaining Potters whisky stocks which are rumoured to contain barrels of whisky as old as 33 years.

Here is a link to my recent review of the Number 5 spirit in my Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown:

#5 Canadian Whisky – Ninety “Decades of Richness” 20 Year Old

“… As I enjoy the breezes above the glass, I notice impressions of creamy vanilla pudding, hints of almond, some sticky marmalade, and a light sweetened grain-like component which actually reminds me of Post Honeycomb cereal. The longer you let the glass sit, the more firm and unified the aroma becomes, until after fifteen minutes or so it resembles a luscious butterscotch-oak-syrup that begs to be sipped …”

The Ninety “Decades of Richness” Canadian Rye Whisky has quickly become one of my very favourite whiskies, and for my palate, it is on par with the best Bourbons, and the best Single Malt Scotches I have tasted to this point in my whisky explorations.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies of 2014

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Rum Howler 2014 #5 Canadian Whisky – Ninety “Decades of Richness” 20 Year Old

Rum Howler 2014 #6 Canadian Whisky – Lot No. 40 Single Copper Pot Still

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 19, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014Lot No. 40 was first released in the 1990’s as an upscale connoisseur’s whisky for the North American market. Alas, timing is everything, and the whisky style never really caught on as apparently the market wasn’t quite ready for such a new style of Canadian Whisky. However, with the new upsurge of interest in Canadian Whisky across North America (and in particular at the premium end of the market), Corby (the owner of the Wiser’s Brand), was optimistic that the timing for this new whisky has finally arrived, and in 2012 they re-released Lot No. 40.

Lot No. 40 SAM_1398Lot No. 40 Single Copper Pot Still Canadian Whisky is made with locally grown rye which has been distilled upon a single 12,000-litre copper pot still. The final whisky is aged in new oak barrels to showcase the creamy caramelized flavours which new freshly charred oak barrels bring.

I happen to love this new whisky style, and on my Countdown of the Best 25 Canadian Whiskies of 2014, the Lot No. 40 arrives in the Number 6 spot.

Here is a link to my review:

#6 Canadian Whisky – Lot No. 40 Single Copper Pot Still

“… As the glass breathes, smells of oak and wood sap gain more expression. I notice the rye now carries impressions of fresh fruit (green grapes and orange peel zest in particular). Whereas most Canadian whiskies have a clean hard rye scent, the impression I receive from the glass is of a much more earthy and complex whisky …”

Lot No. 40 is a great whisky. The flavour of new oak (which along with rye) is at the forefront. Although a few other brands of Canadian Whisky have been experimenting with new oak, Lot No. 40 is really the first one (in my opinion) to get the right balance between the sweet (caramel and maple flavours) and the sharp spice (that wood sap flavour). The result is a thoroughly enjoyable whisky which breaks new ground for the Canadian Whisky Category.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies of 2014

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off on Rum Howler 2014 #6 Canadian Whisky – Lot No. 40 Single Copper Pot Still

Rum Howler 2014 #7 Canadian Whisky – Century Reserve (Lot 1525)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 18, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014I have been inside the Highwood Distillery’s aging warehouse, and have seen up close the barrels of whisky stacked four levels high, row upon row. The wonderful aroma of the ‘angels share’ permeates the facility, and it offered me a gentle intoxication if only I were to stay a little longer. Perhaps, one day I will return and stay just a little longer; but, for now I am content to carry the memory of that heady aroma in my mind.

Somewhere in that barrel aging warehouse is a darkened corner where all of the oak barrels are all stamped “Lot 1525“. This  corner contains the oldest whisky in the entire facility, with the age of the whisky inside the barrels ranging  from 15 to 25 or more years. (It has been hinted to me that some of these barrels contain whisky that is up to 33 years old!) These whisky barrels were originally part of the consignment of whisky acquired when Highwood purchased the Potters Distillery in 2005. As such, these are barrels of whisky produced from the corn-based distillate in Kelowna, British Colombia.

Century Reserve 1525 SAM_1403These barrels made the journey to the Highwood facility in 2005 (from the Potter’s facility in Kelowna BC), and have been sitting in that darkened corner waiting to be tapped and bottled. When the time is right, Highwood’s Master Blender carefully chooses the right barrels, and then carefully blends the wonderful elixir within to create Lot 1525 Century Reserve Custom Blend Canadian Rye Whisky.

The spirit represents a gem of a whisky from those folks in High River, and this whisky is ranked Number 7 in my Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown.

Here is a link to the review I posted on August 28, 2010:

#7 Canadian Whisky – Century Reserve (Lot 1525)

“… A beautiful amber hue seems to accent a lovely honey and caramel aroma rising from the glass. Wonderful mellow rye notes accompany the honey and the caramel and a light bourbon vanilla seems to drift above the glass in the breezes.  The impact of nosing the glass is a well received feeling of luxury, and elegance which is divine …”

My review for the Century Reserve (Lot 1525) has remained unchanged for over four years despite several tasting session over this time when I chose to revisit the brand. Whereas I seem to notice subtle changes in other spirits over time, this particular whisky seems to maintain consistency from batch to batch and from year to year. In 2010 it was a great whisky, and now in 2014 it remains so.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies of 2014

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Rum Howler 2014 #7 Canadian Whisky – Century Reserve (Lot 1525)

 
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