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Archive for the ‘Whisk(e)y Review’ Category

Review: Sonoma County 2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey

Posted by Arctic Wolf on March 1, 2016

2nd chance wheat whiskeyThe Sonoma County Distilling Company is located in the in Sonoma County (California. The company was founded in 2010 with the intention to bring spirits to the market using a ‘Grain to Glass’ philosophy. The production is done in-house including the mashing and fermentation of grains, the direct-fired copper pot distillation, maturing the spirits in American oak barrels, as well as bottle labeling.

Several of their new whiskey spirits have hit Alberta store shelves including their new 2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey. According to the information sheets given to me the whiskey is produced from a mash bill of 80% Canadian Winter Wheat, and 20% Malted Rye from the United Kingdom.

Head distiller (and Owner), Adam Speigel, uses natural gas fire heated stills (two 250 gallon Copper Alembic Pot Onion Head Stills and one 125 gallon Copper Alembic Pot Onion Head Still) and no synthetic enzymes in his fermentation process to produce the whiskey distillate. The whiskey is aged in both 15 gallon and 30 gallon used American Oak barrels from Minnesota with a third degree char. (Each of these barrels was previously used to age rye whiskey.) Individual barrels in the blend are each aged a minimum of one year, with some of the barrels for the blend aged over two years.

Here is a link to my review:

Review: Sonoma County 2nd Chance Wheat Whiskey

“… The initial aroma has some mild butterscotch and toffee aromas with a creamy ‘porridge’ like scent reaching up from further in the glass. There are bits of dry fruit and orange peel drifting into the breezes, and as I let the glass sit, I notice very light rye and baking spices with vanilla, cinnamon and hints coarse yellow sugar …”

Please enjoy my latest whiskey review.

 

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Review: Catto’s Rare Old Scottish Blended

Posted by Arctic Wolf on February 15, 2016

Catto'sJames Catto launched his Rare Old Scottish Highland Whisky in 1861. Today the brand is within the portfolio of Inver House Distillers.

According to the information provided to me and what I could glean from the James Catto’s Blended Scotch Whisky website, Catto’s Rare Old Scottish blended scotch whisky is Catto’s flagship whisky brand. It is produced from a blend of Inver House Distilleries’ (Old Pulteney, anCnoc, and Balblair)  Highland and Speyside unpeated Single Malts, and from Lowland grain whisky.

The whisky was presented to me as a low-cost ‘bar rail’ brand, although the Ontario Agent for the brand (Woodman Wines and Spirits) was also quick to point out that Jim Murray had given the whisky an astonishing score of 92 points of his 2015 ‘Whisky Bible‘ publication. The blend is reputed to have a very high malt content which might be part of the reason it appealed to Jim so much.

Here is a link to my full review:

Review: Catto’s Rare Old Scottish Blended

“… The initial nose rising into the breezes above the glass has a firm aroma of malt and honey which is accented by a hint of peat (or perhaps sherry smoke), some fine grain spices, and a light herbaceous note reminiscent of heather and mint. Bits of orange peel add another dimension of spice, and some green grapes and cherry-like impressions …”

Please enjoy the review!

 

 

 

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Review: Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Posted by Arctic Wolf on February 2, 2016

Evan Williams SAM_1709Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon is a whiskey brand produced and bottled in Kentucky by Heaven Hill. This company refers to its entry-level whiskey as a ‘black label brand’, and as such it is meant to be the flag bearer of the Evan Williams line-up. The whiskey has no age statement, however the Evan Williams website tells us that it is aged longer than required by law. (Straight whiskeys must by law be aged for 2 years in new oak barrels; however, if they do not have an age statement they must be aged for 4 years. )

Here is a link to my review of the Evan Williams Black label Bourbon:

Review: Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon

“… The initial aroma is nice with scents of corn-syrup and maple mingling with oak and wood sap. There are also pungent spicy tobacco aromas, a gentle hay-like grassiness, a few indications of raisins, bits of orange peel, and a mild influences of canned apricots in the breezes. A light banana-like aroma is hinted at …”

Please Enjoy my review.

Chimo!

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If you are interested, here is a link to another of my whiskey reviews of the Evan Williams brand:

Posted in American Whiskey, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Review: Highland Park 12 Years Old (2015)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 23, 2016

Highland Park 12

The 12 Year Old Highland Park Whisky is the core expression of Highland Park Distillery, that is to say, it is their flagship brand. Highland Park prides itself in not making any compromises when making whisky. The twelve-year expression is bottled at 43 % alcohol by volume, and is the youngest in Highland Park’s impressive lineup.

I reviewed this particular expression of Highland Park Single Malt Whisky back in 2009, and for several years it was one of my all time favourites. Recently, I received a newer bottling. I decided to put the whisky once again through the paces of my review system to see how this bottling (2015) compared to the great 2009 bottling.

Here is a link to my latest Single Malt Whisky Review:

Review: Highland Park 12 Years Old (2015)

“… The whisky has had more time to breathe, and when I examine the breezes above the glass I sense more of the familiar aromatics of Orkney peat. There are light heather and lavender smells as well as smells of willow trees sitting atop a boggy peat. A very light butterscotch and honey sweetness is present as well, and this helps to make the Orkney peat more approachable …”

Please enjoy my review.

Chimo!

Posted in Scotch Whisky, Single Malt Whisky, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on Review: Highland Park 12 Years Old (2015)

Top 25 Canadian Whiskies of 2015

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 17, 2016

Canada's Best of 2015

Canada’s Best of 2015

Canadian Whisky continues to go through a resurgence as whisky aficionados all over the world are becoming re-acquainted with the great Canadian Spirit. We saw the beginnings about 10 years ago when the two largest Canadian Distillers, Wiser’s and Crown Royal released new Ultra Premium Whiskies (Wiser’s Red Letter & Crown Royal XR Waterloo). These new whiskies which were each priced above $125.00 and established a new high water mark for Canadian Whisky at least as far as price was concerned. Admittedly, the market was rather tepid towards these new offerings as the local Canadian consumer was much more comfortable with their Canadian whisky priced in the low twenties, and even the flag bearer of premium whisky at the time (Wiser’s 18 Year Old) was still to be found in the mid forties and low fifties.

As time went one other super premium Canadian whiskies began to appear. Alberta Premium’s ridiculously low-priced 25 Year Old Whisky was introduced in 2007 (only $30 a bottle) followed by a more moderately priced 30-year-old offering five years later ($60.00 per bottle). Canadian Club joined the parade bringing forward their own Ultra Premium 30 Year Old offering and then making their 20-year-old whisky a permanent part of their whisky family. During all of this Highwood Distillers was quietly producing a premium 21-year-old 100 % corn whisky as well as their LOT 1525 which was a blending of premium whiskies aged 15 to 25 years.

As well as beginning to produce premium aged whiskies, Canadian distillers also started to innovate. Forty Creek was leading this innovation as John Hall began distilling and aging whisky from three separate grains blending them and then using unique casks to finish the job. In the US, more experimentation with our national spirit was underway as companies like 35 Maple Street in Sonoma California began to play with our straight Canadian Rye. Not to be outdone, Wiser’s and Crown Royal joined in each experimenting with new styles of oak barrels and new rye forward whiskies bringing more diversity to the spirit we call Canadian. In the midst of all of this, a distilling revolution began as micro distillers began popping up across the country each of them bringing a new twist to Canadian Whisky.

This all brings us to the present, 2015. Canadian Whisky is in demand in Canada (and all over the world) like never before. The spirit is now a more varied and diverse than it ever was. Speaking in ‘whisky terms’, it is a great time to be a Canadian!

Just follow this link to see the full list:

The Rum Howler – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies of 2015

Posted in Canadian Whisky, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on Top 25 Canadian Whiskies of 2015

Review: Forty Creek Spike Honey Spiced Whisky

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 13, 2016

FC SpikeForty Creek Spike Honey Spiced Whisky is produced by the Forty Creek Distillery (now owned by Campari). Former owner of the distillery and brand, John Hall is the Whisky Maker (as he likes to refer to himself) at Forty Creek, and this spirit was produced under his direction.

According to the label on the bottle the ingredients are, Canadian Whisky (presumable John Hall’s flagship whisky Forty Creek Barrel Select), sugar, and natural flavors (presumable honey and spices). It is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

Here is a link to my full review:

Review: Forty Creek Spike Honey Spiced Whisky

“… The spirit caries a deep golden colour with reddish hues visible in the glass. The breezes are mild, and along with the notes of honey are additional notes of butterscotch, vanilla, banana, ginger and cinnamon …”

Please enjoy my review which concludes with a nice tall back deck drink, the Spiced Mammy.

Chimo!

Posted in Canadian Whisky, Flavoured Whisky, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off on Review: Forty Creek Spike Honey Spiced Whisky

Review: Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 3, 2016

Forty Creek WhiskyFC Three grain Harmony has for the last number of years produced a special limited release whisky and allowed the public to participate in the release by offering to let you choose your own numbered bottle. As well you can have your bottle signed by their own Master Distiller and Whisky Maker, John Hall, when you arrive to pick up your pre-ordered bottles. These special release whiskies are built upon the foundation of the company’s flagship whisky, Forty Creek Barrel Select, and are basically versions of this whisky which have undergone some special aging or finishing technique which would bring a new character to the Forty creek Whisky.

Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony was the 2015 release made available last fall in Ontario and in other select Canadian Markets.

Here is a link to my review:

Review: Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony

“… The initial nose is rich with rich butterscotch and toffee and moderately spicy oak and tree sap.  As the glass sits two notes capture my attention, one which appeals to me strongly, a rich spicy rye note full of ginger and fresh grain, and one note which seems discordant, a sour dank fruit-filled note of fermented apricot and sour mash …”

Please enjoy my first review of 2016.

Chimo!

Posted in Canadian Whisky, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on Review: Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony

The Rum Howler’s #1 Canadian Whisky of 2015 – Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old (Batch 001)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 24, 2015

Canadian Rockies 21Three years ago, I encountered Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old Whisky as a random sample in the group of 45 such samples which I was assessing as part of my duties when I served on the jury for the 2012 Canadian Whisky Awards. Whenever I participate as a spirits judge I always make note of any of the samples which strike me as being particularly good, and the small sample bottle which contained the Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old Whisky was one which I had earmarked as a superior whisky. So, when the Awards Competition was complete, it was to my dismay that I learned this particular whisky (Random Sample number 7 by the way) was a brand destined not for Canada; but instead for Taiwan.

When I wrote a brief review for this whisky in 2013 (see here), I lamented that this great whisky was available only in Asia, and I hoped that the brand owner (and the folks at Highwood Distillery) might read the review, and figure out that maybe Canada deserved this Whisky too. Perhaps my idea was not so far-fetched, as earlier this fall I was contacted by the Fountana Group, and asked to review the Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old Batch 001, a new version of their whisky brand destined for Canadian retail shelves this Christmas Season.

I placed the sample bottle in with the others my friends and I were analyzing as part of the Rum Howler 2015 Top 25 Canadian Whiskies. And it was fortunate that I did as the Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old was the unanimous choice among all judges as the Best Canadian Whisky of 2015! In addition it has also been placed on the short list of the Whiskies I am considering for The Rum Howler 2015 Whisky of the Year.

Here is a link to the Number 1 Canadian Whisky in my Rum Howler Countdown of the Best Whiskies of 2015:

Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old (Batch 001)

“… I used the term ‘luscious’ when describing the nose, and that term deserves repeating here again when describing the flavour. I taste a perfect melding of firm butterscotch, oak spice and corn flavours. My palate is heated with little explosions of oak spice and orange peel, but then it is soothingly caressed by corn and butterscotch. Vanilla and baking spices romp through the garden of lush flavours with marzipan and marmalade chasing merrily behind. Underlying all of this are rich tobacco and leather flavours which serve to add even more depth and character to the glass …”

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You may read about the Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown here:

The Rum Howler 2015 Top 25 Canadian Whiskies

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

#1 Alberta Premium 25 Year Old Canadian Rye (Rum Howler Top 100 Spirits)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 24, 2015

Alberta Premium 25 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky was produced by Alberta Distillers Limited (ADL) (currently owned by Beam/Suntory). in 2006. The whisky went relatively unnoticed by everyone until Jim Murray (who publishes his famous yearly Whisky Bible) proclaimed that it was pretty darn good. (He named it Canada’s Best whisky in 2008) Despite the accolades the spirit received from whisky pundits (after Jim noticed it), in my home Province of Alberta consumers kept disregarding the whisky, and it never really brought the distillery (ADL) the notoriety it deserved locally (that came later with the release of the Alberta Premium 30 Year Old) five years later.

And I suppose that I have been a major beneficiary of the Alberta Premium 25 Year Old Whisky’s low profile. You see, when I travel through small towns in rural Alberta, I still occasionally find a few bottles here and there. (For a modest $29.95 no less.) When I find a dusty bottle hiding out in a bottom shelf of a rural retail store I feel it is my duty to pick it up so that I can give it a more deserving pedestal upon my whisky shelf.

Alberta Premium 25 Year Old SAM_1728To the right is my most recent acquisition, and when I re-tasted it alongside all of my favourites this past summer I found that this modestly priced spirit sat alone on top of my rankings. The Alberta Premium 25 Year Old is a spirit which brings all the goodness of Canadian Rye to the fore, yet despite its bold and spicy flavour, it is also deeply complex spirit which carries layer after layer of nuanced subtlety for the whisky connoisseur to enjoy.

The Alberta Premium 25 Year Old Whisky is the best spirit I have tasted to this point in my spirits journey.

#1 – Alberta Premium 25 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky

” … I love a paradox, and here we have a beauty. Rye is spicy, and grabs your taste-buds and won’t let go. Here we all that rye flavour; but, instead of burning your mouth with spice, this sits gently and smoothly on the palate. In fact this is one of the smoothest whiskies I have ever tasted. Earthy, spicy rye flavour first, second and third, and only the lightest hint of toffee sits in the mouth. This is rye whisky as it is meant to be …”

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Note: I chose not to re-score my original review written six years ago, although if I had, I may very well have awarded my first 98.

You may find my complete Countdown list of the 100 Best Spirits here: The Rum Howler 2015 – Top 100 Spirits

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on #1 Alberta Premium 25 Year Old Canadian Rye (Rum Howler Top 100 Spirits)

The Rum Howler’s #2 Canadian Whisky of 2015 – Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 23, 2015

Crown Royal Single Barrel (Davin) SAM_1633Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel is the first production Canadian Whisky ever to sold in the single barrel format. It drawn from a single oak cask and bottled a full 51.5 % alcohol by volume bottling proof.

Now the folks at Crown Royal didn’t just go into their warehouse and start checking random casks of whisky for this expression. They chose a very particular whisky to showcase as their first Single Barrel Whisky. A whisky from a rye heavy mashbill (64% corn, 31.5% rye, and 4.5% malted barley) which was distilled upon their one of a kind Coffey Rye still which is located in their Gimli facility. This is reported to be one of the key whiskies which is found in their flagship blend, Crown Royal Deluxe.

Note: Although the whiskey has no age statement, I did a little research and according to Davin’s De Kergommeax’s article in Whisky Advocate (see here), Crown Royal Master Blender, Andrew MacKay, leaves the Coffey Rye spirit in virgin oak bourbon barrels for seven years.

Here is a link to the Rum Howler #2 Canadian Whisky of 2015:

Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel

“… A fairly intense aroma of butterscotch rises from the glass with scents of fresh rye bread trailing just afterward. As the whisky breathes I notice an abundance of rye and wood spices, more butterscotch, some honeycomb cereal (you know that children’s breakfast cereal from POST) and fresh rye grain. By the time the glass is fully decanted I also notice an abundance of vanilla, cinnamon spice, sourdough and milk chocolate …”

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You may read about the Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown here:

The Rum Howler 2015 Top 25 Canadian Whiskies

 

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Rum Howler’s #2 Canadian Whisky of 2015 – Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel

 
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