The Rum Howler Canards of 2015
I try to be positive on my website. Generally speaking, I like to sample and write about spirits which I genuinely enjoy, rather than those which leave an unpleasant taste in my mouth. In fact, the experience of putting something into my mouth that tastes bad is one I tend to avoid. However, despite my efforts to avoid bad experiences, I nevertheless do sometimes accept samples which I wish I had not, and a times well-meaning friends or family members gift me bottles which if I had my druthers, I wish they would have kept to themselves.
In my effort to help you avoid these same mistakes, I have created the Rum Howler Canards of 2015. A canard, if you are unfamiliar with the term, is the french word for duck. It is also a slang term for something that isn’t quite right. An item which promises to be wonderful, but upon examination turns out to be something less, something which disappoints rather than exhilarates.
And that is precisely what my Canards recognize. These spirits promised me pleasure, but granted me something much less. And my Rum Howler Canards of 2015 are for the 8 Lame Ducks of the previous year.
So with no further Adieu let me reveal the Biggest Ducks of 2015:
The 2015 Canard for Most Disappointing Vodka:
Polar Ice is an economy vodka sold in Canada by Corby Distilleries Limited. The brand is extremely popular in Canada, and in fact, according to the information on the Corby Brands website, it is the number one Canadian vodka. Corby’s branded products are notoriously hard to research as the websites created for each brand do not got into very much depth regarding each brand’s production. All I could find was a statement on the aforementioned website which stated that Polar Ice is crafted from the purest water and grains, and that it is quadruple distilled to create an exceptionally smooth taste.
Let me just say that Corby, and I live in alternate realities with respect to their Polar Ice Vodka.
The 2015 Canard for the Most Disappointing Gin:
Potter’s Dry Gin has a hard unrelenting flavour that pushes itself right through the gin cocktail. It seems to work best in cocktails where the gin can play underneath other ingredients rather than where it is the focal point of the recipe. I suspect that the well indoctrinated gin enthusiast will like the rougher character that this gin brings forward, However, I prefer a softer gin with more refinement.
The 2015 Canard for Most Disappointing Tequila:
Olmeca is a Tequila brand owned by Pernod Ricard. The line-up features three sub brands, Olmeca (which is a Mixto), Olmeca Altos (which is a 100 % Blue Weber Agave tequila) , and Olmeca Tezón (which is 100% Blue Weber Agave and which is produced from 100 % Tahona crushed agave). All of these sub brands are double distilled from Mexican Blue Agave in Copper Pot Stills. As well each of the brands will contain some distillate from the juice of agave which has been crushed in the traditional method with a two ton Tahona millstone.
When I tallied up my score during my review, I have arrived at a final total of 71/100. I was (I hesitate to say it) somewhat unsatisfied with that score, as it seemed to me perhaps a little too high of a score for a spirit which I will probably reserve for those persons who show up uninvited yet expecting me to cater to their cocktail and spirit whims on my dime with no thought to ever return the favour. (We all have those unfortunate acquaintances don’t we.)
The 2015 Canard for Most Disappointing Canadian Whisky:
Forty Creek Evolution is the eighth annual special Limited Edition Release from Forty Creek Whisky. Most of the whiskies in this blended Canadian Whisky began their journey 12 years ago. These whiskies were aged in American White Oak for 3 years, then selected barrels were re-distilled in Forty Creek’s copper pot still to further concentrate their flavour. The resulting whisky was then re-barreled in French Oak casks that had previously held Kittling Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, and then aged for an additional 9 years. As a final step John Hall selected some of his personally held barrels to blend into the product.
When I find out that a 3-year-old whisky is re-distilled to more fully concentrate its flavours, my suspicion is that this is just fancy terminology for trying to salvage a whisky batch gone wrong. And when I further discover that the whisky (after spending nine years in ex Cabernet Sauvignon oak barrels) was re-blended one further time with selected stocks unrelated to the originally selected spirit, then my suspicion is that perhaps the nine years in the Cab barrels didn’t yield the expected result, and perhaps another salvage program was required.
Those are only guesses, but those guesses have as their basis in my tasting notes which seem to reveal a whisky gone wrong.
The 2015 Canard for Most Disappointing Scotch:
Ballantine’s Finest Blended Scotch Whisky is the flagship whisky of the Ballantine’s brand. It is blended from a mixture of malt and grain whiskies all of which are aged (as per Scottish Law) for a minimum of three years in oak barrels.
Sampling the Ballantine’s Finest neat is perhaps not an experience I would care to repeat too often. The blended whisky features a punky sweet spiciness that has me reluctant to continue further without ice. That is a shame, because I do taste a lot of other interesting flavours. Unfortunately, they have been ambushed by the whisky’s overpowering grainy sweetness.
I tried to remind myself during my review that this particular blended whisky is not marketed nor sold (in my market at least) as a sipping whisky. It is an economy spirit intended for mixing. Unfortunately I found the spirit did not inspire me in that format either.
The 2015 Canard for Most Disappointing American Whiskey:
Marshall’s Bourbon Whiskey is produced in Bardstown, Kentucky for the Beveland Liquor Company. In case you did not know, Beveland is located in northern Spain, near the French border, and they are (as far as I can reasonably tell from their website) a small to medium-sized wine and spirits company which sells a variety of distilled spirits into the European market.
The nose warned me away, and indeed the spirit is harsh on the palate. The flavour features a bitter sap-like spiciness and hot citrus zest both of which ambush the sweeter butterscotch and vanillans before they can fully form upon the palate. The result is a dry grassy bourbon with a bitter backbite. Marshall’s Bourbon is definitely not a sipper, and to be blunt, it doesn’t qualify as a mixer either.
I rarely score any spirit below 70; but in this case, I really had no choice.
The 2015 Canard For Most Disappointing Spiced or Flavoured Rum:
Captain Morgan Cannon Blast has just begun to appear on store shelves throughout North America. The new spirit from Captain Morgan (apparently produced from Captain Morgan Rum as well as natural flavours and spices) promises to deliver a pleasing citrus sweet front end while providing a finish with a warming (as in spicy), but not overwhelming, sensation. The new spiced rum is apparently (based upon the media information provided) designed to be ideal for the shot glass.
I found very little to redeem the Canon Blast during my review. Partaking in the ritual of a shot with your friends seems to me to be more of a contest of who can handle the most punishment without grimacing than it does any sort of ritual of enjoyment. The marketing campaign for this one is slick. If you succumb and buy yourself a bottle, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The 2015 Canard for Most Disappointing Traditional Rum:
The story behind the (supposed) Hawaiian recipe for Whaler’s Original Dark rum, is that in earlier days sailors apparently used to rattle vanilla beans in empty rum bottles at sunset to attract migrating whales to their ships. The whales (who apparently were friendly in those days) then guided the sailors to the tropical haven known as Hawaii. There they discovered the old rum makers of Maui, and they were so impressed with the rum they encountered that they called it Whaler’s.
I doubt if any of that story is true (but it is a good story). I also note that Whaler’s Dark Rum is bottled in Barstow Kentucky which is much closer to the Atlantic than the Pacific indicating that almost certainly this rum will be of Caribbean origin rather than Hawaiian.
Regardless of where the rum originated, I advise against sipping whether neat or over ice due to a thin burn and ebbing bitterness. Fortunately when the rum is mixed with cola all discomfort vanishes. Then again, when mixed the rum really doesn’t add anything of consequence to the bar drink. I would rather have just plain cola.
The 2015 Canard for the Most Disappointing Spirit of the Year:
In choosing between the 8 ducks to determine the largest Canard. I had to decide between several facets of disappointment. If I was to choose the worst tasting spirit, Marshall’s Bourbon Whiskey was the obvious choice. However, perhaps I was more disappointed with Polar Ice Vodka which claimed to be the number one Vodka brand in Canada. (That the number one brand in Canada was such a mediocre product was extremely disappointing and didn’t speak well of my fellow Canadians.) The most expensive brand recognized with a Canard was Forty Creek Evolution. Surely the hole in the wallet this brand makes ($69.95 retail) causes major disappointment as well.
After thinking things through however, I had to give the nod of Most Disappointing Spirit of 2015 to Captain Morgan Cannon Blast. The hype that this product arrived with was off the charts, and this spirit continues to be my website’s most clicked on review. The dichotomy of the marketing hype versus my extremely low score makes the Cannon Blast the most disappointing product of 2015.
I cannot help but think that Diageo could have done better than this.
That is my list of Canards for the past year, how about sharing yours?