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The Rum Howler – Top 50 Canadian Whiskies of 2016

rum-howler-top-50-2016I have been noticing an industry wide trend with respect to spirits in general, and whisky in particular. Decisions are being thrust upon brand owners based upon the economics of an industry which has seen its products become increasingly popular, while at the same time price sensitivity among consumers as a whole remains high.

In some cases, in order to keep up with demand and to keep prices in check, age statements are being dropped so that younger whiskies can be used in the blending, and in other cases barrel selection is changing with brands being blended with barrels which may have been re-used more often or which may reflect a younger average age for the blend despite the maintenance of an age statement.

I am not going to debate (at this time) the merit of industry choices as companies adapt to the marketplace. What I am going to do, is state that I have been noticing the differences when I taste the whisky which is being produced. For that reason, I have been revisiting many of my old reviews, and in a lot of cases not only are my scores changing, but my tasting notes are reflecting changes in taste profile as well.

This brings me to my yearly list, The Rum Howler – Top 50 Canadian Whiskies of 2016!

In compiling my list this year, I gathered as many of the newly bottled Canadian Whiskies as I could. This included both new brands as well as many of the whiskies which I had tasted and reviewed previously. I included all sample bottles I had received in 2015 and 2016; however, I did not include any samples from discontinued brands. I re-scored many of my reviews and when appropriate, and I wrote new tasting notes (and introductions when I felt the old information was no longer valid).

can-whiskey-sam_2797

This means that this year’s Top Canadian Whiskies of 2016 list and the reviews of each spirit reflect how each of the various brands taste now, not how they tasted may have several years ago. The list is also the most comprehensive year-end list I have ever completed for the Canadian Whisky category. Fifty Canadian Whiskies have been included. Every one was acquired as a sample at some point during the last two years, and in order to determine the final rankings, I re-tasted whiskies with similar scores side by side in the months leading up to the presentation of this list with the newest bottling possible.

As always, I present my list in reverse order this year stating at number 50. The first 25 whiskies will be revealed in groups of five, and the last 25 will be published one at a time throughout the Month of December, all the way to Christmas Eve when the Best Canadian Whisky of 2016 will be unveiled.

I trust you will all enjoy the countdown!

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

50)  Canadian Mist   (80.5)
49)  Canadian Club Premium    (81)
48)  Gibson’s Finest Sterling Whisky   (81.5)
47)  J.P Wiser’s Double Still Rye   (82)
46)  Revel Stoke Deluxe  (82.5)

45)  Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony  (83.5)
44)  Crown Royal Deluxe    (83.5)
43)  Gibson’s Finest Bold  (83.5)
42)  Pike Creek 10 Year Old   (84)
41)  J.P. Wiser’s Deluxe  (84)

40)  Rich & Rare Reserve (Sazerac)   (84.5)
39)  Highwood Canadian Rye Whisky    (84.5)
38)  White Owl Whisky   (85)
37)  Collingwood Handcrafted Canadian Whisky   (85)
36)  Potters Special Old Rye Whisky   (85)
35)  Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old   (85)
34)  Legacy Small Batch (Sazerac)   (85)
33)  Canadian Club Small Batch Sherry Cask    (85.5)
32)  Tangle Ridge (Bourbon Casked)   (85.5) 
31)  Canadian Club Reserve (9 Year Old)    (85.5)
30)  Windsor Canadian   (85.5)
29)  Alberta Premium Canadian Whisky (85.5)
28)  Mt. Logan 5 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky  (86)
27)  Centennial Rye Whisky (NAS)   (86)
26)  Crown Royal Black    (86)
25)  Hiram Walker Special Old  (86)
24)  Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve Whisky (Lot 1867F)     (87)
23)  Crown Royal XO   (87)
22)  Ninety (Premium cask Aged) 5 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky  (87.5)
21)  Gooderham and Worts 4 Grain Canadian Whisky  (87.5)
20) Wiser’s Small Batch   (88)
19)  Gibson’s Finest Rare 18 Year Old  (88)
18) Alberta Springs Canadian Whisky   (88)
17)  Canadian Club Small Batch Classic (12 Year Old)   (88)
16)  Coyote Ugly Canadian Whisky  (88.5)
15)  Forty Creek Copper Pot Reserve Whisky   (88.5)
14)  Ethan Koll Rare 8 Year Old Canadian Whisky    (88.5)
13)  Crown Royal Reserve  (89.5)
12)  Crown Royal Northern Rye Canadian Whisky   (90)
11)  Forty Creek Founder’s Reserve  (90.5)

10)  Canadian Club Chairman’s Select – 100% Rye     (90.5)
09)  Lot No. 40 Rye Whisky  (91)

08)  Caribou Crossing Single Barrel Canadian Whisky  (91.5)
07)  Mt. Logan 15 Year Old (91.5)
06)  Century Reserve (Lot 1525) Canadian Rye Whisky (92)
05)  Wiser’s Legacy   (92)
04)  J.P. Wiser’s 18 Years Old    (92.5)
03)  Mt. Logan 20 Year Old    (93)
02)  Ninety “Decades of Richness” 20 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky   (93)
01)  J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter Whisky (94)

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14 Responses to “The Rum Howler – Top 50 Canadian Whiskies of 2016”

  1. Dwayne Stewart said

    A pre-Canada Day Shoutout and Request

    Hey,Chip. I hope you’re not tired of me commenting here. In my whiskey exploration I’ve yet to sample a “wheater” I’ve been considering spending $50 for a bourbon when our recent discussions of Highwood Canadians got me re-examining your reviews of the line. I saw the well scored Centennial 10 and it’s available at my local for $25CDN total! I’m picking it up today. At that price even if it’s not to my taste as a sipper there would be no end of cocktails to use it in,
    Speaking of cocktails I’ve made your Orange Daiquiri and Ice Storm as given, but also using Mango Nectar in place of OJ. The nectar is so sweet you can reduce or eliminate the sugar syrup. Simple and delicious!
    Finally in the comments from way back for the Centennial 10 you said you enjoyed Grant’s Sherry Cask. I think you’ve not reviewed a blend recently, so if you’ve still got some that might make a good subject.

    • The Centennial From Highwood is no longer a 10 Year Old Whisky. It is still very good, but not quite what it used to be. And you are right, I haven’t been dipping into the Scottish blends for a while now. Might get to a few this summer, especially as the folks from Bladnoch Distillery have indicated they will be sending something my way. Stay Tuned.

      • Dwayne Stewart said

        The bottle available in Saskatchewan didn’t have “Limited Edition” on the label but did say on the back there was rye in the blend. But it also had a cardboard neck hanger with “10 years in the making” and the Highwood website lists the product as “Centennial 10 Year Old” I wonder if the stocks aged enough to reinstate the age statement or if this is marketing department games. I’m generally a defender of Highwood premium products, so I hope it is the former.

        • “10 Years in the Making” is not an age statement so unless the label on the bottle specifically says “Aged 10 Years” or “10 Years Old” you can assume that you have the new blend which is no longer a full 10 Year Old Whisky. I have noted that Highwood has failed to update their website. A generous person would suggest that they are still overwhelmed by the effects of the flooding a few years ago which almost wiped out the distillery and all of its stocks and should be cut some slack with respect to updating the website. The less forgiving person would suggest they are being purposefully deceptive. I am a huge fan of Highwood and their craft approach to whisky making, and so I sit closer to being generous in my thoughts.

          (I should point out that it could also be true that a true 10 year old is still being made for select markets that I am unaware of.)

          • Dwayne Stewart said

            I took a while to consider whether I was being “not generous” or “unforgiving” to be bothered by Highwood’s lack of clarity regarding the age of the Centennial. I should be clear that I knew which product I was buying, and consider the Limited Edition a fine product in it’s price class.
            The 10 year statement on their website could be an oversight, as you imply, though clearly the bottle shot has been updated. But that cardboard neck hanger with “10 Years” in HUGE font and “in the making” in much smaller feels like a recent and active measure to cash in on previous glowing reviews for the 10 Year version. I ask you to consider that a Google search for “Centennial Rye” includes in the top 7 returns your own and a national newspaper’s pre 2013 review of the 10 Year. And the other 5 links are for the largest retailers in every province Ontario and west, with only BC NOT using “10 Year” in the listing, though they are clearly selling the more recent version.
            You’ve been clear in every review of a Flor de Cana product you’ve done over the last few years that you feel that clarity regarding the age of the spirit in the bottle matters. Surely a Canadian company marketing for the most part to fellow Canadians should be held to the same standard?

            • Hi Dwayne

              This is the preamble for my Highwood Centenial Review posted one year ago.

              Centennial Limited Edition Canadian Whisky is produced by Alberta’s own Highwood Distillers. It has quietly replaced Highwood’s former Centennial 10 Year Old Canadian Whisky (see review here) as the flagship brand of their Centennial Lineup. The Centennial brand is unique in Canada as rather than using corn as the base grain for this whisky, Centennial uses soft Canadian winter wheat and rye This gives the Centennial brand a smooth and soft flavour profile which I have found is unlike any other Canadian whisky. In fact, using grains grown exclusively on the Canadian prairies, distilling the grain in their home Province of Alberta, and aging the spirit in the severe Western Canadian climate makes Centennial is a Whisky unlike any other in the world.

              Centennial Limited Edition features no age statement which makes it different from the Centennial 10 Year Old Whisky which used to carry the flag for the brand. When I asked the folks at the distillery I was told that the Centennial brand had reached a point of popularity such that Highwood could no longer meet the demand for their 10 Year Old whisky across the country. This meant that the distiller was faced with two choices. They could either raise the price to temper demand (and annoy their loyal customers), or they could create a new flagship Centennial Whisky (the Limited Edition) which they could produce in sufficient quantity to meet the new demand across Canada. They chose the second course, although they are hoping this new blend is met with the same enthusiasm as the previous blend.

              My bottle never contained the neck hangar nor the “10 Years in the Making” wording, so I obviously would not have addressed those issues in the review. However I did make it clear that the bottle I reviewed was no longer a 10 Year Old Whisky with no age statement. Because the actual label I read was not misleading, I did not comment directly on that, however I did say that Highwood had “quietly replaced Highwood’s former Centennial 10 Year Old Canadian Whisky”, a comment which I felt carried an implied criticism.

              Highwood’s comment to me indicate that they could no longer meet demand for this product ‘across the Country’ left open the possibility that a ten year old version is still available in some markets. This means that I have to be careful in my comments here on the website (in response to you) especially as I have not seen that neck hangar nor the label with the wording you are describing.

              Having said all that, the point you are making is a good one which is why I published your commentary, and why I am sharing it again. I am maybe not going as far as I did with the For de Cana Reviews (bottles and labels I had direct experience with) but hopefully I am walking the line of fair comment properly by posting this and my other reply.

  2. Dwayne Stewart said

    I just noticed your top pick of 2015-Canadian Rockies 21 year old was not on the 2016 list. If it was an availability issue I thought you and your Alberta readers would be interested to know it’s now on sale at liquordirect.ca for $63+tax. Not a bad price for a very highly rated Canadian-your most highly rated ever, if I’m not mistaken!

    • Hi Duane

      Yes it was an availability issue. Batch 001 had sold out and the whisky was temporarily unavailable.

      You can rest assured the Canadian Rockies will be reappearing on my year end list.

  3. Dwayne Stewart said

    Like you I’m a fan of the Highwood Ninety and Century releases. In regard to the Mt. Logan releases I find it interesting the exclusive retailer essentially is rebranding the same juice (5% lower abv in the case of the Ninety) and marketing it at a premium to Highwood’s products. Seeing the relative rankings in your list I think I’ll stick with the Highwood, at least till the clearance sales.

    • There are differences in the blends (at least by taste) but I certainly would not dissuade you from sticking with the Highwood Ninety branded whiskies, they are superb!

  4. Harry Goslin said

    Hey Chip,

    Is the Century Reserve 15/25 year old still available out west? It’s nowhere to be found in Ontario and I wasn’t sure it was even being produced anymore.

  5. Bob said

    Just wondering….have you noticed a difference in taste with the Gibsons 18 year old …..is it the same quality brand that I like , because they re branded it as VENERABLE ….

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