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Bison Ridge Special Reserve Canadian Whisky

Review: Bison Ridge Special Reserve (8 Year Old) Canadian Whisky    83/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published May 21, 2012

My friends Connie & Lukasz were over the other day, and even though they know my cupboard is well stocked with Canadian whisky, they always try to find something that I haven’t tasted yet. On this occasion, they brought along a bottle of Bison Ridge Special Reserve Canadian Whisky to share a few drams with me. The whisky is produced (by this I mean bottled) by the Crosby Lake Spirits Company who are located in Minnesota, USA. All Canadian whisky must (by law) be distilled and aged in Canada; however, I could not locate any information as to which Canadian Distillery was the source for this brand.

BisonIn the Bottle 4/5

I snapped a nice picture of the Bison Ridge bottle, and as you can see, it is one of those short squat bottles which have become all the rage for Canadian Whisky these days. Pendleton (Let er Buck), 8 Seconds, and Highwood’s Wild Cinnamon Whisky Liqueur, all use a similar bottle. As far as it goes, I find the bottle acceptable, although the label would benefit from a more professional look.

In the Glass  8/10

The whisky displays a light mahogany colour in the glass which in fact pleased me. (It seems that the folks at Crosby Lake are judicious with the use of caramel colouring, and may not use it at all.)

The initial nose reflects sweet butterscotch, some notes of corn mash, with wood spices rising in the background. As the glass breathes I notice an underlying ‘earthiness’ which reminds me of the scent of an old those fashioned damp cellars which were built with wooden floorboards lain directly over the black dirt. The impression of corn grows in the glass as well, and I cannot help but be reminded of the familiar scent of Crown Royal Whisky. This isn’t quite like Crown, it is more earthy, and has perhaps more rye rising in the breezes, but the similarity is there.

In the Mouth 51/60

The entry into the mouth reveals more flavour than the nose was implying. Things begin with some sweet butterscotch giving this Canadian Whisky more of a candied flair than others I am familiar with. Alongside that sweetness is the taste of corn whisky and some sour fruit (apricots in particular) which seem to carry elements of that damp earthy cellar along with it. This isn’t a clean crisp Canadian Rye Whisky, rather it is more of a hybrid with corn flavours and earthiness sharing the stage with the rye. There are rye spices fighting through, but these spices seem almost blunted by that damp corn flavours. As I sip, the spiciness of the whisky seems to increase with black pepper and a touch of cloves and cinnamon sharing their heat. The rye flavour becomes moderately bitter, which serves to pucker the mouth, causing me to reflect that this whisky has excellent mixing potential.

In the Throat 12/15

The finish has a bit of length and I seem to taste the corn, almond, and butterscotch more than the rye. A lingering bitterness is keeping the score down, although it would be unfair to say that this bitterness was entirely unpleasant. It seems to be calling on me to add a little cola (which I do to great effect).

The Afterburn 8/10

The Bison Ridge Whisky seems to be just a bit to the left of my expectations. I would guess that it has been constructed to appeal more towards the American palate than the Canadian, and in fact seems to me to be somewhat reminiscent of both Crown Royal and Canadian Mist which are both favourites south of the border. Having said that, this whisky is undeniably Canadian in character. It’s rye flavour although blunted by corn, nevertheless runs through the whisky. It is a pleasant enough sipper, although I prefer it as a mixer.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe:

BuckerooThe Bison Ridge Special Reserve Whisky seems to have a strong corn flavour beside the rye. Whenever I encounter strong corn flavours in whisky, I seem to prefer mixing with cola rather than ginger-ale. This makes the spirit a natural base for the Buckeroo which is of course a whisky and cola highball with added bitters. If you have never added bitters to your whisky and cola, then I suggest that you try it. It adds another dimension of flavour which is truly delicious.

The Bison Ridge Buckeroo

1 1/2 oz Bison Ridge Special Reserve Whisky
dash Angostura Bitters
Slice of Lime for garnish

Build in a tall glass with ice
Complete with Cola
Garnish with a lime slice

Please enjoy my cocktail suggestions responsibly!


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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