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Black Fox Canadian Whisky (100% Triticale)

Review: Black Fox Canadian Whisky (100% Triticale)   (85/100)
Reviewed by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted February 9,  2020

This will be an unusual review for me. It is of a whisky, which hasn’t actually been finished yet. In fact the whisky is still aging in new American oak barrels under the Saskatchewan prairie sky allowing the climate of the Canadian prairies to influence the maturation process. The harsh conditions of the Canadian Prairies with the hot dry summer followed by a cold dry winter create a unique environment during the maturation process which further intensify the flavours.

The Black Fox distillery founded by John Cote and Barb Stefanyshyn-Cote, comes by its name from a fortunate visitor to the Cote’s farmyard at Leask, a municipality about 80 kilometers southwest of the City of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. The Black Fox apparently had made a home nearby and could be seen scampering away when John and Barb headed out in the morning. They even saw him playing with another red fox in the field. Two foxes playing together is not an unfamiliar scene on the prairies, but this scene was transformed into something special by a black fox.

The whisky is a 100% Triticale (Triticosecale) spirit produced at the distillery (located at 245 Valley Road Saskatoon, Saskatchewan). The triticale grain that they use comes from a breeding program at Swift Current Saskatchewan with genetic lines going back to the CIMMYT breeding program in Obregon MX, which was originally started by the famous Norm Borlaug. This line of triticale has a unique flavour profile, and when grown under prairie conditions with strict attention to specific agronomic factors, John and Barb believe they are able to intensify these flavours found naturally in this grain variety.

John and Barb recently sent me two of their nearly finished whiskies, the 100 % triticale whisky which is the subject of this review, and their Blended Canadian Whisky which is a blend of carefully selected single grain whiskies which is what we will become their “ exclusive distillery blend”. (The Single Grain whiskies include a 100% oat, a 100% wheat, and the 100% triticale whisky already described. I sampled each almost finished whisky (technically they are old enough to be called whisky already, but the distillery is aging each of them just a little while longer) and because I had a strong preference for the 100 % Triticale Whisky, I have decided to share some brief tasting notes and scores based on where it is at right now.

At the time I tasted the whisky it had aged for 4 years already indicating to me that John and Barb have perhaps a little more patience than most of the new distillers who are putting out whisky product at three years which is the minimum age allowed in Canada.

I should note that the bottle shown to the right is not the bottle the spirit will be housed in. It was just a suitable sample bottle used to send me a 350 ml sample for tasting. The actual bottle is still in development. I decided that it made sense to try to show the spirit in a setting which  showcased our harsh prairie climate. I think I succeeded.

In the Glass 8.5/10

The whisky has a nice copper colour with a slightly thickened consistency reflecting both the 4 years in new oak barrels and the small still distillation which produces a slightly heavier distillate than a tall column would.

The first thing you notice when you bring the spirit to your nose is that there is a lot of robust grain notes coming from the glass. Burlap, Leather and graham wafers come to mind. There is also a nice hint of maple sweetness. (I think it is that combination of grain and maple that reminds me of graham wafers).

Vanilla and baking spices are present as is some lovely almond notes that are melding into the grain.  Tthis is a very nice whisky to nose. There is just a hint of resin and turpentine indicating that just a little longer in the barrel will be a good thing.  When the whisky is finished, the score might well go higher.

In The Glass 51/60

I really like it when everything I sense on the nose comes through clearly in flavour notes. And that is the case hear. Robust grain flavour swamps the mouth carrying just enough butterscotch and maple sweetness to make it taste delicious. The vanilla and baking spices have combined with the oak tannins to deliver a yummy toffee, and this toffee is melding into the grain and almond giving me an impression of marzipan. Some apricot and canned peaches are present and everything together tastes really nice.

If your wondering why the score is not higher, this is because there is still room for some development. Hints of a wide distillation cut leave bits of fusel flavour and a sort of light vegetal taste wandering through the spirit. Left to mature longer in the barrel and these heavier flavours may break down or meld with oak flavours with the potential to add even more to the dram.

In The Throat 12.5/15

Things are a little rough going down, an indication of both the bottling proof (46 % abv) and the youth (4 years) of the whisky. The medium bodied spirit has a lengthened finish full of robust grain and punctuated by almond and a light caramel sweetness.

The Afterburn 13/15

Usually the bottle is part of the review, since it is absent, I am putting a heavier weight on my final thoughts to ensure the spirit is given a correct score. And you can see if you add up all my points, the score is 85/100. Considering the age of the spirit (only four years old), this is a tremendous score. And this score could well go higher after a longer time maturing in the cask.

I think I am going to reach back out to John to see if somehow I can get a bottle from the very first pour when the whisky is ready. I think this is one where I will want to be able to say, Remember when Black Fox started making that Triticale Whisky? Well, I had a bottle from the very first batch!

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

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I am always asked what my numbers actually mean. In order to provide clarification, you may (loosely) interpret the scores 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 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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