Caribou Crossing Single Barrel Canadian Whisky
Review: Caribou Crossing Single Barrel Canadian Whisky 91.5/100
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published on September 20, 2012
(Revised and re-scored November 2016)
Although Canadian whisky by volume is the best-selling whisky in the USA, the perception of this class of whisky (amongst spirits writers and whisky critics) is that the Canadian spirit is perhaps thin and uninteresting, (fortunately the millions of people who buy whisky appear to be much more impressed than the critics and writers). The landscape however, appear to be changing, especially at the premium end of the whisky market, where the Canadian spirit has seen strong growth in market share. Recognizing this trend, the Sazerac Company has recently made a push towards the premium end of the Canadian Whisky market with two new releases, Caribou Crossing and Royal Canadian Small Batch Canadian Whiskies.
Caribou Crossing is what is known as a Single Barrel Whisky. From the company’s inventory of over 200,000 barrels of Canadian whisky, Sazerac’s whisky making team selects what they deem to be some of the very finest barrels. Each of these chosen barrels is bottled individually capturing its unique flavour. This means that each individual barrel offers a unique taste experience for the Canadian whisky connoisseur. I was fortunate enough to have been sent a sample bottle from the good folks at Charton Hobbs who are marketing this unique whisky for Sazerac, here in Alberta.
Although, the Sazerac Company is based in New Orleans, its holdings include many of North America’s most popular distilling companies, the Buffalo Trace Distillery, A. Smith Bowman, the Glenmore Distillery, and more.
In the Bottle 5/5
The Caribou Crossing Single Barrel Whisky arrives in a beautiful blue display box with a stunning picture of the northern caribou in front of the shimmering aurora borealis. Inside the box is a blue cloth bag which contains a masculine four-sided glass decanter, sealed with a cork closure featuring a pewter maple leaf topper and blue sealing wax. A fantastic presentation which is sure to wow the dinner guests.
In the Glass 9/10
The whisky displays itself in the glass with a rich golden amber colour. When I tilt my glencairn glass and give it a slow swirl, I see droopy droplets forming at the crest of the whisky which drop slow-moving slender legs down the insides of my glass. The initial aroma from the glass is a nice mixture of oak and rye spices melded nicely into butterscotch and honeycomb.
This is a whisky which grows a little in the glass as you let it breathe. The oak and the rye grain seem to gain strength as sawdust and rye husks fill the breezes above the glass with very nice accents of vanilla and baking spice. Fresh corn on the cob rises into those breezes; and impressions of butterscotch pudding and vanilla ice cream tempt me into taking my first sip.
In the Mouth 55/60
The whisky begins with a somewhat soft lightly buttered mouth-feel. The initial flavour reminds me of freshly cut planks of oak and cedar with rye grain and rye spice quickly building alongside. Flavours of dank corn whiskey weave in and out of the cedar and oak, and the rye spices are joined by orange peel and hints of fresh citrus lime. The strong oak and rye flavours are tempered somewhat by a mild but firm butterscotch and vanilla presence. Some honeycomb adds a touch more sweetness and the overall result is a very interesting (and a very good) sipping whisky.
I allowed the whisky to breathe and was rewarded when my second sip revealed that the flavours had melded nicely together. It was now difficult to pick out individual flavours, rather the best desciption would be a lush oak and rye syrup which was truly beguiling.
In the Throat 13.5/15
The lightly buttered mouth-feel gives the Caribou Crossing a little length in the exit featuring flavours of oak, corn and butterscotch which trail down the throat. After the whisky is swallowed, sweet honeycomb lingers on the palate and the glowing embers of disappearing rye spices leave their imprint.
The Afterburn 9/10
I really enjoyed the Caribou Crossing Single Barrel Canadian Whisky. It tastes unique, featuring flavourful elements of corn whiskey within the Canadian Whisky taste profile. The oak presence is stronger than a traditional Canadian Whisky would be; but then again, this isn’t your traditional Canadian Whisky. It is a Single Barrel whisky, and as such, I feel the barrels influence should be firmly felt. I understand that Sazerac plans to make a splash in the Premium Canadian Whisky category, I think they already have!
The Canadian Rye Sazerac
2 oz Caribou Crossing Single Barrel Canadian Whisky
3/4 tsp sugar
Two dashes bitters (Peychaud’s)
a dash of absinthe (sub Green Chartreuse)
Chill an old-fashioned glass by filling it with ice.
In another glass muddle the sugar and Peychaud’s bitters
Add the Rye Whiskey and stir
Now empty the old-fashioned glass of its ice (It should be well chilled)
Rinse the inside of the chilled old-fashioned glass with absinthe expelling any excess.
Empty the rye-sugar-bitters mixture into the chilled old-fashioned glass
squeeze the lemon peel over the cocktail
If desired, garnish with the remainder of the lemon peel
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)