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Chinook Signature Rye Whisky

Review: Chinook Signature Rye Whisky    80/100
a review by Chip Dykstra(AKA Arctic Wolf)
Published May 2014 (Re-scored October, 2017)

The folks at MCBSW Sales in Calgary Alberta have been quite busy over the last couple of years. In addition to bringing no less than five new Canadian Whiskies onto the market (hopefully I will review them all); they have also bought a Micro distillery (Minhas Micro Distillery) in Monroe, Wisconsin, from which they are producing Polo Club Gin and Blackstone Vodka. Plans are apparently underway to produce an American Bourbon as well. One of those new Canadian Whiskies MCBWS has recently launched, is an addition to their popular Chinook family of Whiskies,  Chinook Signature Rye Whisky.

I was told by the agent responsible for the brand here in Alberta that Chinook Signature is produced in Southern Alberta from Western Canadian Prairie grain. Although the age of the whisky is not disclosed upon the bottle, I was also told that the company delayed the launch of the whisky to allow them to use 7-year-old stocks which would separate this whisky from its younger sibling Chinook Canadian Whisky. Whether these 7-year-old stocks comprised all or just part of the blend was not disclosed.

Interestingly the words “Canadian Whisky” do not appear anywhere on the label of the bottle I received. Whether this was done intentionally or whether this was an oversight is not known; however this does leave the door open for the brand owners to move production of the whisky south of the border to their own distillery in Wisconsin at some point in the future.

I was provided a bottle of the Chinook Signature Rye Whisky by the Alberta agent for MCBSW Sales for the purpose of this review on my website.

In the Bottle 3.5/5

There are quite a few things that annoy me about the bottle presentation. Beginning with the gold etched label on the front, it is far to busy looking, and I find it difficult to read. I also do not like the way the colour of the bottle changes from almost clear on the bottom to a strange reddish colour at the top. It gives the whisky inside the bottle a weird reddish glow that is unappealing. Finally, and most annoying is the small neck on the bottle. Small necked bottles (especially stubby ones) are just plain hard to pour. I hate spilling whisky; but I did when I poured my first sample and believe it or not there is a learning curve one has to go through to learn the trick of pouring this whisky without spilling.

A saving grace for the presentation is the corked topper; but I wonder to myself why the topper has the letters XO printed on the top when there is no mention of the term ‘XO’ upon the label. I find the entire presentation rather curious as if the bottle and topper were originally destined for a different spirit entirely. The unique look of the bottle saves the score somewhat.

In the Glass 8.5/10

In the glass, the whisky displays a golden straw colour, and when the glass is tilted and twirled I see stubborn legs forming, some of which refuse to drop back into the whisky. The nose is full of clean oak and rye spice with obvious notes of fresh grain and straw accompanying the spice. As the glass sits, orange peel and citrus fruit notes begin to climb out of the glass as well as some fresh ginger and coriander spice. There is also a firm underlying sweetness which reminds me of cotton candy and marshmallows. I let the glass sit a while longer and the oak and grain scents seem to grow a little stronger and my impression is that despite what I perceived as a rather weak bottle presentation, the whisky offers a lot of promise on the nose.

In the Mouth 48/60

The flavour of the whisky is very unique. I taste a hard bitter rye in the foreground surrounded by oak spices. In the background, but growing in intensity with each sip, is a sweet and sour fruitiness which seems to be trying to overtake the hard rye and oak spice (and does so after just a few sips). The fruit-like flavours I taste seem to have an exotic flair with bits of mango and grilled pineapple mixed in with orange and sour apple juice.

There are sweet minty menthol-like undertones and a firm grassy (and spicy) tobacco lurking underneath. All of this makes for a very unique and interesting whisky. I find sipping enjoyable for a little while; but the growing fruitiness and a building up of ginger and coriander upon the palate makes me more inclined to enjoy the spirit as a mixer in the cocktail format.

To that end, I mix a few whisky and ginger-ales and I find the fruitiness of the whisky really pushes through the cocktail, although perhaps there is also more sweetness developing than I expected. I settle on mixing a recipe of mine I call the Hippodrome (see below), and I find this a comfortable afternoon indulgence.

In the Throat 12/15

The finish is very spicy with an almost gin-like accent of pine and coriander combined with ginger rushing through the exit which is perhaps a touch harsh from the spice. A lingering sweetness within the spice and a very menthol-like coolness provides comfort saving the score. The spicy quality of the exit begs to be explored further in the cocktail format (see one more recipe below).

The Afterburn 8/10

The Chinook Signature Rye Whisky follows a different path through the landscape of Canadian Whisky. The hard rye flavours of the spirit are overtaken by an exotic fruitiness which features very different flavours (mango and grilled pineapple) from what one would normally expect in a whisky from Western Canada. Although the whisky can be enjoyed as a sipper, it more properly finds its home as a cocktail mixer where the unique fruit flavours can be explored.

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


Suggested Recipes

Hippodrome (Chinook) SAM_1150The Hippodrome

1 1/2 oz Chinook Signature Rye Whisky
3/4 oz Grand Marnier
3/8 oz lemon Juice
3/8 oz Lime Juice
Ginger Ale

Mix the first four ingredients over ice
Complete with Ginger Ale
Dress with a slice of Lemon or Lime


Soft Touch (Chinook) SAM_1149Soft Touch

1 oz Chinnok Signature Rye Whisky
1/2 oz Polo Club American Dry Gin
1/2 oz Triple Sec (sub any good quality orange liqueur)


Stir with ice until chilled,
Complete with Soda
Garnish with a lime slice

Also Please remember to enjoy the cocktails Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


Please Remember…The aim is not to drink more, it is to drink better!

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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