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Chinook Whisky 2012

Review: Chinook Canadian Whisky  2012 (76.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on June 07, 2012

If you look at the picture to the left, you can see that Chinook Canada Whisky has undergone a bit of a facelift since I reviewed it last year (Click here for the 2011 review). It arrives in a new PET Bottle, and it has a brand new label. Gone is the 5-Year age statement, and gone as well is the reference to being distilled, aged and blended in Calgary, Alberta. Rather, the label now simply says “aged and blended in Southern Alberta” with no reference to where the whisky is distilled.

When I first saw the new bottle, I was surprised, and of course my first question was, “Has the blend changed?”

To help me answer that question, I was sent a new bottle for review from the brand owner Mcbsw Sales Company Inc., such that I could revisit the Chinook Whisky here on my website and let everyone know how the new version stacks up. My review begins with a look at that new bottle…

In the Bottle 2/5

I hate beginning on a negative; but I have to admit I do not like the new bottle for the Chinook Whisky at all. To begin with, I have never been a fan of plastic bottles for beverages. I often see these bottles advertised as being “environmentally friendly”. The truth is (and I have made this point before) that plastic does not decompose; it remains pretty much as it is for thousands of years. Other than the extremely small amount of plastic that has been incinerated, all of the plastic ever produced on this planet is still in the environment. I find this fact hard to reconcile with the notion of plastic being ‘environmentally friendly’.

My second quibble is with the label which is generic in nature and lacks any sort of “pop” on my bar shelf.  Even more disappointing was that both labels (front and back) on my sample bottle were placed crookedly on my bottle. This might be an isolated incident, but my buddy (Lukasz) brought over his bottle of the new Chinook recently, and the labels on his bottle were crooked too. This sloppiness with respect to labeling makes the entire presentation look amateurish, and it makes me suspicious that the producer of the whisky may have cut corners in other respects as well.

Both of those problems are somewhat forgivable in a low-priced whisky (which this is). What was unforgivable was the plastic closure on my bottle. Quite frankly, I do not believe it provided a proper seal. To verify this suspicion, I put a little mark on the back of my bottle at the fill line and left it for a month. When I returned to the bottle a noticeable amount of evaporation had taken place. (When I inspected this plastic screw cap, I saw that it had no liner. I suspect this was partially responsible for the problem with the seal).  As a result of my misgivings with the plastic bottle, the unprofessional label, and the improper closure, this is the lowest score I have ever given any spirit in this section of the review.

In the Glass 8/10

When I did my first tasting with the new (2012) Chinook Whisky, I had my friends Connie and Lukasz over. Connie brought her bottle of the original (2011) Chinook Whisky so we could compare the two. My friends and I really love the original, and we were genuinely curious as to how this latest bottling would stack up.

When we put the two spirits side by side in glencairn glasses, the newer blend was just a little darker, and the initial aroma from the two glasses was distinctly different. Whereas the original Chinook displayed a dusty dry nose which seemed full rye spice. The new blend had much more of a sweeter caramel/butterscotch tone. Some spicy fruit lay underneath this butterscotch, and the dry rye spice arrived only after a couple of minutes of breathing. As the glass continued to sit, I could sense the fruity aroma of apple cider, and some hints of darker dry fruit (dried prunes and perhaps some raisin). After about three or four minutes of breathing some oak scents resembling pencil shavings began rise from the glass. I like the nose of the new Chinook; but, I miss the dusty dryness of the original blend.

In the Mouth 47/60

My first impression as the new whisky crossed my palate for the first time, was that the sweetness and the fruitiness have been ramped up in this blend. Stronger caramel flavours were obvious as was a spicy green pepper lingering in the background. Caramel apples, slightly sour purple grapes, canned apricots, and canned pears all seem to find their way across my palate in what is a real mixture of fruit flavour. I taste some rye-like spiciness which resembles ginger and cloves with maybe just a dash of cinnamon. Both my friends and I believe the newer whisky tastes obviously different from the older blend, and in fact, I have difficulty assigning a similar heritage to the two spirits. Blends change over time, but this change is quite a jump.

What is encouraging is that this new Chinook mixes easily with ginger-ale and cola. The Chinook will still be a welcome guest at my deck parties this summer.

In the Throat 11.5/15

There are lasting impressions of ginger spice and fruity caramel, however a light burn is left in the throat as well. The whisky tastes better with ice than it does neat.

The Afterburn 8/10

The 2012 version of Chinook is good (except for that awful bottle). But it appears to me that the whisky is not the same as it was before. Whereas the 2011 version was a dusty dry rye whisky which really appealed to me; this version carries much more caramel and fruit into the flavour profile. As you can tell from my scoring, I preferred last years edition by quite a substantial margin. (To be completely fair, I will point out that Connie agreed with me, but Lukasz stated a preference for the new blend). Even though I prefer the 2011 version of the Chinook, in my market this whisky is very aggressively priced at less than 20 bucks, and it will therefore be a welcome mixer for my deck parties this summer.

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


Suggested Recipe:

If you take the a typical whisky and cola highball and add bitters, it becomes a Buckeroo. Although the Buckeroo is typically made with bourbon, it also tastes great made with Canadian Whisky. The 2012 version of Chinook Canadian Whisky makes an excellent Buckeroo.


1 1/2 oz Chinook Whisky
dash Angostura Bitters
Slice of Lime for garnish

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


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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