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Dillon’s Rye Whisky (Batch 1)

Review: Dillon’s Rye Whisky (82/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted On June 20, 2018

Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers is a small craft producer of spirits located in Beamsville Ontario. They currently produce Vodka and Gin (both distilled from Ontario grown Niagara Grapes), as well as both White Rye and Rye Whisky grown from 100% Ontario Rye Grain. The distillery also produces a number of specialty spirits such as Absinthe and Limoncello.

I sampled Dillon’s Rye Whisky while I was serving a spirit’s judge duties for the 2018 Canadian Whisky Awards. I kept brief notes for each of the spirits I tasted, and after the reveal, I decided to pen a brief reviews for some of these spirits which I was not likely to encounter again using tasting notes, as well the small amount of whisky which was left over after the judging.

In case of Dillon’s Rye, Judges were given small samples for both Batch 1 and Batch 2. During the Awards Judging, I scored both samples equally. However my tasting notes for the sample from Batch 1 were more detailed, so that it is from that sample which this review is drawn from.

According to the producer’s website:

To be called Canadian Rye Whisky means something. To be called 100% Rye Whisky made in Canada means something more. It means pride. It means at least three full years of aging in oak casks. It means made from nothing but pure rye grain – no barley, no wheat, and no corn. It means distilled one batch at a time in pot stills – not continuously in columns. It means no flavourings and no colourings were ever added. It means what we put on the label is what is inside the bottle. It means liquid truth.

Dillon’s Rye Whisky is bottled at 43 % alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

Dillon’s has a philosophy of letting the consumer know exactly how they make their spirits. This means they put as much of that detail on their labels as possible. The Rye Whisky from Batch #1 was made from 100 % Ontario Rye. It was finished in three styles of oak; New Ontario Oak, New American Oak, and First Fill Bourbon Barrels.

The bottle itself is a stubby 500 ml. It is sealed with a synthetic cork and looks attractive on my whisky shelf. My only concern is with the short neck which makes pouring without spilling difficult.

In The Glass 8/10

The whisky carries a light golden colour consistent with a spirit which has aged for only three years. When I poured a small amount into my glencairn I noticed the spirit has a slightly thickened consistency and when I tilted and twirled my glass the crest of the thickened sheen on the inside of that glass stubbornly held on to a plethora of medium small droplets. The small batch still used by Dillon’s is apparently capable of creating heavy esters and phenols which give the whisky a heavier consistency than we would normally find in a three-year old spirit. (This is one of the advantages of small craft distilleries.)

My tasting notes from the Canadian Whisky Awards included the following:

Colour: light gold

Legs: multitude of stubborn medium small droplets

Initial Aroma: vanilla, butterscotch, almond, light sandalwood

Decanted Aroma: aromas deepen somewhat but do not grow more complex, perhaps a little light baking spice, and a touch of wood spice

The notes indicate typical rye whisky aromas which have developed some of the character which stems from barrel aging. There is very little astringency in the air which is a very good sign.

In The Mouth 49.5/60

Again Here are the pertinent tasting notes from my judges sample:

Alcohol Push and Spice: light bite of alcohol with fine grain spice

Initial Taste: vanilla and almond with light milk chocolate and grain spice

Follow up: burlap, pears, green apple, some bitter grain and fruit pith

The tasting notes indicate a mildly complex whisky with a pleasant flavour. There is a malt-like sweetness present which is not reflected in my tasting notes which helps to balance the whisky increasing that feeling of ‘pleasantness’. Although the mildly complex flavours helped to boost the score, the light bite of alcohol kept that score in check.

In The Throat 12.5

Body and Length: light bodied with maybe a touch more length due to lightly oily texture

Flavours during Swallow: burlap and almond

Lingering Flavours: vanilla, light butterscotch and bitter fruit pith

Again it is very positive that no undue astringency or alcohol heat was noted in the finish.

The Afterburn 8/10

My final judges comments were as follows:

Final Thoughts: A young whisky just beginning its journey. The distillation has brought interesting flavours forward but I really would like to see more maturity

All in all, I am impressed that such a young whisky scores so well, and am looking forward to when the Dillon’s Whiskies with more maturity reach the market.

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


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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