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Gibson’s Finest Sterling Canadian Whisky

Review: Gibson’s Finest Sterling Canadian Whisky  81.5/100
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on August 14, 2011 (Re-scored September 2016)

Gibson’s Finest Whisky has an unusual heritage which stretches back to 1856 when John Gibson purchased 40 acres and set out to build a distillery along the shores of the Monongahela River in Pennsylvania. In fact in the early 1900’s, the Gibson’s Distilling Company was the largest distiller of rye whisky in North America. Of course, we all know what happened to American distilleries at that time in history; it was called prohibition, and unfortunately in 1923,  Gibson’s Distilling Company was bankrupt and was forced to sell all of its assets ( sheriff’s auction) to the highest bidder. The highest bidder turned out to be Schenley Industries of New York. It took 50 years, but Gibson’s whisky, formerly an American whisky, was re-introduced as a Canadian Whisky in the 1970’s at the Schenley Distillery in Valleyfield, Quebec. Thirty years later, in 2002, the Gibson’s Whisky was sold to William Grant & Sons who acquired the brand to strengthen their position in the Canadian spirits marketplace. William Grant & Sons has moved the production of Gibson’s Whisky from the Schenley plant in Valleyview Quebec to the Hiram Walker Distillery in Windsor, Ontario.

Gibson’s Finest Sterling Canadian Whisky is produced from of two sources: a base grain whisky (which would be a corn-based column still whisky) which is blended with a combination of rye based flavouring whiskies  (which contain rye and malted barley distilled by a single column still and a pot still). It is bottled at 40 % abv.

sterling-sam_2684In the Bottle 4.5/5

As you can see from the bottle shot, the Sterling Whisky presentation is solid. This is an entry-level whisky, and I have no quibbles with what I see. The combination of the professional silver and blue label, the solid cork topper, and the squat long-necked bottle implies to me a whisky which sets itself apart. What I see would certainly serve to entice me to investigate further should I encounter the whisky in a retail setting.

In the Glass 8/10

In the glass the whisky has a nice amber colour which shows me flashes of orange in the light. The whisky displays long slender legs which train down the glass at a moderate pace which to me indicates a light oiliness which should soften the mouth-feel slightly and lengthen the finish.

The initial nose from the glass is of light rye spices and sandalwood. There are hints of butterscotch in the air which gives the whisky a light sweetness and a few dashes of ginger and cardamom serve to give the spirit a light complexity. There is perhaps a light touch of astringency and some heated orange peel which I have not noticed  in the brand previously. However, I am more than pleased to this point in my examinations.

In the Mouth 49/60

As I expected, the mouth-feel for the Gibson’s Sterling is lightly soft with just a touch of oiliness present. The whisky leads out with rye spices and ginger but underneath those spices is that same light butterscotch I noticed in the aroma. If I let the glass decant, I begin to taste a light whisper of corn and a few baking spices working their way into the flavour profile. The spices are more firm across the palate than they were on the nose especially orange peel, ginger and cardamom and they unfortunately provide a little more heat than I am comfortable with when I sip. There is also a light bitterness which seems out of place and a touch of alcohol astringency which is knocking the score down just a little ways.

Of course I could not resist mixing a little ginger-ale with the whisky. I chose ginger-ale because the rye presence in the whisky is stronger than the corn presence. (I find that whiskies with a strong rye presence taste best with ginger-ale, and those with a strong corn presence taste best with cola.) My instinct was correct as the ‘rye and ginger’ cocktail went down very nicely.  The Sterling has turned out to be a very nice mixer.

In the Throat 12/15

The finish is short and crisp with dusty rye-spice and orange peel which warm up the tonsils and the throat just a little. I find myself liking the light kick to my tonsils, but liking even more the rye and ginger I just poured.

The Afterburn 8/10

The Gibson’s Finest Sterling Canadian Whisky is nice. It has all of the characteristics which I look for in a Canadian Whisky, a light rye flavour, a touch of sweetness and an easy-going character which allows you to serve the whisky on the rocks, or mixed into a nice cocktail.  For an introductory whisky, I think it is a winner.

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


Suggested Recipe:

long-autumn-sam_2770The Long Autumn

2 oz Gibson’s Finest Sterling Canadian Whisky
1/8 oz Triple Sec
1/2 oz Dry Vermouth
1 tsp sugar syrup
1 dash bitters
Ginger ale
Lemon Slice

Build in a tall glass with ice
Complete with Ginger-ale
Garnish with a slice of Lemon

Enjoy Responsibly!

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


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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