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Gibson’s Finest Sterling Canadian Whisky

Review: Gibson’s Finest Sterling Canadian Whisky  88/100
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on August 14, 2011

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.

(Photo Courtesy Jesson + Company)

In the Bottle 4.5/5

When I contacted Gibson’s regarding my reviews, they immediately forwarded my request to their media company (Jesson + Company) who have been great with supplying me with background information and J-Pegs for my review.

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.  As a consumer, I believe that the professional silver and blue label and the squat bottle would serve to entice me to investigate further should I encounter the whisky in a retail setting.

In the Glass 8.5/10

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. The nose invites me to sip, and I quite contentedly oblige.

In the Mouth 53/60

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. The spices are more firm in the mouth than they were on the nose especially the ginger and cardamom which serve to give the whisky just a touch of earthiness. 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.

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 satisfactory sipper and a very nice mixer.

In the Throat 13/15

The finish is perhaps a little longer than I would have suspected. It is a dusty rye-spice finish which warms up the tonsils and the throat just a little. Some will like this gentle burn, others will prefer to mix this whisky in a cocktail. I find myself firmly straddling the fence, liking the light kick to my tonsils, but liking even more the rye and ginger I just poured.

The Afterburn 9/10

The Gibson’s Finest Sterling Canadian Whisky is very 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 neat, on the rocks, or mixed into a nice cocktail. There just really isn’t any faults for me to point out. Had the whisky displayed just a little more complexity, I would have scored it in the 90s. But for an introductory whisky, I think it is superb.

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


Suggested Recipe:

The 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

Build in a tall glass with ice
Complete with Ginger-ale


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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