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Lot No. 40 Dark Oak

Review:  Lot No. 40 Dark Oak 100 % Rye Whisky   (85/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published April 20, 2022

Last year Corby, owners of the J.P. Wiser’s Brand offered us a brand extension to their popular Lot No. 40 Rye Whisky line-up with the introduction of two new additions, Lot No. 40 Dark Oak and Lot No. 40 18 Year Old Cask Strength. Lot No. 40 was first released in the 1990’s as an upscale connoisseur’s whisky for the North American market. Alas, timing is everything, and according to Don Livermore (Master Blender for Corby and J.P. Wiser’s branded whiskies), the whisky never really caught on as the market wasn’t quite ready for this new style of Canadian Whisky. However, with an upsurge of interest in Canadian Whisky across North America (and in particular at the premium end of the market), Corby (the owner of the Wiser’s Brand), relaunched the whisky in 2012.

According to the Corby Website information which I recorded in 2016:

Lot No. 40 is expertly distilled in small batches using only the finest locally sourced ingredients. By distilling in a single copper pot still, the result is a whisky that starts off earthy and woody tasting and then becomes full bodied and complex with a velvety vanilla oak finish.

Lot No. 40 Dark Oak has apparently been released a bigger, bolder version of Lot No. 40 Rye Whisky. This is a 100% rye whisky, distilled upon a pot still, and aged first in new American Oak barrels and then finished in a second new oak barrel however this finishing barrel is this time heavily charred (Char No. 4) to add more flavour and colour.  The final spirit is bottled at 48% alcohol by volume.

According to a recent Corby Press Release:

Lot No. 40 Dark Oak was named by a panel of global judges to be the World’s Best Rye. A style of whisky commonly associated with Canada, rye whisky is produced around the globe. The Lot No. 40 Dark Oak beat out rye whiskies from the United States, Australia, Germany, England, Denmark and Ireland for the prestigious designation. 

(They were of course referring to the World Whisky Awards 2021)

I recently received a sample of Lot No. 40 Dark Oak and have decided to share my impression here on my website.

In The Bottle 4.5/5

Because I received only a small sample of the liquid within the bottle rather than a full bottle of the Lot No. 40 Dark Oak, I must content myself with a bottle shot from Corby rather than my own photograph of the bottle. The bottle shape is basically the same though the entire Lot No. 40 line-up. I appreciate that the whisky proudly announces that this is a 100 % rye whisky. I would prefer the term “100 % rye grain” rather than simply “rye” as in Canada the term “rye’ does not necessarily denote an exclusive rye grain blend. My belief is that this is a 100 % rye grain whisky, but I hate that niggle of doubt. Something else that appears to be missing is an age statement (somebody correct me if I am wrong). The marketing data implies that the Lot No. 40 Dark Oak is essentially the same whisky as Lot No. 40 Rye Whisky except that it has been aged an additional time in heavily charred barrels, but without an age statement to compare (Lot No. 40 has been released as both an 11 Year and a 12 year Old Whisky), we again are left with that niggle of doubt.

Other than my niggles, this is a fine presentation which has served the line-up well.

In The Glass  8.5/10

Colour: Lightly tarnished penny

Legs: Stubborn crest which releases fat sluggish droplets

Nose: Woody notes filled with sap and tannin. Honeycomb and raisin with canned peaches and apricots clinging in the background. Allspice and nutmeg with hints of clove and cinnamon. Bitter vanillans, Macintosh Apples, bittersweet chocolate and wiffs of charcoal smoke.

The nose is intense with so much raw wood smells that the spirit could go either way. I am either going to be picking wood chips out of my teeth when I take a sip, or I am going to be completely enthralled.

In The Glass  51/60

The flavour is robust and challenging. Perhaps a little too challenging especially as there is a real sense that the woodiness has been a bit overdone. I do indeed have that sense of tasting wood chips rather than whisky. The sap from the new barrels is very apparent and gives me impressions of glue and resin hiding in the background waiting to ambush the flavour. There is fortunately a light caramel/maple sweetness running through the whisky which helps to control the wood and the sap. Baking spices (vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg) all seem to bob in and out as does a mild impression of toasted walnuts.

When I add a lump of ice to my glass, I was not enthused as the wood and the sap within the dram found even more expression; however, when that lump of ice melted and the whisky warmed again, sweeter caramel flavours came forward as did a light impression of chocolate cake.  The lesson here is too add a touch of water, rather than a lump of ice.

In The Throat 12.5/15

The finish is full of sap and menthol. Davin De Kergommeaux  (Author and fellow spirits reviewer) in his review (see here) described the finish as “very long and woody with pitchy tone” and yeah, that is a really great summation of how I feel (I wish I had come up with that line!). He likes the finish more than I do as those wood chips I was talking about seem to have moved down into my throat.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

It sound good on paper. Let’s age our whisky in charred new oak, and then when its almost ready, let’s up the anti and re-barrel it in new oak again and this time lets really char that barrel to extract maximum flavour. And, based upon the reviews and awards that this whisky has garnered, I have to admit that my take is probably in the minority. But you’re here in all probability because it my take that you want to read, at the very least just so you have some comparative opinion to those others.  And my opinion is that the Lot No. 40 Dark Oak is kind of like that piece of toast that was left in the toaster just a tad too long. It’s still good, and you are certainly not going to throw it out; but you kind of wished you would have grabbed it just a little sooner. It would have been much better. And that’s how I feel. The whisky is overdone just a tad, and the resulting woodiness diminishes our enjoyment rather than enhances it.

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

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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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