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Lot No. 40 Cask Strength Rye Whisky

Review:  Lot No. 40 Cask Strength Rye Whisky  (91.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published December 09, 2017

Lot No. 40 has received a bit of a makeover recently as the spirit which was previously branded, Lot No. 40 Single Copper Pot Still Canadian Whisky received a new label, and the whisky is now known simply as Lot No. 40 Rye Whisky. Lot No. 40 is of course the Corby branded whisky which 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 such a new style of Canadian Whisky. However, with the new 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.

This year, as part of Corby’s  Northern Border Collection, a cask strength version of Lot No. 40 was released across Canada labeled simply as Lot No. 40 Cask Strength. It is a brute of a whisky bottled at 55 % alcohol by volume. According to the label on the bottle, the whisky is crafted in small batches using rye grain in a single copper pot still and aged for 12 years in oak barrels.

In the Bottle 4/5

Although I like the medium tall dark brown bottle the cask strength whisky is housed in, the label has me scratching my head. It appears to be a metallic label (copper perhaps) fixed at an angle across a distillation diagram.

What has me bothered is that my 54-year-old eyes are having one heck of a time reading the bottom part of that copper label. I am trying to decipher whether this is a whisky made with 100 % rye grain, all of it  distilled on a copper pot still, or if it is a whisky with merely a portion of the blend devoted to rye grain distilled on that small copper pot still. I am also trying to decipher whether (as with the original Lot No. 40 Rye Whisky) the spirit has had some of its contents aged in new wood, or whether the wood used was ex-bourbon barrels for the entire amount.

Finally I am trying to find a statement which names the whisky a Canadian Whisky. On that final point I do find some small print confirming the whisky is indeed Canadian Whisky. But it was hard to find, and this makes me suspect that Corby really doesn’t want their potential American and European customers to notice.

Frankly, I want a label that is easier to read, and one which doesn’t pussy foot around important information. This whisky appears to have changed quite a bit from its 2012 form (I said appears, maybe it has, maybe it has not) not just in terms of bottling strength, but also in terms of grain used and the aging regimen. These were important aspects of the original marketing of the brand. If the original marketing story is slowly changing, I think that the customer deserves to know, instead of being left to guess.

In the Glass  9.5/10

When poured into my glencairn, the whisky displays itself as a bronze coloured spirit. When I tilt and twirl my glass I see a thickened liquid sheen on the inside which slowly releases extremely reluctant legs which run back down to the whisky at the bottom of the glass.

The breezes above the glass bring rich malt-like aromas which remind me of fresh of rye bread and chocolate. Welling up are towering oak and cedar aromas filled with woodspice and sap. Rich caramel toffee, cigar tobacco, dates, prunes, canned fruit, maple, and old leather round out an aroma which is almost intimidating with the brute force that is implied. I feel like I am in a fighting mood, so this should be fun!

In the Mouth 55.5/60

The flavour hits like a sledge-hammer with rough oak and cedar spice pushed by alcohol heat, dark chocolate and heavy rye bread. Add in Christmas fruitcake, and lots of peppery spice including black pepper and cloves and we are still only part way into describing the sheer volume of flavour. Then there is the old-fashioned pipe tobacco like my Dad used to smoke on Sundays and nutty flavours of fresh leather, almond and burlap. Finally we have a mouthful of sticky marmalade. Wow this is intense!

With ice added, the dram becomes bitter and woody with rye kernel and freshly cut timber slabs dominating the flavour. I would suggest it would be better to add a dollop of water at room temperature which brings a creaminess forward with flavours of rye bread and chocolate dominating.

I like this whisky a lot, but it is a little like hit in the mouth with a solid right hook.

In the Throat 13.5/15

The exit is long with hot peppery spices, bittersweet chocolate , bitter rye kernel, and treacle. Perhaps a touch more sweetness would balance the hot spice and bitter rye.

The Afterburn 9/10

Lot No. 40 Cask Strength is quite a whisky! The complexity it brings is off the charts and this alone brings score up to the stratosphere. If there were a touch more sweetness, the gravitational field of the earth would have been overcome and the spirit would have achieved space flight.

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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