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Pike Creek 21 Year Old (Finished in Speyside Single Malt Casks)

Review: Pike Creek 21 Year Old (Finished in Speyside Single Malt Casks)   84.5/100
a review By Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
May 09, 2017

Pike Creek 21 Year Old is part of Corby’s Northern Border Collection Rare Release which features hand-picked selections from their rarest casks. How rare are these whiskies? Corby’s doesn’t actually tell us much; however, it is significant that this particular 21-year-old whisky doesn’t even rate a mention on the Corby’s Brands website. They obviously expect to sell out very fast. This Pike Creek whisky was first matured in oak casks (probably refill bourbon barrels) and then finished in refill bourbon casks which had been used to age an unspecified Speyside (Scotch) malt whisky. The final spirit was bottled at 45 % alcohol by volume.

My experience with this particular whisky is quite limited. As part of my juror duties for the 2018 Canadian Whisky Awards, I was given about 75 blind samples and as I judged each whisky (over the course of 30 days), I tasted them each three times, writing down tasting notes and scores as I did so. It was only after the judging was complete, and the awards were presented, that the contents of each of the blind samples became know to me. I still had a small amount of each whisky remaining after judging, and so with that small amount remaining and from the tasting notes I already had produced I penned this review.

In The Bottle

The bottle presentation for Pike Creek Whisky is shown to the left. The bottle is both appealing and eye-catching. I think the colour scheme works well on the label as does the overall brand messaging. I am not really sure what the significance of the paper cord wrapped around the neck is; but overall, the long-necked squat bottle looks good on my whisky shelf.

In the Glass 8.5/10

Although the spirit has been aged for a full 21 years, it does not have the rich copper hue we associate with well aged spirits. The hue of the whisky is amber which is a reflection of the previously used refill bourbon barrels which had already given much of their colour to the previous inhabitants of the barrels.

When I gave my glencairn glass a slow tilt and twirl, I saw that the spirit was medium bodied dropping mid-sized legs down the inside of the glass. Again our expectation of a 21-year-old whisky is that it would be full-bodied but a combination of the column distilled spirit and the older (previously used) aging barrels have given us a lighter whisky.

Here are the nosing notes I wrote down, when I sampled the spirit in a blind judging format:

Initial Aroma: corn, butterscotch almond and vanilla, some sweet and sour fruit

Decanted Aroma: dusty grain and fine oak spice with hints of ginger

Empty Glass: light candy and grain

The notes indicate a well-balanced Canadian Whisky which shows us some development in the glass as it breathes. I will admit, that when I discovered that this was a 21-year-old whisky I was surprised that the spirit had not shown me more. I went back to my sample after the competition; however, I found that my impressions were remarkably similar when I sampled the spirit in isolation. The spirit is quite pleasant; but it lacks the development and character I would associate with such a well aged whisky.

In the Mouth 50/60

Again here are my tasting notes from my blind sampling sessions:

Initial Taste: butterscotch, vanilla and almond with fine oak spice and corn

Follow up: more of the same, the sweetness of the fruit is sort of penetrating.

Except for the overt fruitiness, these tasting notes could have been written for any mid-tier Canadian Whisky. Scottish Speyside malt whisky is known for its sweet fruity quality, and I suspect the finishing barrel enhancement is responsible for the penetrating sweetness (which unfortunately I found somewhat out-of-place).

In the Throat 13/15

Body and Length: medium/short finish hint of astringency

I am going to forgive the hint of astringency which upon subsequent re-tasting seems to me to be more of a reflection of the higher alcohol content and the spiciness which stems from long-term aging (long-term aging in well used casks tends to produce very spicy whiskies).

Flavours during Swallow: corn and butterscotch with soothing menthol

Lingering Flavours: hints of baking spice and menthol

It was in the finish that the 21 Year Old Whisky revealed most of its character. It was a pity that the whisky’s depth was not more obvious in the delivery.

The Afterburn

As a final judge’s comment regarding the whisky I wrote:

A pleasant mixing whisky with sipping potential especially with ice added.

As you can see, I had no idea that I was writing about a 21 Year Old spirit. I thought what I was dealing with was a very good mid-tier Canadian Whisky which I could sip over ice or if the mood suited, mix with ginger-ale. When I tasted the spirit later, knowing it was a much older spirit than I had given it credit for, I found I still had the same opinion. The spirit lacks the oak character I associate with age. I suspect the refilled bourbon casks used to age the whisky had given some of that character to its previous spirits.

You may read some of my other Whisky 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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