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Proof Whisky

Canadian Whisky Review: Proof Whisky  74/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published on October 27, 2011

Proof Whisky is a relatively new brand of Canadian Whisky produced by Proof Brands. The company currently produces whisky, rum and vodka all of which are bottled in unique stubby 500 ml bottles. The brand and the spirits are the creation of Michael Riley, a ten-year veteran of the alcohol beverage industry. Michael spent 5 years as the Director of Spirits for the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). He has also has worked with such brands as Crown Royal, Absolut, Captain Morgan, Chivas Regal and Molson Canadian.

(According to the press information I was sent, in Whisky Magazine’s 2011 World Whisky Awards, Proof Whisky was on the short list for the best Canadian Whisky in the world.)

Proof Whisky is a double grain whisky produced from wheat and rye bottled at 42% alcohol by volume in the signature stubby 500 ml bottle. And it is with this bottle that I shall begin my review.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

The unique 500 ml bottle for Proof Whisky is shown to the left. It a good marketing ploy to have the smaller bottle. By using a 500 ml size for their spirits, Proof is able to have a shelf price which looks very appealing next to all those 750 ml bottles that are fifty per cent larger. The squat bottle is also quite ergonomic, packing a good volume of whisky in a small space which is bound to make shipping easier and less expensive.

I thought that I might have trouble pouring the spirit as my last experience with a similar squat bottle from Nikka Whisky annoyed me to no end by its tendency to cause spillage. However the rounded bottle top has solved that problem making me like the design just a little more.

In the Glass 7/10

I poured out a small sample of Proof Whisky into my glencairn glass, and I began my review with a good look at the spirit before I began to nose it. It is a pale straw coloured spirit which consistent with a whisky which has spent only a few years in an oak barrel (3 years is the minimum for Canadian Whisky). I gave my glass a tilt and a slow swirl and discovered a light sheen on the inside of the glass which gave up only a few very slender legs which ran back down into the spirit.

The aroma from the glass is very unusual. Balsam and saffron lead out with lemon quickly following. I sense fresh green bell-peppers, sandalwood, and some astringent citrus zest rising up into the breezes. The aromas and smells have a vegetal rawness which is almost tequila-like. I admit that I am more than a little baffled what I sense. I have never encountered anything like this in a Canadian Whisky before.

In the Mouth 44/60

The confusion continues as I wonder whether I really am supposed to be sipping on this whisky, or whether I should marinade a few chicken breasts for the oven with it instead. The dominant flavours appear to be lemon and pepper which work great on baked chicken, but I am not entirely convinced they work as a dominant flavour duo in Canadian Whisky.

The Proof Whisky also carries a floral/grassy element which continues to remind me of saffron, and with it I sense a vague sort of anise/licorice riding in the currents. If I dig deeper, I can also taste rose-hips and bit of willow bark. Again this is so different from what I expect from a Canadian Whisky, that I wonder if I really understand what is going on.

In the Throat 11/15

The finish is rough and peppery, but not in the good tonsil kicking way which I sometimes enjoy. It’s not just the strange astringency (which keeps reminding me of tequila), it is also the rather strange flavours which I am having a hard time getting used to. The aftertaste is kind of like what you experience when you swallow an aspirin that has begun to dissolve. The flavour left in the throat is vaguely bitter and sort of reminiscent of willow bark.

The Afterburn 7.5/10

Proof Whisky is not a sipping whisky; but those odd flavours and the peppery finish seem to work out in the cocktail realm. In fact, because the whisky worked out so well with cocktails, I bumped up my scores a little ‘In the Mouth’ and ‘In the Throat’ to account for this. However, having said that, there are several much better Canadian whiskies of similar price which I would recommend first.

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


Suggested Recipes:

The signature cocktail for Proof Whisky is the Urban Cocktail

Urban Cocktail

1 1/12 oz Proof Whisky
4 oz Ceres pear juice
1 tsp Lemon Juice
Wedge of Pear

Add the Proof Whisky and the juice into a metal cocktail shaker full of ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker frosts
Strain into a short glass full of Ice
Garnish with a wedge of Pear

Mixing the Proof Whisky with Pear juice turns out to be a very good thing as the Urban Cocktail is surprisingly good.


Here is a recipe of mine that also works very will with Proof Whisky.

The Hippodrome

1 1/2 oz Proof Whisky
3/4 oz Grand Marnier
3/8 oz Lemon Juice
3/8 oz Lime Juice
Ginger Ale

Mix the first four ingredients over ice
Complete with Ginger Ale
Dress with a slice of Lemon or Lime

Also Please remember to enjoy the cocktails Responsibly!

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)


5 Responses to “Proof Whisky”

  1. Robert Jordan said

    The first i heard of this new brand was through your review of it, It seemed interesting. But then i saw it in a store and was turned off by the bottle. It’s interesting you scored it a 4.5/5 for the bottle, because when i look at it i can’t help but see a 1940’s cough syrup.

    • Hey Robert

      Funny you should say that, I was decidedly against the bottle the first time I saw it too. But it kind of grew on me quickly, and I noticed that it always seemed to stand out from the other sample bottles I had on my shelf, because of its unique look. I guess just like tasting, judging appearance is subjective.

  2. Mike said

    Funny how this reminds you of tequila; it reminded me of gin more than anything. I thought it smelled interesting, very citrusy, but the flavour was raw and immature. I wouldn’t buy it again. I alos don’t like how they play the “affordability” angle in the marketing campaign, when in fact it is more expensive than Crown Royal, Gibson’s 12, etc., and not nearly as polished.

    • Mike

      I see the gin angle, minus the juniper. I guess I see tequila as a very ‘citrusy’ spirit and I tasted some of the vegetal rawness which is familiar to me in Tequila.. What we are both tasting is a very young spirit. I agree with you on the ‘affordability angle’, as I said in the review, it was a clever ploy to use the smaller bottle to make the spirit ‘seem’ more affordable.

    • Bathy said

      I think you nailed it Mike. I am in Toronto for a week and went to an LCBO with one minute before closing. I grabbed the Proof on (I) price, given its 500ml size and $20 price point, (ii) bottle style and (iii) colour. But the flavour is like a cross between gin and some sort of citrus concoction. I think I can honestly say that this is the worst whiskey I have ever tasted…and I only tried Wiser’s for the first time last night.

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