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Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old Whisky

Review: Gibson’s Finest 12 year Old Canadian Whisky  (85/100)
a Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on August 28, 2011 (Revised and Re-scored October 2016)

Gibson’s Finest Whisky is produced from of two sources: a base grain whisky (which would be a corn-based column still whisky) and 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.  When aging their whisky, Gibson’s Finest uses a variety of barrels, ex-bourbon barrels, new oak barrels, etc. The ratio of each barrel-type used can differ from batch to batch because the whisky is blended to a specific taste profile rather than to a specific barrel regimen.

In 2002, the Gibson’s Finest brand was purchased by 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 Valleyfield, Quebec to the Hiram Walker Distillery in Windsor, Ontario.

gibsons-12-sam_2683In the Bottle 4.5/5

As you can see from the bottle shot, the presentation is solid. The squat bottle is a nice change from the taller barroom style bottles which are so prevalent in this category. The label is attractive, and the entire look including the cork stopper is solid.

In the Glass 8.5/10

In the glass the whisky has a golden amber colour which shows me light flashes of orange in the light. A tilt and slow swirl of the glass reveals a lightly oily sheen on the inside which stubbornly gives up droopy leglets that slowly slide down the side of the glass forming long slender legs.

The initial nose from the glass is of honey and fruit filled rye spices and some light butterscotch alongside firm dusty wood spices. As the glass breathes, ripened fields of prairie grain and corn rise up out of the glass. I sense both musty cornstalks and rows of freshly swathed grain. Sawdust, chaff, and then bits of orange peel add to the dry spiciness. The whisky however, seems younger than its age, and is diminished somewhat by a light sense of alcohol astringency which does not dissipate as the glass decants.

In the Mouth 51/60

A combination of fine wood spice, fruity rye and lightly sweet corn lead out followed by hints of tobacco, sharp orange peel and mildly bitter treacle. The whisky is mildly sweet, yet that sweetness has a penetrating quality which is much different from I remember. As I allow the whisky to breathe, the spirit becomes more approachable with a mild citrus pith bitterness tempering the penetrating sweetness. Some baking spices (vanilla and cinnamon) struggle to be recognized and for a few brief moments I catch glimpses of the rich flavour I remember from my last encounter with the 12-year-old whisky. It is only a glimpse though and my score in this section of the review has dropped significantly.

Whereas I recommended an Old Fashioned Cocktail previously for the Gibson’s Rare, my recommendation today would be to use a little soda and make a Rye and Ginger splash. The whisky is still very good, but it pales in comparison to where it was several years ago.

In the Throat 12.5/15

The finish features wine oak spices and orange peel which bring back that feeling of astringency which I noted on the nose. Dabs of vanilla and cinnamon save the whisky from crashing during the exit, allowing us to sip for modest enjoyment, although I do believe I will be mixing with ginger ale as often as I will be sipping.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

Although I enjoyed Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old Canadian Whisky, it did not inspire me the way it once did. The whisky is spicier and less luxurious than it once was. I openly wonder if the spirit is a victim of the oak shortage which has led some distilleries to stretch the overall lifespan of their aging barrels further which would imply the barrels used for maturation would have a higher average overall age for at least some of the expressions. These older barrels would have less oak and less caramelized flavours to impart to the whisky.

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


Suggested Recipe

SAM_0777 Rye SplashCanadian Whisky Splash

2 oz Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old
2 or 3 Large Ice-cubes
Splash of Ginger-ale
Slice of Lemon

Add the Ice-cubes to a rocks glass
Pour the Whisky over the ice
Add a splash of Ginger Ale
Garnish with a lemon slice

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


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)


9 Responses to “Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old Whisky”

  1. Nathan said

    This, fortunately, was my first foray into whiskey of any kind. I feel very fortunate to have chosen as such, and am delighted that it was rated so highly by you given it’s price point (27 in ontario). I almost picked up canadian club original, and I’m glad that I didn’t. Love your website, I’ve been looking through pages and pages of your reviews. You’ll definately be influencing my next purchase. Cheers.

  2. Neil Cake said


    just thought I’d let you know that I used your site a little while ago for researching whisky purchases on a visit to Canada. I found it very useful; thanks.

    I’ve just written a post about the trip for my blog, and have provided a link to your site, so I thought you’d like to know, in case you wanted to take a look…

    I’ll be adding your address to my links section, as long as you’re ok with that.

    No doubt I’ll be back for more research in the future.


    Neil Cake

    • Welcome to my website Neil!

      I am flattered by the link and the recognition in your posting. Trust me I have no objections to being mentioned on your site or being in your Blog Roll. And I read your posting about Booze tourism in Canada. Nice ramble!

      I shall reciprocate the link the next time I update that section.


  3. I think you meant Valleyfield, not valleyview…

    But gr8 review. Have you tried the 18?


    • Thanks JF, I always appreciate it when typos and errors are pointed out as I do not have a proof reader for my website and some errors such as this one are almost impossible for e to detect. I will make the change in the review, (BTW: Valleyview is a local town in Alberta that I know very well,)

      I have tried the 18 but that particular18 year Old was from about 3 years ago. I am awaiting the arrival of the newest bottlling for my next Gibson’s review. Since I detected some changes for the better in the 12, I am hopeful the same will be true for the 18, which by the way was superb when I tried it 3 years ago.

  4. Carol said

    My son-in-law has been looking for Gibsons Gold Label Whiskey. I’ve been unable to find it in Montana or California. Can you supply me with the cost of the whiskey, shipping and how to order it?

    • I am sorry Carol, but it is not legal in Canada to ship any distilled spirits. And to be honest I have not heard of Gibsons Gold label. You might mean Gibsons Sterling, which sells for about $20 to $25 a bottle in Alberta.

  5. If you think the 12 yrs old is good, you need to try Gibson’s Finest 18 yrs. It is really great. Especially at the price point that it is available.

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