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Saddleback Maple Bacon Whisky

Review: Saddleback Maple Bacon Whisky  82.5/100
Reviewed by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted May 13, 2018

Saddleback Maple Bacon Whisky is produced by Proof Brands. The company currently produces both whisky and vodka for the Canadian marketwhich are bottled in their unique stubby bottles (see picture below). The brands and the spirits are the creation of Michael Riley, a 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.

Proof Brand’s Saddleback Maple Bacon Whisky was released in 2017, marking the 50th Anniversary of the British Saddleback Pig, which they claim is the world’s best hog for bacon. Michael blends his Proof Canadian Whisky (a blend of Canadian prairie rye and wheat which is distilled with pristine water from the Rockies) with natural maple syrup and bacon flavours. His website indicates no pigs were harmed in the production of the whisky which implies to me that the bacon flavour must be synthesized in some way (else a pig would have been harmed).

I encountered the Maple Bacon Whisky when I was acting as a juror for the 2018 Canadian Whisky Awards. I was quite smitten by the unique flavour and after the awards, I contacted Michael Riley to see if I could procure a sample for review. My review includes my taste impressions from both my blind sample (the one I tasted while judging) augmented by my impressions from the sample bottle which was sent to me.

In the Bottle 3.5/5

The 750 ml bottle for the Saddleback Maple Bacon Whisky is shown to the left. This is a squat round bottle which is a bit of an unusual choice in the Canadian Whisky category. This makes the spirit stand out a little in a retail setting which is a good thing.

Unfortunately I had a little trouble pouring the flavoured whisky into my glass during my sampling sessions as the very short neck causes the spirit to dribble out before you are expecting it to. I hate spilling whisky, and although this bottle can be poured successfully if you are very careful, I am not convinced that the consumer should have to be put to such a test for the sake of pouring the first few drams from the bottle.

So we have some good, and some bad and I have judged the bottle accordingly.

In the Glass 8/10

The flavoured whisky showed me a nice gold colour in the glass, and when I swirled my glencairn, I saw a rather thick sheen of whisky the crest of which reluctantly dropped medium fat leglets. The initial aroma speaks loudly to the presence of maple; however there is also a light backdrop of wood spice. As I give the glass time to breathe I begin to glimpse the presence of some light peppery spices which provide me an impression of bacon bits. The bacon-like scents are somewhat smothered by the overt maple, but hints of bacon bits are evident or at least implied.

Frankly I like that the maple is in the forefront and the bacon is more of an accent. I am not sure whether I would like this nearly as much if the aroma of  bacon dominated.

In the Mouth 50/60

When I tasted the Saddleback Maple Bacon Whisky for the first time it was in a blind format, and I wasn’t sure what I was encountering. This is what I wrote for my initial tasting notes:

Taste: Maple with some sort of peppery wood and grain spices

I could taste the maple clearly; but there was something else riding along which I couldn’t figure out. I decided I was tasting some kind of peppery wood spices which may or may not have come from the whisky. The furthest thing from my mind was that this could be a whisky flavoured with maple and bacon. When I received my sample bottle from Proof Brands, I was curious if knowing that I was tasting a whisky with bacon flavours would affect my perceptions. And it did, in a big way. Now, those indistinguishable peppery wood and grain spices seem to be tinged by a light flavour of smokey, somewhat peppery bacon under the maple flavour.

And guess what? It tastes pretty good. I would never have believed that Maple, Bacon and Whisky were such a great combination, but the sweet savoury flavour works for me. I believe I also taste a hint of saltiness which works with the overall flavour as well.

In the Throat 12.5/15

Because of the added maple sweetness, the whisky has a full body which would imply a long finish. However, the exit is oddly shortened with the flavours leaving the palate more quickly than I would have imagined. I do like that the overt maple flavour is not sticky sweet in the finish as this would become cloying in a hurry. So perhaps that oddly shortened finish is a blessing in disguise.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

Novelty flavours do not often impress me. I tried a salmon flavoured vodka once (which was a big mistake), and I have tasted some pretty odd flavoured rums over the past ten years. Saddleback Maple Bacon Whisky is obviously a novelty flavour as well. But in this case, I have to admit that the flavoured spirit not only intrigued me as a novelty, it actually tastes pretty darn good.My scoring during my blind sampling sessions were actually a little higher than my final score which I suppose implies I enjoyed the spirit even before I knew it was a novelty.

Overall I found I can sip the spirit over ice and enjoy myself; not only that, when I tried it in a few cocktails (see one of the recipes below) I found the mixed servings very enjoyable as well.

My final score is 82.5/100.  This reflects my feeling that we can sip the spirit over ice, as well as enjoy some uniquely flavoured cocktails. I think this is a novelty spirit worth trying.

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

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Suggested Recipe

Here is a recipe sent to me by Saddleback Maple Bacon Whisky founder Michael Riley. It is a simple sour recipe with a strip of bacon for the garnish. Enjoy!

This Little Piggy!

2 oz Saddleback Maple Bacon Whisky
1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Sugar Syrup (1:1 Ratio)
Ice
Bacon Strip

Add the ingredients into a metal shaker with plenty of ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish with a strip of cooked bacon

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

And if  you are interested in more recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for my mixed drink recipes!

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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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