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Twelve Barrels

Review: Twelve Barrels Canadian Whisky  80/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published October 3, 2017

Twelve Barrels Canadian Whisky is the creation of Cole Miller of Napanee, Ontario. Although the whisky is produced by a third-party distillery, Cole apparently based his recipe upon the whisky produced by a local whisky making legend, John Meagher who began making wheat whisky on the shores of the Napanee River in 1853. Soon thereafter he began he learned of the robust flavour of Canadian rye and added that grain to the mix. (The recipe also contains corn.)

The moniker for the whisky (Twelve Barrels) is apparently derived from another Napanee legend, George ‘the Jumper’ Meagher, (Son of Whisky Maker John Meagher) who was a locally renowned hockey player and the 1896 World Figure Skating Champion. Besides being a World Champion, George’s other great claim to fame was that he, while skating, was able to leap over an amazing twelve whisky barrels.

On the Twelve Barrels website, Cole Miller discusses his whisky:

Most companies won’t reveal the information below, but as a consumer I want to know what I am drinking and what makes a product unique.

  • Canadian Wheat Whisky- 40% of 12B – 100% Wheat aged in Seasoned White Oak (Previously held Bourbon)
  • Canadian Corn Whisky- 35% of 12B – 90% Corn aged in Seasoned American White Oak (Previously held Bourbon)
  • American Rye Whisky- 25% of 12B – 95% Rye aged in Brand New American White Oak

The final whisky is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

As seen from the bottle shot to the left Twelve Barrels arrives in a standard medium tall clear glass bottle with a synthetic cork stopper. The neck has a slight bubble to make grabbing the bottle easier, and that neck is long enough to make pouring easy. The bottle  follows the bartender’s rule of thumb that liquor bottles should be easy to store, easy to hold, and most importantly easy to pour.

The graphic on the label eye-catching  and is sure to create conversation if you put the bottle on the table in front of your friends. I like what I see.

In the Glass 8/10

When poured into the glass the Twelve Barrels Whisky has an amber/gold colour just hinting towards orange. When I tilt that glass and give it a twirl I see that the whisky has a slightly thickened body which deposits a light film on the inside of the glass. Small droplets form from the crest and they fall back to the whisky rather quickly.

The initial nose brings a combination butterscotch and almond with vanilla and hints of burlap. As I let the glass sit dusty rye and wood spice notes develop with hints of orange peel zest.  The whisky is not too complicated; but there is a nice balance between the different impressions with only a very light alcohol astringency evident.

In the Mouth 48/60

When I tasted this whisky blind for the first time I wrote that I tasted some corn with burlap and almond. There was a touch of alcohol bite; but this was countered by some nice milk chocolate flavours and a light butterscotch sweetness which were melded into the whisky flavour.

When I tasted the whisky again (this time in isolation from the other whisky samples) I noticed that there is a nice underlying nutty element which reminds me of almond and some light baking spices which include vanilla and cinnamon. There is also a touch of bitter rye kernel underneath which seems to compliment the light sweetness.

With ice added, the chocolate flavours come through more forcefully, and the whisky is just smooth enough to begin sipping. A splash of ginger-ale and a well placed ice-cube would not be out of the question.

In the Throat 11.5/15

Tasting the whisky blind, I noted the finish contained a mustiness of old leather (probably from the corn in the blend), traces of burlap (which now tastes like rye kernel) and a light touch of burn. With ice the burn disappears completely and milk chocolate appears.

The Afterburn 8/10

Twelve Barrels is a nice Canadian Whisky. It seems suited for back deck parties where ginger-ale and ice are added and the company you are enjoying is as important as the whisky you are drinking. My score has it right at that border-line where we would begin to sip the spirit over ice, but most of us will prefer that splash of ginger-ale.

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


Suggested Recipe

The Canadian Mammy

2 oz Twelve Barrels Whisky
1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
dash of Sugar Syrup
1/2 cup cracked ice
Ginger Ale
Lime Zest

Remove thin strips of lime peel from a fresh lime
Fill a tall highball glass half full of chipped ice
Add the lime juice and the Canadian Whisky
Top with ginger ale
Add a few threads of lemon peel and stir gently.

As always I want to remind everyone that my aim is not to help you drink more…it is to help you drink better!

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.)

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