Archive for the ‘Canadian whisky’ Category

More new whiskies coming on the market

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

(This is from a U.S. perspective…)

The Family Casks from Glenfarclas are finally coming to the U.S. (I’m not certain of the actual list of whiskies and timing.)

Bunnahabhain 18 year old is being phased out and replaced by a vintage offering in 2012.

The Mackinlay (a.k.a. the re-creation of the whisky discovered in the Antarctic from the Shackleton expedition in 1907) is finally being introduced to the U.S. (A very nice whisky, btw.)

Johnnie Walker Double Black is also just now being introduced to the U.S. market this month. More smoke than the regular JW Black Label, and dangerously drinkable. (I brought my bottle to a friend’s house on Friday night and by the time I brought it home 3/4 of it was gone. Everyone liked it.)

On the American whiskey front, the newest Parker’s Heritage Collection is out. This one’s a 10 year old rye-formula bourbon finished in cognac barrels. (Another dangerously drinkable whiskey!) It’s the same cognac brand (and from the same producer) that was part of Jim Beam’s Distillers’ Masterpiece cognac-finished whiskey introduced over a decade ago. (Beam was ahead of their time with those Distillers’ Masterpiece releases.)

Also noteworthy, but available only at Heaven Hill’s Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown, is a single barrel, 20 year old bottling of Elijah Craig that was produced to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. Why do I mention this very limited, logistically-challenged bourbon? I tried it and it’s excellent! If you know someone heading that way, have them purchase a bottle for you.

There’s a low-cost, very smooth Canadian whisky just released called “Rich & Rare Reserve” from Sazerac (Buffalo Trace’s parent company). My guess it’s from the same stock of Canadian whiskies that produced the recent releases of Caribou Crossing Single Barrel and Royal Canadian Small Batch, but just less expensive. It comes in a cool-looking 375 ml flask-shaped bottle.

On the liqueur front, following the successful introduction of Red Stag Black Cherry, Jim Beam is introducing two new flavors: Red Stag Honey Tea and Red Stag Spiced.

Have you seen the History Channel show on Whiskey?

Friday, September 30th, 2011

A couple years ago, the History Channel featured a one-hour show titled “Whiskey.” It is part of their popular series called Modern Marvels. They’ve run the show again several times since then. I mentioned it here before for two reasons:

  • It’s a very entertaining and informative show that I think will appeal to both the novice and seasoned whisky enthusiast.
  • I’m interviewed several times during the show. (Let that be a warning to you…)

If you still haven’t had a chance to see it, or if you would like to watch it again, you can now catch it on Hulu. I’m including the link here. They excluded most of the commercials (thankfully), so the show is only about 45 minutes.

Check it out.  One bit of advice: having a whisky in your hand while watching it only enhances the pleasure!

Some new whiskies here in the U.S.

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

A few thoughts on new whisky information that crossed my desk recently:

The gently peated Hakushu whisky from Suntory is finally coming to the U.S. The official launch is October 12th. I’ve been pleading with my friends at Suntory to bring it in as a companion to Yamazaki for many years. It’s great to see it finally coming here.

Isle of Skye 12 year old blended scotch is finally making its way to our shores. Previously, the U.S. has only been getting the 8 year old.

John Hall, whiskymaker of Canada’s Forty Creek whisky, has a new “John’s Private Cask No. 1” release. This is coming to the States too. I’ve tasted this already and it’s another delicious release by John.

Finally, Buffalo Trace is about to release a new Single Barrel version of their Colonel E. H. Taylor, Jr. bourbon (pictured). This one will be 11 years, 7 months old and bottle in bond (100 proof).

I’m sure there will be many more new whiskies coming on the market as we approach the holiday season.

Review: Collingwood

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Collingwood, 40% ABV, $27

Sweet, rich candy — pulled taffy, boiled sweets — with a little hot edge. Signature Canadian sweetness, but with more depth and a gently mouth-coating feel. Touches of vanilla, caramel, and some of those candy notes again, but the finish isn’t cloying. No overt evidence of the toasted maplewood finishing. Another exploration of what Canadian whisky is, or can be, that stays within bounds and makes the sweet whisky idea work.  –Lew Bryson

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 84

Coming in May: daily whisky reviews

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

The Summer issue of Malt Advocate will be out June 1st. (It will be our 20th Anniversary issue!) In it, we have a record number of whisky reviews too: almost 90! Nearly all are new releases.

I’m going to share with you a sampling of these reviews before they are published in Malt Advocate. (It’s my way of saying “thank you” for taking time out of your busy schedule to check in here.) I’ll post up at least one new review every day for the entire month (including weekends).

Stay tuned…

Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “Canadian Whisky of the Year”: Forty Creek Confederation Oak

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

John Hall, whisky maker and owner of Kittling Ridge Distillery, is a leading pioneer in the Canadian craft whisky distilling movement. His unique method of making whisky — distilling single grain whiskies (corn, rye, and barley) and blending them together after they have been aged, as opposed to the simpler and more traditional method of making one whisky from a multi-grain mashbill — got the industry’s attention. It was the richness and flavor of his whiskies (especially relative to other Canadians) that won the consumer’s attention.

Starting with Forty Creek Barrel Select, his flagship whisky (and lovely in its own right), he began experimenting with special, limited-edition releases, like Small Batch, Port Wood, and Double Barrel Reserve. They were always very good, but we knew that John had the potential to make not just a very good whisky, but really great whisky. It was only a matter of time, and that time has now come.

Put simply, Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve is a benchmark Canadian whisky. It’s also unique. Instead of aging his whisky in more traditional American oak (i.e. used bourbon barrels), he aged this whisky in Canadian oak barrels from trees growing only 40 miles from the distillery. The Canadian oak provides a slightly different flavor profile.

We love the whisky’s creamy texture, along with its gentle sweetness (praline, marzipan, maple syrup) and lovely fruit (orange creamsicle, sultana, and coconut macaroon).  Both distinctive and very drinkable, it’s an outstanding effort!

Tomorrow, the Irish Whiskey of the Year will be announced.

Top 10 rated whiskies in the new issue of Malt Advocate

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Here’s a sneak peek  of the top 10 rated whiskies in the upcoming issue of Malt Advocate magazine (the Winter 2010 issue). Most have been reviewed here already, but I thought it would be helpful if you had them all organized in one post.

96 Redbreast, 12 year old, 40%, $43
Very elegant, complex, and stylish. Honeyed and silky in texture, with toffee, toasted marshmallow, nougat, maple syrup, banana bread, and a hint of toasted coconut. Bright fruit and golden raisin blend in nicely with the layers of sweetness. Impeccable balance and very approachable. Classic Irish whiskey!

95 Compass Box Flaming Heart (10th Anniversary bottling), 48.9%, $105
A marriage of three different single malts, aged in American and French oak. This whisky shows the advantage of marrying whiskies from more than one distillery (when properly done). Vibrant, with a complex array of fruit (orchard fruit, sultana), sweetness (light toffee, marzipan, honeyed malt), spice (creamy vanilla, mocha, warming pepper), smoke (tar, smoked olive, coal), and lesser notes of toasted almond and beach pebbles. More smoke and tar on the palate than the nose, yet always in balance. Well played!

95 Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection, 1995 Vintage, “American Oak Chips Seasoned,” 45%, $47/375ml
Surprisingly light and fresh for a 15 year old whiskey. Crisply spiced, with cinnamon, evergreen, vanilla, anise, and teaberry. Hints of dried fruit, kissed with light honey and a wisp of smoke. Balanced and clean throughout, and very drinkable. An excellent whiskey!

95 Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve, 40%, $70
Perhaps the finest Canadian whisky I have ever tasted. Creamy and seamless from beginning to end. Gently sweet, with orange creamsicle, marzipan, sultana, praline, maple syrup, and a hint of coconut macaroon. Forty Creek whiskies have always been very good, but none have ever had the right stuff to reach classic status. Until now, that is. An outstanding, very distinctive whisky!

94 Highland Park, 1970 vintage, 48%, £2,250
This limited edition bottling consists of a marriage of both European and American oak. Still lively for its age, and beautifully balanced. Bountiful golden fruit (sultana, pineapple upside down cake, tangerine, overripe nectarine) balanced by soothing, creamy vanilla. A peppering of dried spice, chamomile tea, toasted oak, cigar box, and subtle smoke round out the palate. Soft and seductive. (Not available in the U.S.)

94 Knob Creek Single Barrel, 9 year old, 60%, $40
This new single barrel expression of Knob Creek tastes very similar to the original “small batch” Knob Creek (when brought down to the same alcohol level). If anything, it’s slightly drier, more elegant, not as heavy on the palate, and more sophisticated — but I am reaching here. The similarity is a good thing, because I really enjoy the original expression. Keeping in mind that no two barrels are exactly alike, your decision to purchase the single barrel might just come down to whether you want to pay a little more for a higher strength version, and whether knowing that it might taste a little different than the standard small batch bottling excites you. This is a stylish, big, broad-shouldered bourbon with a thick, sweet foundation (nutty toffee, pot still rum, maple syrup) peppered with spice (cinnamon, but also vanilla and evergreen) and dried fruit. Dry, warming, resinous finish. (Incidentally, I would rate the small batch within a point or two, and the tasting notes would be very similar.)

93 Parker’s Heritage Collection (2010 release), 10 year old, 63.9%, $80
Soft, sweet, and very smooth. Richly textured layers of caramel, toffee, vanilla fudge, nougat, maple syrup, and rhum agricole. Blackberry, date nut bread, cinnamon, subtle cocoa, and nutmeg add complexity. Clean, polished, and perilously drinkable. A delicious wheated bourbon! (Not quite the complexity of the 2009 William Larue Weller (a benchmark wheated bourbon which I rated a 96), but getting close.

93 High West Straight Rye Whiskey, 12 year old, 46%, $50/375ml
A bottling from only five barrels of 95% rye whiskey produced at the former Seagram’s distillery in Indiana. It’s the American whiskey equivalent of drinking Ardbeg Supernova. Powerful and invigorating are words that come to mind. Crisp mint, warming cinnamon, dried citrus, cocoa, roasted nuts, and subtle botanicals are soothed by caramel, molasses, and honeyed orchard fruit. Brisk, bracing, spicy finish. The notes are clean, and the whiskey’s not just a one-trick “rye” pony. The sweetness balances the rye spice quite nicely. If you just can’t get enough rye in your whiskey, then this one’s for you. (Available only at the High West Distillery in Park City, Utah.)

93 Caribou Crossing, Single Barrel, 40%, $50
Those of you who think Canadian whiskies are thin and bland should give this one a try. No, it’s not a new concept, like Forty Creek. It’s still very much a “traditional” Canadian. But when compared to most Canadian whiskies, it’s richer, creamier, and velvety smooth. The flavors are straightforward — primarily vanilla, with some crème brûlée, toasted marshmallow, tangerine, peaches and cream, and gentle rye spice — but they are clean and well-balanced. A delicious, lighter-style whisky.

92 Duncan Taylor “NC2” (distilled at Aberlour), 16 year old, 46%, $80
This whisky packs a lot of clean, complex, and well-balanced flavors. It features a creamy, layered, malty-sweet foundation (vanilla, caramel, toffee) chock full of bright fruit (golden raisin, honeyed orchard fruit, currant), rounded out by firm, dried spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, mint) that dances on the palate. Long, warming, spicy finish. Nicely done!

Review: Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve, 40%, $70
One of the finest Canadian whiskies I have ever tasted. Creamy and seamless from beginning to end. Gently sweet, with orange creamsicle, marzipan, sultana, praline, maple syrup, and a hint of coconut macaroon. Forty Creek whiskies have always been very good, but none have ever had the right stuff to reach classic status. Until now, that is. An outstanding, very distinctive whisky!

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 95

Reviews: Canadian Mist “Black Diamond” and Canadian Mist

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Well, if I’m reviewing the new black Diamond, I might as well review the standard Canadian Mist too while I’m at it. And also compare it to Crown Royal Black.

Canadian Mist Black Diamond, 43%, $15
Richer, sweeter (with more caramelized sugars), fruitier, and spicier than the standard Canadian Mist (reviewed below). Still, I wish it were a bit smoother (especially on the finish) for something I would consider drinking neat on a regular basis. There’s no age statement, but a couple more years of aging would be nice. Like the flagship Canadian Mist, this whisky still plays it fairly conservatively—not a lot of risk-taking here. But, I think it’s slightly better than Crown Royal Black (its logical competitor) which is not as smooth on the finish, and you can get Black Diamond for half the price.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 79

 Canadian Mist, 40%, $12
Very light in aroma and flavor. There’s no off flavors. It’s just uninspiring. Delicate notes of vanilla custard, honey, caramel corn candy, sweet corn, and subtle fruit. Fleeting finish.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 75

A couple of websites worth checking out

Friday, July 30th, 2010

I’ve been wanting to tell you about two new websites on whisky worth checking out.

The first one,, is being run by knowledgeable whisky enthusiast, Davin de Kergommeaux. The site currently reviews Canadian whisky and conducts interviews about Canadian whisky.

To quote Davin: “The site is intended to take an in-depth look at Canadian whisky, starting with some reviews, and soon to include news, technical information and so on.”

It’s still new and just building content. But, if you like Canadian whisky, you should keep an eye on it.

The second site,, takes a look at the exploding craft distilling scene here in the U.S. It includes reviews, interviews, and distillery profiles (including a list of products each distiller makes).

As I discover other new sites, I’ll pass them on to you.