There are a few misconceptions around Scotch whisky that I still hear today. First, I often hear how scotch is ‘smoky’ with strong iodine notes, and therefore a big turn-off for whisky drinkers. In truth, most scotch sold contains very little in terms of smoky notes. The second misconceptions is, only Islay distilleries make peated whiskies. In truth, peat was a main fuel source up until the 1950s in many parts of Scotland and was commonly used in the whisky making process.
Unlike Colonel E.H. Taylor’s whisky cousin, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, CEHT Small Batch has a strong opinion on whisky. It’s maltier, grainier. It offers not only an excellent example of what a straight bourbon should taste like, but also offering an opinion on where the future is going. Sure, there’s a lot of woody notes here, but there’s also grainy notes that are allowed to shine creating a nice balance. Not everyone will appreciate the small batch; they might find it too acidic, or too forced on flavour, but an excellent whisky should either define the category or have a define an attitude. This whisky is the latter. Great price-point, and at 50% ABV, it will waken-up the palate.
Castle & Key Distillery is located in the historic Old Taylor Distillery, within Woodford County, Kentucky. The distillery, not yet opened to the public, is destined to become a popular tourist attraction. It’s filled with once abandoned whisky warehouses, an old train station going back to the 1900s, and a traditional water spring house that’s reminiscent of the Roman era. (Pictured below)
This week on The Whisky Topic, we're joined by John Quinn. John Quinn is the Global Brand Ambassador for Tullamore Dew. We speak about the Irish Whiskey industry, through it's recent history (70s to today), and taste a deconstruction of Tullamore Dew as well as something new!
Island of Arran is a large Scottish island that was once a Viking stronghold. The last distillery on the island dates back to 1837, and previous to that there were estimated to be over fifty active distilleries on the island. The 19th century wasn't overly kind to the island, though. Due to many factors (known as the clearances), the population severely decreased as people moved mainland. Today, there are just five-thousand residents on the island. They have one distillery.
Elijah Craig is a wonderful example of why the obsession over age statements is currently overblown. Elijah Craig, made by Heaven Hill Distillery, is their darling premium straight bourbon product. In previous years, it carried an age statement of twelve years. As the demand for whisky increased, the stock of old barrels became an issue. Heaven Hill couldn’t keep the age statement and still continue to release Elijah Craig while also expanding the line into older age statements.
Glenfiddich 15 Solera Reserve is a fantastic scotch that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. It’s not as topical as whatever this years best whisky in the world is, or as historic as some fifty-year old scotches being released. What it is, though, is a consistently terrific reasonably priced scotch (such a rarity these days!).
The Whisky Topic Podcast has hit 100 episodes late last year, and we're still going strong. This time around, we recorded episode 109 for YouTube. There's a lot to be said about the Podcast medium. But we wanted to try the YouTube medium as well. As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or your favourite Podcast network.
Many are surprised to know that J.P. Wiser’s 18 contains no prominent rye, and yet there’s a wonderful spice component to the whisky. All of that spice comes from barrel maturation. The base product here is a double-distilled corn whisky aged in reused American bourbon barrels. The 18 doesn’t get enough attention, primarily because it’s a little too one-note for some, but it makes a rich and dry whisky that competes wonderfully with many Scotches at and above its price-point of $60.
Pike Creek is the ‘finishing’ brand for Corby Spirit & Wines, the company behind Lot No 40 and J.P. Wiser’s. Cask finishings is a process in which whisky is primarily aged in one type of barrel, and then finished (for anywhere between 3 months to many years) in another type of barrel. This second barrel is intended to impart more complex notes to the original whisky. It’s a process most common in Scotland, but it’s not limited to Scotland.
When speaking with Dr. Don Livermore, Master Blender for Hiram-Walker, you can tell his next obsession is going to be wheat. It’s right there, aging in barrels. I’ve had a few samples, and believe me, you’ve not tasted wheat like this before. Dr. Don is going to perfect the grain. While I’m not predicting an all-wheat whisky, I do expect wheat to be a more predominant grain used in future releases. Gooderham & Worts Little Trinity 3 Grain Blend is a hint of this future.
It’s time for blunt talk: Today’s whisky enthusiast is (generally) not a fan of Collingwood whisky. This is a whisky for a casual whisky drinker—the whisky drinker who has a few pours a month. The sort of whisky drinker that doesn’t need to describe a whisky in any other adverb but ‘smooth.’ This is a big market, and Collingwood deservingly sells plenty of whisky!
Not all Glenmorangie scotches are complex, but all are rich and luxurious; they capture that essence of drinking a special pour. Quinta Ruben 12 Year Old, is perhaps, the best fitting of the Glenmorangie name from the regular release expressions.
TripAdvisor’s website is sparse on recommendations for Scotland’s Island of Jura. There are eight tourist attractions; the first ranked one is the car ferry off the island. In fourth, it’s the passenger ferry off the island. At a respectable second place, is Jura Distillery with mostly great reviews, but also some sour apples. Sadly, there are times the distillery is closed or where tours are limited, so their star rating takes a hit. Book in advance, is the recommendation.
Lot No 40 Rye is, by far, Canada’s most award winning whisky. It’s won plenty of praise in Canada, as well as the United States and world wide. What’s not as well known, however, is the evolution of flavour that’s been achieved by the constant stride to perfect this whisky.
The release of the highly anticipated Northern Border Collection (read my writeup) is coming out in a trickle within the LCBO here in Ontario. If you want your hands on Lot No 40 Cask Strength and the other great whiskies as part of this collection, here are some rules to follow:
I’ll admit to having been nervous about tasting this one. Drinking whisky out of the cask is an impossibly repeatable treat. It’s like having oysters shucked right out of the ocean, or salmon lightly fried hours after being caught. Drinking whisky out of the barrel is the best of experiences. Few sell actually sells whisky straight from the barrel. It’s filtered, especially for char sediment (because there’s plenty), and typically blended within a batch of barrels for flavour consistency. So how does this bottled version measure-up?
Ross Hendry, Pernod-Richard’s director from premium Canadian Whisky, is bullish on his company’s next move: “Mark this moment in your memories. Years from now we will look back at it as pivotal in the journey we are on to drive the reappraisal of our national spirit.” After the success of J.P. Wiser’s Rare Cask releases (including Union 52, Dissertation, and Last Barrels), the Canadian division of Pernod-Richard (Corby’s Spirits and Wines) is ready to make the big move.
When I started this website two years ago, I thought I was being clever by using a domain name without any vowels. It was, I thought, a clever play on the controversy on how one spells whisk(e)y. Sadly (for me), it wasn’t so clever. Autocorrect kept insisting on changing whsky to whiskey, making the domain a pain to interact with.
J.P. Wiser’s (or more generally, Corby’s) is the only big Canadian whisky company truly embracing today’s whisky drinker. Other whisky brands will argue the point, certainly, but J.P. Wiser’s deserves the credit. A decade ago, we had Forty Creek leading the Canadian whisky category. Five or so years ago, this category has grown with Canadian Club 100% Rye, Dark Horse, and Corby’s own Lot No 40. Barrels of whisky purchased from Alberta Distillers made big inroads, but were all sold under the US flag (Masterson’s & WhistlePig as an example). Last year we were left asking the question, who would take the next big leap?
The term “rare cask” gets tossed around in Scotland. It’s code for expensive, not necessarily rare, but J.P. Wiser’s has made true on their promise to produce rare whiskies that are also quite affordable (often around $60 Canadian). The first in the series, Last Barrels, sold exclusively in Ontario through the LCBO. Not long after, the BC Liquor Board wanted their own special release. They received Union 52. That was 2016. With the success of those two releases, J.P. Wiser’s has gone all in with the Rare Cask series. Dissertation is a continuation of this whisky conversation of new types of Canadian whisky releases.
Fellow Torontonian, Rob of Whisky in the 6, has a popular YouTube channel that features guests and whisky reviews. I came on the show. We talked about Poor Man’s Pappy (a mix of Weller’s 12 and 107), age statements on Scotch, and debated whether or not whisky changes in the bottle. Check it out!
Before vodka took over the spirits scene in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, Wild Turkey 81 didn’t exist. The only widely available Wild Turkey you could get was 101 proof (50.5% ABV). However, when the vodka era did take over, the market no longer wanted boozy whisky; they wanted tasteless spirits that went down easily. It was a dark time for whisky (and taste!).
Russell’s Reserve is the high-end brand from Wild Turkey Distillery. It’s a little more expensive (but still affordable), with the focus on big flavours. This is one of the things I truly love about Wild Turkey Distillery; they have a simple quality chart. Wild Turkey Bourbon (formally 81) is the cheap stuff. Wild Turkey 101 is the good stuff. Wild Turkey Rare Breed is the fancy stuff. Russell’s Reserve is the posh stuff (insofar as bourbon gets posh, which let’s face it — it's not intended to be all that posh).
David Perkins started High West after visiting Maker's Mark Distillery and falling in love with bourbon. With a successful career in pharmaceuticals, he took all his knowledge and turned it into whisky. When David Perkins was our guest on The Whisky Topic, he noted that whisky and pharma aren't all that different: they both require biochemistry, and the work you do today won't be available to the public for up to a decade.
Let's be honest. The scotch industry is making fools of us with special cask finishes. While sherry cask finishes weren't new five years ago, they've sprouted up like dandelions. Then came the wine finishes, which were never all that successful, but plentiful. Oloroso Sherry became a statement of the quality sherry finishes. Port finishes? Oh, yes! There are plenty of port finishes.
felt a little boring. It's slightly peated, slightly sweet, and lightly interesting. I'm admittedly a sucker for intense whiskies, and Bowmore 18 is not that. I labeled it as a whisky of an older generation where subtle flavors were king, and loud expressions were uncouth.
This particular bottle of Willet 11 Year Old retailed for $120. It now sells for between $400 to $1200 US in secondary markets. That's at Pappy Van Winkle levels. Welcome to the wonderful world of rare whisky unicorns. If you've looking for bottle number 1 of the total 175 sold, I'm sorry to say, it's in my whisky cabinet and it's sitting empty.