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.
Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary. In the next few months, we'll be hearing all about Corby's 150th anniversary whisky, but first let's review the whisky released for Canada's 100th birthday. This whisky, released in 1967, was distilled in 1952. At fifteen years matured in barrels, it's a rare old find from an era where Canadian whiskies were rarely bottled with a double-digit age statement.
If you're a whisky enthusiast with a bourbon collection, you either have Old Weller Antique in your collection or you're waiting for the next shipment to your local liquor store. Weller bourbons have family ties with Pappy Van Winkle. Back "in the day," Weller was the bourbon sold by the family that was generally available, and Pappy was the rare stuff. Both products use the same recipe. Contrary to some beliefs, they do not taste the same.
Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is one of the more unique whisky award competitions each year. While selected judges pick a panel of finalists, it’s whisky fans that vote on the winner. This is quite the contrast to the typical whisky award program, where judges are limited to a few (or many) experts in the field, and sessions are often behind closed doors. Spirit of Speyside is among the more accessible whisky award programs, and this year its reach is broadening.
Blanton's Original is a near-perfect daily sipper for me. It's just the right balance of sweet and boozy, with lots of complexity to keep me interested. A high-proof version of Blanton's Original needed to be made, and it comes in form of Blanton's Gold Edition bottled at 51.5% ABV (compared to 46.5% ABV of Blanton's Original).
Old-school whisky stories that tell of how a distillery was first conceived are occasionally accurate and of historic relevance. For me, though, I find the story behind a particular bottle of whisky far more engaging--why did the whisky maker decide to make this whisky in particular? Often the answer is because he or she believes it will sell well. Sometimes, though, it's because they're haunted by a whisky from the past.
Laphroaig is deserving of the scotch cult following. Some hate Laphroaig, some like Laphroaig on occasion, and others love Laphroaig whisky. For those in the latter category, this cask strength variation of Laphroaig 10 is for you.
This whisky is ridiculous. There are few whiskies on the market aged entirely in port casks, and even fewer that spent a total of twenty-three years in port casks. Don't get me wrong, port cask finishings have become a "thing" in the last decade; that's when a whisky is primarily aged in more readily available (cheaper) American oak, and spends a few months to a few years in port casks. However, a whisky aged entirely in port casks for twenty-three years? Damn.
J.P. Wiser's Union 52 is in an odd flavor category in the same way that it's an odd blend of whisky. This is a blend of 15 year old Canadian whisky and extremely old peated single malt scotch that's been maturing in Canada since the 1964. Old smoky scotch meets Canadian whisky. The blend is ridiculous, and it works.
I was one of ten judges scoring the Canadian Whisky Awards for 2017. Masterson's Straight Rye 10 Year Old (Batch PSA3-0035) scored as my the best Canadian whisky, and it also averaged as the best overall Canadian whisky from the judges narrowly beating Gooderham & Warts Four Grain and Lot No 40.
Laphroaig Select is a maddening combination of whisky. The core scotch is regular Laphroaig aged in previously used American bourbon barrels, that are "finished" for six months in brand new American oak barrels. The distillery then blended this whisky with other whiskies to create six different single malts. The Laphroaig fan club, Friends of Laphroaig, selected the winning blend from the six to create the Select.
Laphroaig's An Cuan Mor release is a traditional new-age scotch whisky. The scotch is first matured in first-fill American oak in the Laphroaig warehouse against the Atlantic Ocean, then transferred to European oak and let to mature for a while longer.
Octomore is the smokiest scotch you can buy. But for me, it's not about the peaty levels. My nose isn't all that sensitive to peat, and I've never been overwhelmed by it. Lightly peated whiskies (like Bowmore) barely register. Instead, I'm looking for flavor beneath the peat.
In 1977, George Thorogood covered an original blues song written by Rudy Toombs: One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer. The George Thorogood version is specifically about a time when the singer lost his job, and dealt with his problems by ordering the three drinks on repeat until 3am.
Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition is not the best whisky in the world, and yet it's a damn fine whisky. Old time blended scotch drinkers are going to complain Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition is not "smooth" enough
Redbreast is produced in New Midleton Distillery (home of Jameson). It’s not a single malt, but rather a pot still, which is made from both malted and unmalted barley. Unmalted barley is typically responsible for greener notes, and it’s traditional from an era where the UK charged taxes based on how much barley was malted.
The following list are whiskies to buy today, because they will be gone tomorrow. If you have a whisky friend on your gift list, any of these purchases will not only impress them, but they'll soon realize that they're not likely to see them at the LCBO again.
Hibiki Harmony came into markets replacing the 12 Year Old variety. As a no-age statement whisky, it could be made available to a broader audience, but it also lives in turmoil with endless comparisons to the whisky it replaced. Removing age statements gives producers flexibility making whisky (why should 12 years be the minimum age in the bottle?), but it also creates a sense of distrust with the consumer accustomed to seeing a number on the bottle.
Glengoyne 12 is the sort of whisky that would have seemed (almost) ordinary back in the day when you could get The Macallan 10 or 12 for under $100. In Today's whisky world, Glengoyne 12 Year Old is rare treat at a price-point that is fairly reasonable.