Gooderham & Worts 49 Wellington - This is the most interesting whisky coming out of Hiram-Walker thus far

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Gooderham & Worts 49 Wellington demonstrates two rarely used components from Hiram-Walker Distillery that hint at where future product development is going. First, the whisky is partially matured with red oak inserts. Second, the four grain blend includes whisky matured in barrels made from 100% red winter wheat. Both these elements are a look into the exciting products that’ll be coming out from the distillery in the future.

Gooderham & Worts 49 Wellington is a tribute to the historic flat iron building on Wellington Street in Toronto that was built by the Gooderham family. Red oak inserts (they provide an intense spicy cedar note) are used in homage to the signature red bricks of the building. The 49% ABV comes from the address (49 Wellington Street). The blend is primarily J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter whisky that was discontinued a few years ago. While Gooderham & Worts Four Grain is available all-year-around, 49 Wellington is a unique blend available as part of the Northern Border Collection in the 2019 Edition.

Using stave inserts isn’t new. It’s a technique that comes from wine making. Seasoned oak staves are typically added to the lid of the barrel. This additional oak contact imparts new flavours to maturing whisky. The staves come in various natural flavours based on the oak used, and how the staves have been treated (smoked, extra seasoned, etc..). In this case, by using inserts we get elements of red oak without it overpowering the final whisky.

Maker’s Mark uses seasoned staves in their 46 expression, and in their private specialized releases. However, cask inserts haven’t (to my knowledge) been used in Canadian whisky. Dr. Don Livermore, Master Blender at Hiram-Walker, has been working on the technique for years and has several flavour components he could insert during maturation. We’ll continue to see more of this.

The other innovation isn’t so new, but perhaps most prominent in this release. Don Livermore has been experimenting with 100% wheat fermented and distilled, and matured in their own new oak barrels. The samples I’ve tasted are terrific. The red winter wheat adds a nice mouth feel and helps balance out the oak spice from the red oak inserts. It mellows out the whisky beautifully.

Canadian regulations allow for plenty of innovation within the market. It’s great to see more techniques be brought into whisky making.

Gooderham & Worts 49 Wellington 2019 Edition
Hiram-Walker Distillery
Category: Canadian Whisky, Stave finished, Wheated
Score: 88

Nose: A surprisingly quiet nose. There’s some caramel, char, and distant orange zest. It’s freshly baked white bready note is wonderful, and there’s a trailing touch of red-apple skin that gives the nose more heft.

Palate: Char, caramel, freshly ground pepper, and plenty of honey sweetness. It’s an interesting play on Canadian whisky notes. The peppery spice likely comes from the oak inserts. It’s gentle, but present and gets stronger toward the buttery zesty finish. The orange zest notes are pleasing. The finish makes this whisky, with a long zesty, peppery, buttery, thirst quenching finish that keeps going and going (and going and going and going).

Conclusion: First the bad; I found it just a little too sharp, and a little too sweet. It lacks a heaviness on the palate for the amount of terrific flavours this whisky brings through. However, the complexity expected for a Gooderham & Worts release is there and the finish is absolutely wonderful. It’s a satisfying pour of Canadian whisky.

Disclaimer: Thank you to Corby’s for providing me samples of this whisky, and for accommodations while I was at the distillery. It had no baring on the outcome of this review.