No. 99 Red Cask Whisky
Distilled Somewhere in Ontario
Taste Score: 88
Category: Canadian whisky
Whisky Cabinet Score: ★ ★ ★ ☆
Celebrity booze is often jeered by whisky aficionados. Whisky “finished” in wine barrels likewise is often interpreted as a gimmick. But in this instance, these two gimmicks have combined for a competitive product at a reasonable price-point.
Wayne Gretzky is building on his successful wine partnership with Andrew Peller Ltd by releasing the first of a series of whiskies. The first release, No. 99 Red Cask Whisky, is available at the LCBO for $34.95. For my American readers, that's not bad, and puts it on a similar price-point as Weller 107 and cheaper than Four Roses Single Barrel.
This is not just a one-off release. Andrew Peller Ltd. is building a distillery that is expected to start distilling their own whisky in April. This whisky was distilled elsewhere in Ontario, but the maturation and blending was done on premise at Peller Estates. Along with Red Cask, there are plans to release an Ice Cask (finished in ice wine barrels), and the 99 Proof that'll be 49.5% ABV. I've tasted very early samples of all three, and I'm most excited about the 99 Proof release.
I had a cold when I first tried No. 99 Red Cask Whisky. I could barely smell, and going on taste alone, I thought it was a bit "meh." It's the nose that makes the whisky, and if you love to take your time sipping a pour, then this whisky will do well at this price-point. Scotch drinkers are likely to love it, though it's less-likely to satisfy high-proof bourbon drinkers that want oak-rich flavor bombs. This isn't oak-rich, it is definitely a young whisky, but it is well constructed and it continues to change as you leave it in the glass.
Overall, a pretty good sipping whisky at this price-point in the Canadian whisky category.
Nose: One dimensional at first breath, with caramel bordering on butterscotch sweetness, but it opens up wonderfully in just a few minutes. It's the smell of a green forest after a hard rain, with some wet mossy grass, cracked burnt drying oak (from a lightning strike perhaps), and rich earthiness. The char smoky notes take over the nose the longer you let it sit. Eventually, it'll be pure smoky char that envelopes the senses with the caramel taking a backseat.
Palate: Surprisingly bright to start--a blood orange just ripped open, with the zest and sweetness. Brown sugar hastily nestles itself on the palate, with some oak spice that borders on toffee notes. It's a wonderful play on tangy sweet, heavy sweetness, and bright zesty spice. Tthere are a few unpolished edges of a young whisky on the palate, but the richness of flavor comes though.
Conclusion: The nose is reminiscent of a good scotch blend, and the butterscotch sweetness is all Canadian in flavor. There's a simplicity here that works, but this one takes time to fully appreciate on the nose. In the Canadian market where there are few great sippers at the $35 price-point, this whisky deserves a leading score in the category.
Disclosure: This bottle was provided by Andrew Peller Ltd. This had no influence on my review.