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.
To understand the uniqueness of the twenty-one year old product, let’s first consider Pike Creek 10 Year Old which is part of the general release of whiskies from Corby’s. The original Pike Creek 10 was finished in re-used port barrels and likely had a touch of port added (because that’s allowed in Canada).
The formula was reworked for the new Pike Creek. As Ross Hendry, director of the brand, explained with the new rum finish release: they used more rye (3%) in their whisky and would only use the rum barrels once per finishing (previously, they used the same port barrels repeatedly). The rye gives it a greater level of spice. By not re-using barrels, they’re adding more characteristics of the rum. It’s also been confirmed that this whisky is not spiked with rum.
Ross Hendry and Dr. Don Livermore (Master Blender) wanted to do something different for the Northern Border Collection. Rum and port barrel finishes are common, but what of finishing a Canadian Whisky in a barrel from Scotland? It seems ridiculous, and yet that’s exactly what Corby’s has done. This year’s Pike Creek is aged for 21 years in Canadian barrels, and finished in Speyside barrels.
This combination, somehow, works. The Speyside finish gives the barrels a blast of character that separates it out from your more typical Canadian notes. It’s more old-barrel dense, with a wonderful level of spice. It’s a unique step-up from the 10 Year Old, and it’s priced wonderfully at $90. Do read more about the Northern Border Collection, because it is a unique offering in Canada for 2017.
Pike Creek 21 Year Old Finished in Speyside Single Malt Casks
Category: Canadian whisky, Finished, 21 Year Old
Nose: Definitive Canadian whisky (from Hiram-Walker), nose of caramel, prune juice, and a calming soft layer of honey. Ginger-soda notes come through, adding a nice youth to this older whisky. Bright. Zesty. Beautiful charred barrel smoke.
Palate: Crackling caramel, spice, beautiful butters, with almonds (almond butter, the fatty juices pushing through). Nice zest, ginger, some herbs, black tea. The finish is crazy spicy, cinnamon and freshly ground pepper, nicely balanced with fatty oils. The finish won’t end. The spice keeps on going and going. It’s mouthwatering. A little too cloyingly sweet for my taste.
Whisky Cabinet Rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ Good whisky, but not a ‘must-have’ even considering it’s exclusivity
When I drank my first pour, I found this too sweetly rich for my liking. Give this one a little time to breathe in the glass. It’s not a whisky to rush. In time, it becomes a gentle giant, with a long buttery finish. It reminds me more of drinking a rich cognac than a whisky from Canada. The Speyside casks impart subtle notes that add a wonderful layer of complexity, and temper the sweetness just a touch.
*Whisky Cabinet Rating Explained:
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ Not recommended
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ Good whisky, but not a ‘must-have’
★ ★ ☆ ☆ Your great regular rotation whisky that'll come and go
★ ★ ★ ☆ Excellent, a near must-have
★ ★ ★ ★ Extraordinary, memorable, and original