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.Read More
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?Read More
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.Read More
It would dramatic to say that there's a battle over the definition of Canadian whisky, but one small distillery is taking a stand against a Canadian regulation that has been in existence since 1887. Toronto Distillery Co, the city's first distillery since 1933, released a whisky aged under the minimum three years required for a spirit to be recognized as a whisky.Read More
Last Barrels represents Canada's unintended nudge into bourbon territory, all from an experiment that started back in 2001. At that time Hiram Walker's master distiller, Jim Stanski, was promoted into management. Before leaving his post, Jim started an experiment from an old recipe J.P. Wiser used dating back to 1869.Read More
The attention Jim Murray's annual "Best Whisky" award receives is often met with eye-rolls from whisky enthusiasts. Often this award winners are unavailable or expensive whiskies. Last year's winner, Yamazaki Sherry Cask, was selling on the grey market for $1000 for 30ml samples (it was already an expensive bottle before the win).Read More
Like with IPAs and extreme bitter hops (which I love, by the way, so keep them coming), rye flavouring is a divide among whisky drinkers. Some love rye, some hate it, and some just would prefer life without it. The tide is changing, however, and it’s for the benefit of the whisky world.
Rye is not the Pinot Noir of the whisky world. Instead it’s quite the opposite with bold flavours that I consider an acquired taste. Rye is a key component in almost all bourbons. As I explored earlier when writing about Pappy Van Winkle, bourbons without rye are quite rare. Most of the peppery spice middle and part of the finish common to bourbons comes from rye. Now, imagine a drink that’s focus on just that spice.
Rye has a long history in North American whisky making, though the grain originally came from Europe. Canadians were the first in North America to add small amounts of distilled rye to their whisky. This distinct flavouring gave Canadian whisky the nickname of rye. Unlike most grains, rye can have two harvests a year and it grows in areas corn and wheat wouldn’t dare. Early settlers, as an example, used rye for the first few seasons to prepare the soil for other grains such as wheat and corn.
The point I’m getting at here is, rye isn’t necessarily a loved grain. However, trends are trends, and rye whisky has been swinging back in the last 5 years. Bulleit Rye, Knob Creek Rye, Wild Turkey Rye–Name a distillery or brand, and they’re likely producing a rye product that didn’t exist five years ago.
Canadian Club has entered the market with an extremely affordable ($25.45 for the time being, though $27.45 in the future) option. In Ontario, it’s priced around Canadian Club Classic pricing and several bucks cheaper compared to Wild Turkey 81 Rye. It’s much cheaper than American rye favourite Rittenhouse Rye or newcomer Bulleit Rye (not to be confused with long-time running Bulleit Bourbon).
When it comes to drinking rye, the big question is ‘how rye-ish’ do you want your rye? There really should be a rye index. Newcomer Canadian Club’s 100% Rye in not the biting rye of a Rittenhouse (let’s say 8 out of 10), or the developed rye of a Masterson’s (let’s say 7) or a sweeter enveloped rye of a Bulleit (6). It’s more of a 5. The flavour is there, but this is a soft drink bottled at 40% ABV that’s more forgiving on the unaccustomed taste buds. This is an approachable rye that I can drink straight.
This does introduce a new market for Canadian Club, especially in the area of mixed drinks. I’m not a big fan of mixing drinks with Canadian Club Classic, as an example. It has that distinct flavour that, for someone like me that doesn’t often mix drinks, can be hard to balance. However, that isn’t true for Canadian Club 100% Rye. Manhattans are my go-to cocktail at home (I’m perfecting my recipe), and Canadian Club 100% Rye makes for a very affordable alternative to the other ryes in my whisky cabinet.
Canadian Club is sourcing this rye through Alberta Distillery which is distilling for such rye brands as Alberta Premium, Masterson’s Rye, and Alberta Dark Horse. I’ve tasted these ryes side-by-side and each brings a unique expression to the market. One of my favourite ryes, Mastersons (At a $75 price point), gets more complex wood-based flavours, and the Dark Horse is sweeter and more muted in complexity. Canadian Club 100% Rye hits a good place in the market at an excellent price-point.
Rye is an essential part of any whisky cabinet. Much like comparing scotch to bourbon, rye has a different feel from the rest. It is an acquired taste that opens up your palate to an entirely new element in the whisky world. In fact, up to a few years ago, I had little love for rye. That has since changed greatly, and I quite welcome these new rye offerings.
Originally published on Spotlight Toronto
Masterson's Straight Rye Whisky is one of treats I reach for on rare occasion. It's not the most expensive bottle of whisky in my cabinet--far from it--but this premium line of rye whisky that's not always easy to get.
The story of this Canadian rye crosses the boarder into the United States. A Californian company with a century of wine making decided to delve into high-quality spirits so that it could be sold along with their wine. 35 Maple Street is the spirit division of The Other Guys, which is related to the Sebastiani family in California. Master's Rye is 100% rye made at the Alberta Distillery in Calgary, bottled in California and sold through-out North America. It's considered an artisanal whisky; aged 10 years in new white-oak casks, and distilled in a pot still for plenty of flavour.
The whisky is named after the American William "Bat" Masterson that is described on the bottle as a gambler, buffalo hunter, army scout, gunfighter, and newspaperman. The name has no relationship to the whisky, but the old photo of William Masterson (along with his story) on the curved attention-grabbing bottle is a nice stroke of branding. I'm not against clever branding to get people to buy the whisky as long as the product itself is of high quality. And it is.
Most whisky is column distilled whisky blended with pot still whisky. Column distillation is incredibly efficient, but it also cuts out much of the flavour from the grain. For a mild-flavoured smoother whisky, column distillation is excellent, but I'm biased toward whiskies with more personality. Pot stills are less efficient at distillation, allowing for larger molecules (some of which that provide flavour) to evaporate up the still and condense along with the alcohol. Pot still whisky is more expensive to make compared to column still whisky. Masterson's is 100% rye and pot still whisky, and that's represented in the price.
The attention grabbing nose is sharp with fresh citrus, barnyard dust, and floral notes reminding me of perfume. An unripe banana might similarly perk up your senses, though this is slightly heavier with sweetness. The first sip needs to be gentle to truly appreciate this drink. It starts out as a complex tune that settles through your mouth. Vanilla flavours from the wood are so very light, certainly considering this is a 10 year old new oak aged rye. Instead, rye-based peppery spice really takes hold of your tastebuds after a few short moments. Notes of liquorice turn beneath the spice. The complexity of this drink is wonderful, and takes you through natural earthy flavours leading into a long dry finish. You'll taste plenty of peppery-spice on the end, enough to tickle the top of your throat, and as the rye sugars settle on your tongue along with an pleasant oils. You'll be left with a rewarding warmth.
Some find 100% rye whisky too harsh on the palate, but Masterson's style is far more delicate by comparison to cheaper ryes. With so few bottles left here in Ontario, I can only hope that Masterson's will return. By the time you read this, I've likely already purchased another bottle (Or two).