Glenfiddich 15 Solera Reserve is a fantastic scotch that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. It’s not as topical as whatever this years best whisky in the world is, or as historic as some fifty-year old scotches being released. What it is, though, is a consistently terrific reasonably priced scotch (such a rarity these days!).
Many are surprised to know that J.P. Wiser’s 18 contains no prominent rye, and yet there’s a wonderful spice component to the whisky. All of that spice comes from barrel maturation. The base product here is a double-distilled corn whisky aged in reused American bourbon barrels. The 18 doesn’t get enough attention, primarily because it’s a little too one-note for some, but it makes a rich and dry whisky that competes wonderfully with many Scotches at and above its price-point of $60.
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.
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.
It’s time for blunt talk: Today’s whisky enthusiast is (generally) not a fan of Collingwood whisky. This is a whisky for a casual whisky drinker—the whisky drinker who has a few pours a month. The sort of whisky drinker that doesn’t need to describe a whisky in any other adverb but ‘smooth.’ This is a big market, and Collingwood deservingly sells plenty of whisky!
Not all Glenmorangie scotches are complex, but all are rich and luxurious; they capture that essence of drinking a special pour. Quinta Ruben 12 Year Old, is perhaps, the best fitting of the Glenmorangie name from the regular release expressions.
TripAdvisor’s website is sparse on recommendations for Scotland’s Island of Jura. There are eight tourist attractions; the first ranked one is the car ferry off the island. In fourth, it’s the passenger ferry off the island. At a respectable second place, is Jura Distillery with mostly great reviews, but also some sour apples. Sadly, there are times the distillery is closed or where tours are limited, so their star rating takes a hit. Book in advance, is the recommendation.
Lot No 40 Rye is, by far, Canada’s most award winning whisky. It’s won plenty of praise in Canada, as well as the United States and world wide. What’s not as well known, however, is the evolution of flavour that’s been achieved by the constant stride to perfect this whisky.
The release of the highly anticipated Northern Border Collection (read my writeup) is coming out in a trickle within the LCBO here in Ontario. If you want your hands on Lot No 40 Cask Strength and the other great whiskies as part of this collection, here are some rules to follow:
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.