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!
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:
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.
The following list are whiskies to buy today, because they will be gone tomorrow. If you have a whisky friend on your gift list, any of these purchases will not only impress them, but they'll soon realize that they're not likely to see them at the LCBO again.
Making whisky is not unlike writing—you do it because you love the craft. You hope there's a big windfall, but in most cases you know that to simply be able to work on your craft and pay the bills is a win. Every person I've met that's in this business is passionate about making whisky. The passion, the enthusiasm, that drive is shared among whisky makers from the smallest to the largest distilleries.
Jim Murray's The Whisky Bible is one of the more influential book releases of the year. Each year a new book names the best whiskies in the world. Not everyone is a fan of Jim Murray's list, but the this list is hugely influential in the whisky world. Let's see what you can actually buy.
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).
The Canadian Whisky Awards were held last night in Victoria, with Lot No. 40 taking home the title of “Whisky of the Year” for the second time.
The Gooderham & Worts brand is the most exciting brand owned by Corby’s, the company behind J.P. Wiser’s, Lot No. 40, and many other brands coming out of Hiram-Walker Distillery in Windsor. It’s getting the reputation of being a blender’s playhouse, and the blender with all the great barrels is Dr. Don Livermore. Winner of the 2019 Master Blender of the year, Dr. Don Livermore was tasked with choosing eleven barrels to blend for this year’s special release.
Canadian Club 41 Year Old is undoubtably the most celebrated whisky of the 2018 season. It’s also readily (as of this posting) available at the LCBO. This is, at least in part, a controversial whisky in price-point, the way it’s made, and value. Where you fall on this will largely depend on your philosophy as a consumer. Either way, this is a terrific compliment to last year’s 40 year old release.
In the summer of 2017, Master Blender Dr. Don Livermore called the Hiram-Walker warehouse manager to ask that the six barrels intended for the that afternoon’s tasting be brought outdoors. This was unusual. Typically, when doing a tour through Hiram-Walker distillery, the much anticipated barrel tasting happens within the warehouse. That summer of August, though, was the day of the eclipse.
Barrel Bourbon seeks out unique barrels of whisky from various sources, batches them, and bottles them when they’re ready to go. Their mantra is “no two batches taste alike.” It’s a good mantra. It’s a fantastic idea. It’s a play on a weakness, since smaller producers buying barrels have a challenge of producing a consistent product.
Glenfiddich’s Experimental releases are pushing the distillery in new directions. Fire & Cane, the latest, is perhaps the perfect balance of price and flavor. Winter Storm is, undoubtedly, the best whisky of this excellent collection. It’s 21 Year Old Glenfiddich, however, and that comes with a high price. Fire & Cane is affordable, and dead-set on competing with peated whiskies coming from Islay.
The people behind Buffalo Trace did research a few years ago, asking their fans on the type of whisky they’d like to see. A website asked several questions, including the preferred recipe of whisky (rye, bourbon, wheated bourbon), the age, the proof, etc. The results came in, and the Craft Your Perfect Bourbon was born. It’ll be an annual release. The first release, priced at $40, is already selling for hundreds of dollars in the after-market. Welcome to the bourbon craze. I’d hate to contribute to the hype, but Weller C.Y.P.B. is a terrific whisky. It’s probably the best in the Weller series.
Spectrum batch 0001 is a dark, brooding, terrific hot mess. The best kind of hot mess. Later batch numbers are a little more settled, youthful, and zestier. Still, batch 0001 will likely be the collector’s favourite because you’re not going to get flavours like this anywhere else. The distillery (located in Bangalore) is the master of hot climate new world whiskies.
Ardbeg’s annual releases are highly anticipated among fans. The most popular of recent years, Dark Cove, was much beloved and was turned (unofficially) to a regular release called AN NO. Each year, fans get something different. Each year, there are two releases; the regular releases and the committee release, intended primarily for Ardbeg committee members (an organization that’s free to join).
Winter Storm is the third of Glenfiddich’s Experimental releases (which includes IPA, and Project XX). This one has a Canadian twist, and it starts with Canadian Brand Ambassador Beth Havers. It was Beth that suggested Canadian ice-wine casks as a potential finishing barrel. Brian Kinsman, malt laster for Glenfiddich, ran with the idea.
Booker’s Rye hit the market in 2016 as a one-off. Aged for thirteen years, this was a premium brand extension from Booker’s Bourbon. Jim Beam, the distillery behind Booker’s, is known for intense flavoured bourbons that use a low rye recipe (with some exceptions). Beam plays with oak flavours within their bourbon lines.