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.
Most media outlets got it wrong. The Internet, in its outrage, got it right. Jim Murray named Crown Royal North Harvest Rye as the best whisky he’s tasted in 2015. Everyone went: What?
Sazerac 18 rye, one of the five Buffalo Trace Antique Collection releases this year, failed LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) lab testing. The rumour is the levels of ethyl carbamate were above the LCBO’s limit. This was the probable reason given to me, and others, when calling the helloLCBO number. However, an LCBO spokesperson told me that the results are proprietary and would not confirm the reason behind the failed results.
Do you live in Ontario? Do you feel like you’re never in the loop on what’s coming into (and leaving) the liquor store?
Join the club! No, literally, join the club. Join the Ontario Spirits Report mailing list.
I sat down with Shane Bahng, the COO of Norlan Glass, the newly funded Kickstarter project. Their glass was developed using 3D printers and a select group of Scotland’s whisky industry experts that offered feedback on the 90 or so design choices they started with. The design selected is intended to be a beautiful tumbler-style glass that offers a better nosing experience.
With murder, theft, and bribery highjacking the whisky news, this year’s headlines have read like they were ripped straight out of the latest Netflix crime drama. Just last week, there was a fatal stabbing over a box of bourbon. Earlier in this year trucks carrying Pappy Van Winkle were stalked as they left wholesalers with drivers being offered bribes for cases of whisky.
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.
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.
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.
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).