I don’t really know too much about Canadian whisky—like all things Canadian, it is an impenetrable, exotic mystery. My understanding is that most of it is distilled on a small farm in Vermont and shipped back to Canada where it’s mixed with neutral grain spirit, artificial rye flavouring and maple syrup and bottled at as high an abv as 43%. Someone should really write a book about Canadian whisky—there’s so much bad information around on it.
I do know that this Lot 40 release from 2012 has been highly lauded. It was named Canadian whisky of the year for 2013 by Whisky Advocate, narrowly beating out the two other Canadian whiskies your average American whisky drinker can name; and it’s even been spoken of warmly by people who don’t normally throw scores in the 90s around like so much confetti. I really don’t know too much about Canadian whisky and have tasted even less; part of me suspects that there’s a bit of hyperbole surrounding Canadian whisky these days, an attempt to make it the Next Big Thing by people hoping to raise their own profile by association—but I’ll be very pleased if this lives up to the hype.
Lot 40, 2012 Release (43%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: At first all the notes I associate with ryes (dill, mint, cold black tea, pine), but then there’s a candied sweetness and quite a bit of orange; in fact, it’s highly reminiscent of orange-flavoured lozenges we used to eat as kids in India. A cereally wave passes through but then the orange candy takes over—with time it begins to smell a bit like an orange liqueur with a mild herbal twist. Water brings out more of the cereally/bready notes and pushes the citrus back.
Palate: Not quite as expressive as the nose, at least not at first. That’s not to say there’s nothing going on: all the rye notes are here but not quite as much of the citrus or the sweetness, and there’s a turn to a slightly astringent bitterness as I swallow (it’s not wood; in fact, there’s barely any sign of oak). More spice (clove, white pepper) on subsequent sips. The mouthfeel is a little thinner than I’d like. With a lot of time (more than 60 minutes) the palate begins to fall apart a bit, with an indistinct spicy/sharp note dominating proceedings. A few drops of water knit it back together and curb the astringent/bitter note.
Finish: Long. The bitterness expands but then wanes and it’s now that the citrus emerges again (herbal orange liqueur again). Gets a little bit chalky and sharp with time. The finish is less interesting with water.
Comments: The nose is great; the palate is good but nothing extraordinary. In my opinion, a thin mouthfeel doesn’t do too many favours to the sharper profiles of high rye whiskies, and while this is not very thin per se a little more depth and richness would put it over the top. Still, it’s quite unlike most other ryes I’ve had—I can’t think of any other ryes from which I’ve got so much of that orange liqueur note—and that counts for something.
Rating: 87 points.
Thanks to Sku for the sample!