Earlier in the month I had a review of a craft whiskey from a distillery in Montana that I had not heard of till a friend gave me the sample. Here now is a review of another whisky I had not heard of till a friend gave me a sample. It is from a place even more inscrutable and mysterious than Montana: Canada. And in no sphere is Canadian inscrutability better embodied than in its whisky industry. No one knows which distillery anything is distilled at. In fact, it’s not clear if there’s more than one distillery or if Alberta Distillers just slaps different labels on its bottles on different days of the week. Adding to the confusion is the fact that producers are allowed to flavour their whiskies with anything they like. I’m told most use maple syrup. Which means this mystery Canadian whisky is even more unusual still for it is made by adding amontillado sherry to the original rye. Now you might say that adding sherry to whisky is effectively what most Scottish distilleries do too, with their sherry finishes and whiskies “matured” in casks pressure treated with cooking sherry. But trust wild, impetuous, madcap Canada to flaunt their lawlessness in all our faces and just go ahead and pour sherry right into their rye. What a bunch of outlaws! Continue reading
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.
Continuing in my series of rye reviews (“Two of something is not a series,” ed.) here is a rye that scoffs at High West’s blend of 95% and 80% rye mashbills and proclaims its purity. Yes, this is 100%, bitches, you better recognize. This kind of gangsta talk which comes naturally to me (as you would readily recognize were you to meet me) is not usually associated with either Vermont or Canada, both lands not known for their blackness, either in terms of demographics or soul. Why am I dragging Vermont and Canada into this, you ask, thereby revealing that your knowledge of American whiskey is even poorer than mine? Well, it is because while this rye is sold by the WhistlePig distillery located in Vermont it is actually shipped there from Canada (yes, all of it) and bottled. Like almost every other renowned new American distillery, WhistlePig is yet to bring its own aged distillate to market. It’s going to be darkly hilarious if/when all these whiskies do hit the market they’re markedly worse than the “sourced” whiskies they sold to keep cash flowing in the interim.
But enough foolish preamble! Let us to the whiskey!