In this, the third part of our TWS Whisky Awards, we look at some whiskies that fall within the more classical Canadian Whisky category. In Part 1, we looked at some under-aged spirits and non-whiskies, and in Part 2 we evaluated some Canadian Single Malts. Here are the bottles, descriptions, tasting notes and rankings of the five Canadian Whiskies we evaluated:
Last Mountain 100% Wheat Whisky Single Cask- Lumsden, SK
A single grain wheat whisky is rare, yet there’s one being made in Saskatchewan and we had a chance to try it! This whisky is 3.5yrs old aged in a single first fill ex-bourbon cask with wheat from a single farm in Earl Gray, SK. It’s bottled at 45% and non-chill-filtered.
- Nose: dusty, grain, cardboard, ethanol, sweet
- Palate: grain, young, ethanol, cardboard, sawdust, light wood.
- Finish: pepper, young tasting, grassy, grainy
- Overall Comments: Needs a lot more time before it’ll be ready. Kudos for putting out a 100% wheat whisky, which is hard to do. Wheat is tough and great for adding dimension to blends. A bit too one-dimensional sometimes on its own. Would try more from them, as single casks have a ton of variation, and we like the proof and NCF choices.
Highwood Distillers Ninety 5 – High River, AB
This Canadian whisky is a 100% corn whisky (despite the ‘Rye Whisky’ nomenclature) released after the 2013 floods in High River. The corn whisky is sourced and then aged at Highwood, and typically that aging happens in ex-Jack Daniels or Jim Beam barrels, and bottled at 45% / 90 proof (hence the name)
- Nose: maple, caramel, vanilla, acetone, nutty.
- Palate: maple, caramel, vanilla, nutty, cream, grass. standard Cdn whisky.
- Finish: short, maple, grassy, vanilla
- Overall Comments: tastes like standard Canadian whisky, less harsh than entry level whisky from CC/CR. We appreciated the 45% vs typical 40% which helped the body.
Caldera Distilling Hurricane #5 – River John, NS
A blended whisky from Nova Scotia, the make-up of the blend isn’t revealed, but includes some rye and probably a lot of corn. It’s named after a hurricane that ripped through the town in 1939, and a barn that stood firm through that storm and sheltered some nearby residents. It’s made locally (not sourced), has no added colour or chill-filtration and is bottled at 40%.
- Nose: ethanol, nutty, brown sugar, vanilla, grain, maple, caramel.
- Palate: brown sugar, ethanol, maple, grain, metallic
- Finish: brown sugar, vanilla, caramel, maple, ash
- Overall Comments: weak nose, brown sugar vs maple/caramel dominant was interesting on the palate. Has potential considering it’s the minimum age for a Canadian whisky. Interested to try their stuff when it’s a bit older. Would like to see them try and experiment more with something that deviates further from the standard Canadian whisky profile. Could benefit from higher ABV. We love the real wood label and choice to go NCF/no colour.
J.P. Wiser’s 150 – Windsor, ON
This is a blend of double distilled 16yr old corn whisky aged in virgin oak, with some younger rye whisky, bottled at 43.4%. They released 7827 bottles – one for each week of Canada’s history – to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday. We received bottle 7793, representing the week of October 31, 2016, which is the week TWS was founded.
- Nose: maple, caramel, vanilla, sweet, rye spice, oak
- Palate: maple, caramel, brown sugar, toffee, vanilla, rye spices, clove, light oak
- Finish: brown sugar, toffee, cinnamon hearts, light rye spices
- Overall Comments: Again a pretty standard Canadian whisky, more rye forward than the others in this group. Better than the standard Wiser’s, but not on the same level as their recent limited edition releases.
Highwood Distillers Ninety 20 – High River, AB
This, like the 5 year old, is a 100% corn whisky, sourced but aged at Highwood. It’s aged in ex-bourbon and finished in sherry casks, according to the LCBO website. True to its name, it’s released at 45% ABV and at 20 years old for $58, it’s about the cheapest 20 year old whisky you can find out there!
- Nose: grassy, butter, oak, lemon, toffee, rye spice
- Palate: rye spice, pepper, unripe banana, caramel, orange, cloves, oak, brown sugar
- Finish: spicy, oak, rye, pepper. medium.
- Overall Comments: Amazing what 15 more years and a sherry finish can do! huge step up from their 5 year. Great value at $58 at LCBO! Complex… could sit with this for a long time.
Best in Category: Highwood Distillers Ninety 20
Runner-up: J.P. Wiser’s 150
It probably wasn’t fair to compare a 20 year old whisky from a long-standing distiller to a 3 year old single cask, but we did, so we’ve got to post the results. However, all five of these bottles are worth exploring, and the potential we see in these newer distilleries’ offerings is fantastic!