On a recent trip to Nova Scotia, my wife and I drove the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton and made a stop at the Glenora Distillery for a tour and tasting. I write in detail about the distillery and its history here, and have included this post to cover the reviews we did of the drams we tasted. Previously reviewed Glen Breton bottlings can be found here. We started at the beginning, with the new make.
Glenora New Make – 70%
- Nose: vegetal, earth, hay, ethanol forward
- Palate: hay, grassy, manure, earthy, some spice
- Finish: short, hot grassy
Overall, the new make was fairly pleasant for new make. It was pretty typical of malt new make with a bit more grass and less ethanol flavour.
Glen Breton Fiddler’s Choice – 43%
This bottling was the first sub-ten-year bottling Glenora made, released in honour of John MacDougall, a fiddler from Mabou who composed nearly 40,000 fiddle tunes, and often performed in Glenora’s restaurant before his death in 2008. He loved Glenora’s whisky as much as they loved his music, and this approximately 6 year old bottling is a fitting tribute to his memory.
- Nose: pear, malty, light white chocolate, vegetal
- Palate: chocolatey, creamy, great body, light fruit, peach, floral, apple, ice cream, grassy, hay
- Finish: medium length, creamy, malty, chocolate, hay
- Score: 83
Incredibly body and depth for a 6 year old whisky! At $60 this is a steal. We would have picked up a bottle for sure if not for the purchase we actually made. Fortunately, this can be ordered direct from their website!
Glen Breton 12 – House of Alister Mackenzie – 43%
This is another special edition release in honour of Alister Mackenzie, a links-style golf course designer from Cape Breton.
- Nose: nutty, almonds, peanuts, walnut skin. grass, earthy, apples, slightly bitter.
- Palate: Play-Doh… that’s a strange note but it’s incredibly distinct. apple, nutty, earth, vegetal, salty, green bean, zucchini. more vegetal notes. You can really taste the new make in this one.
- Finish: medium length, Play-Doh, vegetal and earthy.
- Score: 79
This is an interesting one, and not in a great way. That Play-Doh note is strange and the vegetal notes are amped up to 11. Some will love this, but it’s not quite up my alley.
Glen Breton 14 Rare – 43%
This is a triple gold winner for Glenora, and their Master Distiller, Daniel Maclean felt it hit its peak and needed to bottle it.
- Nose: more like the 10 year if memory serves. apple, pear, grass, hay, brown sugar, quite delicate.
- Palate: very light but creamy, oak, vanilla, caramel, woody, malt, grassy. Very much like a Speyside or Highland scotch. lightly bitter, faint chocolate and some honey suckle.
- Finish: short, grassy, oak
- Score: 85
I can see why this won awards. It’s a very light and delicate spirit, but a gorgeous and deep single malt that beautifully balances the grain, yeast and oak influences.
Glen Breton 10 Ice – 40%
This is their standard 10 year malt finished in Jost Vineyards Icewine casks. This is a reciprocal arrangement, as Jost also finishes their icewine in whisky barrels!
- Nose: fruity, grassy, hay, light malt, apple, sugar
- Palate: soapy, some fruit, grass, malt, sweet
- Finish: medium, soapy, grass
- Score: 78
This has the same soapy note I’ve tasted on other ice-wine finished whiskies from Glenora. Sadly it seems either the spirit doesn’t take to the casks well, or there’s something in the Jost icewine giving it that soapy character.
Glenora 20 Single Cask – 64.6%
While we were in the warehouse Bertha, the Inn Manager, opened up a cask and drew some whisky straight from the barrel for us. We sampled a bit of it there in the warehouse of course, but saved the rest for tasting during the flight. This is cask #14 from 1997.
- Nose: apple, cinnamon, malty, brown sugar, oak, caramel
- Palate: earthy, apple, Play-Doh, spicy, honeysuckle, floral, caramel. with water, it’s a bit spicier and creamy
- Finish: medium length, warm, sugar, play-doh.
- Score: 84
If it weren’t for that same Play-Doh note again, this would be an incredible dram. It still scores well though and there’s a ton of flavour at high proof.
Glenora 22 Single Cask – 63.5%
This single cask is #122 from 1995 and is ex-bourbon again. This was available for purchase in the gift shop, and you could draw your own 250 or 750ml bottles.
- Nose: chocolate, toffee, caramel, oak, malt, the inside of a Mars bar, apple, banana bread
- Palate: Play-Doh… damnit. salt, super spicy! cinnamon blast, nutmeg, arugula, wood, cayenne pepper, soap, apple, the inside of a Mars bar. some sherry-like dried fruit, almost oloroso. with water it gets spicier but no significant change.
- Finish: medium length, warm, spicy, salty
- Score: 84
Couldn’t decide between the two single casks which one we liked better. this one had a bit more depth, but the other was a bit cleaner.
Glen Breton 13 Ghleann Dubh
This malt is an anomaly from Glenora: a peated single malt. In 2004, Glenora ordered some malted barley from Saskatchewan, and when the shipment arrived, they discovered it had been peated. Rather than deal with getting a second shipment and risk some of the distilling season, they made whisky with it and laid down the barrels, in the hopes that it would turn out well. Thirteen years later, they found a spirit that had peaked and turned out very well in their opinion. They bottled it under the name Ghleann Dubh, which is Gaelic for “Dark Glen,” a reference to their location on the West side of a deep valley, leading to it getting dark very early. This malt was peated with Canadian peat, not Scottish, and we were excited to see what impact that had on the flavour.
- Nose: light peat, light smoke, slightly ashy, reminiscent of Caol Ila. Freshly doused campfire, salty, honey, sweet fruit.
- Palate: ashy, sweet smoke, apple, campfire, briney, brown sugar, earth. the Play-doh is gone and this is a nice balance of sweet and smoke.
- Finish: long, smoky, sweet
- Score: 88
What a wonderful accident! This dram redeemed my opinion of Canadian peat, and now I really hope more distilleries experiment with it! This rates among the top Canadian whiskies I’ve reviewed.
Glenora 13 Single Cask Peated Malt – 63.9%
In their wisdom, Glenora realized they had something unique on their hands with their peated whisky and saved a single barrel (#147) to sell at cask strength. This was the last dram we tried for obvious reasons.
- Nose: light peat, dark chocolate, nutty, VERY salty, thick body, oak, bit of smoke, dark fruit, light oloroso sherry notes. With water, earthy, manure, horsebarn, hay, grass, salty.
- Palate: very spicy, fairly hot, more peat than the nose, ashy, campfire, chocolate, oak, dried fruit, rich smoke, licorice, cinnamon hearts, berries. With water, that Play-Doh note is back slightly, but less in your face, incredibly salty, slightly bitter oak, vegetal, spicy again.
- Finish: long, spicy, smoke, very salty.
- Score: 91
This is officially the highest rating I’ve given a Canadian whisky, even edging the Lot No. 40 Cask Strength by a point.
We both loved this, the depth of flavour, and the way it evolved with a few drops of water. This is proof positive that Canadian peat can create an incredible whisky that competes favourably with many peated scotches. We decided to buy a 250ml bottle of this as a special occasion dram, even though that small bottle cost $100 CAD. We also got to draw it direct from the cask ourselves which was an added bonus. Glenora should probably look into ordering some more peated malt, this time on purpose!
If any of these reviews pique your interest, be sure to check out Glenora’s web store, as they ship across Canada!