We were surprised last year when we only got a few bottles that qualified for this category, (and even some of those could have been put in multiple), and then this year we were overwhelmed with the sheer number of entrants! We split this category randomly into two sessions, took our top 3 from each group of 8 and then put those head to head to find our best-in-category and runner-up. All 6 of those finalists are given mention at the end since they won the sub-groups. As always, these were all tasted blind, and are listed in the order in which they were tasted. Buckle up; this is a long one!
Twelve Barrels Canadian Whisky – 40%
This brand was featured on Dragon’s Den, and is a blend of sourced whiskies: 100% wheat from Canada (40% of blend), 90% corn from Canada (35%) and 95% rye from the US (25%), aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and new oak.
- Nose. Sweet, ethanol, maple, cereal,
- Palate. Maple, hot, cereal, grainy, apple, nutty. Mineral.
- Finish. Short, sweet, maple.
Overall thoughts: a bit young tasting and reminiscent of a traditional Canadian whisky profile.
Pike Creek 10 Rum Finished – 42%
Another member of the Northern Border collection, this Corby product is a blend of corn and rye aged 10 years and finished in rum casks.
- Nose. Caramel, maple, sweet,
- Palate. Molasses, maple, super sweet, bit of oak, tastes like added sugar. Almost rum-like. Raw sugar.
- Finish. Medium, sweet. Cereal.
Overall thoughts: the rum-like molasses are different but a nice change from the typical Cdn profile. Post-reveal, those tasting notes made a lot of sense!
J.P Wiser’s Canada 2018 – 43.4%
This is the second release in the Commemorative Series from J.P. Wiser’s, following up their Canada 150 release from last year. Speaking with Dr. Don Livermore, he revealed that this is the same blend of corn and rye as last year’s release, but a year older (approximately 12 years old), with a high percentage of the blend aged in new oak.
- Nose. Candy corn, sweet
- Palate. Candy corn , sweet, caramel, vanilla, oak, demerara sugar, anise
- Finish. Anise, candy, sweet, caramel, oak
Overall Thoughts: corn forward and with a nice anise spice that makes it different from your typical Cdn whisky. Good oak content.
Shelter Point Montfort District Lot 141 Single Field Whisky – 46%
This bottle is about as craft as you can get, taking the field to flask concept to the next level. All of the grain from this whisky was from a single field, pot distilled, aged in American oak and packaged in a limited run of 1417 bottles. When we first received this, we understood it to be a wheat whisky, which is why it was included here. We later found out that it is actually another single malt, and should have been included in that category. However, we’re leaving it in this post for transparency, and will do better due diligence in the future! (and recommend that single malt be on the label too!)
- Nose. Cereal, light fruit, light, light sweetness, pear, apple,
- Palate. Chocolate, waxy, cereal, spicy, pepper, vegetal, metallic.
- Finish. Short, cereal, a bit young.
Overall Thoughts: a very interesting whisky that is quite different from your typical Canadian whisky profile (post-reveal: no kidding!). Very nice fruit and spice balance.
J.P Wiser’s 15 year – 40%
A blend of corn and rye, this is a newer release from Corby that replaced Legacy in their whisky line-up. Aged in Canadian whisky barrels.
- Nose. Maple, sweet, caramel, candy corn.
- Palate. Candy corn, sweetness, vanilla, lemon, caramel,
- Finish. Short, sweet, candy
Overall Thoughts: a very typical Canadian whisky profile with an interesting hint of lemon.
J.P. Wiser’s Deluxe – 40%
Another blend of corn and rye, this is the standard release from Corby, and aged in both ex-Canadian whisky and ex-bourbon barrels.
- Nose. Slightly less sweet, maple, cereal, nuts
- Palate. Maple, caramel, vanilla, corn, pear, cereal
- Finish. Dry finish, cereal, corn
Overall Thoughts: another very typical Canadian whisky taste profile, with the corn and maple notes dominating a bit of grain and oak.
Wayne Gretzky Estates Distillery Ninety-Nine Proof – 49.5%
This is the high-proof release from the new Peller distillery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The blend of corn, rye and malted rye for this bottling is sourced currently, and then finished in some of Peller’s Cab Sauv barrels. Master Distiller Joshua Beach is currently laying down barrels for whiskies that will be released in a few years.
- Nose. Sweet, woodspice, caramel
- Palate. Sweet, candy corn, oak, spice, pepper, woodspice, baking spices, some red fruit
- Finish. Oak, spice, cinnamon, orange, drier.
Overall Thoughts: a nice balance of sweet, oak and spice, this has some elements of a typical Canadian whisky, but has a bit more depth and variety than many so far. tastes like there’s a good amount of rye in the blend.
Persian Empire Blended Canadian Whisky – 40%
This is an unreleased blend of PE’s corn, rye and malted barley whiskies. They’re aged in new Hungarian Oak, and all of the ingredients are locally sourced.
- Nose. Apple cider, cinnamon, sweet, overly ripe apple,
- Palate. Apple cider, a bit of oak, caramel, spices. Dry. Apple chips.
- Finish. Short. apple, dry.
Overall thoughts: this is a very interesting dram and doesn’t taste at all like your typical Canadian whisky. If we didn’t know what this was at all, we’d likely guess it’s an apple liqueur or brandy (and a pretty good one)!
J.P. Wiser’s 18 year – 40%
This is a 100% double distilled corn whisky aged 18 years in ex-Canadian whisky casks.
- Nose. Sugar, brown sugar, acetone, maple, caramel
- Palate sweet, maple, caramel, oak, sugary, cinnamon, pretty standard Cdn whisky profile.
- Finish. Short, sweet, maple
Overall Thoughts: A very stereotypical Canadian whisky. Likely what most around the world would associate with Canadian whisky.
Rig Hand Distillery Rig Hand Distillery Bar M Whisky – 45%
A collaboration between Last Mountain Distillery in Saskatchewan and Rig Hand, this is one of Alberta’s first whiskies from a small distiller. It combines LM’s wheat whisky (which we tried last year) and a 3-grain blended spirit from Rig Hand.
- Nose. Citrus, tangerine, yuzu, vanilla,
- Palate citrus, chocolate, cream, spice, almost tastes like a flavoured whisky.
- Finish. Sweet marmalade, bitter orange peel, light chocolate.
Overall Thoughts: typically we don’t like flavoured whiskies, and while this tastes a bit like one, it’s well crafted and delicious. Would make a great dessert whisky/aperitif.
Gooderham & Worts Four Grain – 44.4%
A blend of 7 different corn, rye, barley and wheat whiskies, this whisky celebrates Canadian whisky heritage by honouring the legacies of two of the industry’s titans. It is aged in a variety of casks and bottled at a cheeky 44.4% abv.
- Nose. Red fruit, bready cereal, caramel, mossy
- Palate. Bread, chocolate chips, vegetal, banana. Earthy. Spice. Sort of a banana bread.
- Finish banana, cinnamon, spice
Overall Thoughts: tons of depth to this one, combining spice, fruit, grain and earthy notes very nicely.
Shelter Point Cask Strength Whisky – 58.4%
A blend of 5 casks of malted barley and 1 cask of rye, this is a limited run of 1200 bottles. The whisky was taken from the ex-bourbon barrels and finished in French Oak and bottled at cask strength.
- Nose bready, cherry, cereal, vegetal earthy, fairly young smell but nice.
- Palate. Malty, vegetal, bready, cereal, young, banana, earthy, pepper, apple
- Finish. Chili pepper, long, spice, malty
Overall Thoughts: great depth and complexity, tons of flavor. A bit hot (which made sense post-reveal) but not overly so. Very nicely balanced and delicious.
J.P. Wiser’s Triple Barrel Rye – 43.4%
A blend of corn and rye, this whiskies in this blend are aged in a combination of first fill bourbon, ex-Canadian whisky and virgin American oak. It’s a higher rye blend than the usual age-stated/deluxe line-up.
- Nose. Maple caramel, cherry, sugar, sweet,
- Palate. Sweet, caramel, brown sugar, cherry flavouring, coke, oak
- Finish. Oak, cherry, sugar, sweet . dried fruit, light spice
Overall thoughts: has the typical sweet maple note from Canadian blends, but with more oak character and an interesting cherry note.
Kinsip Wild Oak Whisky – 47%
This is the re-branded Wild Oak formerly made by 66 Gilead. It’s a blend of corn aged in virgin American oak barrels, barley aged in ex-Ardbeg barrels, and rye aged in re-charred ex-red wine barrels. The latest release is 3.5 years old.
- Nose. Young wood, yeasty, rubber, green apple, vegetal
- Palate. Young wood, butter, rubber, vegetal, salty – almost like a sweaty sock, funk, some spice
- Finish. Dry, funk, green wood, light oak, vegetal
Overall Thoughts: a bit young tasting with an interesting funk to it. It’s unique and a departure from your typical Cdn whisky style. Post-reveal, the rubbery/funky notes make sense as the Ardbeg casks would do interesting things to the blend!
Wayne Gretzky Estates Distillery Ice Cask – 41.5%
Another release from the Peller group, this is also sourced whisky, that is finished in icewine casks, and bottled at a bit higher proof than your typical Canadian blend.
- Nose. Maple, caramel, cereal, sugar, brown sugar, lemon
- Palate. Maple, caramel, acetone, cereal, sugar, light oak, butter. Ink.
- Finish. Short, sweet, newspaper ink, caramel
Overall Thoughts: It starts as a nice version of the Canadian whisky profile but has a strange ink-like flavor that deters from the overall experience.
Glynnevan Double Barrelled – 43%
This whisky from Glynnevan is sourced from elsewhere in Canada, then re-barreled and further aged near the Atlantic coast in Guysborough, NS.
- Nose. Maple, cloves, caramel, brown sugar, apple,
- Palate. Maple, caramel, acetone, cereal, sugar, dough. Orange.
- Finish. Dough, maple, caramel, orange
Overall Thoughts: a pretty typical Canadian whisky palate with an interesting orange note that sets it apart.
Best-in-Category: Shelter Point Cask Strength
Runners-Up: Gooderham & Worts Four Grain, Rig Hand Bar M Whisky
Honourable Mentions: Shelter Point Montfort District Lot 141*, Wayne Gretzky Estates Ninety-Nine Proof, J.P. Wiser’s Canada 2018
This wasn’t an easy category to break down and pick winners from! There are so many great whiskies from all over the country and we were incredibly grateful to have had a chance to try all of these and see the variety that’s out there. If this category grows much more next year, we may have to set aside an entire day to taste them all!
*The Shelter Point Montfort was discovered to be a single malt after the tasting, but would have gotten an honourable mention regardless, so we left it in the category in which it was tasted.