2018 Northern Border Collection Review – Rare Series

Thanks to Wiser’s for giving a number of Toronto Whisky Society (TWS) members a chance to try the 2018 Northern Border Collection. The 2017 Northern Border Collection had some of the best new Canadian whiskies we tried last year, so expectations are high for this year’s release.

The first of the 2018 Northern Border Collection will come to Ontario in almost a week. Sadly the pricing at the LCBO has increased from last year, but still a good value considering the age and quality of the whisky you are getting.

For those who are not aware, the 2018 Northern Border Collection is made up of 4 new whisky releases;

* Lot 40 11 Year Cask Strength Rye

* Wiser’s 35 Year

* Gooderham & Worts Eleven Souls

* Pike Creek 21 Year Old European Oak Finish

Each of the whiskies is intended to highlight a different aspect of the whisky production process. So we end up with four new whiskies that show age, maturation (casks), grain and production processes upon each whisky. Each of these are a line extension of a current expression from Wiser’s.

So let’s get down to the actual whiskies.

Pike Creek 21 Year Old European Finish

* 21 years old

* Matured or finished in American, French and Hungarian Oak Cask

* 45% ABV


Below are the notes and scores from various TWS members.


Nose: Shy nose, brown sugar, corn syrup, pepper, light cinnamon, pine needles, light oak

Palate: Thin, brown sugar, caramel, vanilla, pepper, light syrup, cinnamon

Finish: medium. Caramel, brown sugar, cinnamon, pepper

Overall: shy nose that didn’t impress me, brown sugar/caramel and spice take over from there and it improves after that. Above average Canadian blended whisky.

Score: 78

Bryan Vanderkruk

Nose: Sweet nose with honey, vanilla, and a bit of caramel. Some spices too. Doesn’t have that hint of smoke the Speyside had and not nearly as sweet as the rum and port finished editions.

Palate: Fairly tame palate… might take a little while to decipher this one. It’s got oak, caramel, toffee, honey, some baking spices like nutmeg and cinnamon and a creamy sweetness I’d have to attribute to the corn. This is a much more subtle dram than the G&W, and less complex than the Speyside from last year.

Finish: Sweet, light spice, oak, honey, caramel. Medium length

Score: 83


Nose: rum raison, cloves (overall similar but more pleasing than the 10)

Palate: cherry, spice (cloves), white pepper, vanilla, oak

Finish: Fairly long and a little bitter (but less bitter than the 10).

Score: 84


Nose: Rye influence comes through on the nose with a variety of spices, followed by vanilla, gentle oak, light red berries, ginger, and brown sugar.

Palate: Honey, caramel, ginger, cayenne, raspberry, a brief sweet vegetal note and almost a winey fermented berry moment. Some creamy and bready notes linger in the background.

Finish: Light, peppery, soft vanilla and spices, honey sweetness, faint oak and sweet red berries.

I like the subtle berry influence here, presumably coming from the French and Hungarian oak. There’s a pronounced yet balanced spice to this whisky with a faint wine cask touch. All of this is delivered in what’s very much a Canadian whisky style. Clean and approachable.

Score: 80


Nose: Corn, ginger, cereal, alcohol

Palate: Orange, brown sugar, corn, plum

Finish: Ginger, caramel, cocoa, beets, lemon

Overall: Muted ginger cookie

Score: 73


Nose: Toasted oak, cocoa, caramel, vanilla, clove, woodspice, apple, tannin

Palate: Woodspice, ryespice, vanilla, lemon, orange marmalade, silky milk chocolate, cherry peel, clove

Finish: Medium with spiced fruit jam and cocoa powder

Overall Notes: I really like the chocolate and orange notes on this whisky, it almost mixes together like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Like with the Gooderham’s the nose is a bit weak but this whisky has a bit more going for it I think and the Hungarian Oak definitely doesn’t overpower as it brings some nice qualities into the vatting. Very pleasant stuff and good transition from last year’s Speyside Cask 21 Year.

Score: 82

Gooderham & Worts Eleven Souls

* No age statement for the whisky

* 49% ABV

* Mix of a wide variety of grains: Brasetto Rye, Rye, Malted Rye, Red Winter Wheat, Barley, Malted Barley, and Corn

* Refill and virgin oak casks


Below are the notes and scores from various TWS members.


Nose: Honey, corn, apple, strawberry, vanilla, almonds, light spice

Palate: Sweet arrival, vanilla, honey, caramel, corn syrup, apples, roasted almonds, slightly vegetal

Finish: Medium. Apples, vanilla, corn, oak spice

Overall: Nice light sipper, very well blended.

Score: 84

Bryan Vanderkruk

Nose: The nose on this is significantly different than the Little Trinity and original G&W. tons of spice, berries, sweet honey and caramel, nuttiness, anise, vanilla, oak.

Palate: Lots of spice up front, cinnamon, vanilla beans, rye spice, cloves, berries and dried fruits. Some earth and nuts. A bit less oak than the 17yr but more variety of flavour. Less of the typical maple note from most Canadian whiskies, less sweet than the original G&W. creamy body.

Finish: Spicy, medium, nutty, vanilla.

Score: 85


Nose: Beautiful! Floral, vanilla, cinnamon

Palate: Cherry, vanilla, cinnamon, dark chocolate, treacle, raisons. A little hot but in a pleasing way. (I did not feel like I needed to add water)

Finish: Fairly long with hints of dark chocolate again

Score: 86


Nose: Grassy with vanilla, apple, spice, and sharp citrus.

Palate: Complex arrival that suggests that barley is asserting itself. Sugar, apple, tangerine, grain, bread, vanilla, honey, oregano. The palate proceeds into lighter vanilla and spice notes with sweet orange peel.

Finish: Ginger, apple, oak, brown sugar, dill, black pepper, mace. Distant sweet floral quality compliments the spice.

An interesting complex arrival that I wish stayed around longer. I do like the apple notes I get in this as it provides a nice contrast to some of the spice. Non-aggressive, even at 49% ABV.

Score: 81


Nose: Ginger, lemon-lime soda, almond, hay/dead leaves

Palate: Ginger, oatmeal, orange, pine, chocolate

Finish: Limeade, chocolate, mint, rosemary

Overall: Danish food/chocolate bomb

Score: 83


Nose: Corn flakes, baking spice, creamy caramel, vanilla, apple, light whiff of woodsmoke

Palate: Lemon curd, vanilla, corn flakes, rye spice, oak tannins, anise, apple sauce, green grapes

Finish: Medium to long with dusty oak and cinnamon apple sauce

Score: 79

Lot 40 Cask Strength 11 Year Old Rye

* 100% rye whisky

* 11 years

* 58.4% ABV

* Matured in virgin oak casks


Below are the notes and scores from various TWS members.


Nose: big spices, clove, pepper, red apples, cinnamon, vanilla, pine needles
Palate: clove, vanilla, cinnamon, pepper, red apple, oak spice

Finish: clove, vanilla, pepper, apple

Overall: big, bold, but simple rye. Very good at what it delivers but not very complex.

Score: 88

Bryan Vanderkruk

Nose: Very spicy, some orange peel, rye and herbal notes, banana, slightly floral, quite a kick to the nostrils after the pike creek! less caramel than the 12yr, no dill compared to the regular release, and no maltiness when compared to 2012.

Palate: Spicy, mint! Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, red fruit, nutty, citrus, rich oak, very warm. Light ginger, super faint dill. Less dry than the 12yr and less bready.

Finish: Long, spicy, citrus, light bitter oak.

Score: 88


Nose: sherry fruits (raisons), vanilla, cotton candy, cherry

Palate: Delicious sweetness (bubble gum?), a bit hot, creamy, cloves, sherry/raison again, caramel. With water the profile was pretty much the same but the hotness was tamed.

Finish: fairly long, spice and a little bitter.

Score: 85


Nose: Mint, oak, spice, bread, vanilla, sweet fruit, slight earthy must, red liquorice. There’s a lovely sweet herbal quality to the nose.

Palate: Anise, molasses, dill, vanilla, oak, honey, cola, oregano, berries.

Finish: Strawberry, pepper, oak, vanilla, cardamom, wild flower honey. Earthy and faint chocolatey spice.

As with the 2017 Lot 40 Cask Strength release this is a must try for fans of rye whisky. Quite similar but a little bit funkier with some unique earthy, liquorice, and herbal components.

Score: 86


Nose: Caramel, banana, rosemary, malt, orange

Palate: Caramel, banana, rosemary, malt, orange

Finish: Cinnamon, cloves, thyme, oats, molasses, cereal

Score: 85


Nose: Brown sugar, allspice, clove, vanilla cream, toffee, sea salt, woodspice, cherry peel

Palate: Molasses, cocoa, vanilla, lemon curd, orange, fresh cherry, strong oak tannins, ryespice, grass, clove

Finish: Long with spices, cherry fruit salad and clove

Score: 89

Wiser’s 35 Year Old (2018)

* 50% ABV

* 35 years olds

* Corn whisky


Only TOModera had the chance to try this release, so below are the notes and score:

Nose: Old wood furniture, light apple syrup, buttery apple crumble, flower vanilla, rich caramel

Taste: Green apple hard candy, butterscotch, light cloves, lime zest, pepper

Finish: Cherry, lime cordial, cloves, cola, smoke, pepper/farmyard

Score: 85

Overall the 2018 Northern Border Collection does a great job highlighting different factors which play a role in Canadian whisky. The profiles range from soft and approachable to aggressive and spice forward. Wiser’s continues to impress with unique blending and finishing.

2 thoughts on “2018 Northern Border Collection Review – Rare Series

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