2019 TWS Whisky Awards: Canadian Blended Whisky

This year, Toronto Whisky Society received 12 Canadian blended whiskies from 8 different distilleries ranging from large to small and from east to west. We tasted all of them blind in the randomized order below, and our rankings were anonymous. In the end, our #1 ranked whisky was unanimous. You’ll have to read through to the bottom to find out what it was!

The Lineup:

Gibson’s Finest Bold 8 Year Old: A blend of corn and rye, aged in both used and virgin oak casks and bottled at 46% ABV.

Fils du Roy Appalaches Canadian Rye Whisky: A blend of 40% rye and 60% barley malt. This distillery is the first we know of from New Brunswick! It’s bottled at 40% ABV.

Top Shelf Distillers Perth Canadian Whisky: This whisky represented the long-awaited return of whisky production in the Perth region. We had the chance to try their 2nd batch release, which is a blend of corn, malted barley and rye, aged 3 years in virgin American oak and bottled at 43.5% ABV.

Still Waters Distillery’s Stalk & Barrel Blue Blend: A blend of malted barley and rye from Canada’s oldest micro-distillery, this is a 40% ABV from unknown barrel types.

Shelter Point Artisanal Cask Strength Whisky: A limited edition release from the 10 provinces’ westernmost distillery. This triple-distilled cask strength blend of unmalted barley and rye clocks in at 58.7% ABV and has won multiple TWS whisky awards in years past.

Pike Creek 10 Year Old Rum Finish: This entry from Corby Spirit and Wine’s Northern Border Collection is aged for 10 years in a variety of casks and finished in rum barrels, then bottled at 42% ABV.

Gibson’s Finest Rare 12 Year Old: An older version of the 8 year which is also a blend of corn, malted barley and rye, bottled at 40% ABV. Historically made at Valleyfield distillery in Quebec, today it is produced at Hiram Walker in Windsor.

J.P. Wiser’s 23 year Cask Strength Blend: Most of you reading this are probably wondering how you missed this new listing on the LCBO website, but you didn’t miss anything as this bottling is not released….yet. The details of this release are not final, and so anything in this description should be taken with a grain of salt, but the particular bottle we tried was a blend of corn and rye, and the ABV on this batch was 66.7%. This bottling celebrates Dr. Don Livermore’s 23 years at the Hiram Walker Distillery and it will be the first cask strength blend ever released from the distillery.

Signal Hill Canadian Whisky: This is a blend of corn and barley, sourced from Canadian distilleries to the West (because you can’t go any further East!), aged in 3 types of casks and bottled near Signal Hill and St. John’s. The area is rich with history of Viking settlers, morse code and transatlantic travel, and we can only hope that this blend will one day be distilled on the Rock too!

Gooderham & Worts Four Grain: This member of Corby’s Northern Border Collection takes a blend of 7 different corn, barley, rye and wheat distillates which were aged in a variety of casks, and bottles them at 44.4% ABV (not on the nose at all!). This whisky was the runner-up in our blended category last year.

Still Waters Distillery’s Stalk & Barrel Red Blend: The Red Blend differs from S&B’s Blue Blend in that it adds some sourced corn whisky to the malt and rye from Still Waters, and bottles it at a slightly higher 43% ABV. The cask types once again aren’t revealed.

Gibson’s Finest Venerable 18 Year Old: The oldest of the Gibson’s line-up, this is a blend of corn, barley and rye aged in a variety of cask types and bottled at 40% ABV.

The Awards:

Honourable Mention: Fils du Roy Appalaches

  • Nose: banana bread, young wood, malt, sweet tropical fruit
  • Palate: banana, baking spice, young wood, dry, oak
  • Finish: young, dry, oak, banana bread
  • Why it won: the banana bread note is unique and combines light fruitiness with cereal notes in a novel way that stood out among its peers.

Honourable Mention: Gibson’s Finest Venerable 18 Year

  • Nose: maple, oak, sweet, pretty typical Canadian whisky nose
  • Palate: fruity, oak, maple, vanilla, bright, light malt
  • Finish: medium, oak, vanilla, maple
  • Why it won: while it has a very stereotypical Canadian whisky profile, it stands out as an exceptional example of the style that deserved recognition

Runner-up: Pike Creek 10 Year Old Rum Finished

  • Nose: light fruit, bright, butterscotch
  • Palate: rum sweetness, corn, some spice, oak
  • Finish: long, rum, sweet
  • Why it won: uniqueness can be invigorating, and the rum finish on Pike Creek creates a unique Canadian whisky. The taste lingers forever.

Runner-up: Shelter Point Artisanal Cask Strength

  • Nose: hot, chocolate, oak
  • Palate: warm, sweet heat, fruity, virgin oak spice, quite hot but not youthful
  • Finish: spicy, oak
  • Why it won: this blend continues to stand out, bringing a unique combination of bold flavour and firey spice to the table.

Best-in-Category: J.P. Wiser’s 23 year old Cask Strength

  • Nose: sweet maple, sugary, hot, leather
  • Palate: warm, leather, dried fruit, tons of flavour, brown sugar, definitely cask strength, oak, dry, spicy as heck
  • Finish: warm, spice, sugar, cinnamon hearts
  • Why it won: this was a very unique dram with tons of dry oak and spicy heat. The flavour didn’t go away and we actually had to take a quick palate cleanser break before moving on in the category. While this may not be the final form of this whisky, we’re confident any changes Dr. Don makes will only up the ante on what will surely be one of the most anticipated releases of the year!

Final Thoughts:

This line-up surprised us with its variety and quality. In the end, enough of these whiskies stood out that we felt we had to highlight 5 of the 12.

All of these deserve your own evaluation and we’re excited that both the classic Canadian whisky profile and newer innovative whiskies are being blended across the nation!

Canadian Single Grains

Canadian Single Malts

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