Many of our members have been fans of the Northern Border Collection all the way back to when it was just a twinkle in Dr. Don Livermore’s eye, and we’ve had the good fortune to try each of the rare range releases over the past three years.
For the inaugural line-up, we had Dave Mitton come in and introduce them to us. Last year, we didn’t have a specific event, but had a chance to try them all at our year end bash. This year, after J.P. Wiser’s 23yr Cask Strength’s win at the 2019 TWS Whisky Awards , we decided to hold a tasting to let all of our members try the range before it was released at the LCBO.
That release date is coming soon! So here are the collective thoughts of the group shared on each bottling at that event:
Gooderham & Worts 49 Wellington
This 4-grain blend is so named in honour of Gooderham & Worts’ original flatiron headquarters in Toronto. The blend of grains is unique as it uses Red Winter Wheat, was partially aged using Red Oak staves, and includes the famed J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter as a large portion of the blend. It’s proofed at 49% ABV.
Nose: caramel, dried fruit, toffee, light oak
Palate: burnt toffee, caramel, Werther’s Original, butterscotch, heavy wheat, creamy body, spice
Finish: medium length, sweet, caramel, butterscotch
A tasty blend where the wheat is evident in palate and body. The higher proof gives it a bit more depth of flavour too, and we found it’s best without any water added.
Pike Creek 21 Oloroso Finished
Pike Creek’s limited editions have been 21 years each time, primarily corn whisky with a hint of rye, and highlight the effect of finishing on a spirit. This year’s edition was exciting for many of us at TWS, as we love Oloroso cask finished scotch, and were curious to see how it would stack up to those. It’s the lowest proof bottle of the line-up at 45% as well.
Nose: red fruit, nutty, vanilla, oak. smells warm for 45%
Palate: leather, nutty, oak, red fruits, sweet, citrus, spice
Finish: long, oak, leathery, sweet
Overall, we were very curious to see how this would develop if it had spent years, not months in Oloroso. Everyone enjoyed it and the general consensus was it was superior to the G&W by a hair.
Lot no. 40 Cask Strength 2019
The one that started it all… the hype surrounding #releasedLot40CS in 2016/17 was so great, and the eventual released lived up to it so well, that this is always the most anticipated Corby release of the year. Many were a little hesitant when discovering that it was non-age-stated for 2019, but still trusting Dr. Don to deliver the goods. This bottling is somewhat different from prior releases as it was partially aged in virgin French Oak Casks instead of just American Oak, bottled at 57% ABV.
Nose: vanilla, caramel, syrupy, toffee, oak
Palate: some pepper and spice, but not as much as you’d expect based on previous releases. Oak forward, earthy, syrup, toffee, fairly sweet. Struck many of us as a high rye blend rather than 100% rye. quite dry.
Finish: long with light spice, caramel, oak, dry
We felt this didn’t quite meet the expectations set by the previous two limited releases, but it’s a great whisky in its own right. Just isn’t what you expect from the Lot 40 brand. The French Oak rounded it out a bit and gave it depth, but it lacked the spicy kick in the teeth that we all know and love.
J.P. Wiser’s 23yr Cask Strength Blend
This was the most anticipated bottling of the night, as it had won our blended category in the 2019 TWS Awards. The bottle we had then was a media sample at ~66% ABV, and this one was too, coming in at 69.4%. The final release is 64.3% ABV, but we were assured all batches are blended to the same profile.
This is a risky proposition for Corby; the typical J.P. Wiser’s consumer is used to 40% ABV corn whisky, aged in ex-Canadian whisky barrels, suitable on the rocks or in a cocktail. This is a value proposition that appeals to whisky connoisseurs, who are used to single cask, cask strength and otherwise non-mainstream characteristics.
Nose: spicy, warm, oak, typical Wiser’s corn
Palate: baking spices, lightly sweet, oak, anise, chai, very dry, licorice, vanilla, caramel. Quite warm (understandably). Opens up a bit and less heat with a bit of added water, but the palate doesn’t change significantly.
Finish: long, spicy and warming.
Overall consensus from those who had both was that the bottle that won the TWS award was slightly superior, and Mark Bylok of Whisky Buzz suggested the commercial release is superior as well. But everyone loved this and it was a highlight of the night. Many said for $150, it’s hard to go wrong with a whisky that’s cask strength and so old!
A big thanks to Corby for providing the preview bottlings of the Rare Range! There were some innovative risks taken with this year’s line-up, and we’re excited to see them hit the shelves in Ontario shortly!
For anyone wishing they had more of the 2018 line-up, the LCBO received some additional stock and are selling an online-exclusive gift pack that includes a wooden display, and the J.P. Wiser’s bottling is signed by Dr. Don!