More Canadian Drams…. The ‘Maple Syrup’ Sessions

Ok , i know lately this blog seems to have been turning into a Canadian Whisky Blog but i’ve been on a bit of a mission to discover this hidden gem of the whisky world . I’ve been greatly aided by ‘Mr Canadian Whisky’ himself , Davin de Kergommeaux author of the acclaimed ‘Canadian Whisky , the Portable Expert’ , I’ve known Davin for a good few years now through the Internet and our mutual love of Islay Malts  and he kindly sent me a few samples to broaden my experience with Canadian Whisky……

samples

Pendletons NAS 40%

The Standard bottling from Pendleton’s , an American bottling of Canadian Whisky .

Quite a dusty nose to start with , then butter and Toffee (Butterscotch?) , eventually there’s vanilla and Cask spices . On the palate there’s a sweet start , lots of rye ,cask spices again , there’s also a slight custard taste , butterscotch and pepper . The finish is medium with pepper and a lingering sweetness .
A very enjoyable dram , a step up from the cheaper whiskies , this one is actually available in this country so a bottle may be purchased……

Century Reserve Lot 15/25 40%

From Highwood Distillers , Alberta , The 15/25 is the youngest/oldest age statement .

Initially a strong hint of Christmas cake on the nose , then the what seems to be a common Butterscotch note , a liberal sprinkling of Cask spices , ending with Confectioners’ Sugar . A very relaxed but complex nose , one of them you could sit and sniff for ages . On the palate there’s a creaminess to start with , then spices and toffee , there’s a nice woodiness to it , The finish has a nice long lingering rye taste to it with oak spices .
One of them wow moments when trying a dram for the first time , a superb dram that you could probably kill quite a bit of a bottle in one sitting !

Alberta Springs 10yo 40%

From Alberta Distillers , a fine 10yo….

A 100% Rye with an incredible nose , starts off dusty , then the familiar Butterscotch , followed by spices and a touch of lemon . There’s also a very strong hint of green fruits but the overwhelming note seems to be butterscotch which is ok by me . The palate carries on where the nose leaves off , a toffee sweetness with lots of spices , very smooth and enjoyable , I’m really getting a taste for Canadian Rye , The finish is medium , spicy with pepper , for 40% it is quite chewy as well .
These Canadian Ryes are so good !

WhistlePig 10yo 50%

A very strange Canadian Rye bottled in the US…..

Another 100% Rye Whisk(e)y , an odd one this , when you first stick your nose into this you go ‘Bourbon’ , then the dustiness of a Rye comes through , not as sweet as the other Ryes on the nose (there seems to be a lack of Butterscotch on this one ) but there are plenty of wood spices . Again on the palate there is an initial taste of bourbon and new wood followed by spices and vanilla . the finish is long and Bourbony .
Not my favourite Rye , tastes more like a bourbon and I’m really confused about it , why the ‘e’ in it when it’s Canadian ? Now that I’ve had a think about it , it actually reminds me of Van Winkles 13yo Family Reserve , only not as good .

Crown Royal X.O (Finished in Cognac Casks) 40%

A Crown Royal finished in ex-Cognac casks…..

Straight away you get the fruitiness of the Cognac casks , red apples mixing in with old leather armchairs , a very creamy nose (very similar to the creaminess in Ardbeg….) , then the dustiness of the rye comes through , this has a very complex nose , lots happening , thoroughly enjoyable ! Very smooth across the palate , lots going on again , a bit of dusty rye , butterscotch , spicy , pepper , tarte apples but all wrapped up in a lovely creaminess . A medium finish highlighted with the rye and cognac .
A wonderful dram , a different class to the previously tried Special Reserve , one to think about purchasing in the not too distant future !

Crown Royal Monarch (75th Anniversary Blend) 40%

A Special Crown Royal Blend to Celebrate the launch of their Whisky in 1939….

The most dominant note on the nose is the creaminess , then the oak emerges , then a strong hint of Red Apples (similar to the X.O. ) , eventually the dusty Rye appears . There’s also a slight citrus note and dried fruits (currants and sultanas) . Not as rich and creamy on the palate as the X.O. , seems very dry and has a more pronounced rye note to it . Slightly disappointing after the Complexity of the previous CR . The finish seems a lot shorter as well and very dry and dusty .
A very disappointing dram after the X.O. , almost weak and watery .

Collingwood 21yo 100% Rye 40%

A 21yo , 100% Rye from the Canadian Mist Distillery in Collingwood….

On the nose the first thing that struck me was freshly baked bread or , which seems more likely , unbaked ‘rising’ bread , that lovely warm yeasty smell , the rye seems more relaxed in this even though it’s 100% , quite a bit of oak , on the hole a quite relaxed nose . On the palate it seems very relaxed again , there’s a very slight hint of barley sugar (the old fashioned twisty stick variety ) , a muted spiciness and a little hint of bitterness . It is very smooth across the palate . The finish is medium with something that is puzzling me…… Agh…… Flat American Cream Soda !
I was looking so forward to trying this , Davin recommended it on my visit to Toronto and I couldn’t find it , it’s actually a bit of an anti-climax , from what I remember I wasn’t too impressed with the standard Collingwood .

Highwood 25yo Calgary Stampede Centennial 40%

A 25yo from the Highwood Distillery , Alberta to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede in 2012….

Wow , bags of vanilla on the nose , oak , butterscotch , spices (particularly clove – I’m married to a dental nurse….) and it’s very creamy . Smooth as a babies bum across the palate , sweet rye , vanilla , a beautiful creaminess , butterscotch again , caramel toffee and a very small hint of chocolate . It’s not until the long lingering finish that the oak spices appear .
Boy is this a good dram ! I wouldn’t say no to a bottle of this but I’ve got a feeling it’s long gone or it should be !

Many thanks to Davin for the samples , you can read more about Canadian whisky at this Website , ‘Canadian Whisky’

4 More Canadian Whiskies…..

I do like voyages of discovery and trying Canadian whisky has certainly been that , this newest batch of Whiskies have all been purchased in the UK through The Whisky Exchange , i have been informed that they source all their Canadian Whisky through the USA so i assume these bottles are American Releases (the Wiser’s certainly says Imported and the Pike Creek is NAS rather than the 10yo found in Canada) .

Wiser’s De Luxe Imported

Rolling in at what seems to be the Standard for Canadian Whisky , 40% abv , this is what i would say is a standard Blend for whisky from this country . Not particularly strong on the nose at first , it takes a while to build up , Vanilla , Butterscotch and Dried fruits (as in the ones that go into Christmas cake) . The palate has the Butterscotch again alongside lots of Oak spices ,  it’s nice and smooth across the tongue . It has a long smooth , toffee Finish . A quite inoffensive whisky , a good session whisky and enjoyable .

Crown Royal Special Reserve

Originally created for the visit of King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth (the parents of Queen Elizabeth II) to Canada in 1939 by Seagrams (now Diageo) , this is the old version of the Special Reserve . It comes in a nice presentation complete with it’s own purple bag . A rather nice nose of butterscotch , oak spices , cloves and rye , definitely a stronger nose than the Wiser’s and a good one to sit and stiff . Again on the palate it seems to have a bit more of a kick than the Wiser’s , very smooth , spices , pepper , toffee , a touch of sweetness (honey) and even a bit of Chocolate . After the palate the finish is quite short but very nice with butterscotch , cloves and spices . A very nice whisky , again another good session dram . 

Pike Creek 

pine_creek

If the previous two are at the bottom end of the Canadian market ( IMHO) then this is the middle to top ! Made by Corby Distillers (a Subsidiary of Pernod Ricard) , as already stated this is the US NAS version and has been finished in Vintage Port casks . I first tried this (well the 10yo version) in Toronto at ‘The Keg’ on the recommendation of Davin (de Kergommeaux ) and really liked it , unfortunately i couldn’t find a bottle of it . A lovely ruby colour , the initial nose is red fruits from the port , then toffee , a touch of rye and a surprising hint of Farmyard (?) . The palate is superb , red fruits , a bag load of Rye , toffee , Oak spices and it’s as smooth as a babies bum ! The finish is long , spicy and again rye . A wonderful Canadian Whisky worth hunting out and I , for one , am glad TWE got some in .

Pendleton’s 1910 12yo Rye

1910

This is a strange beast , 100% Canadian Rye Whisky that is matured in Canada for 12 years then transported to  be bottled in Pendleton , Oregon , USA ! Named after the first ‘Round up’ in that town (in 1910 ) , hence Pendleton is known as the ‘Cowboy Whisky’ . The only Rye whisky i’d previously tried was from America , the legendary Van Winkles 13yo Family Reserve and the 2 things i’d learned was (a) it has a very distinctive smell and taste and (b) i really liked it . The Pendletons is really , really , really nice , probably one of the nicest whisky i’ve had , lots of spices on the nose , Rye (obviously !) , vanilla , butterscotch , quite complex and not having had many Ryes i have trouble identifying stuff but it is great . The palate is fantastic , again very complex , lots of fresh cask tastes , vanilla , oak spices , butterscotch , pepper , all flowing so smoothly across the palate . The finish is amazingly long , pretty much carrying on the palate . How good is this ? I was disappointed when i ordered this as it was the last bottle at TWE , since then they got some more and i snaffled 2 more bottles ! More than Ace , more than highly recommended ! 

Since i got the Pendleton , i found two old sample bottles at the back of the cupboard that i got sent ages ago , one had Alberta Premium Rye in it , the other had Alberta Premium 25yo Rye in it . They were superb , were too busy enjoying them to write notes but i’d get a bottle of either if i had the chance !  

You can find out more about Canadian Whisky at Davin’s Site Canadianwhisky.org and i recommend reading his book ‘Canadian Whisky , The Portable Expert’ .

3 Canadian Whiskies…. Eh!

On our recent trip to Canada i actually got to try some of the Canadian Whiskies , those tried included offerings from Canadian Club, Forty Creek , Pike Creek , Collingwood and Gibsons . I actually brought back a couple……

Canadian

Here are thoughts on them plus a Mini of another Forty Creek release .  

Forty Creek Barrel Select

Forty Creek Barrel Select is a blend of high quality grains consisting of rye, barley and corn , they are barrel aged separately from 6 to 10 years , they are then brought together in special sherry barrels for an additional 6 months.

Quite a complex Nose , bags of Vanilla , Honey , oak spices with toasted oak very like the Ardbegs that had been in toasted oak casks . Fantastic nose ! A very relaxed palate , very smooth across the tongue , again lots of vanilla , bags of Butterscotch Toffee , that floods from the palate into a very long finish that also includes toasted oak .

Wonderful ! I just hope some day that this is available in the UK as it would become a standard on my shelf !

Gibson’s Finest Rare 18yo

This is one of William Grant and Sons brands , i first tried this at their stand at this years Spirit of Toronto and was blown away by it’s quality ! Apparently only 12,000 bottles a year are produced and all are sold in Canada .

Another one big in Vanilla and oak on the nose with quite a whiff of toffee as well , a touch of spices follow on . Silky smooth across the palate , big in Butterscotch toffee , vanilla and lovely oak spices , there’s also a hint of pepper which flows through to a long and very lingering finish . The finish is actually quite hot , the heat interplays with the toffee sweetness and vanilla really well .

An astonishing Dram , probably my favourite og the canadian whiskies i’ve tried so far…..   

Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve

Rye, Barley and Corn whiskies that were aged first in their own casks then blended and further matured in fresh Bourbon Barrels .

On the nose it’s loaded with Vanilla , strong almond (marzipan) , very sweet and spicy , kind of reminds me of Treacle tart as well . Very silky smooth across the palate , again quite sweet , loads of vanilla and smattering of oak spices , it also has a touch of butterscotch  . An absolutely wonderful mouthfeel with a long , sweet vanilla finish that lingers for ages and makes you want more .

A fantastic dram , absolutely stunning !

I’d heard people saying these Canadian whiskies aren’t up to others , the only one that has disappointed was the Canadian Club Sherry cask i tried , i’ve been more than happy with the one’s i’ve had . Seeing we can’t get these (apart from CC and Crown Royal) in the UK i can’t wait to get back to Canada to try some more and bring back a bit more stock !

A Festive Duo !

Not sure whether the titles right but according to the online dictionary Festive – adjective – relating to a festival .So these do relate to a festival ! So once again the Feis Ile (Islay Festival) has been and gone and all mayhem has broken out on Facebook , Twitter and assorted Forums about the availability – or lack of – of certain Feis Ile (Festival) Bottlings via the Internet . The one thing i have learned over the past few years is that no matter what the companies do they are going to get moans/whinges/abuse thrown at them from all directions . Sometimes i wonder why they bother , this year the main one’s seem to have been….. Ardbeg – Lack of bottles and Website Farts (it easier to say that than technical things….) and Laphroaig – the cost , and 1 bottle per person limit (unlike last years numerous BPP and loads of people not getting one…..) . I had no problem getting either , went on the Laphroaig site ordered one through the shop (as did my wife ) , went on RMW ordered one Ardbeg Nae bother . Some people have went way OTT with their postings about these releases ,  Just remember (putting on best Brian Conley voice) “It’s only a Bottle !!!!”

While i’m here i’m going to say something about the couriers everyone seems to be using , i never had any bother with Parcelforce , the parcel was delivered or took to the local P.O. This week i’ve had several parcels delivered from drinks related firms (not just these two) who now seem to avoid Parcelforce like the plague , I would like the choice please when ordering of using either Parcelforce (at extra cost if necessary) or the Courier of your desired choice as i’d rather go to the local Post Office to pick it up than (A) return home to find a Package containing bottles in full view of everyone getting soaked by the rain or (B) the parcel left with someone i don’t know down the street and then finding the package has been opened !!!   <End of Rant>

So to the Tasting Notes……

Festivepair

Ardbeg Auriverdes

I’ll not bother with the marketing bumf i’m sure everyone knows about it now , it’s burnished gold in colour , initial nosing doesn’t suggest it’s nearly 50% ABV (49.9%) , it seems quite lightweight , a strange nose , light peat , a touch of chocolate coffee and a slight menthol note . There is also a strong note of the Toasted ends , similar to the 1998 1189 and 1190 releases but not as strong . The palate is more akin to a standard Ardbeg , starting with creamy coffee , there is more of a stronger vanilla / bourbon note (again like the 1189/1190 but not as strong) , it is lovely and smooth across the tongue with a nice smokiness to it  . The finish is long , smoky and vanilla with a touch of peat .

While not your usual Ardbeg it is refreshing change and very easy drinking .        

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014

I think this is the first time knowingly i’ve had a whisky that’s been anywhere near an Amontillado cask (or is it just  hoggies seasoned with Amontillado ?) . Bottled at 51.4%ABV it is a bright gold colour almost going on to Marmalade / Irn bru ! The initial nose is quite lemony , then earthy dunnage warehouses , . there’s quite a vanilla hit  , eventually the Seashoreness / Farm yard of Laphroaig drifts in . A very pleasant nose . Very dry across the palate but bags of Laphroaig goodness everywhere ( unlike the <Cough> Select <Cough> ) , Not knowing what this type of sherry tastes like i can’t say how much of an effect it has had on it but there seems to be a Barley Sugar type taste in this one that i’ve never encountered in any other Big L . The Finish is definitely Laphroaig , Big , long , peaty , medicinal and Farm yardie .  

A Cracking Laphroaig , doesn’t disappoint , where would i place it within the other recent releases from Laphroaig ? Well above the Select but below the Batch 006 10yo CS   .

The Wine Society’s Exhibition 25yo Islay Single Malt

In these days of ever increasing Single Malt Scotch Whisky prices ( “it’s those damn BRIC countries causing a shortage and forcing us to put up our prices……” – Every Whisky Producer ) it’s really nice to find a reasonably priced bottle of 25yo Islay Single malt on sale ! It was by chance i came across this bottle , As readers of this blog and my Facebook / Twitter ramblings know on a recent trip to Toronto i took a liking to the locally produced Niagara wines , wanting to buy some in this country someone recommended the Wine Society as they stocked them (well one at the moment….)  , so i took a look , found the wine and also saw this Islay  in stock for the princely sum of £33 ! To purchase both (and a few others….) it required joining the Society , i was wary at first due to being in “another” Society in the past that got ridiculously expensive what with annual fees and the ever rising costs of bottles (of Scotch in this case….) . £40 to join….. for life not yearly , changed my mind  !  And they gave you back £10 in credit to your account ( take note “other” Society) , so the first order was sent off and was duly delivered this very Morn !

So What’s it like ?

25yo Islay

OK so it’s n un-named Distillery and it’s bottled at 46% , the notes on the back state “Islay malts are some of the strongest flavoured of all malts, pungent, weighty and heavily peated. This bottling shows typical rich, characterful flavour and the characteristic iodine and medicinal flavours on the finish” . I’m hoping either Laphroaig or Caol Ila but when i talked to my friend Willie ‘Two Glasses’ Jackson about it he thought Bowmore . He did like it and has bought “a few”…..

It is a lovely Golden colour so could be ex bourbon casks or well used sherry . It is quite oily in the glass , The nose is very subdued at first ,there is a peatiness with a slight Medicinal , a touch of seashore and floral as well . The Nose doesn’t actually give much away . On the palate i was expecting a touch of wood given the age , there are Wood spices and a lovely hotness to it , there is also the floral note i associate with Bowmore but luckily it doesn’t dominate (say like in the Bowmore 12yo O.b. which i don’t particularly like) , it actually adds something to it as oppose to making me dislike it . The Finish is long , hot , wood spices and the slight floral mentioned previously .

It is actually quite a nice 25yo , very drinkable , pleasant and not over-powering , a session dram and at £3 for a 25yo a very reasonably priced session dram ! If i was pinned down as to it’s origins , I’d have to agree with my Learned friend Mr Jackson and say Bowmore , but a very good Bowmore after my experiences of the distillery since the early 00’s ! Worth a punt at it’s price point……       

Tale of Two Laphroaigs…….

Last Saturday while looking at the Laphroaig website i noticed a new batch of the 10yo Cask Strength had appeared , Batch 006 , being a huge fan of 001- 005 (i took 005 to Toronto with us for Johannas show) i ordered one straight away and decided to also go for the newly released ‘Select’ . Between Saturdays ordering and todays (Wednesday) delivering a load of horror stories about how bad the ‘Select’ was started to appear on the internet , including a review by Mr Whiskyfun himself , Serge (see here for Serges Review ) .

Two Laphroaigs

Slightly alarmed i was wondering whether i’d done the right thing in ordering it ? Oh well i’ve been drinking Laphroaig for nigh on 30 years – i started drinking Malts in the summer of 1984 in my early Twenties , Later on in that year i tried my first Islay , Laphroaig with a mixture of shock and delight ! – so why worry now ! So lets taste them using the standard 10yo as reference…….

Three Laphroaigs 

The Select

Quite pale in colour next to the other two , The nose is actually stronger than the standard 10yo given that they are the same ABV , not as pronounced a Laphroaig nose as other offerings , definitely new wood and vanilla but the farm yard / nettles / seashore is in there fighting to get out , eventually the peat surfaces as well . When left for a while it develops a strange Sweetness . On the palate a whole lot of wood and vanilla at first , very sweet for a Laphroaig , later on the peat appears alongside marzipan . A strange finish for a Laphroaig there is peat but the wood and vanilla soon dissipates it and only hangs  around for a short time .

In Conclusion it’s not your usual Laphroaig , i really can’t figure out why they put it out at 40% , if you want a Laphroaig at 40% you’re going to buy the standard 10yo and not something that , to my palate , is dominated by the new wood . Very disappointing ! 

10yo Cask Strength Batch 006

A very rich Gold colour almost going on Orange Marmalade , A more traditional nose to this one ! Maritime / Seashore , hospital antiseptic and peat intermixing beautiful in the nasal passages ! Now that’s more like it on the palate , seashore , medicinal , peat , nettle , touch of pepper , stir once and swallow ! Excellent finish , Long , medicinal and seashore with a bit of bite .

A very good Laphroaig , don’t think it’s as good as 004 (my Fav) but at some point will have to put it up against some others . My personal preference when drinking Laphroaig is either the 10yo CS or the excellent 18yo .

10yo

Almost Golden Syrup in Colour  , a lot weaker on the nose compared to the other two but definitely Laphroaig , this is actually more seaweedy than the other two as well . Doesn’t stand up to the Cask Strength but this is a dram to have early on in the evening before others or through a session . I still seem to remember it being more of a monster 30 years ago…… 

That was the Year that was……. A Review !

So once again another year draws to a close , Just where do they go to ?

It’s been a traumatic last half of the year for me personally after loosing my job when the company i’d worked for for over 35 years shut down but i did manage to get another one straight away ! So lets look at things that have happened Islay and Whisky Wise !

Islay Visits

We’ve had 3 great visits this year….. so far ! Back in February / March we had our flying / quiet visit to Bowmore staying in the excellent Distillery Cottages . The weather was perfect , as was the company !

The Japanese Garden

The View down the garden (our cottage is the one with the patio doors)

We returned in early May for our spring visit and stayed in Port Ellen this time in a lovely little cottage on Frederick Crescent .

Port Ellen StitchAs well as a great encounter with an Otter we managed to fit in another tour with Iain at Lagavulin amongst other things !

For the Summer trip we once again returned to Maol Buidhe where we managed to do most of the usual things…… Relaxing , Walking , Eating and Drinking ! A good time was had by all on every trip !

Islay Distillery Bottling of the Year

So down to the nitty gritty , i haven’t tried as many as i’d hoped but the one’s i have i have to say have been excellent . This years runner up is a worthy winner any other time , the Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength Batch 005 , these batches just keep getting better and better IMHO . The winner is a special which came out in September and is an absolute stunner of a bottling , even though i don’t think it’s a perfect example of what a Lagavulin should be but it is perfect in pretty much every way and it’s dangerously drinkable ! So my Distillery bottling of the year is the Lagavulin Jazz Festival Bottling !

Non-Islay Distillery Bottling of the Year

I think the one that has stood out this year (even though it isn’t in the shops yet !) Is the Amrut Peated Port Single Cask ! Superb stuff !!!! This distillery has kept up it’s very high standard of bottlings , this is , from memory , the peatiest Amrut i can remember .

Islay Independent Bottling of the Year

This one goes to an independent bottler who has produced some very good bottlings , this one was a 20 year old from my Favourite Islay distillery , Ardbeg ! Whiskybroker has released two Begs this year , the last been a 21yo but the 20yo edges it m a bit more oompth than it’s elder brother . And it was very reasonably priced as well !

Non-Islay Independent Bottling of the Year

This one goes to another Whiskybroker bottling , i first tased this at the Newcastle Whisky Lounge Fest and knew straight away i had to get a bottle . The 29yo Tormore had something different about it , nice and refreshing ! Just can’t figure out why it didn’t fly off the shelf !

Best Meal on Islay

This goes to the Islay Hotel for the one we had there in August , they had been a bit up and down with their quality since we’ve been eating there  but this one was superb ! Just please keep it up !!!!

Tasting / Tour of the Year

A close run thing this year between two tours we took at Ardbeg this summer , The deconstruction one was great , if you don’t know how Begs standard bottlings are made up this is the one for you but the Decades tour did it for me ! The surprised was the absolutely stunning 1989 that was on it , it even beat the 1974 in my eyes !

On the whole it hasn’t been too bad of a year , the alarming rise in the cost of some bottlings has been very disturbing , it’ll not be long before us drinkers won’t be able to afford the stuff ! That’s if we can get our hands on it…… it seems to be flying straight off the shelf and on to a rapidly rising number of Online Auctions that seem to be appearing everyday . Not good for us drinkers at all !!!! That is until the bubble bursts….. and it will…….

So what does 2014 hold ? We’ll have to wait and see , watch this space !