Distillers based in Alberta, particularly southern Alberta, are pretty lucky to have some of the world’s best corn at their doorstep. Especially centered around the town of Taber (roughly 200 km southeast of Calgary), corn is deeply rooted in the culture of the region. Just like Mundare (located southeast of Edmonton) is famous for its sausages, Taber is the first place people think of when they think of corn. It’s not uncommon for certain shifty folks to pass their product off as Taber corn, which is why the town issues certificates of authenticity to ensure the public that the corn is proudly Taber’s. Taber’s 36 ft tall corn statue, just off Highway 3, is a testament to that pride.
The meteorologist in me (my day job for the last 20 years) suspects that the region’s climate has a lot to do with how well corn grows in southern Alberta. The growing season in this area commences around mid-May and extends until mid-October, presenting a substantial timeframe for corn growth. During the summer, the days are hot and relatively dry and the nights are cool. Most of the precipitation is convective (i.e. thunderstorms), which is perfect so long as the hail is small and the winds aren’t too punishing.
Like all grains, much scientific development has gone into creating genetically modified corn varieties that thrive in southern Alberta’s climate, particularly during potentially cold periods during the late spring and early fall.
Located in Calgary, Bridgeland distillery has established a relationship with a relatively new corn farm in the Taber area. Molnar’s Farm was established in 2005 and specializes in both corn and pumpkins. Molnar’s Taber corn makes up 60% of the mashbill in Bridgeland’s Taber Berbon, which is finally old enough to be called whisky!
Made from 60% Molnar’s Taber corn as well as 32% malted barley and 8% wheat, both from Red Shed Malting, run by the Hamill family near Penhold, Alberta, this Taber Corn Berbon whisky is the third installent in Bridgeland Distillery’s Artisan Collection series. To celebrate their Berbon’s attainment of its long awaited 3 year age statement (the minimum age in Canada for spirit to be called a whisky), this release has rested in a single, new American oak cask for just over three years. It’s bottled at a healthy 55% ABV.
A while back, I reviewed their Berbon at just one year old. I loved the potential it had and am looking forward to see what’s changed!
Nose: In Bridgeland’s single cask Artisan Collection Wheat Whisky, which was also high in the ABV department, I got quite a bit of alcohol burn. This Taber Corn has no such burn, I’m happy to say, allowing me to more easily focus on the underlying aromas.
After three years in Southern Alberta’s climate, the cask is much more prominent compared to their younger Berbons. The main character on the nose is a slightly sour cherry, like the fruit I occasionally pick from my neighbour’s yard. This is followed by a good hit of sponge toffee and a very slight floral note. Typically, I wouldn’t get nutmeg until later in the development, but it’s not waiting long in this whisky. This adds a slight earthiness to the nose. Cinnamon is also here in roughly equal measure to nutmeg. Barley sugar is coming through now as well as a sprinkling of orange zest, which adds a freshness to this dram.
Palate: For a 110 proof whisky, the entry is surprisingly light and sweet. Honey and vanilla wafers. Like other Bridgeland whiskies, this has a wonderful mouthfeel, right to the very end.
This sweetness is balanced by the sour cherry and the flesh of a navel orange at the beginning of the development. The sour cherry reminds me of the Old Forester barrel proof Bourbon’s I’ve had in the past. Mid-development the heat starts to kick in, but not in a major way. Cinnamon and allspice mostly. The nutmeg I get on the nose is there, but it’s faint. As I take more sips of this, I’m getting a touch of milk chocolate that carries through most of the development. Combined with the toffee, I’m close to getting my beloved Cadbury’s Crunchie bar vibes.
There’s almost no youthful graininess in here. Surprising for a three year whisky.
Finish: This is a bit short, given its proof. Still, its balanced, with just the right amounts of the sweet, sour, and spice components that I got during the development.
With water added
The orange and floral notes are more prominant than sour cherry now. The corn is coming through as a small bowl of Frosted Flakes. Pineapple is joining the citrus as well as barley sugar. The distillate is clearly the star of the show with water added. Frosted Flakes aside, this has much more of a Scotch-like character now. Although the entry remains much the same, the development is revealing the youth of this whisky. However, some sponge toffee, ginger, milk chocolate, and pineapple are helping to temper this youthfulness somewhat.
Drank neat, this whisky was mature beyond its years. I’m not sure if everyone will be fan of the sour cherry in here, but rest assured you will still get plenty of the sweetness that one expects from a Bourbon-style whisky. Often, limited releases can be on the pricey side, yet I applaud Bridgeland for keeping the prices on their Artisan Collection low. For $60-65 CAD you get a whisky that always delivers solid value and great taste, with a fancy bottle that looks great on your shelf.