Dive into the world of blended whisky, and you’ll quickly discover its definition shifts depending on which part of the globe you’re in. Venture to Scotland, and you’ll find Blended Scotch whisky, a marriage of malt and grain whiskies usually hailing from various distilleries scattered across the rugged Scottish landscape.
Cross the Atlantic to America, and the blending narrative takes a twist. Traditionally, American blenders play matchmaker with whiskies of the same kind—be it rye or Bourbon—melding different mashbills and age statements to conjure a balanced sip. Yet, the script has seen a few edits in recent years. Blenders have begun dancing across traditional boundaries, orchestrating unions between Bourbon, rye, single malt, and even unconventional rice-based whiskies. This creative alchemy has given birth to enigmatic blends like Beam Suntory’s Little Book series (affectionately termed chapters) and the bold Jack Daniel’s Triple Mash.
Journey north to Canada, and the narrative of blended whisky unfolds yet again. Here, tradition dictates a blend of whiskies, each crafted from a singular grain, aged in solitude, then vatted together. Corn usually takes the leading role in this Canadian whisky tale.
Now, steer your curiosity to Bridgeland Distillery’s newest concoction, the Single Blend (2023 edition), which is the star of this week’s review. This blend is a nod to modern American blending artistry, marrying their eloquent Glenbow single malt whisky with the robust, Bourbon-esque Taber Corn Berbon.
This is 2023 Edition of their single blend is comprised of three casks. The first is their Glenbow single malt whisky containing malted barley from Red Shed Malting. This was aged in a new American oak barrel (char #3) for two years before being aged an additional 14 months in a used Heaven Hill Bourbon cask. The other barrels contained Bridgeland’s Taber Corn Berbon whisky with a mash bill of 60% corn from Molnar’s Taber Corn, 32% malted barley and 8% wheat. The latter two grains are from Red Shed Malting. The first Berbon was matured in a new American oak barrel (char #4) for a little over 3 years. The second Berbon (same mashbill) was the smallest component by volume but was the most unique. It’s maturation journey began in a new, toasted Bulgarian oak barrel where it sat for 2 years, followed by another 2 years in a freshly dumped grappa cask made of toasted Hungarian oak. It’s bottled at 43.5% ABV.
Thanks to Bridgeland Distillery for the detailed description! All this talk is making me thirsty. Let’s dive in.
Nose: The nose on this whisky was quite tight initially, so I made sure to have a couple of drams and then let it mellow for a couple weeks first. As I’ve said time and again on this blog, there is no harm in this. Always give your whisky time to show its true colours.
Now this whisky is grilled white stone fruit through and through. Grilled peaches are the star of the show here. Beneath that, the climate get more tropical, with cantaloupe and a few slices of pineapple. Grilled oranges too.
With the majority of this blend containing malted barley, a good whiff of barley sugar was sure to make an appearance. Staying on the confectionary side, there’s a bit of meringue in here. Shades of my childhood! The spices are already putting me in the mood for Christmas. Cinnamon, allspice, ginger and a touch of freshly cracked cardamom pods. No clove or nutmeg, but they may make an appearance during the development.
Palate: Lovely and mouth coating, right from the beginning. This helps it to feel like I’m drinking whisky far beyond its stated proof. The entry is mild and sweet. Now the barrel characteristics are showing through. Loads of caramel along with a drizzle of honey and some mild cream.
The development slowly starts to turn up the spice dial, although nothing overpowering. Ginger and ground black pepper with cinnamon taking a back seat. There’s a slightly cooked down apple note coming through mid-development. The sweetness from the entry carries all the way through the development. Caramel on the entry transitions to sponge toffee, which becomes darker as the development progresses. Grilled pineapple is present, with its caramelized edges deepening the layers of sweetness. There’s a lot of balance in here.
Finish: This is not as long as I was expecting it to be, but is still pleasant. The experience doesn’t dry out at all. The tart cooked down apples combine with lingering ginger and black pepper to keep that pre-Christmas vibe going.
With Water Added
The toffee that I got on the development is now making its presence felt on the nose. Big time. This is also joined by a light floral honey note. The sweet shop is now in full effect with boiled orange flavoured candies and candied pineapple. Ginger is the dominant spice. At this point, if you gave this to someone without telling them what it was, they would probably guess an ex-Bourbon cask matured Scotch.
That candy store signature just keeps on chugging during the entry and development, along with a nice peppery kick that delivers mid-way through. Those cooked down apples, which I got without water, are still here.
Bridgeland is quickly becoming a fan favourite among Canadian whisky lovers, now that their stock is old enough to be called whisky. This masterful blend may be on more than a handful of “Best of” lists before this year is through. In every review, I always crave balance and this one did not disappoint. At roughly $60 for a 500 ml bottle, I think this is an excellent price for what you get. Some may be put off by the low ABV of this bottle, but I assure you that this drinks far higher than 43.5%.