Seeing as the whisky under review today is the official whisky of the Calgary Stampede, I thought it might be a good idea to share some history of the Stampede for all of the non-Western Canadians out there.
The Calgary Stampede is a large annual rodeo, exhibition, and festival that takes place in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The event is held every July and attracts visitors from around the world who are interested in experiencing the Western culture and heritage of Alberta. The Calgary Stampede, which bills itself as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”, has become an important part of Calgary’s identity and culture (including the name of their Canadian Football League team).
The history of the Calgary Stampede can be traced back to the late 19th century, when the region was a center for the ranching industry. Rodeos were (and still are) a popular form of entertainment in the West, and they were held in a number of towns and communities throughout Alberta. In the early 20th century, a group of ranchers and business leaders in Calgary decided to organize a large-scale rodeo and exhibition that would showcase the Western culture and heritage of the region.
The first Calgary Stampede was held in 1912, and was an immediate success. The event featured a number of rodeo events, including bull riding, bronc busting, and steer wrestling, as well as exhibitions of Western culture, such as a parade, a chuckwagon race, and a cowboy contest. Over the years, the Calgary Stampede has continued to grow and evolve into one of the largest rodeos in the world. The event has expanded to include a number of additional events and attractions, such as concerts, parades, carnivals, First Nations events, and it attracts over a million visitors each year.
In addition to its cultural significance, the Calgary Stampede is also an important economic driver for the city of Calgary. The event generates millions of dollars in revenue for the city each year, and it supports a number of local businesses and organizations. The Calgary Stampede is also a major employer in the city, and it provides employment opportunities for a large number of people.
On to the whisky itself. According to the readily available information I have on this whisky, this Eau Claire Distillery Stampede Canadian Rye Whisky actually does have rye in it. It also has malted barley from Alberta. Although not specified on the website, I’m assuming this has some corn as well. This is partially sourced from other distilleries, with a portion also coming from Eau Claire itself. Additionally, it is natural colored and non-chill filtered. It is at least three years old and is bottled at 40%.
Nose: The undisclosed corn hits me straight away, but the rye and barley help to prevent this from tipping into candied corn territory. Instead, I get a bit of a dusty grain and corn flake character. The rye is certainly there and presents itself as hay left to dry in a field. Youthful malted cereal and barley sugar candies are coming up along with a healthy dose of toffee. A light stone fruit note is there too. My guess is peaches.
Palate: The entry is a bit thin and light, yet fruity. That stone fruit on the nose is definitely coming through, drizzled with honey this time. Caramel at the beginning of the development becomes sponge toffee as the experience progresses. Surprisingly, that peach note that I got on the entry actually builds through the development into the finish and becomes a bit more tart as well. There’s enough dark baking spices from the rye during the second half of the development to keep this interesting. It’s mostly cinnamon, but also a touch of allspice and nutmeg. This dries out the palate a little heading into the finish.
Finish: This is fairly short with some freshly cracked black pepper coming into the mix. That tart peach sticks around the longest along with lingering sponge toffee. Midway through the finish, there’s an effervescent cola note, which tingles the tongue a bit.
With water added
I’m getting a surprising amount of nutmeg now on the nose. The peach note has stuck around and there’s a touch of blackberry as well. Water has really helped the palate. The entry feels creamier and more substantial. The development isn’t as fruity, but it does have more heft in the form of more of those baking spices and pepper that I got without adding water. Since this whisky will most likely be drank in a cocktail or with an ice cube, this increase in its flavour profile bodes well.
In order to objectively review this whisky you have to be able to push aside all of the marketing, which is laid on pretty thick in this case. It’s obvious to see where Eau Claire is going with its claim that this is “The Greatest Rye Whisky on Earth.” On the flip side, I can also understand why whisky enthusiasts might find this a giant turn-off.
That being said, along with Rupert’s Exceptional Canadian Whisky, Eau Claire’s other entry-level offering, this whisky should be compared to other whiskies in its category, rather than the best whisky you have ever tasted. If you compare this along side Alberta Premium 100% Rye, Canadian Club and Crown Royal, it’s not a bad daily sipper and cocktail mixer. In my opinion it’s a slight cut above those products.
When it comes to cost, it’s around $10-15 more expensive than comparable entry-level offerings. I can imagine that being the Stampede’s official whisky did not come cheap. However, this is also not a mass-produced item and, like all whisky from craft distilleries, it’s a moral choice as to whether you’re willing and able to support small, local businesses, instead of gigantic multi-national behemoths.
And remember, by supporting products such as these, you help craft distilleries keep the lights on so that you can enjoy the one thing many of us enthusiasts can agree is exceptional…their single malt releases!