For those of you not yet riding the Carn Mor train I suggest you go find yourself a ticket as quickly as possible. I’d recommend starting with an offering from their Strictly Limited range since new batches from various regions are released fairly regularly. Many notable and pungent weirdos come from their line and they carry some soft and more elegant little lovelies too, all with a common trait, quality. Consistent prices and reliable picks are pretty much guaranteed and based on their consistent track record of delicious and rare drams, there’s a chance they’ll have an expression that may fit your taste and budget..Enter stage left: a lovely expression from MacDuff (affectionately known as Glen Devron or The Deveron in some circles).
This particular MacDuff was distilled in 2011 and matured in a bourbon barrel for 10 years before being bottled at a monstrous cask strength of 57.4%. According to legends, the importers, RareDrams will be picking individual expressions from other distilleries and releasing them as a mini series of sort, set to promote the core range of and individual characteristics of each distillery contained within. Lucky for us here in Alberta our portion of the cask (picked by Bob Kyle) has been released to the western market at cask strength while the rest of the cask will go elsewhere and to other markets, with no gaurentee they will be bottled at cask strength..I could go on for another six months talking about the history of MacDuff, the post war whisky boom and the additional stills that were added in the 1990’s but that’s a topic more suited for Bearded Dave, the history professor.
What we know for sure is that at 57.4% this lovely MacDuff isn’t too sharp at all, quite the opposite. On the nose are notes of dried tropical fruits and wet wood. The palate is juicy and sweet with tons of butter on the finish..A touch of water should help spare this one along for a little while longer. You may find the nose is tamed quite a bit as notes of sweet bourbon vanillas and burned butter sauce comes to the tip of the tongue with a touch of zesty tanginess in the background. The alcohol bite has been almost completely removed as hints of fresh almond comes through with a touch of musty wood on the finish.
Let’s take a break from the core range today and take a look at a Woody Creek special release. Wheated bourbons, aside from the Weller releases (if you can find them in your state/province) and Makers Mark, were a rare sight up until a few years ago. That has now begun to change. Alongside four grain bourbons (some with oats instead of wheat), craft distilleries are leading the charge here and the expressions offer something different from the mainstream bottlings…like this one!
This Woody Creek Wheated Colorado Bourbon has a mashbill of 70% corn, 15% wheat and 15% and has been aged for six years in new American oak. It is bottled at a healthy 47% abv.
Nose: The first thing that hit me straight away was the lack of a dusty grain note that I get on most wheated bourbons. It’s not that it isn’t there, but it’s just lurking in the background. What I do get is the sweetness that I normally find in this type bourbon. Werthers original candies for sure, but also a little bit of the sponge toffee filling in a Cadbury’s Crunchie bar. In that way, it’s sort of like a bourbon matured single grain scotch. Again, this being a bourbon, I would expect to see a cherry fruitiness, but instead I’m getting strawberries and a hint of blackberries as well. In terms of the spicing, I get the traditional cinnamon and a little bit of allspice. I’m expecting nutmeg and/or cloves to show up on the palate. I’m really not getting an awful lot of oak here. As I nose this over time, I am getting more of that grain note, like sweet feed that horses love, but should not really get too much of.
Palate: With all of that sweetness on the nose, coupled with the lack of rye in the mash, I was expecting this to be overly sweet the whole way through the experience. That is initially the case, but this whiskey has some surprises in store for me. The entry is quite sweet for starters. The vanilla custard note alone really coats the front of my mouth right from the get go and that continues through the development as well. Between the entry and the development, I get that Crunchie bar toffee note again mixed with red berries and peaches, this time slightly cooked down. What really surprises me is how spicy this bourbon is on the palate. It’s not super spicy, but certainly more so than any other wheated bourbon I have had. It’s almost effervescent on the tongue. Underneath that spice is more of that grain forward note that I usually see in wheaters. The back end of the development sees some nutmeg start to creep in as well as a touch of clove. I am getting some oak, but again, not a lot. I love the balance all the way through.
Finish: The early part of the finish has quite a bit of character. The oak and dark baking spices carry over from the development and are joined by a heavy hint of dark chocolate. That Crunchie bar vibe sticks around as well. It’s slightly drying, but not overly so. As the finish progresses to a medium/long length, it becomes more oak forward, but there is enough chocolate and toffee to prevent it from acquiring that wet oak feeling that can be a bit of a put off for me.
With water added…
I’m getting much more of the dusty grain bin note as well as some faint vanilla, which I was missing entirely on the nose without water added. I’m getting some light sponge toffee, but this is lacking that Crunchie bar vibe that I was digging earlier. Definitely more oak here as well. That subtle fruitiness has also faded. The entry still has that vanilla custard, but it is tinged with orange now and slightly sour. The development is just as spicy, if not more so than without water, and more oak forward. It’s not quite as sweet either. When I smack my lips to let in some air, I get a bit of roasted peanut now. The baking spices stick around for a lot longer on the finish and the dark chocolate has morphed into a cocoa powder note that I really love. This note actually pairs better with the oak at the backend of the finish than the notes I get without water being added.
As Sean Kincaid has noted in the first three Woody Creek reviews, this is a surprising set of whiskies thus far. They take what you might be expecting from a traditional bourbon and American rye and throw you a couple of curveballs to keep you interested. To me, this is the definition of the craft distillery ethos. Take what you already know from drinking “mainstream” whiskey and give you something familiar, but also slightly new. Still to come is the cask strength rye. You definitely will want to tune in for that.
Glen Grant is a Speyside distillery located near Rothes and the river Spey. It was established in 1840 by two brothers, John and James Grant. It was taken over in 1872 by James ‘The Major’ Grant, who was a legendary innovator. James Grant was the first man in the Highlands region to own a car, and under his management the distillery was the first to use electric lights and the tall slender stills that continue to define Glen Grant today. The distillery remained a family-run business until 2006, when they were purchased by the Campari group. Glen Grant continues to be one of the best selling single malts across the globe. The 15 year batch strength Glen Grant is aged in first fill ex-bourbon barrels and bottled at 50% abv.
In the glass: Light yellow-gold, appears thin. Doesn’t coat the glass, moves easily.
Nose: Sweet vanilla and stone fruits, like peaches and cream. Soft and reminiscent of summer. Maybe a touch of lemony citrus.
Palate: Surprisingly creamy mouthfeel. Honey and oak. Orchard fruits again, but more pear than peach. Something slightly bitter too, but not unpleasant.
Finish: Oak and pear. Slightly drying, with an interesting pepper finish.
This whisky, on its own merit, is an enjoyable dram with some nice flavours. When you take into consideration the price of the bottle (~$85), it is almost a must-have. It is also bottled at 50%, which sets it apart from other 15 year old choices. This is an easy decision. The Glen Grant 15 deserves a spot on your shelf. It will have a spot on mine.
Cheaper blended whisky, in general, tends to get scoffed at when it comes to seasoned whisky drinkers. Too busy chasing their unicorns, single casks and cask strength bottles, a fair number of that cohort tend to pass by blended bottles on the lower shelves. If they grab anything at all, it’s likely to have a Jamieson’s or Johnnie Walker label slapped on it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some fairly bad blends out there. A “Lost in Dramslation” podcast episode was entirely dedicated to some of these bottles that made you say, “WTF?”. That being said, if you ask around, do your research or even just take a chance on some of the blends you see on the shelves, you may just find your new favorite daily drinker. Plus it won’t break the bank, allowing you to save up for your next fancy bottle.
Like Irish whiskey in general, blended Irish whiskey is going through a bit of a renaissance as well. Even on the upper end, bottles like J.J. Corry’s The Gael offer phenomenal value. For just over $100 CAD, you get a blend that has up to 28 year whiskey in it. Try picking up a Compass Box blended scotch like that for less than double the price. No chance. On the cheaper side of things, there’s more to Jamieson’s than their standard green label bottling. On top of that, there’s West Cork, Flaming Pig, Dublin Liberties (Dubliner) and so much more. What makes Irish blends intriguing is that they are a blend of grain and single pot still, which is itself a mixture of malted and unmalted barley. This helps to separate their profiles from blended scotch, sometimes dramatically.
With the help of Park Whiskey Society’s own resident Irish expert, Sean Kincaid (@seankincaid), I was directed towards the distillery whose bottle I’m reviewing today. Kilbeggan holds the bragging rights as the oldest continually-licensed distillery in Ireland. Established in 1757, Kilbeggan has had a pretty storied history. At the heart of the distillery is the town of Kilbeggan itself. Through thick and thin, openings and closings, the residents of Kilbeggan have played a major role in keeping their distillery alive, or at least licensed for hundreds of years. Now owned by Beam Suntory, Kilbeggan is riding high on the latest Irish whiskey revival.
Kilbeggan Traditional Irish Whiskey is their entry level offering. Unlike most Irish whiskies, it is only double distilled. It’s non-age stated, probably colored and chill filtered and is bottled at 40% abv.
Nose: The one major issue I have with this whiskey is that as soon as you pour this into your glass, you get a moderate paint thinner note that can be a bit off-putting to some. If you let it sit for at least 15 minutes, it does go away. Replacing that is a very strong green apple note. It’s worst feature turns into it’s best so do be patient with it. Underneath all of that green apple is some youthful grain and malt notes. A little barley sugar and light caramel for sure. The vanilla and mild cinnamon I get off of this is probably thanks to the ex-Bourbon barrels this was matured in. Over time, some pineapple shines through. The vanilla is more of a vanilla wafer now.
Palate: The entry is light and sweet. Green apple, vanilla custard and caramel. The transition into the development is slow and gradual. On the front end, the tropical notes start to creep back. As I keep swishing this around my mouth I get a tiny bit of oak, some clove and black pepper as well as some rich milk chocolate. That milk chocolate note continually builds into the finish. It’s a nice balance between oak, spice and sweetness.
Finish: On the shorter side of medium, but not surprising for the abv. The spice is gone immediately, but the chocolate and oak stick around for a while with a little bit of citrus thrown in for good measure.
With water added…
That green apple note has faded away considerably. The tropical notes are now bubbling to the top. I’m getting a little bit of ginger now as well. The caramel is more of a toffee sweetness and there’s a splash of oak. The entry is substantially creamier and mouth coating now. The black pepper is a little stronger, but so is the oak making, this a little spicier and more bitter than when sipped neat. There’s also a very faint, youthful metallic note towards the backend of the finish. I’m note getting quite as much chocolate as I did without water. The finish has a bit more oak and some toffee. It’s not quite as balanced as it was before.
When I first poured this whiskey, the paint thinner note kind of turned me off. However, I gave it a second chance recently and after I waited for that note to fade away in the glass, I really started to enjoy this one. For me, it’s turned into the perfect “after work” starter dram. Something I can sip while making dinner or nagging my kids to do their homework.
To be honest, I’m not sure that I will buy this bottle again. Instead, I would pay $10 more and get my hands on another bottle of their single grain (corn) expression. That’s another one that wasn’t a favourite of mine to start, but turned into a delightful summer dram once I gave it a chance to shine.
We’ll be reviewing all four of their available expressions including their unique take on rye and their fantastic single grain.
This Brimstone expression is made with 100% blue corn. After distillation, they somehow pump Texas scrub oak smoke into the distillate itself. It is then aged for about two years and bottled at 53% abv.
Nose: How to even describe this nose. It’s super young, that’s for sure. I get the sensation of walking through a desert after a brush fire. It’s still smouldering a little. Burnt corn husks for sure. Very dusty corn grain. There’s a freshly sawn wood note lingering in the background. I’m not really getting much sweetness on the nose except for burnt brown sugar. A deeply roasted corn note comes up after a long while in the glass. That smokiness is pretty intense and kind of masks some of the notes I traditionally expect in an American whisky. Unless you’ve had this already, your guess is as good as mine as to how this is going to taste.
Palate: OK. There’s the corn whisky sweetness now. It’s still a weirdo, but at least I’ve found my bearings a little. The entry is frosted flakes, roasted corn, sponge toffee and a little bit of vanilla. The smoke sets in pretty quickly as does the youthful heat. It’s like I’m roasting corn on the BBQ, open the lid and inhale a bit of the smoke. The smoky sweet interplay is lovely. There’s some wood shavings in the development as well as some cinnamon. It’s teetering on the edge of being too bitter without falling off the cliff.
Finish: The heat falls away pretty quickly, but the slightly charred corn note sticks around for a while. There’s a little bit of dark chocolate as well. On the last couple of sips, the finish gets a little sweeter. It’s like I’m biting into that charred corn now, only with this whisky, it’s not getting stuck between my teeth.
This is one of those whiskies you give to people at the end of a tasting and say “What do you think of this?” It’s bound to knock some people sideways, that’s for sure. And, if that happens, I’d say “Mission accomplished!”
Honestly, I don’t think this whisky is for everybody. However, if you like corn whisky, as I do, I would definitely seek this one out.
Today, we’re looking at a brand that people may have fond, or not so fond memories of from their university (or God forbid their high school) years. For some, it’s a whisky they simply can’t drink anymore. Fortunately, those of us who really get into whisky, realize that there is so much more to Jack Daniels than Old No. 7. Their single barrel barrel proof Tennessee whiskey is one of the best value bottles out there and their barrel proof rye made many people’s top five last year.
In fact, there is a Jack Daniels for everybody no matter what your experience or tolerance to alcohol. Take Gentleman Jack, which is the whiskey under review today. Really, the only thing that differentiates Old No. 7 from the Gentleman Jack (which is my is in my glass for this review) is that the latter makes two trips through the Lincoln County process. Briefly, this process involves filtering their new make spirit through several feet of maple charcoal. It’s pretty astounding just how much of a difference that second trip makes.
Gentleman Jack is aged for roughly five years in virgin American oak barrels. It is put through the Lincoln County process once before maturation and once after. It’s bottled at 40% abv.
Nose: Since this had two trips through a column of maple charcoal, it should come as no surprise that this smells pretty sweet. Maple syrup, maple and light brown sugar and a little bit of vanilla. Fried bananas in caramel sauce, sprinkled with cinnamon and just a touch of allspice. There a slight peanut note in the background as well as cherry bubblegum. I’m getting a hint of oak after this sits in the glass for a while. I definitely don’t get any of the artificial flavouring notes like that I experience with the entry level Jack Daniels.
Palate: The entry isn’t as thin as I thought it was going to be, but it is very sweet. Vanilla and maple syrup mostly. The development is bananas. Literally bananas. Bananas fried in butter. There’s a little bit of citrus as I smack my lips. The peanut note starts to make its presence felt towards the second half of the development. Apart from a dash of cinnamon there’s not a whole lot of spice here and this whisky kind of needs it to cut through all this sweetness. There’s a tiny bit of oak on the end.
Finish: Not all that long and just a bit drying. The banana note slowly starts to fade. The spice vanishes almost instantly. What sticks around is a little bit of wet oak cask, maple sugar and some milk chocolate.
With water added…
This is nosing a lot more like the original Jack Daniels now. The banana note has faded away considerably. It’s mostly maple sugar and syrup, cinnamon and oak. With water added, I’m not getting that creamy mouthfeel when sipped neat. It’s a little too thin now. The development is a little bit of maple, cinnamon, peanut and oak, all in equal measure. I get a little of the fried banana note at the end of the development. The finish remains the same.
I tasted this one for the first time at a Brown Forman virtual event and I was expecting not to like it, based on my opinion of No. 7. I was one of several participants who was pleasantly surprised by this one. Personally, this one is too sweet for my taste, but I can see this appealing to those who have a bit of a sweet tooth and want to enjoy this on ice in the summer.
The whisky community, like many communities, has their share of people who are not just enthusiasts, but are geeks and all-out nerds. And they are proud of it. They help to drum up enthusiasm, always have time for you and are respectful towards the entire community, regardless of your experience level.
Although he no longer works for Distel, Mike Brisebois (@thewhiskyexplorer), more than anyone else, helped to put their products on the map. Now Tobermory (Ledaig), Deanston, Bunnahabhain and Black Bottle are household names from coast to coast. As Canada’s unofficial official whisky ambassador, his enthusiasm has helped to introduce countless numbers of people to the water of life. Now striking it out on his own, his Whisky Explorer Society will continue to spread his passion for whisky within Canada.
Since we are talking about Ledaig, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Josh Ward (@knowyourwhisky) of The Whisky Heathens. From his home in Ft. McMurray, Alberta, he has probably tried all the Ledaig available out there and is the most vocal supporter of both Tobermory and Ledaig on social media.
With these two acting as major cheerleaders for the whisky under review today, it’s no wonder Ledaig (and Tobermory for that matter) does a brisk trade in this country.
And so to the whisky in question. This Ledaig has been matured in a re-fill sherry butt for over 12 years and was bottled by Signatory Whisky as part of their Vintage Cask Strength Collection lineup at 60.1%.
Nose: Since I popped this bottle back in late April of this year, it has mellowed significantly. Make no mistake, this is still a bold dram, but it is far less “burnt rubber” forward than it used to be. Usually, Ledaig is far more maritime than it is medicinal and that is the case here. In that regard, there’s a hefty dose of sea spray, seashells and weathered driftwood. Moving inland a little, there are some lovely BBQ notes of sweet smoke and meat on the grill. This bottle, coming from a re-fill sherry butt, is more distillate than cask forward but there is a little bit of fresh plum and earthy spices such as clove and nutmeg. There’s only a hint of dark chocolate so I’m guessing this is Oloroso rather than PX. Finally, there is a whiff of mint toothpaste to round this all out. This does not nose like a cask strength whisky, but I have a feeling that this will not be the case on the palate!
Palate: My prediction was correct. This is mellow for about two seconds before the heat takes over in a big way. On the entry, brief though it is, it’s sweet, a little bit tart and much more oily than creamy. Lots of rich honey, sponge toffee and orange and lemon peel initially. Then the proof, spice and oak kick in along with a strong mint toothpaste and mouthwash vibe. The initial sweetness is not entirely drowned out however, and it’s joined by a rich dark chocolate note that builds through the development. Bobbing along the surface are those salty and mineral maritime notes. Towards the end of the development clove and nutmeg are joined by ginger.
Finish: The oak is present, but by no means is it dominant or drying. The baking spices slowly fade, but do not disappear. The saltiness remains and does a hint of dark chocolate. All of this combines to give me a sort of spice cake note that I get off of a lot of whiskies like this. The citrus helps to cut through the dryness of the oak. It goes without saying that the finish is insanely long.
With water added…
I let try this sit with seven drops of water in my remaining ounce of whisky for at least 30 minutes while my taste buds recovered. It’s quite a bit more cask forward now with stewed stone fruits, but the mint toothpaste is still there. The spices are a bit less earthy now. Allspice rather than clove and nutmeg. It’s also not quite as maritime either. The role reversal between distillate and cask continues on the palate. More stewed fruits, baking spices and dark chocolate. It’s also more orange marmalade than citrus peel. The finish is more citrus forward this time round and has a little bit more oak.
I like the contrast here between sipping this neat and with water. Although there is a reversal between distillate and cask dominance, one isn’t hugely victorious over the other in either case. Signatory had a Ledaig in the out turn previous to this one that was the same age and strength, but in a first fill sherry butt as opposed to a refilled one. It would be interesting to try a Ledaig along those lines someday, just to see what the contrast is.
Although special releases of Ledaig and anything besides their official 10 year expression are fiendishly difficult to find in Canada, it seems to be very popular with independent bottlers these days. It’s thanks to them that there will always be a Ledaig available on a shelf nearby.
When it comes to whisky, peated expressions, to most people, seem to be the biggest barrier to overcome. Some never do. And that’s totally fine. Everyone’s palate and preferences are different. That’s what makes this community so special.
I would argue that sulfured, sherry bomb-type scotch is another genre where people have a very black and white preference, both for and against. The burnt match notes you get off the strongest whiskies in this category are similar to the medicinal characteristics of some peated scotches. It’s something you either like or hate.
As for the whisky we’ll be reviewing today, I was making love-y eyes at this bottle for months before I pulled the trigger and spent almost $180 to get it into my greedy little hands. I did no research. It was from Berry Bros. & Rudd, it was matured in a single ex-sherry butt and was a store exclusive to Sierra Springs in Red Deer, Alberta. Many boxes checked there.
Then I did the research after I clicked on the “Pay now” button and my jaw dropped. This bottle elicited so much rage that the three reviews on Whisky Base averaged below 50/100. The reviews talked of notes of rotten eggs and multiple dead bodies (people, if this is what you want to write about a whisky, please just remove your fingers from the keyboard. It makes you look really silly).
Later, I heard that there were such vocal complaints about this whisky that the Berry Bros. rep had to get involved. Instead of backing away from my purchase, I decided to go ahead and take my chances. I was not disappointed. Yes, there a bit of a burnt match smell to it, but the bold flavours instantly melted away my regret.
In short order, a member of the local whisky community offered me his bottle for free, which I passed on to a friend of mine who loved it. Then another friend got hold of it and bought at least two bottles. A revival was in the offing. The moral of the story here is that sometimes whisky just needs to make it into the right hands before it is truly appreciated.
The bottle in question was distilled in 2000 at an unnamed Speyside distillery and was matured for over 17 years in an ex-Sherry cask of unknown type (assumed to be Oloroso). It was bottled in 2018 at 58.9% abv and was sold exclusively at Sierra Springs Liquor in Airdrie, Alberta. Josh Ward (@knowyourwhisky and one half of @thewhiskyheathens) and Sean Kinkaid (@seankincaid) of Park Whiskey Society are collaborating with this review.
Josh Ward’s review
I first caught wind of this gorgous secret Speyside from Sierra Springs when Paul and Sean directed me to some absolutely insane reviews, which posted notes of “ichorous discharge from the underbelly of an African wildebeast” and “bile, wildebeast, dead bodies (many of them), black eggs, snot, decay and rot”. Seems they were of the notion that this whisky was to be dumped and discarded because it was SO nasty that it couldn’t be consumed by any self-respecting individual. Much different for me, I’m looking for that nastiness and I fully embrace those oloroso style sulphur bombs. Much to my excitement a sample showed up on my doorstep and I was on the phone to order a bottle before I finished the glass.
Nose: The first note that hit my nostrils was of wood decay, beautiful and nasty with thick and pungent waves of sulphur and a distinct note of dry, abrasive sherry. Tucked away behind the powerful cask influence was a hint of sweetness, both sultry and alluring.
Palate: The taste exceeds anticipation with all the expected notes from the nose coming at you immediately. Sherry city was built in a sulphur spring and it’s a place I really love to visit. It’s brash and it’s heavy and it’s perfect for anyone who loves it raw and unapologetic.
Finish: The finish is slightly sour with meaty notes of BBQ and charred sherry wood that lasts and lasts and lasts and lasts.
With water added…
I finished the dram and poured a second but this time I added a healthy dose of water. Water certainly doesn’t hurt this one, especially at 58.9%. I’d say there were 15 drops in my 2 ounce pour. What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe I’d have to add another drop or two of whisky, quite frankly the devil in my moustache encourages such blasphemy.
Once the water settled the sulphur did too. It’s tame now but still present with sherry sweetness shining through. A touch of burnt caramels swirling around the nose and mouth are wonderfully pleasant with beautifully moist and righteously magnificent notes of sweet and sulphuric sherry, it’s everywhere, just toned down and mellowed appropriately.
Something this unique only comes around every once and a while, I’ll definitely be grabbing another bottle.
Sean Kincaid’s review
This bottle has had an adventure already around these parts. From some absolutely horrible reviews that were posted online to a few of us actually trying this and loving it. This is the perfect example of not judging a whisky by other people’s reviews. So I will now go ahead with a review of this whisky for you all to judge it by.
That super dank delicious deep Oloroso goodness. Woody and bomb levels of sherry. This is the greatness that an active fresh Oloroso cask can impart on a spirit.
Nose: Deep dark fruits, nuttiness, dunnage warehouse, a touch of rubbery sulphur. A true sherry bomb whisky that makes me want to dive right in. Almost a dusty note. Dusty and savoury combined. Like smoked spare ribs with a smokey, but fruity rub and then left for awhile. Then eaten.
Palate: Even more of that dank Oloroso, from all sides. Spices, dark fruits, figs, plums, maybe a touch of cherry and chocolate. Leather, dunnage floor. Hefty sherry and at cask strength doesn’t need much water at all. This is what a dank sherry bomb can and should be.
Finish: Decent length. That Oloroso sticks in your gums and I just want to pour another and another. That dank sherry sticks around and leaves your mouth feeling coated long after you swallow.
What a whisky this is. I hope those that hated this learned their lesson and leave the glorious dank sherry bombs for those of us that love it.
Paul Bovis’ review
Nose: When I first poured this into the glass it was like a match where the wood was a sliver of a sherry cask stave, lit on fire and then doused in Oloroso sherry. More than anything, this is probably the smell that the people who hate this bottle found so off-putting. Like this year’s Kilkerran 8 year, there is a whiff of gasoline as well. Like peated scotch, this has some notes that might knock you sideways, but as you spend time with bottles like this, you learn to both appreciate what this adds to an experience while at the same time nosing past it to get at the other notes. The European oak that I get off this is musty and wet. Ever since I opened this bottle I got a good amount of dried cranberries. It’s still there, but dark chocolate has overtaken it now. Stewed plumbs lurk behind the cranberries. It’s also a bit nutty. Almond perhaps. Nailing down the spices is a bit of a challenge. After nosing around my spice bottles, I’m settling on allspice and a touch of ground cloves.
Palate: The entry is tart and sweet and extremely short-lived. Dark caramel, medium dark chocolate, dried cranberry, half and half creamer and a bit of orange peel. Then the oak and spice kicks in. Big time. The front end of the development is a little bit overwhelming with the oak, chili flakes, cracked black pepper and earthy nutmeg. A touch of sweetness from the dark chocolate and that tart cranberry and citrus help to cut through the intensity of it all. By the time you get to the back end of the development, your tongue acclimatizes to the heat and the dark chocolate really starts to shine through.
Finish: This is insanely long and is presented in three acts. The first is the fading spice and oak. It’s a little bit drying. The retreat of spice reveals the second act: rich dark chocolate. The third act takes a while to kick in. As the chocolate fades, that tart cranberry note is revealed, making my mouth water uncontrollably. No, not to the point of drooling because, you know,…gross.
With water added…
That burnt match smell is starting to come back on the nose, but the dark chocolate is rising up to meet it in equal measure. The cranberry note has faded significantly and I’m getting a decent amount of caramel now. Water hasn’t done much to tamp down the speedy onset of the development, the heat or the oak, but there is just enough sweetness to keep this ship from keeling over. The dark chocolate is much stronger here than without water. The first half of the finish remains unchanged, but the third act of cranberry is not as strong. Instead, this is a dark chocolate lovers dream. It’s lovely and bittersweet.
This is probably one of the strongest sherry bombs out in the wild today. If you love this kind of stuff, this is the bottle for you.
I personally would like to doff my cap and thank Sierra Springs for going out on a limb to bring in bottles like this as well as defend their decision, regardless of the people who hated on this whisky so intensely. Here’s to hoping more people discover this bottle.
When the reviews section of the Park Whiskey Society was revived this summer, I was pretty excited to review some of the new craft whisky coming into this province. I also wanted to highlight and review some of the fancier bottles as well. It certainly helps to draw clicks to the website. However, I also wanted this to be a space for the average whisky drinker as well.
By average, I simply mean an individual who is not constantly on the prowl for the latest release multiple times a week. Someone who actually has a low to modest budget and sticks to it. Something the rest of us should be doing these days. You know who you are. In fact, I would argue that all whisky drinkers should have a few of these on their shelves!
To that end, I’m going to start reviewing some whiskies that don’t come with a high price tag, but are excellent value for money. Some of these may be obscure blended scotches that have been collecting dust on store’s lowest shelves. Others may be mid-shelf offerings from big distillers that pack a ton of flavour. I’m setting a price ceiling for bottles I cover in this “Value Dram Reviews” series at less than $100 CAD in the province of Alberta, but many will be much less than that. You’d be surprised what you can still get for that amount of money!
The first one I’ll cover is a bottle that I am just about to finish off myself. Forty Creek Cooper Pot should be available pretty much anywhere, even in the United States. This is a traditional Canadian whisky made of corn, rye and barley. These are aged separately for at least three years and then blended together before bottling. Information on this whisky, like many Canadian blends, is thin on the ground. It is most likely coloured and chill-filtered and is bottled at 43%. This bottle is a step up from Forty Creek’s entry level Barrel Select offering. You should be able to find a bottle of Copper Pot for about $30-$40 CAD.
Nose: there are some pretty standard Canadian blended whisky notes here such as vanilla and caramel. The youthfulness shows up as a faint metallic smell. What sets this apart is the pretty hefty amount of orange I get off of this. It’s quite sweet though. Almost candied. As this sits for longer, a little bit of dark chocolate can be detected in the background. Apart from cinnamon, I don’t get any other baking spices. A tiny bit of oak rounds this off.
Palate: For a low proof Canadian whisky, this is pretty decently mouthcoating. The entry is very sweet with caramel, orange juice and vanilla cream with a hint of milk chocolate. It’s in the development when a slightly bitter, youthful grain note starts to come into play. The sweetness from the entry and the slightly sour note from the orange help to balance this out enough for it not to become too big of a problem. There is enough rye in the blend to tingle the tongue a little bit. Towards the end of the development I get some more baking spices in the form of cloves and just a tiny bit of nutmeg.
Finish: This is short, but well balanced. A little bit of oak. A little bit of sponge toffee. Some fading baking spices. Just a touch of cocoa powder in the end. Nothing fighting for dominance. The citrus note prevents this from being too dry.
The sweetness is tamped down a little on the nose. I’m getting quite a bit more oak and cinnamon and less orange. The entry remains pretty much unchanged, but I feel the youthfulness is not as prominent as it was without water added. The amount of oak has increased in the later half of the development and that, in turn, has thrown off the balance on the finish. Not by much, but it is noticeable.
This one is probably best without water. It falls apart a bit on the development and finish. I think this would also make a pretty decent mixing and cocktail whisky, but I have always had this as is.
Budget Canadian whisky gets panned by many in the whisky world, but there are some hidden gems out there. I would put this in that category along with Eau Clair’s Rupert, Signal Hill, Last Straw Rye and of course Lot 40. We’ll be reviewing all of those on the website at one point or another.
Let’s close off this series of Taconic reviews by talking not about their whiskey, but about a dog. More specifically, the dog that appears on the label of every bottle they produce. The American foxhound has quite a history in the US. A cousin of the classic English foxhound, it was the result of cross breeding hounds bred by the Brooks family (a family with nearly 300 years of foxhound breeding) and French foxhounds owned by George Washington.
Because of the foxhound’s keen sense of smell, it was used by bootleggers during the prohibition to warn when government agents would were near. It’s characteristic howl would alert the bootleggers who would then have a chance to hide or move their illegal spirits.
The foxhound has personal roots for the Coughlin family, who own the distillery. Their foxhound, Copper, is their family dog and distillery mascot.
Now let’s return to their whiskey! Today we’re reviewing their Barrel Strength Bourbon which was matured for at least four years in new American oak barrels and bottled at 57.5% abv.
Nose: For a barrel strength bourbon, the nose is very shy. I’m getting a little bit of a sour orange peel note. I think I’ve gotten orange in all of the Taconic expressions I’ve reviewed. There’s also some corn flakes in there as well. I’m definitely getting more oak on this than I got on their barrel strength rye. There’s a little bit of a dusty sweet feed (like we feed to our horses if they’re extra good) note lingering in the background. It took 45 minutes, but it’s slowly starting to open up now. I’m getting some light brown sugar and a bit of dark caramel. Also a cherry bubblegum note as well. In terms of spicing, there’s cinnamon, allspice and just a hint of clove.
Palate: The entry is sweet, but very brief. Very rich vanilla and caramel quickly transitions to to the flesh and peel of an orange. Then the development hits. It’s not hot, but it’s baking spice rich. Cinnamon and cloves. Lots and lots of cloves. Whole cloves, ground cloves, whole cloves stuck in an orange. You know…cloves! There’s also some nutmeg as well. Like the rye, I like the premise of baking spices without the heat. The difference here is that the baking spices are overwhelming the experience and is swamping out the sweetness I got on the entry. The sweetness is still there, mind you, but it’s faint. The oak that kicks in during the later part of the development doesn’t help matters. I’m hoping that water will level the playing field a little.
Finish: The finish is medium to long, but the imbalance between the sweetness and baking spices that cropped up during the development continue here. The finish isn’t necessarily drying, but there is almost no sweetness to be found except maybe a very dark chocolate note, which is more bitter than sweet. Other than that, it’s just slowly fading baking spices and oak.
With water added…
I’m getting a little more vanilla and caramel on the nose now. This is definitely sweeter than without water added. I’m getting more cloves and oak as well. The entry is even sweeter now and that translates to a huge improvement in terms of the development. Yes, it’s still a baking spice bomb, but the balance between that and the caramel, orange and vanilla that carries over from the entry is much improved. With that extra bit of sweetness the later part of the development into the early part of the finish has that ginger snap cookie taste that I love. This makes the whole part of the finish more pleasurable.
This is why we add water to whisky. It does wonders in terms of transforming an experience. Sometimes it works (as in this case), sometimes it offers you a very different, and equally pleasing, experience. It can, of course, send things careening downhill.
I much prefer their barrel strength rye to this one, simply because there was more balance in the sweetness compared to the spice. However, I do appreciate that water improved this one a lot.