Great Plains Craft Spirits Special Cask Finished Canadian Whisky – 18 Years Old / Finished in Brandy Casks for 12 Months

Today I review a local product from a spirits company located just down the highway from me, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. This product interested me a lot when I first came across it, because Great Plains Craft Spirits is doing something that I have always wondered why it hasn’t been done more often, especially considering the mature whisky stock that exists in this country. That is… source that well aged stock and use it for blending and finishing to create your own profiles. Why build a distillery when there is an apparent plethora of whisky amongst the distillers here already sitting in casks waiting to be transformed into something more interesting. In this case, Victor Mah, Vice President of Great Plains has done just that and acquired himself some 17+ year old Canadian corn whisky distilled in 2000 at the defunct Potter’s Distillery in Kelowna, British Columbia prior to being purchased by Highwood Distillers and moved to their Distillery in 2006 which is located in High River, Alberta. From there, they transferred this whisky from ex-bourbon barrels where it spent its entire maturation up to this point, into Brandy casks from Bodegas Osborne in Jerez, Spain and finished it for 12+ months. The reason I added the plus sign is because they experienced some delays in the labeling process that in turn extended the finishing time a few extra months. Oops… I don’t think it hurt any.

As excited and grateful to receive this whisky from Victor, some apprehension existed because no matter how patriotic I wanted to be, it still is Canadian corn based whisky. A northern grain that typically lacks depth unless it is really well aged and similar to Highwood’s brands, typically becomes a rather uninspiring product that falls rather flat. That being said, they typically proof everything down to 40% ABV, so seeing that Great Plains has bottled it at cask strength, this reinstilled some anxious anticipation. Don’t get me wrong here, there are some fantastic corn based Canadian Whiskies out there, especially those created by the Whisky Doc – Don Livermore out in Southern Ontario from Hiram Walker. Along side the Doc’s bottlings though, Great Plains found their whisky winning a Gold Metal at the 2020 Canadian Whisky Awards including the accolade of ‘Best New Whisky’. Some very high praise on the biggest stage here in Canada.

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Before I get rambling too far on a tangent, lets get back to the whisky I came here to review.

ABV – 54.5% / Age – 18+ years / Mash – 100% Corn / Region – Western Canada / Cask – 17+ Years – Ex-Bourbon & 12+ Months – Brandy Casks

My first impression of the this bottle was that the label is far too busy and I am afraid that someone who isn’t an enthusiast and is less knowledgeable or confident in what they are looking for might actually get intimidated at first glance. I quickly received affirmation on this theory when I set it out on the table at our last club tasting. It sat there as a pre-dram for the evening along with a few household names but was completely passed over because no one identified with it. It wasn’t until I was able to announce to everyone exactly what it was before it started to fill their glasses. I think a more inviting and simplistic label would help correct that.

Lucky for Great Plains though, the golden spirit inside is fantastic, and as soon as it was opened, I am not sure it was put down until it was killed that same evening. This tells me that those casks that once held Brandy for 15 – 20 years did their job nicely. Although, personally I would like to see it finished for an additional year, but that’s just me ;).

Nose

Right off the bat, it is very approachable for its proof and I get a bit of dustiness and old whisky qualities that I am not even sure what to attribute to. As I go back to it repeatedly, I enjoy it more and more, getting lots of wonderful oak and grain notes, sweet butterscotch, mandarin, and a creamy nuttiness. Long story short – very appetizing, nothing astringent, and ready to drink!

Palate

Remember before you take a sip, this is a cask strength whisky so if you don’t have a seasoned palate maybe have some water available. Just a couple drops can make a world of difference. For me, the stronger the better! At first sip, I get a tone of spicy oak and grain like qualities which most will identify as a ‘Rye’ characteristic. This is because our Canadian whisky brains have been brain washed over the years thinking we were drinking ‘Rye Whisky’ when in fact it was most likely a corn whisky. That’s a history lesson for another day though. After I swished this spirit around my mouth and went to my second sip, that’s where the qualities of the nose started to transcend nicely to the palate. Beyond that, subtle rancio and dried fruit notes show up as it rests in your mouth. With a couple drops of water, the sweetness was lost a little and the spice sharpens a bit, so I preferred it without.

Finish

The finish was really quite simple for me, basically going from dry spicy oak and grain to a light lingering sweetness from the brandy. Medium in length in the throat but unfortunately doesn’t hang around very long on the tongue.

Conclusion

This is very satisfying pour and one I will recommend to everyone looking to try something new. Even more so since its price point is only just north of $100 CAD. A great value.

Great Plains Spirits should be proud of themselves. They hit the mark nicely on their first release which has me really excited for the next one. As far as I know, they have even older whisky aging in both Cognac and Armagnac casks just waiting to be dumped and put on the shelf along side this one. Exciting stuff and I highly recommend!

Review by Steven Shaw

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Kavalan Single Malt – Solist, ex – Bourbon Cask


I remember the weekend of September 28th and 29th, 2018 like it was yesterday.  I had the absolute pleasure of attending the very first Banff Whisky Experience in Banff, AB . The days were filled with amazing master classes and the evenings each hosted a grand tasting with 77 distilleries and a plethora or drams represented.  After an amazing Friday evening and night out in Banff with some of the grandest whisky personalities,  soon came a late Saturday morning rise for myself.  I am sure we can all relate to those nights when the morning had somehow slipped away, and well… waking at 11 AM, freaked out and realizing my first master class for the day was about to start at noon!!  I did what I do best and that’s pulling myself together, looking like I had all the beauty sleep in the world, haha.  Might have learned a trick or two about that over the years (yay for concealer !) .  
My first class that day was called “KAVALAN – The Single Malt from the other side of the world –  being presented by the late and great J. Wheelock.  God bless his soul!  As I settled into my seat and started gazing over a beautiful tasting mat of 8 whiskies, I quickly noticed the majority of them were Kavalan single malts from Taiwan.  The theme of the class was essentially de bunking non age statements whisky (N.A.S.) and to say the least, I was all ears!

 
Sitting before me along side the Kavalan spread was a large bar of dark chocolate bar and seeing that I kind of slept though breakfast, I was salivating at the idea of hammering it back. As noon swept across the clock though, and Jay’s introduction commenced the tasting, my eyes were quickly focused on the whisky in front of me. And then it happened… upon my first sip of this rich, deluxe, beautiful, viscous, and tropical whisky, I was sold!  It was love at first sip.

Kavalan is known to have one of the most comprehensive lines and offering of Sherry Whiskies , however there are a few that were matured in alternate ways. Kavalan “Solist” Ex Bourbon Oak is a cask strength whisky that was fully matured in fresh hand picked ex-bourbon oak Barrels by Kavalan’s master distiller, Ian Chang at the time.


Whisky romance 101: I am not sure about you, but when I am drinking a high end Whisky such as Kavalan – you better believe I am taking my time with it.  I am not afraid to say I love drinking whisky alone because it gives me some real one on one time to enjoy and unpack all it has to offer. A whisky date!, as I like to refer to it.

Tasting and Reviewing the Whisky

Upon pouring this whisky into a proper whisky drinking glass (in my case a copita), I see a bright shiny, viscous, and oily whisky that has legs for days, coating the glass and presenting a color that’s described by the distillery as “Cattle Egret” which is a Melanesian bird that dawns a beautiful golden colouring downs its neck and wings. The oily residue on the glass reminds moves around reflecting the light reminding me of a kaleidoscope… I am now extremely intrigued.

Nose

Lush tropical fruits, floral frangipani, blooming Jasmine mist and young coconut cream . One the second nosing I get kiwi, melon, green apple, with oak and vanilla.

Palate

The texture is rich, smooth and silky. I get lots of notes of vanilla and oak as well as the Kavalan signature tropical notes I mentioned above and also mango and pineapple. On my second sip the whisky tasted sweeter and I got a full essence of a vanilla ice cream cone with hints of ginger, nutmeg,  and woody notes.
With a couple of drops of water I got notes of white chocolate, raspberry and cream soda .  What a delight!

Finish

The finish is sweet and spicy like white pepper sprinkled on biscuits that lingers on the palate.

Conclusion 
For such a high cask strength whisky (58.6%) it is very luxurious , smooth and elegant, drinking well below it’s ABV.
This Taiwanese single malt cask strength whisky has won a ton of accolades – most recently including double gold at the international spirits challenge 2019 and gold at the San Francisco Spirits competition in 2019.

  • Review written by Zahara Amiri