Review: Pendleton 1910 Aged 12 Years Canadian Rye Whisky

IMG_2051 This whisky is sourced by Hood River distillers, a company in Oregon who source this 100% rye whisky from Alberta. They bottle a few other items, of which one is Pendleton “Let er’ Buck” and another new release is Pendleton Midnight.It can be a little hard to find…but it quite worthwhile.

Nose: Dark rye bread and spice, maple, orange peel, and quite dry in feel. With time, vanilla emerges in greater magnitude. The nose has a lightly creamy feel, with butterscotch notes as well. The spice is quite woody, and complex – clove, nutmeg, dried ginger, and anise. 26/30 (87%)

Taste: Maple, along with some rum notes and the same flurry of spices as before – clove, though, are at the forefront. Lightly, and ,perhaps oddly, sweet. At first glance, it might seem a bit plain – but there is a lot of complex subtlety- vanilla, earthy oak, citrus, cacao – with a continued dry feel to it. 26.5/30 (88%)

Finish: Orange, brown sugar, and oak with a unexpected creaminess which seems to evolve and build which, combined with the orange, reminds me of creamsicles which is interesting when contrasted with the dry spice feel also present in the finish, and the finish lingers well with good feel and flavour. 18.5/20 (93%)

Conclusion: Rich, dry, and spicy. The creaminess along with the dry spice takes this whisky to another level, from mediocre to quite good and intriguing. As I’ve had more of this, it has grown on me – but I had to take time with it, a brief rendering may not supply the whole picture. Also no stray bitterness, for good effect. This is a different showing of Alberta rye – creamy and subtle – compared to whiskies sourced by companies like Masterson’s and WIMG_2055histlepig. Better than their other offering that I have tried, and well worth the price, I think. A very nice example of a dry and spicy Canadian style of whisky. 18/20 (90%)

Overall: 89/100

On Jim Murray’s Whisky of the Year (and on Northern Harvest Rye)

IMG_2105The whisky world is abuzz with the announcement of Jim Murray’s Whisky of the Year, which this year was given to Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye. Certainly, it takes a certain strong level of confidence to name a $30 whisky, without an age statement, the best whisky in the world – it’s contrary to much of what we see these days.

Jim Murray is one of the foremost whisky writers in the world, annually tasting over 1,000 whiskies in the process of writing his annual Whisky Bible, bringing about craze and competition for his top picks – this year, a Canadian. While the publicity is probably good for Canadian whisky – some things haven’t been good. Jim Murray’s love for Alberta Premium has probably not been good for Canadian whisky – I have tasted over 5 different batches of Alberta Premium, and been indifferent to it. Many, excited for a whisky rated 96.5/100, flock to the whisky as their defining experience of Canadian whisky – to walk away disappointed. I can say, with many other laymen and experts, that Alberta Premium wouldn’t be in our top list of Canadian whiskies at all. If that’s your experience with Northern Harvest Rye, don’t give up on Canadian whisky – there’s lots of great whisky to discover.

However, this year’s award is interesting for a few reasons:

  • It does indicate that not all that is good and exciting in whisky is from a limited, rare, expensive release – a fact that many need to know and embrace. Many, if not most, of the rare, expensive releases simply aren’t worth the money.
  • It points to the fact that there are good, affordable whiskies out there – once again, a fact that many need to know and embrace. For that, I respect Murray’s boldness in choosing to name a whisky such as Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye his whisky of the year.

Here, really, is what people need to know. There’s no best whisky in the world. Every palate is different, often surprisingly so, and Jim Murray, expert and experienced though he is, is one man. If you are ever tasting a number of fabulous whiskies with friends, opinions largely vary as to which is the favorite whisky – suprisingly so. If any of us were to taste all the whiskies Jim Murray did this year, the chance of any of us picking the same whisky as him to be our top is miniscule. So, yes, it’s an achievement, and shows that the whisky has the stamp of approval of a very experienced taster, but it doesn’t mean at all that you’ll love it. I know many who love the whisky (I do), and also know of many who have picked it up in a rush after the award and been dissapointed.

If you are looking for a good whisky to purchase, look at a number of different awards and scoring systems. Sites like and use a panel of blind judging to do their assessments, which should suit general palates better (though their scores are inflated), and sites like I have found to have a good source of reliable reviews. Also, sites like provide some interesting perspective on what whisky writers say about a given whisky – I recommend that site. Ultimately, with some time and experience, you can figure out what you like and whose reviews you trust – and this is the way to discovering the best whisky. There doesn’t have to just be one – there are definitely a few breathtaking whiskies around.

As for Crown Royal, I was delighted and surprised to see such a good whisky that was accessible and cheap when I reviewed Northern Harvest Rye. I hope the quality stays consistent, that the price doesn’t increase because of hype – connoisseurs and explorers all need a good, cheap, accessible whisky.

Review: Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve (Batch F)

IMG_2035 (Large)I was particularly interested in this batch of Confederation Oak because they’ve started to use new casks of Canadian oak for the releases starting from Lot E. John Hall distills, ages, and blends a mix of 100% rye, 100% corn, and 100% barley whiskies together and then barrels them off into a Canadian oak cask before blending the casks together and bottling. It all started with the first batch, made from casks which John Hall himself brought to a cooper to be made into barrels (for more info, read my review of Batch B). Since then, the barrels have continued to be re-used, but now the original barrels are largely used up and new wood needs to be cycled in to carry on the quality of the release. Every barrel ages and impacts a whisky differently, hence my interest in seeing the quality of the releases which incorporate some of the newer wood. How does it compare? I was curious, especially after what I thought was the relatively lacklustre Batch D.

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Review: Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve (Lot 1867-A)

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A picture of batch F – but the same bottle as batch A

Here is a legend of a Canadian whisky, near impossible to find now (you’d have to find someone still with a bottle willing to give up) – the first batch of Forty Creek Confederation Oak. It was the first whisky to be matured in Canadian oak in the modern era, and was originally a limited release from Forty Creek before it was put into regular production – crafted from trees which whisky maker John Hall himself bought (a bit more background on my post of Batch B). This sample was graciously sent to me by a friend, who gave me the last half oz of his bottle (#548) which had been open more than 4 years, so oxygen has done some work on this, but here is the review of the sample.

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Review: Crown Royal Hand Selected Single Barrel Canadian Whisky


Image from

I had brought a bottle of this back from New Hampshire to Ontario, which unfortunately got crushed in the suitcase, but a friend was kind enough to send a sample on to me. This whisky is another beauty from the stocks of Canadian “flavouring” whiskies – strongly flavoured whiskies used as flavouring components in blends. More of these are being released as the connoisseur market is growing. This whisky is made very much like a bourbon – it has a recipe of 64% corn, 31.5% rye, and 4.5% malted barley, and is matured in new oak for around 7 years. At present, these are being released as single barrels.

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Review: Gooderham & Worts Canadian Whisky

IMG_2075 I’ve been waiting on this whisky a while. In 2012, Corby released two whiskies (Lot no. 40 and Pike Creek) from what was known as the Canadian whisky guild – a series of three whiskies in the 1990s developed by Corby shortly after they took over management of Hiram Walker distillery in Windsor (the largest beverage alcohol plant in North America). There were three, very different whiskies – the bold, 100% rye Lot. no. 40, the spicy/fruity port-finished Pike Creek, and the softer and complex Gooderham & Worts. Gooderham & Worts has just been released this year, in 2015, and completes the three which only lasted a few years due to lack in sales. This, really, was too bad because the whiskies were creative works coming from the distillers for connoisseurs – but the market wasn’t ready. Now, with the huge expansion in the category, the market is ready and the whiskies are out here for all of us that can access them.

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Review: Old Pulteney 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

IMG_1904Old Pulteney is the northernmost mainland distillery in the UK on the mainland (overall, Highland Park wins out). The distillery produces a number of age statement products, a 12, 17, and 21 year old along with a number of no age statement travel retail products. The distillery is quite small overall, The town of Wick sprung up around fishing, and was the herring fishing capital of Europe resulting in a rich maritime tradition in the town – a tradition the distillery often tries to honor through its limited bottlings. The distillery is fairly small (1 million litres per annum), yet still is quite widely distributed worldwide, though bottlings can be hard to find at times.

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