This is one of my favourite Canadian whiskies, coming out of the Black Velvet distillery in Lethbridge, Alberta. Generally, it is recognized as their premium sipper, although a younger version is also available (though not in Ontario where I reside). It claims to be “diamond filtered” but based on what I have gathered, no one really knows that that is. Despite what that process may or may not be, it is one of my favourite Canadians and is always a treat.
I might venture to guess that it would be hard to find another 21 year old whisky so poorly presented, especially when the gold sleeve slides off and a simple plain neck and screw cap is revealed. However, I also don’t know where else you can find a 21 year old whisky which is only $45…
Nose: At first whiff, it seems a bourbon nose. Then, wait, is it a rye nose? Or…a malt nose? I can’t think of a bottle which seems to show up all three grains so distinctly as this one – you can pick them each out as you admire it. It’s beautiful. It’s all framed and held together by the rye in the background, but the part that seems to lift the nose up are the bourbon notes. It’s quite floral – carnations and green leafy plants – and fruity – icewine, in particular. Honey, once again floral, a bit like lavender honey if you’ve ever had it.
There is apple juice, with pulp included, a bit of lychee, and, of course, the oak is there, as well as some maple, but it’s so light and you have to search for it a little. I even found a touch of moss developed as it sat. I really love this nose. fantastic! 28.5/30 (95%)
Taste: The rye comes in at first, it’s light, fruity, and then the corn kicks in for a bit with good dollop of honey before the rye finishes it off with some spice and the oak kicks in at the end and leaves your mouth full of sweet oak and spice. I get grape notes throughout the palate as well, and the spices on the end are marvelous – not bold, but solid dried ginger and a touch of cloves. It is very fruity and has some good grape fruitiness to it, and even a touch of green apple. It has touches of bourbon throughout, as well. There is a touch of oak bitterness that can detract from the brilliance ever so slightly…but, overall, it’s fabulous. 28/30 (93%)
Finish: The rye sits on the palate with some nice grape flavour, some spice provides some body, and it is chewy and enduring. The finish seems quiet for a bit as the rye fades, and the mouth dries out a bit. However, as you wait, you begin to taste some wonderful vanilla and honey come in as the rye seems to end its course and the corn seems to take centre stage. There’s certainly nothing negative about the finish – it is, perhaps, a bit quiet though, and sometimes the rye takes up a bit too much of the stage. But, though it is quiet, it oddly seems to become even more prominent and makes you want to go back and have more – not immediately after – but a few minutes in. 18.5/20 (93%)
Conclusion: it’s a tiny bit like cognac or brandy. I really like it, and the nose and taste are certainly worth savouring. It is, for sure, one of my favourite noses in whisky. This is a gentle, complex whisky which would be a very good introduction I think to canadian whisky – likely a pretty easy one for beginners if you are looking to win your friends over who are not used to whisky. Also, I have to say, once again, a (good) 21 year old whisky sitting a tad over $40 in Ontario! We’re all thankful for that. 18.5/20 (93%)
Overall Score: 93.5/100