Review: Hiram Walker Special Old Rye Whisky

A picture from Corby’s Website

I know very little about this whisky, other than that it is distilled at Hiram Walker as part of Corby’s portfolio. However, it is a fantastic whisky and is one of those fabulous value picks that always hides on the shelves, garnering less attention than it deserves.

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And Out of the Barrel It Comes

This post pertains to the corn whisky I am maturing in my own cask, which has previously been discussed here.

So not too long ago I started taking my biweekly sample from my cask and I opened the spout to find no whisky coming out. Slowly it began to dawn on me that perhaps the fast evaporation out of the small 1 litre cask has taken it’s toll…and a quick shake of the barrel confirmed my fears. I drained the barrel, and found this:

IMG_1324

Not a whole lot was left (105 mls) after the 750 mls I put in there initially, so I decided to take it out as it had matured reasonably though I would have liked to leave it in a bit longer. This means that, assuming roughly 75 mls of sample were taken, and none remained in the wood (as it was a fresh cask full of rye whisky beforehand), roughly 565 mls evaporated through the wood – this is about 75% of the spirit I put into the barrel! This translates to about 6.5% per week evaporation rate. What they say about high evaporation rates of small barrels is very true – it is very high.

However – what beautiful colour. So, I took it out on March 3, and as it was put in October 8, it spent about 21 weeks in the barrel – significantly more than the 4-6 weeks recommended. However – this was the shocker. I used my hydrometer to measure the alcohol content. Generally, ABV will decrease in the barrel through evaporation in humid environments, and increase in dry environments. Over the winter, it’s been fairly dry so I expected this to go up. I calibrated my hydrometer to some vodka and had my temperature ready for adjustments…and checked the ABV of my whisky. I saw it drop, past 40, 50, and 60 until it finally settled at around 75%. I was shocked. In my excitement I ran to get my housemate to show off the proof of my creation, when we both noticed the hydrometer sat at the bottom of the measuring tube. This means, of course, that the ABV was even higher. When I added more of my whisky, I found the hydrometer continue to drop – all the way to 86%! 86%! That’s 172 proof! No wonder it burned so much in the samples. It’s drinkable, but I think better diluted.

So, today I took out my samples I’d saved over the course of the project and tasted them. I have samples from the new make, week 10, week 15, and week 21 as shown below:

IMG_1348My tasting notes follow:

New Make: quite oily, with yeast, lots of corn, cornmeal, and a bit of a barnyard aroma with some water. The taste is thick, sour, creamy and oily with some spicy rye kick. Some anise seed is present as well, and there’s almost a bit of riesling minerality present as well. There’s a touch of lemon as well.

Week 10: It came a long way! there’s lot of maple on the nose, and the distinct oiliness is still there, along with the anise seed and there’s some black pepper and vanilla as well. It’s sweeter on the taste, and is quite mouth-filling and sharp, with a hard rye finish and a bit of bitterness. It’s not as sour or barnyard-y as the new make. The finish is sharp, with some tingling spice and coconut and is quite long with just a touch of oak. Much more pleasant than the new make, but still quite a bit raw.

Week 15: At this point, it almost seems a bit less mature than above! There are some new stewed fruits which appear, as well as some caramel, but it’s harsh and a bit bitter. It’s sweeter, hotter, and sharper on the taste and still quite raw I think. The finish is a bit lighter than before with black pepper and is a bit tangy.

Week 21 (final): It came very far in the final 6 weeks! It’s creamy and rich, with lots of vanilla, tapioca, coconut, dried apricot, vanilla pudding – yet it still does not really resemble bourbon. It’s quite the burner on the taste before some water is added! It’s sweet and thick with maple, vanilla, lemon, dried apricot, and a bit of spice on the finish. And, as before, it’s quite tangy. The finish has lots of coconut, vanilla, and tangy prunes. It’s mouth-filling and has some cacao as well. Overall, its’ ok – not too incredible. It’s certainly enjoyable, but in rating this whisky, relative to my other ratings, it comes out to roughly 76/100. So…I’ll enjoy it, but it hasn’t convinced me that you can produce fabulous results at home, though good ones, for sure, are possible. Perhaps I’ll have to get another cask and see….

So now my rye has gone back in, and we’ll wait on that one….it had already been in the new cask for two weeks, and there is 590 mls going in, sitting at roughly 44% ABV when it went in.

Fast Review: Grand MacNish Blended Scotch Whisky

To be honest, I wouldn’t have picked up this whisky just solely based on the bottle (yes; sometimes I judge a book by its cover…). I’m sure there are those who enjoy the uniqueness of this presentation, but I’m certainly not. However, as it came as a sampler on a different bottle, I gladly dove into this.

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Review: Collingwood 21 Year Old Rye Canadian Whisky (Limited Release)

Col 21This limited release whisky is made from 100% malted rye, and recently hit shelves here in Ontario. The whisky was made at the Collingwood distillery, labeled and identified as lot 41-06-91, and the distillers decided it was time to release it. It is finished, as with the other Collingwood whisky, with staves of toasted maple wood in a vat.

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Review: Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon

E.T. Lee (2) (Large) At one time, the only bourbon named after someone who is presently alive. Sadly, Elmer T. Lee passed away last summer, after working in the bourbon industry since the late 1940s. He was responsible for choosing the barrels going into this whisky, even up to the end of his life after he retired.

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Review: Wiser’s 18 Years Old Canadian Whisky (2012)

Wiser's 18 (2)Of all the bottles I’ve come across, this is my favourite (although Blanton’s is a very close second). There are a few other similar bottles (Few Rye, The Wild Geese Irish Soldiers and Heroes) none of them seem to quite have the amount of glass as in this bottle (and with Wiser’s Legacy). I just love it. The writing is appropriate and I love the brown in combination with the green, to boot.

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Review: Wiser’s Legacy Canadian Whisky

Wiser's Legacy (3) (Large)The first time I had this whisky it was in a liquor store tasting bar, where I tasted some Ardbeg Corryvreckan – one of the biggest, most muscular peaty Scotches out there. I looked at Legacy and thought I might want to try it, but figured I wouldn’t have a chance at tasting anything after the Corryvreckan. However, I decided to try some, and was shocked to find that Wiser’s Legacy stood its ground with some brilliant rye and spice. The name “Legacy” is a tribute to Wiser’s founder, J.P. Wiser, and is based off one of his recipes.

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