This is one of the top 2 selling single malts in the world, competing with the glenfiddich. Indeed, it was the first scotch whisky I ever had, at the time thinking it tasted like grassy vodka. Glen Livet means valley of the smooth place, surrounding the Livet river. It is well known for being the first distillery to be granted a licence after the Excise Act in 1823, a highly influential act which started the modern Scotch whisky industry by encouraging conditions for investment into small scale production facilities.
First of all, it should be said that this whisky is made from 100% Corn. Thus, it is not “rye” in the sense of the grain used at all, but rather “rye” as the other term for Canadian Whisky. This bottle is made by Highwood Distillers, in High River, Alberta – a relatively small Canadian distillery. The distillers at highwood do not actually even distill corn, thus, this is bought as new make from another Canadian distillery after which point it is matured and bottled at Highwood Distillery. However, though they did not directly control the entire process, it is very much their concept and creation. It is quite different from Century Reserve Lot 15/25 (also, I believe, 100% corn) which can pack quite a punch, with more elegance and woodiness, yet one can still see why they are part of the same family.
This whisky is a blend of a base wheat whisky, matured in ex-bourbon casks, blended with a powerful flavouring rye whisky also matured in ex-bourbon casks. It is (at least) 10 years old, and some distillers say that wheat whiskies come into their own at 10 years. The wheat at Highwood is cooked whole, as is the rye – there’s no mill to grind the grains into grist to cook and ferment as at almost every other distillery. Instead, the grains are pressure cooked until most explode open, and then expelled under pressure onto a “bell” which smashes up any remaining grains.
On April 16, I took out my rye from the barrel (if you haven’t followed this story, please see here) – it kept getting better, but it was getting pretty good and I didn’t want to lose too much to evaporation. 430 mls came out at 59%, which was a marked improvement from the 44% (590 mls) that went into the barrel. So, all in all, it spent 2 weeks in a medium char new white American oak cask, and an additional 6 weeks and 2 days in a “bourbon” cask. This is quite a bit less than the 21 years that my “bourbon“/corn whisky spent in the barrel, but there is much more grip and oak on this rye than the other one. Also, the evaporation rate was faster (I did, in fact, move houses during this time), coming to roughly 7.5% per week (compared to 6.5% for the last one). However, these figures are pretty rough.So how did it taste? A lot better than my last one, I think. Here are some tasting notes, along with notes on how the flavour developed. I also rated it, as I would other whiskies (with as little bias as possible).
Nose: Still a touch harsh, with some (beautiful) caramel, a touch of smoke, green tea leaves, a bit creamy, the caramel and brown sugar is quite nice – almost like good, dark maple syrup. Oak is definitely there…still has slightly green rye character throughout, and the black tea, both from the new make- but they very much sit in the background now. A slight mustiness is there, with stewed apricot, and canned peaches. There are a few harsh elements at first…these calm down as it sits. This would be a bit higher if it were not so volatile on the nose (a little like the Stalk and Barrel 1+11 Blend). Much of the off-notes present at 2 weeks were removed over the course of the time in the cask. 25.5/30
Taste: Compared to the previous weeks – more viscous, fuller, bolder, sweeter – with lots more oak (but not too much – nicely balanced). It’s dry and spicy with vanilla, and is reasonably oily, with some manuka honey, hot white pepper – there’s lots going on, it’s complex, and very good. The rye backdrop is still there, too. The bite of spice at the end is great and grows as you sip it. 26/30
Finish: Quite a nice finish! Spicy and sweet! And cleansing, with hot white pepper, vanilla, and lighter honey – not the manuka I found earlier – more like lighter wildflower honey. So spicy! especially as you drink more…I love this as a spice lover. 12.5/15
Conclusion: Much better than my bourbon, I have to say. I quite enjoy this, though it is quite a bit different from most flavour profiles I come across – but this one is very enjoyable. It’s very good…my last cask product I would like to share with friends, but would have to “qualify” it by saying it is my own cask-aged product, and my first one. This one, however, would need no such qualification…17.5/20
Overall: 81.5/95 = 86/100
This is quite a bit better than the 76 I gave to my corn whisky.
So, that’s a job well done! Now I have to find a use for my cask, and see what I can get out of it. Some experiments now with Glen Breton, but, after that, I am contemplating experimenting with a barrel-aged gin.
This whisky is produced by Still Waters distillery, in Concord, Ontario. Still Waters distillery only started distilling whisky around 4 years ago, and, as with most distilleries when they start – cash flow is difficult at first as the whisky has to age for at least 3 years in Canada. Still Waters did something interesting – they purchased whisky, mostly 4-6 years old, from other distilleries and blended in some of their young spirit was well to produce a blended whisky. In Canada, legally, you can include up to 1/11 of either young spirit (at least 2 years old) or wine and still legally call the product Canadian whisky – according to Davin DeKergommeaux’s fabulous book Canadian Whisky, this regulation originally sprung out of large tax breaks that the US gave to Canadian producers during a time when there was surplus American spirit due to crop failure – but this also helped Canadian producers compete with American producers, who were using neutral, unaged spirits, as significant or primary components of their blend. Consequently, Still Waters is able to include spirit at least 2 years old as part of this blend.
This whisky was released in 2012, an addition to the Alberta line of products. It is crafted for the “next generation” of connoisseurs looking for bolder, richer flavours. Some fuss has been made about the product because sherry was added to it (directly, rather than through a sherry cask), in a very small quantity. Legally, in Canada, it is still considered whisky if less than 1/11th by volume is not the aged whisky – so this is still whisky. If you’re a whisky purist and you think this isn’t appropriate, you are missing out as this is a wonderful whisky and the sherry does it some good, just as the addition of the liters of sherry contained in sherry casks would. This is a mix of a 12 year old and a 6 year rye whisky, with corn whisky as well, aged in heavily charred oak barrels.
This whisky is aged 10 years, with a heavy rye mash – I believe it used to be made from rye entirely but now they also use some other grains from time to time – perhaps because rye is the most expensive of the common grains used for whisky. It comes from Alberta Distillery, which, incidentally, is the largest purchaser of rye in Western Canada.