Review: Islay Mist Aged 8 Years Blended Scotch Whisky

Islay Mist 8This is a blended scotch which includes a number of whiskies, of which the core component is Laphroaig. It can give someone a budget introduction to smoky islay whiskies, as these are often love or hate first (expensive) experiences – but this one doesn’t show the complexity, grace, and power of many of the Islay malts.

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Review: Grant’s Family Reserve Blended Scotch Whisky

When Glenfiddich was founded (1887), there wasn’t a single malt market when glenfiddich formed – the money was in blends. So, in 1898 William Grant’s family launched the blend as a product alongside their single malts. It’s bottled in same triangular bottle as glenfiddich – and they are owned by the same company so this is not surprising at all.

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Review: Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey

An image from the Jack Daniel’s Website

Jack Daniel’s, the founder of this famed distillery in Tennesse, at 14 years old ran away from his stepmother and lived with his lay uncle preacher, in louse creek tennessee, where whiskey was distilled. As his uncle went to fight in the war, and he learned how to distill from a slave of his uncle, Nearest Green. Soon enough, Jack set up business for himself, moved to Cave Spring with Nearest Green’s sons. And this is where distillery still is – a county which is dry, interestingly enough – so although lots is produced there, none can be drunk there. A common misconception with this whiskey is that it uniquely uses a “sour mash” process, when in fact this is the common practice of most bourbons.

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Review: Canadian Mist Canadian Whisky

Canadian Mist 1This whisky is distilled at Collingwood Distillery, a town about 150 km north of Toronto. It is a distillery owned by Brown-Forman (who also own Jack Daniel’s and Woodford Reserve) which was developed to create Canadian whiskies tailored to American palates. Initially, Canadian Mist was formulated for one market and made in this single distillery. The distillery now also produces Canadian Mist Black Diamond and Collingwood. According to Davin De Kergommeaux’s excellent book, Canadian Whisky, Canadian Mist is made from a single base nearly 100% corn whisky and a flavourful rye whisky (which we tasted the likes of in Collingwood 21 Year Old). The corn is fermented for a shorter time (about 3 days), bringing out cereal and nutty notes, and the rye is fermented for about 5 days, which enhances floral and fruity flavours.

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My Top 15 “Mid-Range” Canadian Whiskies (Sept. 2014)

I recently posted a list of my top 10 Canadian budget whiskies, so now begs the question – what happens if you find 10 dollars on your way to the liquor store and have $40 to spend? Of course, the definition of “mid-range” could be widely varied, but, because at this point there aren’t too many whiskies over $50, if I increase the price much more the list will start to look like my report card.  I spent much of the summer doing head to head tastings of my top 31 Canadian whiskies available in Ontario costing less than $40. Here are the top 15, of whiskies which were available in Ontario in 2013:

Top “Mid-range” Canadian Whiskies

  1. Pike Creek 10 Year Old, $40

Fruit and spice, juxtaposed together brilliantly – this is Pike Creek – a spicy rye finished in port barrels. To be honest, whether this or Lot no. 40 hits the top of this list is likely more dependent on my mood than anything else. If I want a slightly sweeter, more overtly fruity whisky still with some good rye spice bite- I take Pike Creek. If I want a more broadly spicy, bolder whisky – I pick Lot no. 40. In fact, some days, I might arrange my top 3 as lot no. 40, forty creek copper pot, and then pike creek. But, today, I give it to Pike Creek.

  1. Lot no. 40, $40

A 100% malted rye whisky full of complexity, spice, and fruit.

  1. Forty Creek Copper Pot, $30

Spicy, Fruity, Complex, Elegant…much like the ones above. This was number one on my budget list, and you can see that even with an extra 10$ added to the cap, this whisky still holds its own very well.

  1. Century Reserve Lot 15/25, $33

A 100% corn whisky from Highwood Distillers which includes stocks between 15 and 25 years old – yet it’s still surprisingly spicy and reminiscent of rye.

  1. Hiram Walker Special Old, $25

A wonderful spicy rye coming from Hiram Walker distillery – forgive the tacky bottle and you’ll find some pretty great stuff inside.

  1. Alberta Premium Dark Horse, $30

This dark, fruity whisky comes in at 45% and has some controversy associated with it due to the small amounts of sherry added to the whisky during blending – regardless, it tastes pretty good.

  1. Crown Royal Limited Edition, $40

This whisky is light and elegant, and packed with fruit. It’s always one I often introduce to people just starting with Canadian whisky, and I quite like it, though it’s quite a bit lighter than the previous 6 whiskies on this list.

  1. Canadian Club Small Batch Classic, $28

A 12 year old “small batch” offering from Canadian Club, it has a wonderful combination of earthiness and spice.

  1. Wiser’s Small Batch, $30

A wonderful spicy offering with a bit lacking on the nose and finish, which it well makes up for in its delivery on the palate.

10. Schenley Golden Wedding $25

Serving you good rye since 1856.

11. Stalk and Barrel Special 1+11 Blend, $40

This whisky comes out of the Still Waters craft distillery near Toronto, Ontario – a true “blended” Canadian whisky from different distillery sources, bottled without added colour or chill-filtration in the truest craft sense. It’s in great demand and they can’t keep up with it at Still Waters.

12. Royal Canadian Small Batch, $40

A whisky made from a blending of barrels from a large stock bought by Sazerac a few years ago. Well done, complex, and subtle – done in line with the Canadian style.

13. Centenniel 10 year old, $27

A wheat whisky from highwood distillers in High River, Alberta, consisting of wheat and rye – from the Canadian distillery which specializes in production of wheat whisky.

14. Crown Royal Black, $33

A bit of a “bolder” Crown Royal, though still holding to their elegant and rich style. Though not that much larger in body than the usual Crown Royals, it treads the line between bold and delicate pretty well.

15. Seagram’s VO, $25

Also a whisky that has been in production a long time, since its initial production for a wedding in the early 20th century and a key illicit whisky during American prohibition.

*it should be noted that $40 is an arbitrary number and there are some fabulous whiskies just a few dollars more than this, including Danfield’s 21 Year Old ($45, which would easily top this list if $45 were the mark), and Century Reserve 21 Year old at $48. But, then, it’s a unforgiving cycle and we’re fast approaching the even better Wiser’s Legacy ($50), and Crown Royal Reserve ($53).

The whiskies evaluated in this tasting series were: Alberta Premium, Alberta Premium Dark Horse, Alberta Springs 10 Y.O., Canada Gold, Canadian 83, Canadian Club, Canadian Club Reserve, Canadian Club Small Batch Classic, Canadian Club Small Batch Sherry Cask, Centenniel 10 Year Old, Century Reserve Lot 15/25, Crown Royal Deluxe, Crown Royal Black, Crown Royal Limited Edition, Forty Creek Barrel Select, Forty Creek Copper Pot, Gibson’s 12 Year Old, Gibson’s Sterling, Hiram Walker Special Old, Lot no. 40, Pike Creek 10 Y.O., Proof, Royal Canadian Small Batch, Schenley Golden Wedding, Schenley OFC, Seagram’s V.O., Stalk & Barrel 1+11, White Owl, Wiser’s Deluxe, and Wiser’s Small Batch.

***As I have tasted other whiskies in this category since, here is a list, which I will try to keep updating, of ones that likely would have made the list if they were available at the time:

My Top 10 Budget Canadian Whiskies (Sept. 2014)

One of my hopes ever since I started the blog was to release a list of my favourite budget Canadian whiskies, for a number of reasons:

  • There are a number of quite decent budget Canadian whiskies
  • It is a great way to start appreciating Canadian whiskies, and there are certainly some budget Canadian whiskies that are not very good, and won’t bring you back wanting much more from Canada
  • For those just learning to appreciate whisky in general, there is no need to break the bank – there are good, complex whiskies that cost less per serving than a decent beer or glass of wine

Over all my tastings of Canadian whiskies i selected my top 20 generally available (in Ontario) “budget” whiskies , defining “budget” to be less than 30 Canadian dollars in Ontario in 2014. All 20 are listed at the bottom of this post. I created this list by a series of head-to-head tastings involving 2 of each of these whiskies (a lengthy project!). Listed below are my top 10, listed with the Ontario price per 750 ml. As a reference for those not in Ontario, the cheapest 750 ml bottles you can get here are $24.

 Top Budget Canadian Whiskies

  1. Forty Creek Copper Pot Reserve, $30
  • Spicy, Fruity, Complex, and even at 43%. I can’t really recommend this whisky highly enough, particularly because of the price. It has all the elegance of Forty Creek Barrel Select, but with added complexity and boldness. This is the Canadian whisky I offer to guests – and it is just good drinking.
  1. Hiram Walker Special Old, $25
  • A wonderful spice-loaded, but not too heavy, rye coming from Hiram Walker distillery – forgive the tacky bottle and you’ll find some pretty great stuff inside.
  1. Alberta Premium Dark Horse, $30
  • This dark, fruity whisky comes in at 45% and has some controversy associated with it due to the small amounts of sherry added to the whisky during production- regardless, it tastes pretty good.
  1. Canadian Club Small Batch Classic 12, $28
  • A 12 year old “small batch” offering from Canadian Club, it has a wonderful combination of earthiness and spice.
  1. Wiser’s Small Batch, $30
  • A wonderful spicy offering with a bit lacking on the nose and finish, which it well makes up for in its delivery on the palate.
  1. Schenley Golden Wedding, $25
  • A “marriage” of three whiskies of different ages to capture the characteristics of each. They’ve been making this one a long time (since 1856!)
  1. Seagram’s VO, $25
  • Also a whisky that has been in production a long time, since its initial production for a wedding in the early 20th century and a key illicit whisky during American prohibition.
  1. Centenniel 10 year old., $27
  • A wheat whisky from highwood distillers in High River, Alberta, consisting of wheat and rye – from the Canadian distillery which specializes in production of wheat whisky.
  1. Canadian Club Reserve, $27
  • A nine year old offering from Canadian Club with more rye grain in the recipe than other Canadian Club offerings, resulting in a bit of a spicier character in places.

10. Forty Creek Barrel Select, $27

  • This whisky is fabulous, accessible, with a brilliant nose. It’s the bottom of the lineup at Forty Creek, but it’s a good one.

*It should be noted that if the “budget” threshold were $33, then Century Reserve Lot 15/25 would have been the number 2 whisky on this list.

I recommend all of the whiskies on the list, though I don’t think they’re all equally approachable. The distribution of Canadian whiskies isn’t great to countries beyond the US (and even that is limited), so if you are from elsewhere and are looking into Canadian whisky hopefully you can find one or two bottlings to help you start.

The whiskies evaluated in this tasting series were: Alberta Premium, Alberta Premium Dark Horse, Alberta Springs 10 Y.O., Canada Gold, Canadian 83, Canadian Club Premium, Canadian Club Reserve, Canadian Club Small Batch Classic, Centenniel 10 Year Old, Crown Royal Deluxe, Forty Creek Barrel Select, Forty Creek Copper Pot, Gibson’s 12 Year Old, Gibson’s Sterling, Hiram Walker Special Old, Schenley Golden Wedding, Schenley OFC, Seagram’s V.O., Wiser’s Deluxe, and Wiser’s Small Batch.

I also included whiskies up to 40$ in my tasting competitions, and I will post a “mid-range” list soon. For a non-cost constrained opinion, see my report card.

***As I have tasted other whiskies in this category since, here is a list, which I will try to keep updating, of ones that likely would have made the list if they were available at the time: