This year, the limited release from Forty Creek is called “Evolution”. Evolution is the 8th limited release from John Hall, whisky maker at Forty Creek. John Hall was originally a wine maker, and made his own Cabernet Sauvignon at Kittling Ridge, and, thus, in theory, had easy access to wine barrels. This release is roughly 12 years old, though it has a bit of a journey – 100% corn, 100% barley, and 100% rye whiskies, in the Forty Creek style, were aged in white oak for three years and then these aged whiskies were re-distilled to concentrate flavours, as John Hall often does at some stage with his premium releases. They were then re-barreled into French Oak Cabernet Sauvignon casks where they were aged for an additional 9 years. A few other of John’s “favourite barrels” were also added to balance the flavours. The name, evolution, is to signify the whisky’s capacity to change over time. A fitting name, perhaps, too, because John Hall used a wine cask now to house whisky not wine, a sort of evolution in itself. And, on another level, Forty Creek was bought out by Campari last year which may allow a lot more opportunity for growth in the brand and production as well.
This whisky, it seems, took most people by surprise. I don’t usually get surprised by a new whisky release, but this one I didn’t see until it just about hit the shelves. Though it is Canadian Club, it is not actually distilled at the Hiram Walker plant in Windsor (like the rest of the Canadian Club line) – it is actually distilled and bottled in Alberta, from Alberta Distillers. However, they’re both owned by Beam-Suntory so some stock-swapping isn’t as difficult as it otherwise might be, and it makes sense to sell Alberta rye from a marketing perspective because Canadian Club has a much bigger brand name.
You don’t find many single barrel bottlings in Canada, but here is one. In 2010, Sazerac, owners of Buffalo Trace distillery (among others), set their sights toward Canada and bought 200,000 Canadian whisky barrels from which they produced two products – this bottling, and Royal Canadian Small Batch. This particular expression is a single barrel, bottled at 40%. It was quite difficult to find in Ontario originally, but now is coming in more frequently. It is bottled, I believe, in Kentucky though the liquid is sourced from Canada.
This is a product of Highwood Distillery, in High River Alberta, and is another in their line of fabulous 100% corn whiskies (joining Century Reserve Lot 15/25 and Century Reserve 21 Year Old). It is called a “rye” whisky in that “rye” also is the name for Canadian whisky because of its extensive use of rye to craft the flavour profiles of its whisky. The name, “Ninety” is due to the fact that this whisky comes in at 45%, or 90 proof – higher than the nearly ubiquitous 40% for Canadian whisky. Higher alcohol level means less water dilution from the cask (which is about 75% at Highwood), and thus, theoretically, more flavour.
In 7 days, Cask 17 at Still Waters Distillery will be 3 years old, and thus, legally of age to be called whisky. I believe it is coming out on the 25th of this month (about 290 bottles, at 46%), and I eagerly anticipate the release as their new make (the distilled product before put into the barrel) is the best new make I’ve ever had, and when I matured some of my own the result was great – and I can just imagine how much better it would be done properly in a good (full size) cask. The rye they make is from 100% Ontario rye, a mix of malted and unmalted. Expect it to be spicy!
This whisky is somewhat notorious for trying to disguise both the source of its origin (Canada), and the fact that they don’t actually distill any of their product (yet). If you go hunting on the label, on the back, in the corner, is a small little statement “imported from Canada”. Dave Pickerell, the former master distiller at Maker’s Mark, a well known whisky consultant who has a love for rye, is at the helm of the Whistlepig operation – and this product has been a huge success. The hope of the Whistlepig farm (in Vermont) is to do a complete seed to glass process, growing their own rye, distilling it, and aging it. It’s a pretty neat vision. For now, however, none of their product is self-produced and has come from Canada – though that might change soon as they have now say they have some other sources.
Compass Box is a company which produces a number of very well done blended Scotches, targeted at connoisseurs – their products are all non-chillfiltered (which means they still have some natural oily compounds in them from the maturation and distillation, providing a better body and flavour while also meaning that sometimes the product may be a bit cloudy in appearance). They also do not add caramel to their whisky, meaning it is generally a lot lighter than most Scotches that we come into contact with. The master blender himself, John Glaser, has been making quite a name for himself.