This whisky is made by 66 Gilead, a craft distiller in Prince Edward County, which is one of the major winemaking areas in Ontario. This whisky is made in a “bourbon-style” – it is matured in new charred oak casks, from a recipe of 51% corn, 30% rye, and wheat and peated barley making up the rest of the recipe. It is bottled at 47%, and is about 3 1/2 years old.
This whisky, produced at Bowmore on the island of Islay on Scotland, is aged for 12 years in a bourbon cask before an additional 3 years of aging in a sherry cask. It is called, “darkest”, I assume because of its darker colour compared to its other regular stablemates in the 12 and 18 year old – it is my favourite of the three.
Bowmore is on the island of Islay, renown for its quality and often smoky and peaty malts. It is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, having been around since 1779. They also contain a malting floor which they use – one of only a handful to do so. This whisky is part of their standard range, and is the youngest expression with an age statement. And, as winter is coming on, there is little like some smoky malt….
This whisky has won many accolades due to its high quality, but one problem with this is batch quality – both from what I’ve read and experienced. I have only sampled from three bottles, and even then, the first bottle I had didn’t impress me much at all (I even ended up giving the bottle away!). In a direct comparison with the 12 year old, I found that it wasn’t nearly as lively or interesting and failed to dazzle on the palate like the other. Later, at a whisky pub in Toronto (The Caledonian, definitely worth a visit if you’re in the city), I was discussing this with the owner and she convinced me to re-try and I absolutely loved it, and the third bottle I tried from (this review) was also fantastic. So, this stuff can be really good, but if you can get a sample of the bottle you are buying from first, that’s best.
Highland Park is one of my favourite distilleries – I think all their products are phenomenal, though I think price doesn’t always mean more quality for some of their expensive no-age-statement releases. Highland park self-malts about 20% of their barley, using Orcadian peat, which is largely comprised of heather as Orkney is so windy that not many trees grow there. This malt adds a phenomenal floral, smoky quality to their releases. A lot of their maturation is done in sherry oak casks, which also contributes particular dryness and dried fruit notes to their products – and I like their usage of these. The 12 year old is often what I recommend for a high quality Scotch which has medium smokiness, lots of complexity, and isn’t too pricy. It’s one of my absolute favourites, and one of the best whiskies I have ever tasted was from a batch of this.
Crown Royal started out of a blend created in 1939 for the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. We are now 75 years from that point, and this limited bottling was produced to commemorate the 75th anniversary. It comes complete with a batch and bottling number certificate (I have batch 0060, bottle U84X8).
The core of this whisky is crafted in a “coffey” still, which, at the Crown Royal plant in Gimli manitoba is a copper kettle and column still – basically the liquid to be distilled is collected in a receiver which heats it before it enters the column still, and a cut is still collected – that is, only part of the distillation is actually used to put into barrels. This whisky has been available in the US for some time, and has recently come to Ontario (at a convenient 75$).