American straight ryes are slim pickings in Ontario, and they’re pretty hard to find under 40$. This is pretty well the best you can do. This whiskey is crafted from a mash bill, I believe, of 65% rye, 23% corn, and 12% malted barley. The whiskeys blended into the product are between 4 and 5 years old.
This whisky is produced by Wild Turkey, a distillery near Lawrenceburg, Kentucky and home to the longest tenured master distiller in the world (in Jimmy Russel). This whisky is aged 6-8 years in heavily charred oak barrels, after being distilled to a proof of 62.5% and then watered down to 55% to be put into the barrels. This level is relatively low, but it is utilized by Wild Turkey because they say it retains more flavour.
This whiskey is distilled at Heaven Hill, named after Rev. Elijah Craig who, according to Heaven Hill, became the first to age his whiskey in charred oak barrels. A lot of the whiskies at Heaven Hill are frankly good value, and the whiskies are often well aged – in an age where whisk(e)y is booming so much that everyone is pulling out younger product because of demand. Also, much of the product comes at quite reasonably price too. Part of the reason they do this is because they produce so much other product (vodka, tequila, cream liquers, rums….), so they don’t need their whiskey to make all their money.
This is a straight wheat whiskey, which means that its primary grain is wheat, rather than corn or rye which are more common. In many parts of Canada and the US, wheat was the most common grain for whisky at the beginning of whisky history in those places. “Straight whiskey” means that it has been aged in new charred oak casks, for at least 2 years. To say it is “wheat” means that it is at least 51% wheat (this is 51% wheat, with the remaining 49% corn and malted barley). Wheat rounds out the profile, resulting in “softer” whiskies (like wheated bourbons, which have wheat as a secondary grain to corn rather than rye bourbons, which are more spicy due to the secondary grain of rye) and a typically more viscous product. Also, I find, they give some very interesting, unique fruity and floral notes.
Only three major bourbon producers regularly make a bourbon where wheat stands in as the second grain to corn, rather than rye, in the recipe – Buffalo Trace, Maker’s Mark, and Heaven Hill. Heaven Hill makes a few products, this being the top of their line of regular production wheated bourbons. Wheat is typically associated with bringing good body and sweetness to bourbons, rather than the sharpness and spiciness of rye.
Each year a panel of nine independent whisky experts tastes through a large number of samples, blind, to dish out a number of Canadian Whisky awards at the Victoria Whisky Festival. The winners are announced – take a look here.
On a side note, in “award mode”, I want to heap on a bit more praise for Forty Creek Evolution. I loved it (absolutely), and recently have taken it up with a few friends on a number of occasions this month. It has awed them as it has awed me (occasionally a few don’t like the profile) – and even as I have pondered more and had more I even increased my score (which I rarely do). It brings forth stories, memories, ideas…the nose, in particular, is absolutely phenomenal. From a complex, lengthy, balanced, and fascinating nose to a taste and finish which are delicious but restrained enough to let you appreciate them (you couldn’t keep the whisky in your mouth nearly as long as you can keep your nose in the glass) – I think it’s beautiful. I have re-posted my review.