I’ve been waiting on this whisky a while. In 2012, Corby released two whiskies (Lot no. 40 and Pike Creek) from what was known as the Canadian whisky guild – a series of three whiskies in the 1990s developed by Corby shortly after they took over management of Hiram Walker distillery in Windsor (the largest beverage alcohol plant in North America). There were three, very different whiskies – the bold, 100% rye Lot. no. 40, the spicy/fruity port-finished Pike Creek, and the softer and complex Gooderham & Worts. Gooderham & Worts has just been released this year, in 2015, and completes the three which only lasted a few years due to lack in sales. This, really, was too bad because the whiskies were creative works coming from the distillers for connoisseurs – but the market wasn’t ready. Now, with the huge expansion in the category, the market is ready and the whiskies are out here for all of us that can access them.
The whisky is named after the Gooderham & Worts – a whisky which was introduced in 1837 to compete with the Molson distillery in Montreal in York, Upper Canada (now the distillery district in Toronto) – at the time, it was unimpressive production and quality. However, the production was massive at the time for Gooderham and Worts. The distillery sprung out of a wheat mill, where the excess grain could be distilled into whisky. The distillery had started production of whisky in 1837 shortly after two brothers,- William Gooderham and James Worts came from England in 1832 and 1831, respectively, to start the mill. Soon enough, their production was in such demand that as we headed into the 1860s the distillery was producing 2.5 million gallons per year, and was the largest source of tax revenue not only in Toronto but also in all of Canada! (This information is from Davin De Kergommeaux‘s book Canadian whisky, and only part of the story – I recommend you get a book to find out more!) Not many know the importance distilling played in the development of Canada and Toronto these days, and it’s sad that the distillery district now doesn’t pay homage to Gooderham & Worts past a few distillery relics which few understand.
This whisky, itself, is crafted from four grains – corn, wheat, rye, and malted barley – and bottled at 44.4% ABV. This is added to the impressive number of whiskies that have been released in the last 5 years above the previously ubiquitous 40% for Canadian whisky – Alberta Premium Dark Horse, Crown Royal Black, Crown Royal Single Barrel Select, Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, Forty Creek Copper Pot, the Forty Creek limited editions (like this year’s Three Grain Harmony), Pendleton midnight, Masterson’s products, Whistlepig, Jefferson’s, Lot no. 40, Wiser’s Double Still Rye, Lock, Stock, and Barrel, Highwood Ninety products, Wiser’s Red Letter, not to mention all the craft products (and I’m sure I missed some off this list!). That list alone shows the growth in the Canadian whisky category.
Nose: Lots of orange! As I so often find with whiskies distilled at Hiram Walker, there’s also a molasses note which almost makes you think of a rum with lots of orange accents. Not lacking complexity – slightly buttery with coconut, dried apricot, musty oak , rye, oak, vanilla, creamed wheat, creamed corn, popcorn, maple, and those miniature corn cobs you get in a can. The grain is very complex – rye is at the centre but overall the grain is very rich as it comes through in this whisky. There also is a good amount of oak influence, suggesting good age or use of some new oak casks in this – from both the mustiness of the oak and the charred oak I smell I imagine both. 26/30 (87%)
Taste: The rye and the oak come through beautifully, and this is a long, controlled, delivery. The backbone is rich rye and pumperknickel bread amidst lots of floral and berry notes on top. Caramel, dried apricot, and orange juice also prominently feature. The end of the palate is a bit gritty with loads of spice – clove, cinnamon hearts, and a bit of white pepper. Still very complex. 27.5/30 (92%)
Finish: Dry, with orange, light creamy oak, dried apricot, cinnamon, apple, and vanilla. In some ways, reminiscent of some flavour camps of Moroccan cooking. Not the longest, but very pleasant, especially with the oak integration. 17.5/20 (88%)
Conclusion: For a whisky which is so good, I have wondered if my ratings are too low – they are largely because, despite the complexity and good integration, the depth just isn’t quite there to push my scores into 90s. The palate, I think, is the best of the show – able to take entertain you at different speeds of drinking depending on whether you savor little tiny sips or take bigger ones to violently swish around your mouth before swallowing – both very different experiences of this whisky (it’s better to take in slowly! but worth the violent swish…). One to add to the list of solid Canadian whiskies on the market (at least in North America!). Definitely the trio of Lot no. 40, Pike creek, and this are a very solid trio all showcasing very different flavours in Canadian whisky, and it’s a fun taste – the three of them together. 18/20 (90%)