Four Roses Bourbon

Some 5-6 years ago, I was really just getting started on my journey into bourbon and I had the good fortune of stumbling upon Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon, which immediately became a personal favourite. For a short time – probably 3 or 4 bottles, if we can use bottles as a measure of time, I kept my cupboard stocked with the Single Barrel expression

Unfortunately, this was one of those good things that came to an end, and Four Roses Single barrel suddenly disappeared from the liquor store shelves in my city and every other one that I visited. Shortly thereafter, I couldn’t find any Four Roses in my province. Well, lo and behold, the flagship expression of Four Roses has finally started turning up again in Alberta, Canada. So far, this is the only expression of the brand that I have come across but I was excited at the prospect of rediscovering at least some of the incredible flavours that could be found in the Single Barrel.

Four Roses Bourbon is bottled at 40% abv and cost me just a bit more than $30 CAD.

To the Eye

Honey-gold and surprisingly absent of the coppery-orange flashes that I usually associate with bourbon. A swirl of my glass reveals scrawny, somewhat reluctant legs.

In the Nose

Lots of vanilla! Corn pops cereal, dusty, spicy rye baking spices and wood shavings. There is a faint aroma of red apples, which surprised me.

On the Tongue

Spicy… there is something about the character of this drop that is very much like a Canadian rye whisky in style. Oak comes through quite forcefully. A hint of toasted marshmallows but, honestly, not a heckuva lot else. The medium finish carried grapefruit pith and pencil shavings.

Final Thoughts

Meh…

Listen, Four Roses Bourbon is not a terrible dram and I tried not to let my memories of the fantastic Single Barrel cloud my judgement… I really tried! But this whisky just doesn’t deliver anything close to that experience. There’s just nothing spectacular about it and not really even a particularly interesting quality that might bring me back. Even at the reasonable price point, there are a number of bottles that I prefer over this one.

Alberta Premium Canadian Rye Whisky

For the small handful of you who actually have set eyes on this blog, you’re probably aware that I hold a number of Canadian whiskies in high regard and that I’m quite fond of a few drams produced in my home province of Alberta.

Alberta Premium, in particular, is a brand that I enjoy. I have reviewed a number of releases from Alberta Distillers but I’ve not yet reviewed their flagship expression. This is kind of funny to me since, for years, this was the only “Alberta Premium” that existed and it’s really only in the last 5-6 years or so that they’ve offered some new and exciting whiskies. (As soon as I have a good excuse to open my last bottle of their 30yr old, I’ll have to do a Wee Drams side-by-side review of them all!)

At any rate, Alberta Premium, was once the rye-and-cola bottle of my youth and one that I moved away from as I got to searching for “better”, certainly more expensive drops. I have now come full-circle and now recognize the Alberta Premium brand as one of the best values in whisky. This particular dram is distilled from 100% Alberta Rye, is bottled at the minimum 40% abv and cost me a ridiculous $18 CAD!

To the Eye

It’s appears as a classic and inviting Canadian whisky… amber with flashes of bright copper. A swirl of my glass produces big droplets that eventually release into skinny legs.

In the Nose

Initial impressions are of a light and slightly fruity whisky. The fruitiness is all rye berries, accompanied by a dusty, grassy note. With a little effort, I find breezes of yeasty rye bread and aromas of caramel and vanilla, along with some subtle baking spices. Nothing super special here but nothing off-putting either.

On the Tongue

Considering how gentle the caramel, vanilla and spice was on the nose, they come across with considerable force on the palate! Subsequent sips progressively move that caramel flavour fully to butterscotch. Oak and almond skins join the party and, all the while, that dusty and fruity rye-berry note ties it all together. Super smooth, with a short finish of fennel seeds, oak and marzipan. Nothing to knock your socks off but a nice, quite-classic Canadian profile.

Final Thoughts.

You know, despite being unspectacular, I appreciate this whisky! I drink my whiskies neat, almost without exception and I can’t imagine what you’d get out of mixing the Alberta Premium, besides a buzz… Oh to be young again!

At the end of the end of the day, this is a very gentle dram that won’t really offer any surprises. If you’re seeking a surprise keep saving your loonies and buy something else. But if you’re not too proud to bargain shop, the flagship Alberta Premium is very smooth and easy-drinking, with some delicately delicious rye flavours.

$18?! Come on… it’s pretty hard to argue with that!

Longrow Peated

I’m a big fan of the Springbank 10yr Sorry, upon rereading, it’s really an awful review that I ought to update and improve! – so I’m not sure what took me so long to buy a bottle from one of the distillery’s other arms… Longrow and Hazleburn.

You can look up all the details if you like but, in a nutshell, Hazleburn is an unpeated, triple-distilled whisky, Springbank is the flagship, slightly peated and roughly 2.5x distilled, and Longrow is the heavily peated, double-distilled dram.

My last visit to the bottle shop found me hankering for a peated malt, making it time to give the Longrow a go! I picked up this NAS whisky on sale from the usual price of nearly $90 CAD. It’s bottled at 46% abv.

To the Eye

As with all Springbank whiskies, this is non-chill filtered, with no added colouring… pale straw-gold. A swirl of my glass reveals fat, drooping legs that move quite quickly to the liquid below.

In the Nose

Soft and subtle, but this dram has plenty going on if you have patience and take your time. Tropical fruits, particularly pineapple jump out right away. A grassy note, citrus and that clay-like mineral quality that I always associate with this distillery. With time, green peppers and a slightly meaty aroma come through. There’s peat, but it’s not smoky… more earthy and herbaceous.

On the Tongue

The peat is not so subtle here! But, again, the smoke is restrained and well balanced with other flavours. Menthol with malty sweetness and a roasted cereal flavour. Slightly briny and rather medicinal with lemon zest and citrus pith. The finish is long, with a honeyed sweetness and plenty of peat, eventually fading into a healthy dose of cigar ash that lets you know there was some smoke in there all along!

Final Thoughts

If your looking for an Islay-type whisky, carry on. If you enjoy more subtle peat and smoke, you’ll probably enjoy this Campbeltown malt! Good stuff!

Auchentoshan – The Bartender’s Malt 02

I have a soft spot for Auchentoshan… Sure, maybe that soft spot is a bit smaller today than it once was, but it’s still there! Over the years, I have reviewed a couple “Damn Good” drops from this distillery (find them here) but, it seems to me that something in the character of this malt has slightly changed in recent years.

Nevertheless, I was in one of my favourite liquor stores a while back and I noticed The Bartender’s Malt 02 on the shelf. I had previously sampled the first version of this project at a buddy’s place and although not particularly memorable, it must have been good enough since I was checking out the 2.0… Anyway, the gentleman at the store saw me reading the carton and casually mentioned “old casks” in this blend that retained “that mushrooms note Auchentoshan used to have”. Colour me intrigued!

If you’re so inclined, the Google machine can fill you in about how this particular drop was concocted – it’s quite a story! From what I’ve read, this NAS dram includes whiskies as young as 4 or 5 or 6 years all the way to casks of 35 or 40 or 50 year old spirit. Who the hell knows what the true recipe is and, to be honest, I don’t really care… but how does it taste?

This whisky is bottled at 50% abv and cost me roughly $80 CAD.

To the Eye

Pretty typical Achentoshan appearance of honey-gold, perhaps a bit deeper than the 12 yr offering. The customary swirl of my Glencairn creates a sheen that crests dramatically before eventually releasing thick, reluctant legs.

In the Nose

Characteristic citrus zest and a distinct aroma of fresh-cut oranges immediately jumps out. Cinnamon and vanilla – presumably from bourbon casks – and hints of shortbread and sweet-cream are in there too.

On the Tongue

There’s a fair amount going on in this whisky! Floral, vegetal notes of heather and herbs such as lemon balm and thyme. Honey and delicious bourbony flavours of vanilla and caramel, along with a subtle oakiness. I can’t find the mushrooms that were suggested to me at the bottle shop but I do get a slight meaty, umami quality. The orange-note is still there along with a hint of milk chocolate, it’s kind of reminiscent of those “Terry’s” chocolate oranges… which I enjoy far less than this whisky!

The finish is shortish but very nice, with caramel candies, pink peppercorns and marmalade.

Final Thoughts

I have to admit that I was a little worried this whisky would prove to be a gimmick, better served in a bartender’s cocktail creation than in a typical scotch drinker’s Glencairn… I am happy to report that this is not the case. This is a quality dram that is delicious when enjoyed neat or, presumably, however else you might like your whisky!

Old Grand Dad Bonded Bourbon

I guess it’s a result of my long layoff from this blog, that I now have several of my favourite drams in my cupboard. Really it is one of the nice things about taking a break from writing reviews – just sticking to whiskies you really enjoy and not feeling the need to branch out and take risks.

At any rate, Old Grand Dad Bonded Bourbon is one of my old stand-by drams. A high-rye Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – it’s readily available, it’s relatively inexpensive, and it’s delicious!

But what is “bottled-in-bond”?, you ask…

Well, I’m hardly an expert on the subject and this particular bourbon is one of the only ones I’ve noticed to bear this designation in my local bottle shops. However, from what I have read on the rear label of this dram, as well as the old interweb, “bottled-in-bond” (BiB) was an early quality designation put in place in America during the late 1800’s, at a time when there was little-to-no standardization in spirit-making processes and when casked spirits often were excessively watered down and/or stretched with a variety of unsavoury ingredients.

In a nutshell, a BiB spirits have to be made by a single distiller, in a single distillery, during a single year and they must be aged in a federally bonded warehouse for four years before being bottled at 100 proof. These days, I suppose a BiB designation adds about a year of aging time and up to 10% abv above what’s required for run-of-the-mill bourbon.

Old Grand Dad bourbon is obviously bottled at 50% abv and it costs around $35 CAD where I live.

To the Eye

Pure, bourbony goodness… all orangey-gold with flashes of deeper copper! Nice thick, stubborn legs on this one, too.

In the Nose

Cinnamon hearts candy jumps out of the glass, followed quickly by vanilla, oak and butterscotch. Time in the glass reveals toasted marshmallows and a nice dusty, grassy rye note, as well as a hint of kettle corn. Not incredibly complex, but it hits the right notes for this guy!

On the Tongue

The high-proof makes for a rather intense dram, delivering a medium-bodied, slightly oily mouthfeel with intense flavours of vanilla, oak, rye spice and pumpkin pie. There’s cinnamon, menthol-mint and a hint of caramel corn, which altogether reminds me a bit of that candy-cane popcorn concoction that is often around at Christmastime. Theres also a bit of leather and that popcorn note becomes more vegetal toward the end, leading to the medium finish, which is full of oak, rye spice and cherry cough candies.

Final Thoughts

Is this the best bargain in bourbon? It just might be!

I know my tasting notes are probably much more extensive than most people might agree with but I’ve been drinking this whiskey for a long time… there’s almost always a bottle in my cupboard. So I’ve been teasing out and deciding on the various aromas and flavours I’m experiencing for quite some time.

Despite this, let me be clear… this is an honest, straightforward whiskey. It has a classic bourbon profile with enough complexity to stay interesting, as well as that bite at the back of the throat that many bourbon drinkers look for. And, although it’s not quite a bottom-shelf price tag, I dare say most bourbons that I enjoy this much cost nearly twice as much.

Go buy a bottle now!

Proper No.12 Irish Whiskey

☘️Éirinn go Brách!☘️

I think this will officially be my second-ever review of an Irish whiskey… for whatever reason, I’ve yet to really get into much water of life from the Emerald Isle. I think it’s mostly because there aren’t too many different Irish whiskey options in my local shops.

However, I’ve had a couple bottles of this particular dram go through my cabinet in the past several months. The first time I noticed it on a shelf, I remember wondering, Isn’t that the brand Conor McGregor’s always promoting? Once the label confirmed it, the fairweather MMA fanboy in me took over and I had to give it a go!

Like most Irish whiskeys, Proper No.12 is a triple distilled spirit. It’s bottled at 40% abv and cost me a bit less than $40 CAD.

To the Eye

Nice bright gold in my glass, with skinny, speedy legs. The label notes the use of bourbon barrels in the aging regime – from the colour, I’m guessing refill casks and expecting a young spirit. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

In the Nose

The first impression is of delicious cereal notes, reminding me of oatmeal spiced with cardamom. There are some slight bourbony breezes of vanilla and wood and a hint of “Goodies” candies. (I don’t know if this just a Canadian thing, but Goodies are a candy-coated licorice confection.) Fairly straightforward nose, but appealing, nonetheless!

On the Tongue

For whatever reason, I am challenged to tease out individual flavours when I drink this whiskey… There’s a malty sweetness that I could call honey, if I really wanted, with a firm oaky backbone but beyond that, it’s hard to describe – it just tastes like whisky! There are a few rough edges, which you expect with a young whisky at this price point but they are actually rounded off nicely and what remains adds to the enjoyment of this dram. The finish is on the shorter side, but fades away to leave a nice mint-chocolate character that lingers for a moment.

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, Proper No.12 is to world whiskeys as Jack Daniels is to bourbon. (Yeah, yeah… Tennessee whiskey) This is one of those drams that you buy to drink, and I mean that in the best way possible. This isn’t really a whiskey to ponder or one that will cause you to try discovering new flavours each time you pull the cork. But, it’s an honest and straightforward drop that can easily be enjoyed on a St. Patrick’s Day, like I am today, or after a long day of work, as I have a time or two!

I mentioned off the top that this isn’t my first bottle of Proper No.12. I’ve also taken a couple bottles over to a friend’s place for an evening of playing cards or, funny enough, to watch the UFC fights – when we used to be able to do those kinds of things! If repeat business isn’t a pretty good endorsement of a solid product that provides good value, what is?

Sláinte! But be safe this St. Patrick’s Day!

Glenfiddich 14yr Bourbon Barrel Reserve

Over the years, I’d like to think that I’ve learned a thing or two… when it comes to enjoying whisky, anyway!

Of course, I’ve gone through what I imagine are fairly typical phases of ignorance growth and development. I’ve focused on single malts at the expense of other types of the spirit. I’ve believed that age statements are the most reliable indicator of a dram’s quality. I’ve increased my whisky budget in search of a “better” drink. You name it…

And, you know what? I’ve settled on the belief that there are no hard and fast rules. You can find wonderful drams from all over the place. I’ve drank 3yr old whiskies that are as interesting and full of character as much, much older drops. And I’ve learned that the availability and cost of a bottle do deserve to contribute to its value and my overall enjoyment – I’ve drank many $50 whiskies that I prefer over $100+ bottles and being able to have them on hand and not being shy to kill a bottle with friends means something!

Which brings me to the whisky under review – Glenfiddich 14yr Bourbon Barrel Reserve. I love bourbon and I tend prefer the character that American oak imparts on scotch over sherry casks and other types of wood. This whisky is bottled at 43% abv and cost me less than $60 at my local shop.

To the Eye

Perhaps it’s just the power of suggestion, but this whisky seems to have a deeper, richer, more bourbon-like appearance than some. Deep golden honey, with flashes of a darker copper-orange hue. My customary glass-swirl reveals an interesting combination of both thick, sticky legs as well as some skinnier rivulets that quickly descend to the bottom of the glass.

In the Nose

Typical Speyside notes of juicy orchard fruit and fresh-cut grass but this whisky also delivers some aromas of cinnamon, honey, vanilla and oak. The nose is decidedly scotch in character but I believe there is a hint of punky corn coming through as well.

On the Tongue

Terrific! The first notes that come through are elements of bourbon – vanilla, oak and some kettle corn. This bourbony goodness quickly subsides – to reveal the malt character. And you know, it’s not so much subsiding as it is merging… there is definitely a dance going on between the Scottish malt and the American oak that seasoned it for so long. There’s apple peel, eucalyptus, anise seed, dusty hay and a nice mineral quality. It’s not super complex but it is a smooth (but not too-smooth) whisky that just keeps begging me to take bother sip! The finish is medium-long with pencil shavings, leather and lingering cherry cough drops.

Final Thoughts

Yep, after all these years of dramming, I think this is pretty much the type of drop that I now gravitate toward! It’s an honest and straightforward whisky that is both interesting and exceedingly drinkable. I appreciate both scotch and bourbon and I really enjoy the marriage of those two whisky styles in this drop! A great value in my books, a number of these bottles have made their way through my cupboard and I expect that to continue!

Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye

I’m a sucker for a good Canadian rye whisky and, in my opinion, Alberta Distillers in Calgary are one of the most underrated whisky makers in my fine home province. If any sort of image problem really does exist for this distillery, I think it’s at least partly because they keep their products so reasonably priced. After all their flagship offering – Alberta Premium Rye – is readily available for $20 or less! Just because a whisky is priced so you can load it up with cola doesn’t mean that you should… but, if I’m honest, I’m guilty of looking to more expensive brands for my own sippers too!

Relatively recently, however, Alberta Premium has been launching more top-shelf offerings, with bigger price tags. (Still entirely reasonable prices for the age and quality of the whiskies, if you ask me.) Several years ago, I got my hands on a few bottles of their 30 yr expression. (I still have one unopened bottle waiting for a special occasion.) Then, seemingly in the wrong order, they came out with a 20 yr expression that I will also need to review sooner than later. And now, they have a NAS Cask Strength version that He Who Shall Not Be Named crowned as the most recent World Whisky of the Year.

I imagine that any whisky that’s received the title of Whiskey of the Year gets snapped up pretty quickly but we Canadians haven’t had to worry about one of ours claiming the award too often. However, back in 2015 Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye took the Whisky Bible championship and I do remember how quickly it disappeared from the shelves for a while. Well, the same thing happened again this year and, by the time I’d heard that Alberta Premium Cask Strength had put Canadian whisky back on top, it was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, it’s started popping up again and I was able to grab a bottle for $65 CAD. (Most shops have it priced quite a bit higher than where I bought mine…) This release is bottled at a potent 66% abv.

To the Eye

All honey-gold with flashes of amber. A swirl of my Canadian Glencairn reluctantly produces sticky, skinny legs. Entirely subjective observation… it looks exactly the way I like a Canadian whisky to look!

In the Nose

My first impression is surprise at how little alcohol burn there is in my nostrils! Cinnamon toast, plenty of oak, zesty rye spice and a hint of red licorices. Not super complex but well composed and very pleasant.

A drop of water didn’t change much but, perhaps, dialled up the caramel and rye spice at the expense of the candy notes.

On the Tongue

Far smoother than a 132-proof spirit has any business tasting! Of course there’s the expected dusty, spicy rye and plenty of caramel and vanilla but there are also a number of pleasant surprises in this dram, as well! Peppermints, fruity rye berries, a breath of bittersweet chocolate, and a very noticeable dry-fruit flavour that the tasting notes call black-currant, but I keep thinking of chokecherry. The finish is huge and amazingly long with oak, baking spices and a sweet fruitiness that eventually fades to bubblegum… just awesome!

With water, the typical Canadian notes are brought forward – caramel , vanilla and some peppercorns. Unfortunately, water mutes some of those really interesting flavours. Still good, but there’s definitely a reason this whisky has been left at 66%!

Final Thoughts

Great whisky. Really, there’s not much else to say! Alberta Premium has done it again – providing an excellent dram that is also a tremendous value. For the $65 I paid for this bottle, my cupboard won’t be without one!

A Wee Dram… Great Plains 18 Year Old – Brandy Finish

Growing up, I don’t recall my Dad drinking all that often. The occasional beer on a hot day and the odd rye & cola when certain family/friends came to visit. Yeah, Dad’s habits didn’t exactly lead me down a road of discovery or appreciation for better beverages!

So maybe that’s what makes the story of my Dad’s developing palate kind of interesting… I think that perhaps my influence on him over the last 20 years or so has been stronger than his influence was in me! I can remember Dad’s sceptical look, way back when, as I tried to explain that I was offering him a legitimate pilsener – small p – rather than the green- and red- “yellow bunny”-labelled, capital-P beer that he knew! Over the years, as the contents of my fridge and cabinet evolved, so did Dad’s sense of adventure and, eventually, his palate. Nowadays, Dad is almost as likely as me to enjoy a whisky neat and, even though he tends to focus on the “smoothness” of as dram, he’s now willing and able to comment on the aromas and the flavours he enjoys.

Anyway, Dad turned 65 in late-2020 and I wanted to commemorate the milestone birthday with a nice bottle… even though the pandemic wouldn’t allow us to properly celebrate together. Although Dad enjoys all different styles of whisky, he’s a very patriotic western Canadian prairie boy – grew up on a farm, made his living in the oil patch – so I knew he’d probably appreciate a special Alberta-produced whisky. After much deliberation, I settled on an 18 yr offering from Great Plains Craft Spirits, that was finished in brandy casks… a unique and special dram for a special man!

Just recently, we finally had an opportunity to give it a go! (Just as I would have, Dad kept it sealed until we could sample it together.)

From what I have discovered, this is a corn-based spirit that was originally distilled in the year 2000 by the defunct Potter’s Distillery in British Columbia. When Great Plains purchased the stocks, they had spent 17 years in ex-bourbon wood but were re-casked in brandy barrels. The original finishing was intended to be for 12 months but a problem with the label production extended the finishing time, resulting in a whisky that was actually aged for 19 years before it was bottled. At any rate, it has an abv of 54.5%. Just in case my dad happens to read this post, I won’t reveal the price of his gift!

This whisky displays a very “bourbony” gold-orange hue, with thick legs in my glass. Aromas of oak and baking spices meld with frosted flakes and… can I say, candle wick?! On the palate, this Canadian whisky has a bit of an American accent, with distinct bourbon notes of vanilla and caramel and a slightly grainy, polenta-type flavour… maybe a hint of maple syrup, but perhaps I’m just trying to find some “Canadian” flavours! On the exit, I believe the cognac finish begins to reveal itself with a chewy, raisiny quality alongside oak, spice and an almond nuttiness, which fades into a hint of Nibs cherry licorices.

Very nice… I do think it was a worthy gift and I hope Dad and I can share another drop of this excellent whisky soon!

Two Brewers Peated Yukon Single Malt

Back in late November, I was up at a big shop in Edmonton, searching for a Canadian Whisky befitting of my Patriotic Old Man’s 65th birthday. However, I also noticed a peated Canadian Single Malt… something I hadn’t heard of before so, of course, I headed home with two nice bottles, one for for my dad and one for myself! (BTW, for Dad, I settled on a very beautiful brandy-finished 18yr from Great Plains Craft Spirits, which he enjoyed very much!)

I was already somewhat aware of the Two Brewers brand, knowing that it was the brainchild of the people behind Yukon Brewing Company, who I know to make a very fine “Midnight Sun” espresso stout! I had seen this brand of whisky here and there before but I was always a bit wary of the high price tag in comparison to some of my favourite Canadian drams… but I’d never noticed their single malt and, certainly not a peated one! Price be damned – I had to try it!

From what I can gather, besides their location, Two Brewers differentiate themselves by applying a craft-brewing approach to whisky making, especially in how the fermentation process. I was a bit disappointed to learn that they import their peated malt from Scotland… I mean, how cool would it be if there was a peated Canadian malt made with local ingredients?!… but I was still curious about what different brewing and distilling methods as well as the Arctic aging location would impart on this whisky.

I paid about $110 CAD for my bottle, which is apparently #201 of 1050 and the 19th release of this whisky. It is NAS and is bottled at 46% abv.

To the Eye

I don’t know why I want to describe the appearance of this whisky as “typically Canadian”, since it’s made with Scottish malt… it is bright, butter-scotchy with flashes of gold and it produces skinny but stubborn legs on my glass.

In the Nose

The aromas are subtle and sweet… honeysuckle and a buttery, cereal quality that makes me think of shortbread. (Probably because I’m still thinking about that Scottish malt!) Time in the glass eventually reveals a bit of oak and some fruitiness. Try as I might, I can’t really find any peat on the nose…

On the Tongue

There it is! The first sip coats my mouth in a soft but lingering peat-smokiness, travelling hand-in-hand with ripe red apples and some citrus zest, along with a slightly menthol-mint note. It’s not like an Islay malt, but it does remind me a bit of some of the peated Highland whiskies that are out these days… (Maybe like a Tomatin Cú Bócan?) As the initial peat and fruit fade a bit, licorice All-Sorts candies join the party and a fruity malt sweetness builds on the exit, fading into a long finish of black licorice and cough candies melting on oak and peat embers. This is good stuff!

Final Thoughts

I like whiskies that make me think, and this peated Canadian single malt from Two Brewers does just that! I haven’t tried any other Canadian single malts, so the only comparisons I can make are with Scotches and I think this dram would hold its own in many side-by-side tastings. You can find whiskies with more robust and complex flavours but this is a very pleasant, nicely balanced dram!