All posts by Reid

Pike Creek

Time for another Canadian whisky…

Not so long ago, I became an immediate fan of Corby Distillers’ Lot 40, so I was more than happy to pick up a bottle of Pike Creek, another offering in their premium lineup, which I believe also includes the Gooderham & Worts brand. Pike Creek recently was switched to a rum cask finish but, since I never had the pleasure of sampling the original port-finished version, a comparison is impossible for me. Carrying a 10 year age statement, it’s nice to see a well-aged Canadian whisky. This bottle cost me about $45 CDN and is bottled at 42.5% abv. 

To the Eye

Quite a deep orangey-brown… Kind of makes me suspicious of a artificial colouring agent. My customary tilt and swirl of the glass results in a “sheeting effect” where moderate legs might quickly and fleetingly form, but it actually looks more like an oily sheen builds then immediately disappears, leaving only a few lonely droplets behind. Weird!

In the Nose

Lots of caramel and vanilla. Brown sugar, I suppose, which makes sense due to the use of rum casks.  There is a bit of savoury, buttery popcorn too but not a whole lot else. 

On the Tongue

What immediately stands out is the soft, oily mouthfeel of this whisky.  I wish it was the flavour that made the first impression but it’s not to say that this is a bland dram. I am stunned by how strong the rum influence comes across in this whisky, as the dominant flavours all remind me of molasses, brown sugar and, well, rum! In the background, I seem to find some rye spice, but not the floral, fruity flavour of malted rye, rather it is more of the dry, dusty character of rye-grain whisky.  There is also a nutty, walnut-pith bitterness on the end that precedes a short finish that re-establishes the notion of rum, as well as an acrid, metallic sensation that I believe confirms my suspicion of E150 being used to colour this whisky. 

Final Thoughts

I’m confused about how I feel about this dram. I find it exceedingly smooth…but that’s not necessarily a desireable characteristic for me, these days. In the end, I once again decide that I still like whisky and I still feel mostly indifferent toward rum. I have yet to taste a rum-finished whisky that I thoroughly enjoy, and that includes this one. It’s certainly drinkable and, if mixed cocktails, I’m sure I could find a good pairing for these bitter, rummy flavours. But I don’t often mix cocktails, so I have to be honest and rate this dram as “just alright”.


Bulleit Bourbon 

I’ve been finding myself buying bourbon with increasing frequency as the American spirit continues to capture my attention and interest. When I started my bourbon journey, I was mostly looking at upper-mid level drams, as I tried to figure out if I really wanted to reallocate much my whisk(e)y budget away from scotch and Canadian offerings. In short time, however, I began to branch out toward both ends of spectrum, exploring more top-shelf and entry-level offerings as I attempted to gain a more complete understanding of the genre. 

This search is what recently drew me to Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey, a bottle I had previously ignored because I felt the bottle presentation seemed rather low-end, an assumption that also seemed to be affirmed by the decidedly reasonable price…

Well, ahead of a camping trip, this summer, I found myself reconsidering Bulleit Bourbon as I looked for a dram I could possibly enjoy neat while also sharing with friends who’d be just as likely to add ice and too much cola. I’d seen Bulleit in many a drinking establishment and I’d read on other blogs that it was relatively underrated, so it was settled! Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey is bottled at 45% abv and cost me about $40 CDN

To the Eye

You know me, I think bourbon in my glass is a pretty sexy dram… All coppery and orange. Fairly nice legs, too!

In the Nose

For the most part, it pretty much has the standard bourbon smells of sweet caramel and vanilla, with some punky corn. But, with a little time in the glass, dried apricots and, interestingly, some dill pickles make their presence known. That dill pickle character seems to build and build until it is the dominant aroma in my Glencairn! There is also something almost soapy as well as a subtle charred smokiness lingering in the background. 

On the Tongue

Fairly straightforward bourbon, once again. Oak and vanilla, caramel corn and some rye spice. There is a drying bitterness that isn’t altogether unwelcome and which makes me want to take another sip. It has a nice alcohol bite, which is pretty much required for me to enjoy a bourbon, these days. The finish is shortish but full of oak and a sort of mineral-like quality, so let’s just call it pencil shavings and move along!

Final Thoughts

This is not the best whiskey or bourbon I’ve ever had… But it gave me exactly what I asked of it when I made my purchase! Reasonable price, plenty good to sip around the campfire and the family and friends who tried it (with or without mix) all seemed to enjoy it better than the whiskies they did (or didn’t) bring along themselves! 

So, while I can’t exaggerate Bulleit Bourbon to an unreasonable level of excellence, I do need to tout it as an honest and versatile whiskey that punches above its weight class price point. In fact, over the course of the summer, I ended up choosing to bring along a fresh bottle of this dram for each of two camping trips and a charity hockey tournament that I played in! So, while I have only given this whiskey my third-highest rating, I do recognize the niche that Bulleit Bourbon fills and that I highly respect how well it it fill said niche!

Glenfiddich IPA Experiment

In addition to whisk(e)y, I’m a sucker for beer… Especially the big, hoppy, flavourful types! So imagine my excitement when I noticed a couple bottles of the Glenfiddich IPA Experiment, tucked away on the top shelf at one of my local liquor stores! While I have tried “hopped” Canadian whiskies before – which didn’t particularly impress me, mind you – I was curious to see what kind of riff a big-time scotch distillery might play on this idea. I was even more intrigued, seeing as the bottle presentation seemed to make it quite clear that this was not a low-end offering!

From what I can gather, the IPA Experiment is one of two whiskies in Glenfiddich’s recent experimental series, with the othe being dubbed Project XX. Since I haven’t yet stumbled upon the latter, I am forced to focus on just the IPA Experiment today.  Apparently, this is a collaboration between Speyside Craft Brewery and Glenfiddich, where a special recipe India Pale Ale was commissioned to season Glenfiddich whisky casks in such a way to impart specific, intentional effects upon the single malt over a 3 month finishing period. I read that the IPA recipe made good use of Challenger hops, which, as a former homebrewer, I know to be a particularly aromatic type of bittering hop, so I imagine that its floral, spicy character and sweet citrus flavours might be a good match for Glenfiddich’s fruity, Speyside profile. 

Enough rambling… This whisky is bottled at 43% abv and cost me about $115 CDN. 

To the Eye

Gorgeous bright gold … The appearance has me quite at ease that this whisky is free of artificial colourings but the bright clarity, not to mention the abv, leads me to believe that it is chill filtered.  A customary tilt of my glass reveals moderate but rather speedy legs. 

I think it’s also worth mentioning, here, that this brown beer-bottle version of the Glenfiddich  presentation, as well as the understated carton is really cool!

In the Nose

Lots of typical Speyside aromas jump out of my Glencairn. Juicy apples and fresh, grassy notes and some subtle, sweet caramel, vanilla and some underlying oakiness. After a few minutes, some additional characteristics start to stand out – ripe pears, marshmallows and, there it is… Hops! However, it’s not hop aromas like you experience while drinking an ale, it’s the fresh, floral and vegetal smell of fresh hops cones right off the vine. The experience is both unusual and captivating and I can’t shake the thought that it is all very similar to a nice Chardonnay. Brilliant!

On the Tongue

This is certainly a Glenfiddich, as the standard orchard fruits, vanilla and grassy, hay-like flavours stand out upon the palate. Oak is rather prominent but in no way overbearing and I feel like this NAS dram seems rather mature beyond its years… Freshly cracked peppercorns, menthol and grapefruit, pith and all. The medium finish is dry, with an espresso bitterness, eucalyptus and a faint vegetal note that could be hops but I might just be looking really hard for them!

Final Thoughts

The Glenfiddich IPA Experiment is one of those whiskies that I have a hard time assessing. It is a refreshing dram and I’ve been having a lot of fun sampling it, trying to tease out the impression that the ale-seasoned casks have imparted upon the spirit. I suppose that alone means the experiment has been a success. At the same time, I’m left wishing that the IPA influence was more obvious.  While this dram is discernibly different from other Glenfiddich offerings, I can’t really say that the IPA finish is the clear reason behind it. (Even though it probably is!)

Yeah, I’d love more hoppiness so that this dram could scream “IPA!!!” at me… but, while I love me some hoppy beer, that might not make for an enjoyable whisky. Maybe we’ll never know! All in all, this Glenfiddich IPA Experiment is a very drinkable whisky, it looks great when I pull it out to share with friends and it has offered me a new challenge, so I’ll likely try to score another bottle or two, if I can!

The Ileach – Islay Single Malt (NAS)

First off, I may as well admit that my purchase of this bottle was a bit of an impulse buy… in the sense that I entered the bottle shop to pick up beer on this occasion but, during my usual swing down the scotch aisle, it caught my eye.  My thought process went something like this:

Islay malt…. I like Islay malts! A Lot!

Never noticed this one beforeAt this point, it’s getting harder to find scotch I haven’t tried before

45 bucksKinda seems like a low-risk, high-reward proposition, doesn’t it? SOLD!!

So, knowing absolutely nothing about The Ileach Single Malt – zero – I made the purchase anyway. Eventually a closer inspection of the carton and the label revealed, well, actually nothing! There were some vague references to the quality and character of the inhabitants of Islay which I suppose was meant to assure me of the quality and character of the spirit inside but that was about it. No tasting notes, no cask regiment, no history of the distillery, no nothing. In fact, what jumped out the most was that I couldn’t even find an indication of a distillery name at all, leading me to the rather obvious conclusion that this whisky is an independent bottling of an Islay malt by The Highlands & Islands Scotch Whisky Company (which was noted in tiny font on the front of the carton). A quick Google search confirmed my uncanny skills of deduction while simultaneously filling my head with rumours of this malt being anything from a Kilchoman to a Lagavulin. 

But who really cares? After all, I bought this whisky on a whim, as an inexpensive adventure/gamble… On to the review!

The Ileach Single Malt is bottled at 40% abv and, when it was all said and done, still came in under $50CDN. 

To the Eye

Fairly rich orangey-gold. It’s a rather peculiar colour, in my opinion… Not quite red enough to convince me of sherry influence… caramel colouring, perhaps? A swirl of my glass leaves an oily sheen that dissipates almost instantly, without really leaving any suggestion of legs at all… just a few lonely beads of liquid, hovering above the rest of the dram. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before with a whisky.

In the Nose

Sweet peat, it does smell like Islay! Or at least it offers enough of the required aromas to help me connect the dots. A nice peaty backbone with hints of smoke, iodine and a salty-sweet toffee. There is also a subtle earthy meatiness in the background. Not all that complex, but nice. 

On the Tongue

This is a young one, this dram. Despite the low abv, a rough alcohol edge is the first impression I received during each of my tastings while preparing this review. Again, just as with the nose, the basic semblance a of an Islay profile presents itself: peat, smoke, burned rubber that is verging upon a tar-like quality, and some sweet dried fruit to round it out. The finish contains a mouthful of bitter ashes that quickly fades to fleeting walnuts. Overall, the finish would be quite short if not for a final wallop of alcohol astringency and a faint but lingering note of honey.

Final Thoughts

This is a wholly unremarkable whisky and, while it receives my lowest possible designation of Not Great, I feel compelled to offer a couple of caveats. First of all, it is obvious that there is no intention of trying to create a “great” whisky in The Ileach Single Malt. From the noticeable youth of this whisky to the meagre price point, this one is more likely aimed at being a drinkable Islay malt for the more budget-conscious drammer. And, while that doesn’t really turn my crank, these days, I certainly know people who would quite happily stock this sort of dram in their home bars. Secondly, the relative inexpensiveness of this whisky probably should carry more weight in my evaluation since there are so few Islay single malts anywhere near a $50 price point.

               Did I just make the same basic point twice?!

I said that my purchase was low-risk but it didn’t come through with much of a reward, in my opinion. The Ileach offers limited complexity and has too many extra-rough edges for my particular tastes. I haven’t been left with a strong feeling that this dram offers good value, even at its low cost and, for “Islay-on-a-budget”, more or less, I would much rather buy a bottle of Johnny Walker Double Black!

Wiser’s One Fifty Commemorative Series

As a proud Canadian, I was pretty excited to get my hands on a bottle of Wiser’s One Fifty a few weeks ago, ahead of this past July 1st. Had I been better at this blogging hobby of mine, I might have had my review ready to publish on Canada Day… Ah well, better late than never, I suppose!

Wiser’s One Fifty is a special release, 17 year old whisky. (Although I’ve heard that there are some casks in this blend that are older that that.) To mark the 150th birthday of our nation, spirit was laid down in 2000 to form the base of this special commemorative release. A total of 7827 limited edition bottles were created, one for each week of Canada’s existence. My particular bottle is #7628, commemorating the week of Sept 2, 2013. From what I have read, this whisky is a blend of corn and rye whiskies. It is bottled at 43.4% abv and it cost me $60 CDN. 

To the Eye

In the bottle, I’m struck by the deeper reddish hue, which immediately connects me to the Canada Flag. Whether or not this was intentional, I can only hope it’s due to natural colours, imparted through casking. In the glass, however, my dram appears a rich, deep amber, with hints of bright copper, rather than red. A tilt of my Canadian Glencairn creates a crest that reluctantly releases thick stubborn legs. 

In the Nose

My note from my initial tasting session was, “Clean and straightforward”, and I think this sums up the nose rather nicely. Aromas of caramel, toffee, vanilla and dusty rye spice provide a classic and delicious Canadian whisky nosing experience along with a distinct oaky note and subtle, punky corn, as well. 

On the Tongue

Silky mouthfeel, thanks to the corn distillate, I imagine. Dry, spicy rye flavours dominates the palate, however. This is not a dram that follows the current trend of premium Canadian whiskies that showcase the floral side of rye, which I believe comes from the use of malted rye. Instead, Wiser’s One Fifty chooses to highlight a more traditional profile. Cereal graininess and peppery, spicy rye! A subtle minty flavour adds interest, while a fruity, almost berry-like note on the exit further wakes up my tastebuds. The finish is quite dry, medium in length, with caramel and loads of oak, along with pink peppercorns and bitter citrus pith. The finish reminds me somewhat of cough syrup, which is not nearly as bad as it may sound!

Final Thoughts

I love floral, malted-rye character in my Canadian whiskies but Wiser’s One Fifty reminds me how much I also enjoy the dusty, spicy, clean profile of a traditional rye grain whisky. This is a well-composed, well-made Canadian whisky. Smooth and easy drinking, yet surprisingly complex and mature, this is a terrific dram! If you happen to see a bottle kicking around, don’t let it slip away!

Just a Thought… Back to the Blog!
I haven’t been very active on my blog for a while. My main excuse has been that I have been struggling through my third year of graduate studies, while trying to wrap up another school year (Working as a vice principal pays the whisky bills!), not to mention everything else that goes into being a husband and father to three young kids. A secondary reason, although probably connected to my studies, is that I haven’t felt a whole lot like writing for leisure for a while now… When I have had a moment for a dram, I’ve just wanted to enjoy it without having to put it into words. 

Well, my masters program is finally finished and, after a good few days of letting my brain recover, I feel ready to again put pen to paper, or thumbs to iPad! And I kind have had a moment of clarity about our favourite spirit. At the risk of sounding like I might have a problem with relying on alcohol, I can’t help but think how a nice scotch sometimes made 2-hour online lectures a bit more tolerable… Or how a spicy rye occasionally seemed to keep me awake and alert while powering through late night sessions of research-writing… Or how, when I just couldn’t possibly work any more, I could take a personal moment to sit and contemplate a big, bold bourbon or, even better, get together with a buddy and just enjoy some human interaction over a decent dram…

I’m proud of my accomplishment and my wife and kids deserve a ton of credit because it was a true family effort over the past few years, with everyone making sacrifices and having to help pick up the slack where they could, but maybe I whisk(e)y should get some credit too!

Scapa Glansa

The Scapa distillery sub-titles itself as “The Orcadian” and markets its claim to being the second most northerly distillery in the world, due to being only a short drive south from its Orkney Island roommate, Highland Park. Well, if you read this blog, you’re probably well aware of my appreciation for Highland Park whiskies, so I was quite excited to see if proximity would lead to the concoction of similar magic. 

Scapa Glansa is an NAS offering that, apparently, is the first peated offering from a whisky maker that usually goes to lengths in order to keep peat out of the profile. However, the peated character of this whisky is achieved not by peat-smoking or through the use of peat-infused water source, instead, Scapa Glansa is finished in oak casks that were previous seasoned with peated whisky. Since this distillery does not manufacture any other of their own peated expressions, I am left to wonder from where these peat-seasoned casks might have been sourced… Scapa Glansa is bottled at 40% abv and it cost me roughly $75 CDN. 

To the Eye

 I don’t usually bother commenting on bottle presentation since it ultimately has zero impact on the quality of my dram but this is one of the rare occasions when I feel compelled to acknowledge a top-notch presentation. Scapa Glansa comes in a rather elegant, yet masculine bottle, housed in a striking blue and brown carton that instantly makes me think of a coastal location. I also appreciate the distillery information and the profile notes that are provided. For what it’s worth, I think it looks terrific. 

As for the whisky, I see a nice golden honey-coloured liquid in my glass that produces skinny legs that fall rapidly down my glass after the customary tilt and swirl. It looks good!

In the Nose

Okay, so where is that peat? Right out of the gate, I get a sweet waft of pears and honey. There is vanilla and maaaaybeee just the faintest wisp of smoke, but that’s about it. Seriously, though, no peat?!

On the Tongue

There it is! It seems strange to have a whisky offer such little indication of peat on the nose but still smack me with a mouthful of the stuff on my first sip. This is also where I seem to find a hint of Scapa’s Orcadian heritage since it’s a very floral, heathery type of peat flavour that reminds me very much of Highland Park. (Hmmm… Since this whisky only becomes peated through the use of ex-peated casks, is it possible that Scapa’s peat-seasoned casks are simply rolled down the road from their neighbours on the island?) Other flavours include pepper, a sweet, vaguely banana flavour and a bitter, burnt sugar note on the end. Underlying it all however, is an alcohol astringency and a sense of a very young, underdeveloped whisky. (Hmmm… Could THAT be the real reason for the peat-cask finishing?) The shortish finish delivers a nutty note, with more bitter alcohol. 

Final Thoughts

I feel like maybe I am being unnecessarily harsh so the Scapa Glansa but, when it comes down to it, I feel like this whisky is a disappointment. It’s not undrinkable but, from the price tag to the snappy bottle presentation, I expected much more. Highland Park 12, for example, despite seeing a recent increase in price in my locale, can still be had for about $10 less than the Scapa Glansa and is, in my opinion, a much better dram.