All posts by Reid

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!

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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. 

A Wee Dram… Laphroaig An Cuan Mòr

So a few days ago I’m at my regular dramming buddy, Richard’s, place for a chat and a drink. While there, Richard’s wife, who is on her way home after visiting family abroad, FaceTimes him from the Duty Free shop so he can pick out his own gift bottle…

I shit you not!

Why the language, you ask? Well, my own wife was out of the country not so long ago and, despite my asking sweetly for a nice travel exclusive, she returned empty handed… Supposedly, “There just wasn’t time.” 

Anyway, as Richard’s wife relayed the bottles she was considering through the magic of technology, I saw the Laphroaig An Cuan Mòr and secretly crossed my fingers that it would be Richard’s selection… I love Laphroaig! Fortunately for me, Richard has good taste, so I left the evening quite satisfied that I’d be sampling a lovely Islay before too long. 

Tonight was the night!

This is a beautiful dram, all orangey-copper, with thick, fat legs, thanks to the 48% abv.  The nose is amazing and I found myself enjoying the briny maritime notes and heavy peat for several minutes before finally giving in to take my first sip.  On the palate, this whisky is unmistakably Laphroaig, with licorice and medicinal qualities along with that familiar sweet backbone of ripe red fruits. However, compared to other Laphroaig expressions I have tasted, this one seems far more silky, smoother and, actually, more sophisticated. I love me some Laphroaig 10 or Quarter Cask but this whisky is something different and special.  There is a buttery, caramel and apricot-laden bourbon note (which will win me over every time) but there is also a rich, chewy fruitiness… Richard said figs but I thought it was dates.  The finish is medium long and full of salty licorice, oak and honey, with a return of smouldering peat. A brilliant dram, Laphroaig An Cuan Mòr is delicious whisky!

Woodford Reserve

Another bourbon followed me home… 

My growing fondness for the American spirit (and my annoyance at the ever-increasing price of scotch) has me going for bourbon as often as anything, lately. This time, it’s a dram I haven’t tried before: Woodford Reserve “Distiller’s Select” Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. I’ve been intrigued by this whiskey the last couple times I’ve visited the bottle shop, admittedly at least partly because of the unique oversized flask style bottle. The label tells me that I have chosen bottle #3309 from batch 0238. Since Woodford Reserve is a readily accessible blend, I have no clue if these numbers are at all meaningful to the actual product inside the bottle. This whiskey is bottled at 45.2% abv and cost me about $50 CDN. 

To the Eye

Look at that deep mahogany, with flashes of coppery orange… Is there a more appealing looking dram than a bourbon? The requisite twist of my glass produces quick, skinny rivulets. 

In the Nose

The typical bourbon aromas are all there and the alcohol greets my nostrils sharply, but not harshly. Vanilla, citrus and brown sugar are front and centre but I’m left wondering if custard is a reasonable description.  There is an interesting, delicious floral quality about this whisky that has me suspecting that malted rye might be in the mash bill. A bit of milk chocolate, oak wood and pepper round out the nosing experience.

On the Tongue

Smooth, yet a nice firm bite! I’m finding that this bite is one of the things I hope for in my first sip of bourbon. (Does that mean I’m officially a bourbon drinker?) A slightly oily mouthfeel makes for a creamy sensation that is full of oak, corn flakes, vanilla, and baked apples. There is plenty of sweetness, but I find it nicely balanced by a charred, toasty quality. That malted-rye floral character makes a reappearance, which I really enjoy. 

The finish is medium, with a rich, creamy quality. More oak, graphite and burnt sugar. The chocolate also returns. 

Final Thoughts

Woodford Reserve is a delicious, fruity bourbon that is well-composed and nicely balanced. I have tasted better bourbons but I find this one to be very interesting and appealing to my Canadian, rye-trained palate. (I have no idea if I’m correct about the rye-malt, but that is what I smell and taste when I drink this whiskey.) I have a feeling that this bourbon will be a  frequent resident of my liquor cabinet!

A Wee Dram… Wild Turkey 81

So, this weekend, we had a bit of a family gathering at my place and, as is the custom between my father-in-law and me, we each brought a bottle of whisky to the party. In this case it was actually whiskey on both sides as both Pops and I chose a bourbon. My contribution will get the full-review treatment later on, but I’ll do a quick “Wee Dram” for the Wild Turkey 81 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey brought by my father-in-law. 

I don’t post prices for bottles that I haven’t purchased myself but I am aware that this is a very reasonably priced bourbon. The label notes state it is a blend of whiskeys aged up to 6-8 years and that it is made special through the use of an alligator char on the casks. I have no idea what makes this type of char different from other cask-toasting methods but I do suspect that the word choice, “up to” should be interpreted as meaning that most of the spirit in the bottle actually being younger than 6 years. This bourbon is, obviously, 81 proof – 40.5% abv. 

Not a lot going on with the nose, although the basic bourbon aromas seem to be there: caramel corn, vanilla, a bit of baking spice… Nothing bad but nothing special either and a bit understated, perhaps. The flavours are again pretty straightforward for bourbon., if not all that assertive. A bit of oak, punky corn and a ribbon of vanilla-infused sweetness, with a hint of cinnamon and spice hitching along. I am a bit disappointed by the thin mouth-feel of this whisky, in comparison to many of the bourbons I’ve been enjoying recently. The finish, however, is surprising long with more oak and sweet, toasty cornbread and was a highlight of the dram. 

Overall, Wild Turkey 81 seems to be a perfectly mediocre bourbon. It’s a decent value purchase, I think, and I wouldn’t turn one down in a pinch but it’s not quite interesting enough and doesn’t pack enough bite for my liking. It is probably best suited as a mixer, in my opinion.

Auchentoshan 2000 Single Cask #1757 (Berry Bros. & Rudd)

So, I was just up to the city for yet another of my son’s spring hockey games and, on the way home, we happened to stop for a bite right beside a big new bottle shop… What a coincidence! Well, with yet another graduate course recently put in the rear view, I figured I deserved to whip in and see if there were any treasures to be uncovered. I’m not sure if it’s a treasure or not, but I did find an independent bottling of Auchentoshan, a distillery I quite enjoy. This whisky was bottled in 2014 by Berry Bros. & Rudd, from Auchentoshan cask #1757, which was laid down in the year 2000, making it a 13 yr old expression. There was no carton for this bottle but the rear label explains that this bottling was produced exclusively for the North American market. This whisky is 53.6% abv and costs about $95 CDN. 

To the Eye

Pale, straw-gold in colour. A twist of my Glencairn builds a crest that reluctantly releases fat, exceedingly stubborn legs. 

In the Nose

Apples, which are always front and centre for me, when nosing an Auchentoshan. But, on this dram, these apples seem decidedly more crisp and tart, more like a green Granny Smith than the usual sweet, ripe reds I tend to pick up from this distillery. Werther’s Original caramels, vanilla and cotton candy are also quite assertive. With time, more subtle aromas also join the party: malt, leather and a dry grassy note. 

On the Tongue

Whoa! This whisky is much richer and more potent than the typical core expressions from Auchentoshan – I guess an extra 13-14% abv will help with that! The mouthfeel is much thicker and creamier, as well. Flavours of juicy fruits, particularly stone fruit preserves jump out at me, along with Cuban honey (if you’ve had it, you understand the difference), sweet malted grain and real black licorice flavour. There is herbal, citrusy note that arrives toward the end… not exactly understated but a bit more like a lime-basil than like the actual citrus fruit. Either way, the tang is a welcome counterpoint to the sweet flavours at the onset. There is a satisfying alcohol burn in this dram, which creates a tingling, effervescent finish of medium length, full with pineapple, more licorice and a hint of barrel wood… this may sound unusual, but the finish is a little reminiscent of drinking a nice Chardonnay. 

Final Thoughts

I’m impressed! I’ve long appreciated Auchentoshan whiskies and this is a very good one. I have not gotten in to many independent bottlings but this single cask offering by Berry Bros. & Rudd has me thinking I’ve ignored this category of whisky for long enough. It’s rich, sophisticated and well-composed! Complex, yet smooth, but still providing a nice burn. Delicious and highly recommended – if this was a more readily available dram, I would consider labelling it as a new favourite!