Tag Archives: rye

Lot No. 40 Rye Whisky

There are many Canadian whiskies that I hold in high regard and, at any time, you’d be likely to find at least 3-4 different bottles in my cupboard. At present, I have the following Canadians available:

  • Wisers Delux – a mixer for any rye-and-coke drinking buddies that might pop over 
  • Forty Creek Barrel Select – a mid-shelf offering that I can unpretentiously share neat alongside highball sippers
  • Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye – a premium bottle that’s for me and anyone else I figure is capable of appreciating its splendour
  • Alberta Premium 30 yr Old – the still unopened pride and joy of my Canadian collection… For now I just use it to show off!

What I have recently realized, however, is that my lineup of Canadian whisky has not seen much turnover for quite some time. It seems that my love of scotch and growing affection for bourbon has been keeping me from branching out and trying different Canadian whiskies. Well, no longer!

Lot No. 40 is a premium Canadian whisky distilled by Corby. It is a 100% rye whisky! distilled from a mixture of rye and malted rye. You can read all kinds of history about the brand, how it was started by Hiram Walker in the 90’s, flopped and was discontinued for many years… But I’ll leave that for you to Google and I’ll just tell you what I think of this dram. 

Lot No. 40 is bottled at 43% abv and cost me a little over $40 CDN. 

To The Eye

Beautiful, deep gold – in some ways, it actually looks more like a scotch than a typical Canadian rye! Thick, stubborn legs cling to my Canadian Glencairn after the usual swirl. 

In the Nose

Wow! This is rye whisky!  There is a beautiful dusty, dry rye sensation that is accompanied by a sourdough rye bread note, but it quickly moves aside for a fruity, floral aroma. There are oak notes, dark syrupy and molasses notes and lots of grainy and herbaceous notes… I get some dill and some caraway seed! But then that floral, perfume-like quality makes a return. There is a lot going on in this glass and I find myself delighted by the bouncing back and forth between the typical rye aromas and those of something entirely more sophisticated and complex!

On the Tongue. 

This dram is thick and rich on the tongue, carrying as many flavours as the nose suggested. Toasty cereals, plums, and a sweet citrus note that reminds me of mandarin oranges. There is a funky, mineal sort of character that adds a lot of interest to this dram, as well as oak tannins, vanilla and a touch of a dry, grassy herbal note. The entire experience is held together by a familiar rye spiciness. 

The finish is extremely long and full of another burst of flavours, including malt, lime zest, tobacco, milk chocolate and that floral, honeyed sweetness. The finish leaves me contemplating whether it’s more mini wheats or wine gums… It’s incredible!

Final Thoughts

How much more would you like me to gush about this whisky? In my opinion, this is the rye against which all other ryes should be measured! At the current price, this dram may be the pound-for-pound champion and another example of the quality to be found in Canadian rye… Go out and buy a bottle right now!

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Whisky

Once upon a time, a bottle of Crown Royal was a go-to gift to take over to a buddy’s place for rye and cokes on a birthday, or some other more-special-than-usual occasion. That’s what “Crown” meant to me back in the day… a mostly unspectacular whisky mixer that still managed to carry enough recognizable caché to justify a price nearly double that of the mixers I’d usually choose. 

… that was before I really discovered whisky, however.

Once scotch whiskies drew me out on a dramming journey that eventually came back around to the whiskies of my own continent, my opinion of Crown Royal did change slightly, even if my appreciation of it was still lacking. See, it’s damned near impossible to truly dislike Crown Royal. It’s smooth and carries a decent flavour profile and, as I eventually discovered it wasn’t half bad on the rocks or even neat, in a pinch. But, whereas I once found it too expensive to replace my usual buzz-inducing mixers, I now feel like I can find more interesting and complex whiskies for the same price (or a little less). Whether it’s the CR Black, maple or apple flavoured offerings or some of the ultra-premium/ultra-pricey releases, some are good and a couple are very good, but I’ve just never quite found enough value in what Crown Royal has offered. 

But, with this week’s announcement that a 90% rye-grain expression from Crown Royal had been named the World’s #1 Whisky by Jim Murray, that prodigious guru of all things whisky, well I figured it’s time that I gave it another chance. I mean, when the first ever Canadian Whisky to rank tops in The Whisky Bible also receives Jim Murray’s highest-ever score (97.5/100), a Canadian whisky blogger should feel obligated to review it, right?!

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye is bottled at 45% abv, and cost me just south of $40 CDN. 
 
To the Eye

This rye-forward Canadian whisky certainly looks the part – golden honey/straw. A swirl of my glencairn produces a thick oily coating that eventually releases moderate, extremely stubborn legs. 

In the Nose

The first sniff, after letting my dram breath a bit, is full of sweet fruits, and sour taffy candy. The next reveals the dusty rye that I was expecting, along with some clove and a hint of toasted marshmallow. The aroma is not not as spicy as I expect a rye whisky to be, and an unmistakable herbal-floral note lingers in the breezes, which reminds me more of a heathery scotch than a prairie rye. It’s definitely interesting. 

On the Tongue

Pow! There’s that spicy, punchy rye! White pepper and baking spices flood my mouth, along with a citrus zest that never really gets pithy. Dry, grainy rye is nicely balanced with some cocoa and a hint of that floral character revealed in the aroma. Creamy toffee. The finish is surprisingly long, with the cocoa softening to milk chocolate along with lingering Honeycomb cereal and rose petals(?), it’s still clean and crisp at the same time. 

Final Thoughts

After sampling this whisky, I remain a little perplexed. I really like it but is it the best whisky I’ve had this year? No, I don’t think so… it’s not even the best Canadian whisky I’ve had this year. (Here’s to you Ninety 20 Yr Old and Gibsons  Finest Rare 18 Yr Old)

However, Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye is an incredibly unique and interesting dram. Both the nose and the palate reveal nuances that I don’t normally associate with rye/Canadian whiskies. This is unquestionably a very good drop that will be appreciated by many. At the very least, I think I’ve finally found a Crown Royal that I will happily buy again!

Ninety 20 Year Old Canadian Whisky

It’s been too long since I added a new post, so what better way to get back in the saddle than with a review of my favourite Canadian Whisky!

This beauty is another fine expression from Highwood Distillers located in High River, near Calgary, Alberta. The first bottle of Ninety-20 that I ever picked up was as a Father’s Day gift for my Dad. Fortunately, we shared a nip when that first bottle was opened, so I was able find out in short order that this was a whisky that needed a home in my cabinet as well.

Ninety 20 Year Old is bottled at 45 abv (hence the brand name to reflect that it is 90-proof) and is available in local liquor stores for about $43. I know, 20-year old whisky for that kind of price… You almost can’t afford not to drink it!

To the Eye

Straw-coloured liquid gold, this whiskey looks exactly the way a Canadian dram ought to look. There is obviously no artificial colouring here and I doubt that any special casks were involved… Probably just good old charred oak, which should allow the rye to shine. A swirl of my Glencairn produces reasonably thick, stubborn legs.

In the Nose

The breezes above my glass reveal, at first, a fairly typical Canadian profile. There’s plenty of dusty rye and an obvious oakiness, along with a good dose of sweet corn. But, as the glass breaths, a very untypical – for Canadian whisky – richness develops. Honeycomb comes to the forefront, along with butterscotch and cinnamon. I can’t put my finger on a specific type, but there is also a subtle fruitiness lingering in the background as well. This nose is gentle and inviting, but surprisingly complex!

On the Tongue

Wow! This dram is rich, yet balanced, and extremely delicious. Right away, I get a gentle but firm hit of oak, along with some assertive dusty, grainy rye. The rye brings a spiciness that is well-balanced with some butterscotch and vanilla and a subtle nuttiness… hazelnut? I can also taste that fruitiness that I was picking up in the nose but, again, it’s difficult to pin down. It seems a little bit like citrus peel, but maybe somewhat more herbal like cilantro. Whatever, it’s wonderful! Surprisingly, this is also a Canadian with a moderately long finish, where the rye returns with baking spices and that dusty, drying rye character that will guide you to the next sip.

Final Thoughts

For me, this is the one – the best Canadian whisky I know of! Rich and complex, in my opinion, Ninety 20 Year Old can hold its own against almost any other whisky out there. At the same time, this dram somehow stays entirely true to the Canadian style, remaining light and clean on the palate. Flat out, this is a remarkable whisky!

Centennial Canadian Rye Whisky

My first Canadian Whisky review, eh!

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I make no bones about it… I love Scotch. But I’m a fan of the uisge beatha because they consistently deliver unique and complex flavours. When it comes right down to it, however, I don’t really just love Scotch, I love good whisky (and even whiskey)! And I’m fortunate to live in Alberta, where some of the finest Canadian whiskies are produced, pretty much in my back yard. Indeed, it’s high time that I start reviewing some of these fine drams as well!

I won’t get into the characteristics that make Canadian whisky different from Scotch and other world whiskies. That’s been done elsewhere, if you are inclined to research the topic, and it doesn’t really matter to me – I’m just looking for interesting, complex flavours that are delicious to drink. What is important to me is breaking down the misconception that Canadian whiskies can’t hold their own against other countries’ drams. Head to head, A quality Canadian does just fine, thank you very much! Okay, enough already, let’s get after it!

Centennial Canadian Rye Whisky is produced by Highwood Distillers in High River, Alberta. It is a 10 year old whisky crafted from a blend of winter wheat and rye. It is bottled at 40% abv and is available for about $26. (Another nice feature of many Canadian whiskies)

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To the Eye
This whisky displays as a delicate amber-gold in the glass; it has an inviting, honey-like appearance. A swirl of my Glencairn reveals slender legs that quickly slip down the sides of the glass.

In the Nose
Again delicate, with obvious honey aromas that match the colour of the spirit. Dusty rye is also at the forefront, with wisps of oak and a caramel note that seems to gradually build as the dram breathes. It’s hard to exercise patience, but it is a virtue… and more time in the glass reveals bright lemon, and something slightly vegetal… hay bales? I know this isn’t a common description of a whisky’s nose, but it’s sunshine in a glass!

On the Tongue
There’s a sweetness on the front that quickly makes way for a mouthful of clean and spicy rye. The rye lingers on the exit and is joined by some oak sawdust on the short, exit that is crisp and clean. The use of wheat in the mash bill is evident in the soft profile of this dram. I wouldn’t call Centennial Canadian Rye Whisky overly complex, but it’s certainly not a one-note taste either. It’s exceedingly smooth, nicely balanced and very good!

Final Thoughts
Sophisticated. That’s the word that continues to resonate for me. This is not a whisky that requires a long time to discern and appreciate but it certainly is not a mixer. It’s clean and light and approachable… a great example of the Canadian whisky style.