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Report on Some Old-School Canadian Whiskies


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We talk a fair amount about the new small batch Canadians such as Lot 40, Dark Horse, Masterson's and Wiser Legacy.

I decided to revisit some of the older brands around to see how they shape up.

I chose Royal Reserve, from Corby (this is made at Hiram Walker's original plant in Windsor, ON now owned by Pernod Ricard. I think Corby is partly owned by the latter and part is public). Corby was previously independent and its whiskies represented a certain style, continued I believe by PR since they seem quite different to Canadian Club. I was surprised how good this is, very balanced with a deep mildly spicy and woody flavour. It has a slight caramel note at the end which may indicate an addition of caramel to sweeten, hard to say, but if something is added it is done subtly. There is yes a vodka-like edge to it but overall it is an excellent product.

Next, Alberta Premium, which the maker (Alberta Distillers owned by Beam Global) is taking increasing pains to point out is traditional and made from 100% rye. I even saw an ad in a local paper where the distiller is quoted that corn is not used in the recipe as many other makers use. Well, it depends what you mean by traditional I guess, I'm not sure there was ever a time when all Canadian whisky was distilled 100% from rye, but anyway, this whisky cuts a definite swath. It has a spicy rye note quite evidently from the component in there distilled at a low proof. It is less soft and smooth then the other whisky but very pleasant.

I have a feeling that the "whisky culture" developed in the last 10 years, due in no small part to SB IMO, has had some influence on these products. I think they are better than 10 years ago, less neutral-tasting, and better balanced for neat sipping even if typically they are used as mixers. Same thing with the average good quality bourbon brands, they taste like a panel has gone over them rather than just being batched to meet preset technical criteria.

These are excellent products and very well priced. I am not sure the small batch products are better despite their much higher cost and in some cases the reverse is true IMO.

Gary

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theglobalguy

I'm inferring the improvement is from both better blending and production. Do you think they risk straying too far from the traditional flavour profile as opposed to releasing new brands?

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Thanks gents. Good question about a possible straying, but I don't think so. The two brands essayed to date, while of excellent and I believe increasing quality, are still fixed on the vector of Canadian whisky (that is, a blended product which nonetheless gives an indication of a straight whisky heritage). It will just sell more of the stuff I believe, all to the good. I hope in the next weeks to add some traditional brands to this thread and give an honest explication.

Gary

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It has a slight caramel note at the end which may indicate an addition of caramel to sweeten, hard to say, but if something is added it is done subtly.

I am surprised to see you write this because people that have tasted E150a (the "caramel" that is added to alcohol) report that it is actually very bitter, and is used to add colour not sweetness (or taste, but that is another issue).

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Right, that's spirit caramel to address colour. But I'm referring to an addition of caramel meant to adjust flavour. I'd have thought there might be different kinds, added for different reasons.

I don't know if any is added, but the flavour suggested to me that this might be the case. I could be wrong of course. (I should add too some people consider that spirit caramel, the type used to adjust colour, can be detected by the palate but whether this is truly so or not I can't say).

Gary

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  • 2 weeks later...
Bourbon Boiler

I found a Canadian Club with a 1976 tax seal on it at my parents' place last night. It said six years on it, but I was hoping my have been older based on the glut era reducing demand. It was nothing special, tasted like a 6 year whiskey.

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I don't think the Canadians were as affected by the glut as was Bourbon. Consumers at the time were moving toward lighter style whickys of which the Canucks were typical.

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MyOldKyDram

Sorry if this is kinda off topic, but what can anyone tell me about Wisers VO 18 yr? Found a bunch the other day at what seemed to be a reasonable price and was curious if Nyone had any experience w it.

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A good product, lots of complexity and a rich taste.

Gary

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A good product, lots of complexity and a rich taste.

Gary

Not sure about old versions but have to agree with Gillman on the current version of Wiser's 18 - though I prefer the nas Legacy.

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Agree with Gary also being mindful when I refer to a Canadian Whisky as being rich, full and complex that's in comparison to other Canadians and not to Bourbon.

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MyOldKyDram

I've come around to Canadian as its own thing, so I won't be expecting an American richness going in. And as we don't have Legaccy here will go grab a VO this week. Thanks guys!

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Agree with Gary also being mindful when I refer to a Canadian Whisky as being rich, full and complex that's in comparison to other Canadians and not to Bourbon.
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MyOldKyDram

Ive virtually no exp w Canadians, but have come to adore my old Lot 40. Finish is the one area I find lacking, however. What to attribute that to?

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Its own thing, exactly.. (i.e., vs. other Canadians).

The reason the finish is different than bourbon? The main reason is the Canadians do not use the new charred barrel, or not for 100% of the aging.

Gary

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MyOldKyDram

I suppose it may simply be that. Nonetheless I will grab a bottle this week and give her a go.

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I hope in the next weeks to add some traditional brands to this thread and give an honest explication.

Gary

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I have a few suggestions, Forty Creek Barrel Select, Seagrams VO Gold, Wiser's Pot Still Rye and Lot 40 for a start.

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theglobalguy
I have a few suggestions, Forty Creek Barrel Select, Seagrams VO Gold, Wiser's Pot Still Rye and Lot 40 for a start.

Can echo the Forty Creek, wonderful dessert port taste to it. Fairly widely available as well.

Squire, are you referring to the Wiser's Legacy with the blue label? Saw it pop up in Louisville a few weeks back. First time i'd seen outside the LCBO in Canada.

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I have a few suggestions, Forty Creek Barrel Select, Seagrams VO Gold, Wiser's Pot Still Rye and Lot 40 for a start.

I'll have to see what the free State of West Virginia allows in to the State! The Liquor Commission does seem to be making it easier to sell spirit products in Almost Heaven.

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All those the Squire mentioned are very worthy. Actually, even regular CC is. It is just a different taste, lighter, more neutral, yet with definite qualities depending on the age and approach. Wiser's Legacy is a good example of the traditional Canadian profile maxed to the limit (i.e., it's not bourbon or straight rye but maxes out the potential of the regular Canadian taste IMO).

Gary

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