Fighting Cock

As the weather cools and the sun makes itself scarce, my choice in beverage leans towards the warming comfort of whiskey.  As I watch the rain (and yes, some flakes of snow) drop on this cool October evening, I am eased into a sense of tranquility by a small glass of the Fighting Cock.  I acquired this bottle on a whim recently and this seems like as good a time as any to experience its  offerings.

The Fighting Cock is a Kentucky straight bottled in Bardstown, Kentucky.  The bottle is sparse and likely unappealing to most casual and experienced customers alike.  The name itself seems meant more as a challenge to the consumer than an invitation.  As I mentioned, I bought this on a whim and had no idea what to expect.

Bottled at an angry 51.5% abv, the colour is rich with copper.  The bourbon is aged 6 years, though the age statement no longer appears on the bottle.

The nose is strong and starts the tasting experience appropriately for such a whisky.  A symphony of spice, vanilla, and caramel is supported by nuts and dried fruit.  This is a rich overture.

The palate does not disappoint.  It starts off sweet with honey and caramel, but quickly turns to spice, nuts, wood, leather, and vanilla.  There’s a change at the very end which I find hard to describe, like the flavours, as strong as they are, aren’t enough completely mask the strength the alcohol in the whisky.  Still, it’s quite nice and quickly forgotten.

The finish is spicy and long, with caramel rounding out the wood and light overlay of honey.

Adding some water releases even more spice, dulls a bit of the alcohol, and even opens up a tinge of citrus  to the palate.  I highly recommend taking this with a bit of water, the strengths are made more strong and the weakness masked.

Overall, this is a substantial product and I am more than happy to have found it.  Available at the SAQ in Quebec for about $35, it’s a decent value.  Ontario does not carry it at the moment, naming issues may trouble the Queen’s subjects in that province.



Forty Creek Premium Barrel Select

Behold! Another Canadian whisky is honoured by its appearance on Uisge Beatha!  This distillery is relatively new to the market, having been founded in 1992.  The operations are based out of Grimsby, Ontario and were purchased from the founder in 2014 by Italian spirits company Campari.  The distillery has won numerous awards and the Premium Barrel Select is among the products appreciated by industry peers.

This particular product is bottled at 40% abv and is made from rye, barley, and maize.  A lot of work goes into this bottle.  Each grain is distilled separately and aged from 6 to 10 years in copper pot stills.  The casks used in aging are white oak barrels. Once aged to perfection, the whiskies are finished in ex-sherry casks for several months before being combined to produce the final product.

But enough of this history lesson!  On to the tasting!

In appearance, the whisky is a satisfying tone of copper.

The nose is a faint mix of grape and honey.  The drinker will not be overwhelmed by this introduction.

The palate is a sweet but spicy mix dried nuts, raisin, honey, pepper, and a touch of milk chocolate (or chocolate milk?).  

The finish is short, leaving behind memories of sweet fruits and dried nuts.

Adding a bit of water only dulls the experience, I strongly recommend this one be taken straight.

Overall, this is a decent whisky and fine for the average drinker.  However, at $24.50 in Quebec and $27.35 in Ontario, you can’t go wrong!



Pike Creek 10

This edition of Uisge Beatha features a relatively new product for whisky lovers, the Canadian Pike Creek 10-year-old whisky.  This whisky from the Corby family of distilleries, is aged 10 years in oak barrels for ten years and finished for a time in vintage port barrels.  Bottled at 40% abv, the label claims that the port imparts “fruitiness and warm toasted notes”. 

Looking at the glass before me, I note that the whisky is a visual treat, holdong magnificent copper colour that beckons me to hurry and begin my review.

The nose is of honey, raisin, maple syrup, melon, and a hint of vanilla.  It sounds like a lot, but the scents blend nicely to create an inviting aroma.

The palate starts with fresh fruit and sherry, warming into some toasted almond and spice.  There’s a bit of lemon In the mix, balancing some of those sweet flavours and making for a refreshing drink.  A velvet texture and smooth flavours help it go down easily.

The finish is medium to long, leaving a bit of burned almond, hot spices, and smoke behind.  

Adding some water doesn’t appear to do much to change the experience.  The aroma exhibits more sherry and smoke.  The palate shows more sherry and honey and the consistency becomes slightly less smooth.  The finish is a bit longer perhaps, a bit less spicy, and the sweet fruits are allowed to come through as a result.

Overall, this is a gem of a whisky, Canadian or otherwise.  It is no wonder it won the Best Canadian Whisky award at the World Whisky Awards in 2014

This whisky is available at the SAQ in Quebec and the LCBO in Ontario for about $40, which in this reviewers experience is a decent price.  But if you’re in New Hampshire, you’re in luck…it sells there for a mere $25-$30, definitely worth the price of admission.



Whisky Showdown! MacAllan Cask Strength vs. Glenfarclas 105

It’s a Christmas miracle! Another Whiskey Showdown just in time for the holidays.

On this festive occasion, I pit the MacAllan Cask Strength against the Glenfarclas 105.

My regular readers, if any, will remember from my initial review of the Glenfarclas 105 that, in 1968 George S. Grant, the grandfather of the current chairman, bottled a cask at 105 degrees British Proof for Christmas and thus gave birth to the product.  Thus, this Whiskey Showdown is as timely as it is special.

The MacAllan is aged in its famous sherry oak casks from Jerez, Spain and is a benchmark of quality in the world of whiskies.

The MacAllan is bottled at 60.1% abv and appears a beautiful mahogany red bordering on copper. The Glenfarclas is similarly bottled at 60% abv and is closer to a golden copper tone in appearance.

The nose of the MacAllan is ripe with dried fruits, vanilla, orange, and hints of fig. The nose of the Glenfarclas is more sweet, sharing some of the citrus in the form of orange peel, but mixing in apple, pear, caramel, and honey. This is starting off as an exercise in contrasts as the two whiskies put on entirely different experiences on the nose.

On the palate, the MacAllan is juicy and filled with dried fruits and figs, hinting of vanilla throughout. The Glenfarclas starts with spices and fruits, apples, figs, and honey. Surprisingly, it’s quite dry on the back end. Much like the nose, there’s a big difference in the tasting experience.

The finish on the MacAllan is long and spicy, filled with orange and oak. Some smoke fills in the gaps. The Glenfarclas is warm and gritty, with fruits making a final stand to a nicely balanced whisky.

Overall, these whiskies are both good and worth a taste. They aren’t what I would call every day drams, however. I hesitate to make a call, these are so different and will appeal differently depending on individual tastes. Personally, I find the MacAllan smoother and more agreeable, but the big bold impression of the Glenfarclas does have its merits. Whichever you choose, I hope the holidays find you well and wish a wonderful new year.


Midleton Very Rare

The final whiskey we tasted during the event was the Middleton Very Rare. The Middleton distillery is Ireland’s largest producer of whiskey. It produces a wide variety of brands, including Jameson and Redbreast as well as the Green Spot. Middleton Very Rare was created for the high end market and and sold commercially for the first time in 1984. The whiskies used in the Very Rare are aged between 12 and 25 years in bourbon casks and finished in virgin oak. The whiskey is of the pot still variety and is bottled at 40% abv.

The whiskey is a bright yellow colour and resembles a banana liqueur.

The nose is big on banana a amidst a smattering of dried fruit. The scent was quite mouth watering, leaving me to take it in for quite a while before actually imbibing the liquid.

The palate evokes strong notes of pineapple and banana and memories of spice. This is a full flavoured whiskey with plenty of punch. Some sherry and honey support the feeling of enjoying something rare indeed and a whisper of chocolate raisin completes the experience.

The long finish includes pepper, spice, and mango.

A proper whiskey, one can obtain it for a mere $181 in Ontario at the LCBO and about $150 in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, this is not available in Quebec. It’s a very good whiskey, but at those prices there are finer products on the shelf.


Bushmills 16

Next up on our tasting menu was Bushmills 16.  This distillery, famous for a wide variety of products including the legendary Black Bush, has had a license to distill spirits in Ireland since 1608.  Our host indicated that Bushmills produces single malts only and explained that the older whiskies (over 10 years) are the finest examples of Irish distilling.

The Bushmills 16 is bottled at 40% abv after waiting for sixteen years in bourbon and sherry casks.  Yes, the whiskey is aged separately in two different types of barrels, then mixed together in equal parts before being poured into port pipes for aging for another several months.

This “three woods” whiskey is a deep amber colour, showing the influence of the port casks in both colour and nose.  A wonderful aroma of sherry, honey, and pomegranate tingle the sense.

On the palate, the juicy texture conveys nuts, dried fruit, honey, and warm oak.

The finish is satisfyingly complimentary to the nose and palate.  Here, we’re got some grape without too much of the sweetness.  This is a dry finish that leaves behind impressions of port all the while keeping a strong whiskey personality.

Overall, this is a fine whiskey.  It builds off a strong start and continues to satisfy well into the long finish.  I recommend a bottle for all occasions.  Priced at $83 at the SAQ in Quebec, it’s comparable if not better than most whiskies in the price range.  Note that as of this writing, Ontario and New Hampshire do not carry Bushmills 16, much to the detriment of the inhabitants of these fine regions.


Redbreast 12

After the Green Spot, we were given a tasting of the Redbreast 12. The Redbreast 12 is produced at the Midleton distillery, Ireland’s largest distilling complex. The name comes from the fact that Gilbey’s, a wine merchant, would age the whiskey in their empty casks. When mature, the whiskey looked a sort of brownish red, like a robin’s breast, hence the name.

The whiskey, bottled at an even 40% abv is now matured in sherry casks and aged 12 years.

During the tasting, I indicated that the nose reminded me of vanilla and banana, sweet cinnamon, and caramel topping.

The palate was exquisite, balancing nuts, dried fruit, ginger, and sherry. I found the consistency was oily, but pleasant.

The finish was long and strong in oak, leather, smoke, coffee, and tobacco. Quite sophisticated.

Overall, this is a fine whiskey and a delight to taste. I would definitely recommend a bottle for your collection. Some folks at our tasting thought there was some liquorice in there, but I didn’t catch that quality.

I would consider this to be a reasonable purchase given the quality of the whiskey at the price of $65 in Quebec at the SAQ, $62 in Ontario at the LCBO, and $64 in New Hampshire.