Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

This warm June day feels like the perfect moment to taste a Canadian rye that had made the news as being one of the top whiskies in the world when it was first introduced. Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye is one of several iterations from the popular brand to hit the shelves in recent years. Introduced in 2015, Northern Harvest Rye is a 90% rye whisky made from Canadian rye grain. The whisky won Jim Murray’s World Whisky of the Year title in 2016. Bottled at 45% abv, the whisky comes in the signature Crown Royal bottle and an invitingly warm amber colour in appearance.

On to the tasting. The nose is not particularly strong but exudes gingerbread spice, some honey,

The palate is a spicy mix of green apple and clove. Some faint lemon rind can be noticed in the background with a slightly grainy texture on the back end before introducing vanilla and oak as the flavours dance on the tongue before the finish.

The finish is gentle, long, and spicy with continued lemony notes and honey.

A bit of water opens the nose and enhances the flavours but there is no significant change in the tasting profile

Overall, this is a decent whisky for regular drinking and at $34.75 (regularly goes on sale) at the SAQ in Quebec https://www.saq.com/en/12820364, one cannot go wrong. As with most whisky, it is slightly more expensive in Ontario at $37.95 https://www.lcbo.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/en/lcbo/canadian-whisky-15020053/crown-royal-northern-harvest-rye-434092#.YNS1RehKhhE and can be had for US $28.99 in New Hampshire https://www.liquorandwineoutlets.com/product-detail/2468-Crown-Royal-Northern-Harvest-Rye-Fine-Blended-Canadian-Whisky.

I will recommend this one for good quality at a reasonable price.

Bulleit Bourbon

Every once in a while, either in the throes of a warm summer evening or the blistering cold of a late January day, one is able to find comfort in a nice glass of bourbon. As I write this review, the latter condition beckons a relaxing moment with a Kentucky straight whiskey known as Bulleit. Bulleit is produced by Diageo at two distilleries in Kentucky and is composed of a higher rye ratio (28%) in the mash than typical bourbon. Aged six years, this whiskey is bottled at 45% abv. Bulleit was first produced between 1830 and 1860, ceasing distilling operations upon the mysterious death of its creator, Augustus Bulleit. The brand was reborn in 1987 after a long hiatus, reintroduced by the Bulleit family although the recipe was considerably altered. Some interesting history behind this one, the product site is nicely developed and worth a visit at https://www.bulleit.com/.

The whiskey is a fine brownish colout presented in a oldtiemy looking flask-like bottle.

On the nose, one finds vanilla, oak, roasted pepper, and a slight hint of citrus.

The palate isn’t overwhelming for a whiskey at 45% abv, by this I mean the alcohol content is dangerously understated. A nice orange and vanilla flavour is apparent with spice, nutmeg, and clover rounding off the sensation. Perhaps a bit of tobacco or leather is mixed into the fray, but only hints.

The finish is smooth and satisfying, leavng behind those spices from the palate, but not long lasting.

A few drops of water actually dulls some of the senses, though the nose seems to open up a bit more. I’d drink this without any water however.

Overall, a nice daily dose of warmth on cold winter days to beat down those blues until spring and a satisfying whiskey for any occasion.

Available at the SAQ in Quebec for $37.75 https://www.saq.com/en/11155956, LCBO in Ontario for $41.45 https://www.lcbo.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/en/lcbo/bourbon-american-whiskey-15020054/bulleit-bourbon-frontier-whiskey-54866#.YBXF-uhKhhE, and $US 28.99 in New Hampshire https://www.liquorandwineoutlets.com/product-detail/8178. I’d recommend this whisky as a fine addition to a whiskey selection at those prices, though Ontario seems to be pricing it higher than it should.

Bulleit Bourbown
Bulleit Bourbon

Nobushi

Today’s wintry weather, including significant snowfall and blustery winds, combined with the generalized lockdown has inspired me to try yet another Japanese whiskey that has been gathering dust in my collection for quite some time now. The whiskey in question is Nobushi, a bottle I found by chance at the local SAQ and purchased in the hopes that the spirit within the bottle would live up to its name. The Nobushi are Japanese warriors, the word nobushi itself translates into spirit of honour. Let’s see if this whiskey is aptly named. The Nobushi is packaged in a simple bottle with a stubby top and screw cap. It is a blended whiskey made of malt and grain whiskies from Nagano, Miyagi, and Hokkaido, matured in American oak for 4 years after blending, and bottled at 40% abv. The whiskey is a nice light amber colour and pours thick and smooth.

On the nose, it’s caramel and honey with a bit of potpourri and cinnamon. This is a nice intorduction and builds up my anticipation for the palate. High expeectations have been set.

The palate is overwhelmingly fruity and sweet but silky smooth and full bodied. Honey, vanilla, and caramel are also present and hints of spices round out the experience. A delicious blend that lives up to the expectations set by the nose.

The finish is long and peppery, with some woodsy impressions that fade slowly, only to leave behind whispers of caramel and fruit. A strong honeycomb taste remains long after and serves as a fitting transition to the next sip.

Adding a bit of water opens up the nose and flavours, enhancing the experience. I note that the honey flavours are even more obvious with the addition of a few drops of water into my glass.

Overall, a fine whiskey and instantly becomes one of my highly recommened drams for occasional or everyday drinking. I picked this one up for $66.50 at the SAQ https://www.saq.com/en/14450678 and it is available in New Hampsire for US $45 https://www.liquorandwineoutlets.com/product-detail/4266-Nobushi-Japanese-Whisky. It is currently unavailable in Ontario however. A trip into Quebec is worth it for Ontarians seeking a very good whiskey at a decent price.

Nobushi
Nobushi

Tokinoka Black

As 2020 (aka the Year of the Pandemic, the Lost Year, insert your favorite title here, etc.) winds down, my thoughts turn to the most interesting way to spend the waning hours of its last day. My immediate action following a few minutes of contemplation is to sip a fine whisky to contrast with an unfine year. I have not tried any new whiskies this year, preferring to socially distance with fine beers and gins. However, it is indeed time for a change in pace. What better choice in that case than a fine Japanese concontion that I expect will provide excellent fodder for tasting notes.

This whisky is brewed by White Oak distillery, at the Eigashima brewery situated in Akashi, Japan. The brewery was founded in 1679 and first began whisky production upon receiving the first ever Japanese whisky distilling permit in 1919. This particular blended whisky was created by Akito Ueda from 50% malt and 50% grain grain whisky. Three different cask types are used in aging the whisky, consisting of bourbon, xeres, and new oak. The particular batch I acquired has an alcohol content of 50.3%. The visual is excellent, delivered in a 500ml bottle with a screw cap and consisting of a beautiful amber colour.

The nose is of soft fruits, of note are hues of pineapple, a hint of honey, and apricot

On the palate, we find intense flavours of mixed berries, pineapple, citrus, apple, caramel, and nuts, ending with black pepper and ginger. The finish is long and rich, with overtones of apple and vanilla rounding off the experience.

Overall, this is an excellent whisky and one that should form part of any serious plans to ride out the rest of the pandemic. A bit too fine for everyday drinking, but definitely a great way to pass some time once in a while as the winter begins and most everything continues to be shut down. In Quebec, the Tokinoka Black is available currently at $85 at the SAQ https://www.saq.com/en/13738354 and in Ontario it is available for $88.70 at LBCO https://www.lcbo.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/en/lcbo/whisky-whiskey-15020/tokinoka-black-blended-whisky-575043#.X-4flthKhhE.

Tokinoka Black

Johnnie Walker Green Label

A special anniversary requires a special gift. The anniversary in question was our 15 years of marriage, the gift was a bottle of Johnnie Walker Green Label. The Green Label is symbolic as it is a mixture of some fine whiskies with a minimum age of 15 years. But unlike the other whiskies in the Johnnie Walker range, the Green Label is a blended malt whisky. No grain whisky is blended into the carefully selected mix of malts used in its preparation. The box indicates that the Green Label is a mix of Talisker’s The Power, Linkwood’s The Finesse, Cragganmore’s The Heart, and Caol Ila’s The Mystery. The blend is bottled at 43% alcohol and is quite elegantly packaged ina deep green box with matching label.

Visually, the whisky is a smooth amber colour, not very deep but not pale either; somewhere between the Black Label and Gold Label.

On the nose, one finds cinnamon and black pepper with a hint of honey, fruits, and floral bouquet.

The palate is smooth and rich. There is a strong oak presence which combines with spices, a touch of peat, and a subtle sweetness that eases into dried fruit as one continues drinking.

The finish is not overly long but satisfying. Pepper lingers and hints of the dried fruit persist in the background.

A few drops of water creates a more vivid experience as the sweetness is enhanced. The pepper on the finish becomes more pronounced as well.

Overall, an excellent choice for a special occasion and a very thoughtful gift from my wife. This whisky was discontinued in 2013 but recently made a return to store shelves. It can be had for about $80 in Quebec and Ontario at the SAQ and LCBO respectively and US $55 in New Hampshire.

Sivó – Le Rye Whisky

During a recent excursion to the Société des alcools du Québec, a particular bottle of rye whiskey caught my attention. The product in question intrigued me, not because of its age statement or rarity, but rather its provenance. The whisky had been produced right here in Quebec. Never having consumed a whisky of local origin, I immediately purchased the bottle and can now share with the world my impressions of a local product.

The product is brought to us by Sivó, a company claiming to be a master distiller. The product is called “Le Rye Whisky”, presumable the only rye produced by Sivó.

Sivó states that this rye “is distilled from local Quebec rye (2/3) and malted barley (1/3) and aged patiently in new oak casks, before being finished in Port casks.”. Sivó, based in Franklin, Quebec, notes that it won the New York International Spirits Competition in 2017 as best Quebec distillery of the year. I assume there was limited competition in that narrow category, but still, it’s something.

This rye is bottled at 42% and has a deep amber appearance. There is no age statement anywhere on the bottle.

On the nose, I am introduced to notes of ripe grape, honey, a hint of lemon, and clove.

The palate starts off with a tart, woody taste before turning to roasted nuts and black pepper. Eventually, it turns slightly sweet, but one must let it linger for a few seconds before arriving at this pleasant twist. The finish is long and satisfying, leaving peppery notes dancing on my tongue and reintroducing a light taste of honey and lemon.

Adding a bit of water opens up the nose, keeping the original scents but enhancing them. The palate adds some more spice and a faint memory of fruit. The finish remains the same.

Overall, I would rate this as a decent whisky at a reasonable price of $46 before any discounts at the SAQ. However, there are others in this price range that are better. If you are curious, definitely a bottle to try, especially if there is a promotion at the SAQ.

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

I recently turned 40.  

On such a milestone occasion, one tends to look back and take stock of one’s life, but also look forward and contemplate the future.  What better way than to do so than with a fine bottle of whisky, especially one received as a gift on such an auspicious occasion.

The bottle in question is Johnnie Walker Blue Label.  

On with the tasting!

The drink is a deep amber colour, looking quite good on a chilly midsummer evening.

The nose of this blend is a gift of honey, lemon, melon, and soft notes of pineapple.

The palate is similar, once again providing a sweet mix of honey, lemon, pineapple, just a hint of lemonade, but adding a twist of pear, loads of spice, and a touch of caramel.  There is a bit of rose petal in there and thoughts of mixed berries, but these are fleeting.  A smoother whiskey is hard to find, the blend is a masterpiece of care designed to please even the most particular of whisky aficionados. 

The finish is long and sweet.  A slight burn remains on the tongue, but the sugary remnant of honey and lemon lingers. A bit of smoke sticks around long after the other flavours have faded.

A touch of water accentuates the honey on the nose, but mostly tones down the intensity of the flavours.  I recommend not taking this whisky with any water at all.  The finish remains unmoved by the addition of water.

Overall, as fine a whiskey as one could hope and an excellent way to celebrate surviving 40 years. If one has some disposable income, a highly recommended whiskey and well worth the expense.  Cheers!

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.

Cheers!

  

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!

Cheers!

  

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 http://www.worldwhiskiesawards.com/pike-creek-10-years-old.20354.html.

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.

Cheers!