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.

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.



Crown Royal

My long awaited first entry for a Canadian whisky is a popular brand and Canadian classic. I speak, of course, of Crown Royal.

Canadian whiskies are almost all blended and Crown Royal exemplifies the spirit of Canadian distillers in its use of a varied mash bill. Crown Royal was created by Montreal’s own Sam Bronfman, of the famous Bronfman family. Sam Bronfman made his vast fortune by bootlegging alcohol to the United States during the prohibition and turned out some interesting, if not fine, whiskies in the process. He acquired Seagram’s in 1928 and turned the company into the biggest liquor company in the world. In 1939, to commemorate King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, Sam Bronfman created Crown Royal. The distinct bottle was sold in a purple velvet bag, making it one of the most distinct bottles on the shelf and resulting in a successful marketing campaign. Crown Royal sold extremely well as a result and continues to be a volume leader in the United States. The whisky is now produced in Manitoba. By the mid-90s, Edgar Bronfman Jr., through a series of inept and ill conceived maneuvers, began to engineer the fall of the mighty Seagram’s empire, leading to the eventual selling for spare parts of the company. The mighty Seagram’s empire, globally headquartered in Montreal, was weakened significantly by Edgar’s desire to move the company into entertainment. Edgar’s purchase of the Universal family of companies, including the theme parks, was the beginning of the end and resulted in the loss of a huge part of the Bronfman family fortune. This also represented a loss of a Montreal institution and I believe the Seagram’s head office building in downtown Montreal was recently acquired by McGill University. The building bearing Sam Bronfman’s name also houses McGill’s business school.

Now to the tasting. Note that a little water was added prior to the tasting. This is a 40% abv whisky and I prefer to take it with water at all times.

Crown Royal is a pleasant yellow/gold colour. The spirit runs slowly with thin legs down the side of the glass.

On the nose, a strong and pleasant experience of sweet vanilla provides a mouth watering introduction.

The palate is slightly sour at first, but turns sweet and spicy. There’s vanilla, fruit, a hint of dried mango, and the memory of oak.

The finish is short and sweet. It leaves a sense of oak and vanilla with a twist of citrus.

Overall, a nice whisky. This is surprising for its rich feel and pleasant texture. Crown and Coke is a popular but Crown Royal is a fine whisky on its own.