Danfield’s – Limited Edition 21 Year Old “Classy Hoser”

I know very little about Danfield’s 21, I do know that it was a brand that was once produced at the Schenley distillery (Diageo) in Québec and that it is now produced in Lethbridge Alberta at the Black Velvet distillery (Constellation Brands). It seems to be one of those classic Canadian whisky brands like Gibson’s Finest, which has been bounced around from home to home.

Black Velvet 2 LNN
Like many of the legacy Canadian distillers they have a lot of sleeping barrels aging on site.

This sample is courtesy of @paddockjudge, I had the pleasure of being the recipient of a small box containing a plethora of mysterious elixirs decanted by the man himself. Three of the whiskys inside had instructions concerning the drinking order, this is the first of those samples tasted blind.

Nose: Brown sugar, vanilla and a good dose of spices that seem to stem from the wood, in this case cinnamon and a bit of nutmeg. Loads of oak, like a carpenter’s shop, a little green bell pepper and paraffin, it’s quite a bit nippy.

Water softens the nose, bring in some honey and increasing the vanilla.

Palate: Oak & cedar, warm caramel with loads of brown sugar and baking spices. Grapefruit pith, white pepper and a touch of wax. Surprisingly hot for, 40%. Nice mouthfeel.

Water brings out cardboard, more spices, reduces the bitterness a touch.

Finish. Is medium length, that sweetness you can only get from corn whisky, some astringency from the oak, a little cardboard, and chili pepper not as sweet as on arrival,

Danfields cheese
Love the old school packaging

I feel like this is a perfect representation of a classic Canadian whisky, I found the bitterness a bit off putting at first but with time it seems to bring equilibrium to this blend. The wood notes are interesting because they push into the cedar/tobacco like territory. This isn’t my favorite Canadian whisky but it’s hard to deny that this is a well crafted gem in a style that doesn’t seem to be as popular.

Danfield’s 21 yrs Old

40%/ABV

88/100

 

Whistlepig – 10 yr old Single Barrel “Goin’ Whole Hog”

Late last year a friend offered to mule a few bottles from South Carolina if I had them shipped to his place in advance, I attempted to select bottles I knew I would be difficult to obtain in Canada.

In the end two of the three bottles he brought back contained whisky distilled in Canada (the other was a Crown Royal hand selected barrel), the other was this bottle Whistlepig store selection, a single barrel at 56.7% abv for Third Base Market & Spirits.

At this point it’s public knowledge that the 10yr old Whistlepig whisky is 100% rye sourced from Alberta Distillers Limited, a powerhouse of a distillery that has over a million sleeping barrels of some of the best rye whisky. Sadly it’s a whisky that we rarely see on our side of the border in anything but it’s adulterated form (cut down to 40% abv or blended in the case of Dark Horse) or sold back to us by US firms under the guises of brands like Masterson’s, Hochstader’s & Whistlepig. This was the first time I was able to get a taste of ADL juice at cask strength (or nearly).

IMG_20180910_222929
In good company.

Nose: Waxy, rising brioche dough, rye toast and orange peel. It has a floral cologne like note, a bit of sandalwood, there is oak but it’s restrained. There is an almost soapy note but it’s fresh and clean it works well. The payoff with this whisky is to let it air out and then it really opens up, a sweet maple syrup like note with that mineral tang. Fresh and fermented grain, coriander seed and mint finishing on a bit of prune, almost like in Armagnac (perhaps from oak?)

Palate: Dry & sharp, floral & aromatic, there is a slight heat reminded you that this is almost 57% abv. Then it bursts with rye bread, a touch of cumin, apricots, candy apple & butter tarts. Full bodied, earthy and sweet salted caramel & cracked pepper, after the initial tickle there’s very little burn on palate.

Finish: Creamy like eating flan or pannacotta, more oak, earthy sprouted rye and a slight chalkiness, green fresh coriander like feeling.

The Blab: This is a great full bodied dram, more of a winter whisky than a fresh summery one. The bottle is in it’s last third and It’s lost some steam on the nose, it’s a bit closed and lost some of it’s initial peppery-ness and full throttle in your face rye.

That said the palate has bloomed I don’t remember getting as much dried fruits at first. This is really a sipper it takes time to discover and let everything come into play, it has a pleasant mineral waxiness that goes well with the sweetness, no dill notes either… I wish I could get a group together to buy a cask of this stuff.

Whistlepig 10 yr old “Third Base Market & Spirits” store selection

56.7% ABV

88/100

Benromach 2005 Hermitage Finish

The Benromach 10 has earned it’s place among many folks’ cabinets, as a solid bang for your buck whisky but one with more dimensions that are used to seeing at this age. It has that rare chameleon quality, each time you have a dram it seems to have changed a bit, one day sherry focused, another more peat and malt forward.

This hermitage finish is part of what Benromach dubs their contrast series, these are various versions of their spirit, be it finishes or experiments to show against the standard line-up of  their 10-15 yr old whisky. It can be a smart way for a company that does not yet have many decades of stocks to draw upon, we’ve seen this used by Bruichladdich, Arran and many others but not always successfully.

20170317_223107-e1536180236778.jpg
Enjoy this terrible photo of my bottle.

This bottle was purchased as part of our club’s selection on the strength of my experience with Ben 10, I wanted to use it as a contrast against some other sherry matured malts.

Nose: Spicy, paraffin, there is peat but it mixes with the fruits from the wine cask, it’s like smoked blackberries…alas I have tried this time+smoker=smoked everything. Green peppercorns, digestive biscuits, honey drizzled figs, there is some sulfur like a tinge of spent matches and ginger. The nose is pretty tame, I like the interplay between the waxy peaty side and the fruits from the cask.

Palate: Sweet, oily, malty, earthy and bitter on the first sip, almost like Amaro (don’t call me a hipster). Damp concrete basement, slight barn funk, apricot jam, wet grains, again that feeling of smoked berries from the nose.

Finish: Short, a mossy and sweet earthy taste remains, a drying astringency, vanilla and dark chocolate.

I found this pleasant but the sulfur has increased with time, I feel like the peat saves it from being OTT.  The Benromach spirit style takes well to sherry as we get from the regular editions, this wine finish shows some promise but it’s not entirely successful. I am unsure if it’s the style of wine used, the ABV or perhaps it would be better if they vatted some bourbon barrels in to bring equilibrium?  I like it but it lacks the superb blending of the Ben10.

Benromach 2005 Hermitage Wood Finish series 

45% ABV

83/100

Smokehead “Kippers & Bits”

This is an NAS single malt from an undisclosed Islay distillery. This brand comes from Ian Macleod’s company, who’s portfolio includes, Isle of Skye, Glengoyne & Thamdu among others.

Like most of these type of releases there’s much speculation on the origin of the casks for this whisky. Many speculate that this is a vatting of young casks of Ardbeg that don’t quite meet the company’s standards. Let’s see.

Nose: Smoked herring, damp cellar, creosote, it leans towards Ardbeg or Laphroaig heavy smoke. Salt, a smidge of vanilla, a little mercurochrome nothing else…maybe salt ham.

Palate: Acrid, earthy, sharp, kelp, oysters, beach bonfire, latex, milky, peat reek.

Finish is all on ashes, saltpetre, brine.

Good uncompromising stuff, all oily fish, milky/latex and ashy smoke. It ticks off all the peat freak boxes, don’t look for subtleties. I like this it’s very honest.

Smokehead Islay Single Malt

43% ABV

83/100

Highland Park – Full Volume “Half Mast, Half Stack”

This was dram #4 during an in-store tasting following the rather disappointing JW Ghost & Rare.

When I heard that Highland Park were launching a whisky called full volume, I thought they would be releasing some of their heavily peated stock at Cask Strength. Perhaps an edition composed of all floor malted barley a little like Laphroaigs’ 2015 Cairdeas? Alas no, this is all first-fill bourbon cask from a single distillation year (1999) at 47.2%…so basically this is the kind of thing that is normally sold to independents or brokers for blending.

Nose: Light smoke, latex paint, pencil eraser, honey a little mango, pineapple, dried papaya but the fruits are faint. It takes a while to open up, light citrus, oranges and lemon. You can feel the malt in the back an almost green raw grain feeling.

Palate: Caramel, earthy peat, round, sharp and full, barrel char, vanilla. A little coconut oil, the oak is present too, real forward and in action. Malty grain notes, like porridge with vanilla and lemon peel.

Finish : Quite lengthy, earthy smoke, camphor, honey candy, caramel, citrus zest and that latex feeling still.

This was pretty good, I don’t think it’s keeping much with the HP house style, (not that I’m an expert on it) which usually includes a varying proportion of Sherry casks. True HP fans will be disappointed in that aspect perhaps. I would love to spend more time with this but don’t think it creates fireworks

Highland Park Full volume

47.2% ABV

85/100*I took my time on this one but it’s still something I sampled in store so I’m only giving it an overall score, my standard method is multiple samples before reviewing so I can score each aspect.

 

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Brora and Rare / Ghost and Rare “Ghost Pressure”

Ok I promise this is my last JW review for a bit, I’m not going to repeat the marketing spiel as I am not a brand ambassador, some casks (who knows how much of anything) of silent distilleries unnecessarily gave up their lives to be included in this blend…maybe.

20180405_184429
This is where precious rare malts go to die

Nose: Suave, old oak /present but not overpowering, a little guava, smoke, dirt floors in a damp warehouse, waxy, a lot like regular blue label in it’s cohesiveness. Supple, slightly mineral, soft fruits, Mirabelles, apricots.

Palate : Musky peat turning into exotic fruits: longan, jack fruit, durian maybe?. A mounting astringency, aspirin, shoe polish and oak.

Finish is on old oak, polish, lemon pith, earth, the fruits are overridden by resiny pine, much bitterness.

Nice nose, the palate is ruined by the bitterness/ lemon pith/resin, I love these kind of notes in a whisky but the backbone isn’t robust enough to withstand it, unlike Springbank or Clynelish for example.

This is an example of where transparency would really help to better understand what is happening. What is one getting exactly for this price? what proportions of malt to grain, old to new, they could put one cask of Brora in a Tun of young whisky and one wouldn’t know.

Better value for money in Compass Box or Douglas Laing Regional Malts.

Johnnie Walker Ghost & Rare Brora Edition

46% ABV

82/100 *I took my time on this one but it’s still something I sampled in store so I’m only giving it an overall score, my standard method is multiple samples before reviewing so I can score each aspect.

Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish – “Wry Oak”

Johnnie Walker Blender’s Batch Red Rye Finnish

40% ABV

Another whisky sampled in store, this session was Johnnie Walker focused, I know it’s a brand that gets much love/hate. I personally like Black Label, It’s one of the whiskys responsible for getting me to give Scotch another chance some years ago.

This one is supposedly Cardhu focused (I believe Gold Label is also Cardhu-centric) with grain components from Port Dundas…but then it’s a mass market blend so probably has a bunch of other components.

Aged in first-fill bourbon and finished for 6 months in Rye casks…not sure where the red part comes in.

20170907_183443

Nose: Rye spices, oak, caramel, it smells a lot like a bourbon, a little barrel char, not much else…

Palate : Oily at first and then vanilla, a little dusty spice, cardboard, some custard , it loses steam and never fulfill the initial burst of flavor.

The finish is fast due to abv and most likely chill filtration, doesn’t stick around long after robbing your dignity. It’s not terrible, just mediocre

I am not against experimentation, I think it’s quite healthy for any industry but I am left scratching my head with this release, why does this exists? Just buy an everyday good bourbon, for example, like Wild Turkey 101, which is killer and only costs 35$ and is served at a decent ABV, especially since this seemed aimed for cocktails…maybe i’m just surly

 

Franck

Pike Creek 21 European Oak Finish – Northern Border Collection 2018 Preview part IV

On May 5th 2018 I was at Spirit of Toronto with fellow Connosr members Nozinan and Paddockjudge, we attended the Wiser’s Masterclass that was given by Dr. Don Livermore. We were presented with the 6 new expressions that would be released by the distillery in 2018, you can find parts I, II & III here.

At this point in the good doctor’s presentation we were a bit rushed as the masterclass was only allocated an hour, the crowd was well lubed with the 4 previous whiskys, it was getting a bit rowdy but still manageable The 35 yr old was the last whisky of the night I knew from the previous edition that it needs time to be appreciated, something the circumstances of this masterclass wouldn’t allow. Therefore I concentrated my efforts on this whisky

20180505_172819

The Pike Creek Modus Operandi is a vatting of a high proportion of double column corn whisky with just a hint of rye, it’s aged in ex-bourbon and Canadian casks and then given some sort of finishing barrel.

In 2018 the 21 year old blend includes a proportion of whiskys finished in French oak & Hungarian oak 50% & 25% the remaining 25% being ex-bourbon casks. The idea from what we we’re told is the corn whisky would be a good vehicle to highlight the influence of the oak types.

Nose: Nutmeg, vanilla, that corn whisky sweetness, ginger, lots of oak, mincemeat, nougat, a little bit of red fruits.

Palate: Warm, slightly creamy and sweet, fresh ginger and apples, spicy…very spicy. A hint of Indian spices like a sweetened Garam Masala, caramelized onions with maple syrup, the oak lingers at the end.

I am really enjoying the effects of the European oak on Canadian whisky. it seems to meld well with the usual spices and grippy oak we get in most expressions. I believe this is an interesting direction that should be further explored and doesn’t feel as gimmicky as most cask finishes we see with Scotch or Bourbon. I think the key is that only a proportion of the blend is finished, this enables the blender to dial in or control the influence of the casks, rather than creating a veil over the whole thing.

Pike Creek 21 European Oak finish

45% ABV

84/100 *I am marking this in accordance with the environment and time I had with it, so it’s only a quick preview.

J. P. Wiser’s Seasoned Oak – Northern Border Collection 2018 Preview part III

On May 5th 2018 I was at Spirit of Toronto with fellow Connosr members Nozinan and Paddockjudge, we attended the Wiser’s Masterclass that was given by Dr. Don Livermore. We were presented with the 6 new expressions that would be released by the distillery in 2018, you can find part 1 and part 2 here.

This was one of two whiskys that were an unexpected addition to our tasting. The other being the Canada 2018 release, while it was good I only had an hour so I chose to focus my attention on the four most striking.

20180505_172819

 

 

 

Seasoned Oak is an LCBO exclusive that will be released for father’s day (much like Dissertation and Last Barrels the two years prior).  In essence it is a 19 year old blend of double distilled corn & column still rye that was aged* in barrels made from staves that were traditionally air dried for 48 months, my notes indicate that these barrels we’re toasted and not charred…but I could be wrong.

Nose: Oak, vanilla, candied apples, a bit of raisins & allspice. It’s in many ways a traditional Canadian whisky on the nose but with presence and good development, it does have a touch of warm bread and fennel.

Palate: A pleasant hint of burnt wood, lots of maple, orange blossom water, the oak is complex like opening an old cigar humidor, great spice & citrus integration.

It’s the first time I get actual maple syrup in a Canadian whisky, I know many people use that as a tasting note but I never quite get that complex sweetness and underlying minerality (not a word I know) of maple syrup in most Canadian whiskys, this one though…round, warm and solidly crafted, the oak wasn’t out of hand. I would like to try this in a blind tasting in a line-up with other American and Canadian whiskys, see how it would fare.

jp-wisers-whisky-product-seasonedoak-featured-1526678934111

They are also displaying the actual age on the label (from what I can see on the Wiser’s website) which is refreshing since most of the other rare cask series did not…perhaps this is to help in selling it at the price point they are looking for (100$).

*After fact checking it is aged for 18 months in traditional refill Canadian whisky barrels and only finished for 12 months in these air dried barrels, I wish they had made this a bit clearer. Nonetheless, it’s great to see what the use of this finish can do to ad complexity without going overboard and into licking a wooden plank territory like some double barreled bourbons.

JP Wiser’s Seasoned Oak (19yrs old)

48% ABV

84/100 * I tried these whiskys in a public event so these notes are quick impressions rather than in depth reviews. 

Corby Lot 40 Cask Strength 2018 – Northern Border Collection 2018 Preview part II

This is my second review taken from Spirit of Toronto’s 2018 Northern Border Collection Masterclass. We were presented with the 6 new expressions to be released this year by Corby Distillers. The first part can be found here.

Dr. Livermore built his presentation in such a way that each of his talking points would culminate in one of the samples placed before us. The whisky would be the embodiment of the aspect he was trying to highlight in his talk (the points varied from Canada’s whisky history, grains, aging, the importance of wood…get your mind out of the gutter).

He joked that the next whisky was the one everyone was here for. In a way he’s right, if there’s one Canadian whisky that gets the masses hot and bothered it’s Lot 40 Cask Strength. since it’s re-release in 2012 Lot no.40 gained a massive following and was ahead of the curve in gauging there would be a revival and solid demand for rye on the market.

Hiram pot still Windsor star

Last year’s cask strength inaugural release was a really solid whisky on par with other cult inducing ryes, it showed that Canadian rye is no slouch when pitted against its American counterparts. Sadly at < 5000 bottles, few if any made their way outside of the country to retailer in US or overseas.

The 2018 release is from a parcel of 11 year old whiskys, Dr. Livermore said that his reason for choosing this specific bond was because they all exhibited a particular flavor profile which he felt was quite different than last year’s edition (he mentions a licorice/anise note).

Nose: Caramel, pine tar, orange creamsicle, the nose was so unexpected that I had to smell my friends glass to make sure I had the right sample. Steak spice, floral, rising pastry (like brioche dough) and a bit of vanilla. I am only comparing it from memory but the nose seems very different than last yeas edition.

Palate: Creamy, thrills gum, licorice, grippy oak, green apple. Super floral but in this context it works, cooked stone fruit, a mix of cinnamon and clove. There’s a richness to the rye produced at Hiram Walker distillery that isn’t found anywhere else, I think the use of virgin oak really helps accentuate this.

This was delicious and worthy of the frenzy it will cause at the LCBO.

The bad news is the price is going up to 99$ (for all the NBC releases barring the Wiser’s 35). I understand why they are doing this, I just don’t think all of the releases have found their legs yet.

In this era of 147$ Elijah Craig barrel proof selling out at the LCBO, I’m sure it will fly off the shelves.

Lot 40 Cask Strength

58.4% ABV

89/100 * I tried these whiskys in a public event so these notes are quick impressions rather than in depth reviews. This is just that good that it gets a high mark for quality despite not being my favorite pick of the evening.

*Pot still picture credit Windsor Star