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Gibson's Finest 12 Year Old

Average score from 5 reviews and 6 ratings 77

Gibson's Finest 12 Year Old

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Gibson's Finest 12 Year Old

My thanks to @Nelom for the reviewed sample

Gibson's 12 yo has long been a staple of the Canadian whisky shelf. Gibson's brand was a western Pennsylvania distiller of rye whiskey which fled to Canada at the time of the US Prohibition in order to continue in the whisky business. Rumours abound that the 12 year old may be losing the age statement soon. Recently I did see Gibson's Finest Rare without an age statement and with a near identical label to the 12 yo in an Ontario automobile Travel Retail/Duty Free outlet. I've managed to taste 4 dozen Canadian whiskies over the past 5 years, and I've managed not to try Gibson's 12 until now

Nose: lots of wood, lots of vanilla, a little spice from rye grain, some caramel, and some honey. Definitely pleasant, albeit a bit dry and dusty. Extremely representative of the Canadian blended style. Water added brings out a lot of spice. Water is a nice variant. Score: 22/25 points

Taste: sweeter in the mouth than in the nose, with strong caramel, and even some reduced maple syrup. The flavours seem more simplistic in the mouth than in the nose, but come very much alive. Water brings out some sourness. Score: 21.5/25

Finish: goes bitter into the finish, probably from the old re-used wood. Some sour creeps in late also. Stays sour with water added. Score: 20/25

Balance: very good in the nose, good on the palate, fair on the finish. Score: 21/25

Total Sequential Score: 84.5 points

Strength: very good strength of flavours throughout, even at 40% ABV. Score: 22/25

Quality: very good grain flavours are understated in intensity; merely adequate wood flavours are dominant. Score: 21/25

Variety: adequate variety of flavours, but not much more. Score: 20/25

Harmony: very good harmony in the nose, good harmony on the palate, fair harmony on the finish. Score: 21/25

Total Non-Sequential Score: 84 points

Comment: I am very glad to finally become acquainted with Gibson's Finest Rare 12 YO, which may soon become truly rare and start to disappear, as did its excellent older brother Gibson's Finest Rare 18 Year Old. The 18 yo has a successor, named "Venerable". This 12 YO might well be replaced by a No Age Statement whisky, if my experience with Travel Retail becomes generalised. Overall, I like Gibson's 12 YO better than I was expecting, based upon the prior comments and reviews of others


I reviewed a Gibson's 12 year old earlier, which was distilled, aged, blended, and bottled at the Valleyfield distillery in Quebec. Now, however, production has shifted to Hiram Walker distillery in Windsor and the blending and bottling of Valleyfield Spirit is being carried out there. Production shifted in 2009, so we are looking at 2009+12 = 2021 for the Hiram-Walker-matured Gibson's 12 year old, and 2009+18=2027 for the 18 year old (if they are still making it!). However, I wanted to check out the Hiram Walker blend to see how it compared to my previous bottle.

Nose: Apple seeds, slightly dry, spicy, bitter grain, there is a richness to it as well. Dried ginger and oak comes out more as it sits. There is a thread of bitterness that detracts from the nose, especially as it is overall quite light with a bit of spicy sharpness. It is decent, but it's really not fabulous - I find I tend to skip the nose for the palate here. 78%

Taste: Maple - the wood comes in now out of nowhere with sweetness and light tannins - surprisingly rich after the nose, with a bit of a grain comeback to the end of it. There is some fruity richness to it as well which makes me wonder if this uses some refill casks pretty well - but maybe it's just coming from some rich bourbon casks. 83%

Finish: At first slight spice and tannins, with a sort of green/fresh wood feel and some light cinnamon and clove. A bit of a detrimental saccharin note at the end too, which really doesn't help. 78%

Intrigue: This is decent - I like this bottling more than the previous one I sampled out of Valleyfield because of some new richness and vibrancy, though the style is a bit flat on the nose and finish and there seems to be less of a bourbon influence. I'm excited to see where this goes when they bottle some of the 18 year old out of Hiram Walker. Amazing to me, though, how much this whisky gains with age in terms of the increase of all that's best about this whisky. If they ever bottle any Gibson's beyond 18 years, I'd bet that'd be good stuff, especially with the oak in quite good control even after 18 years! The dryness lends itself very nicely to mixing as well. 80%

Weighting the nose 25%, the palate 35%, the finish 15%, and intrigue 29% the final score is 81.


This whisky, as other Gibson's whiskies, is distilled at Hiram Walker in Windsor.

Nose: I get some caramel, and I pick up a fair bit of corn and some fruit like plum. There's vanilla and there are bourbon notes which come off this nose, as well as some oak in the background. There's a light touch of bitterness and sourness detracting from the nose, but they are quite light - however upon multiple tastings I found that it dominated too much. Like the other Gibson whiskies, there's lots of creaminess to this nose. Amidst all else going on I nearly missed the rye which is sitting obviously in the middle of it all lightly directing the show. I find the nose doesn't improve with time but grows a bit stale and bitter, which is too bad. 77%

Taste: Thick, creamy and slightly sour with a citrus backdrop and a good kick of oaky vanilla and a touch of maple-like woodiness. At the end some dusty rye and spices kick in - clove and even a bit of allspice. The sourness/acidity is intriguing as it is a bit different and doesn't go too far in one direction. There is a bit of bitterness right on the end - it isn't horrible and I can't decide whether I like it or don't. Tasting this whisky was odd - the first time I drank this I was quite impressed, but the second time and third time it appeared bitter and out of balance, and even upon comparing with Gibson's Sterling I found this to be inferior. 75%

Finish: At first the spices take hold for a reasonable length before there's some light dryness and oakiness remaining in the mouth, along with a touch of rye. The length and weight of the finish is quite decent, but the flavour could be improved. 80%

Intrigue: This is smooth, thick, and easy drinking other than the touch of bitterness here and there. However, the whisky is a bit of an enigma to me - the first tasting was very impressive (probably would have come out in the low eighties), but the second and third time there was a lot of bitterness , staleness and it was way out of balance - and tasting beside Gibson's Sterling I found this to be inferior upon two tastings. I've never had such a different tasting experience two days in a row, even after conditioning my palate the same way each time. However, I'm standing with the scores from my two later reviews. 75%

Weighting the nose 25%, taste 35%, Finish 15%, and Intrigue 25% the overall grade is 76.

*I realized I would never have time to upload all my Canadian whisky reviews to connosr properly, so I've been importing the tasting notes in bulk to expand the whisky base on connosr. For more info on the whisky (with similar tasting notes), see my post at whiskywon.wordpress.com/2014/04/…


Hiram Walker & Sons, founded in 1858, is Canada’s biggest distillery. They produce the best known Canadian whiskies such as Canadian Club, Wiser’s and Gibson’s Finest, all famous, but entry level whiskies. Gibson’s Finest has three expressions: the no-age statement Sterling, the 12 Year Old that I will try today and the Rare, an 18 Year Old.

The nose is soft and inviting, lightly perfumed. It shows a lot of vanilla, but mostly apricots and something hearty like puff paste. Hint of cloves and mild oak.

It is very light on the palate and extremely sweet. Again loads of vanilla, but the apricots are now overcome by honey and nuts. Almonds, I would say. Very soft, though. Light body.

The finish is short and clean, slightly warming.

Well, this is only one step up from Canadian Club, which I think of as bottom shelf. So shall we call this middle shelf? Entry level, no matter how you look at it. But not bad as an aperitif. Thanks to my Canadian buddy Jean-Francois for the sample.


Could very well be the worst whisky I've had. Looks fine with good legs and a light golden colour - but the aroma has no complexity beyond toffee (and, I think, corn - unfortunately). Slight honey taste, but it's so bland and watery I may have imagined it. No finish to speak of - it's like my mouth forgot about it as soon as it went down the gullet. I guess you could use it in a mixer, but why bother?

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