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Gibson's Finest Rare 18 yo whisky is produced by William Grant & Sons, Ltd, of Oakville, Ontario. The reviewed bottle is # 419946.
Nose: fragrant, sweet, lots of wood, both oak and maple, caramel, a hint of vanilla. There is a lot of rye spice here, and this nose is very much like the nose of an old medium to high rye mashbill bourbon, eg. a 20+ yo Willett bourbon. Lovely.
Taste: sweet,spicy, caramel-y, woody. All of these flavours hit the mouth right away. There is lots of rye spiciness and lots of old wood here. The flavours are sharp and well-defined, with a sweet and spicy overlay.
Finish: medium length of time for the spices and vanilla, and then there is a tapering down to an understated soft caramel with hints of the bass notes of wood.
Balance: this is an excellent example of "old-school" Canadian whisky-making, probably of the sort made common 75+ years ago (but they probably didn't age it 18 years then!). There is very strong dry balance to the sweetness, high rye content with high rye spiciness, lots of wood aging and wood flavouring, and no evidence of the addition of any additives. The closest whisky to this in character in my experience would be a 20+ yo Willett bourbon. But even though Gibson's Finest Rare 18 yo has strong similarities to some well-aged medium to high rye content bourbon whiskeys, there is also something distinctly Canadian in the flavour profile. I suspect that it is in the wood used for aging, and the flavours originating from that wood. I do not know the sourcing of Gibson's barrels, but, if most or all of them are re-used barrels it would explain why the wood flavours from 18 years of re-used wood aging would be different from those of 18 years of new wood aging. Some of the wood flavours would be in much shorter supply after the first barrel use.
In any case, there is a very nice balance of flavours here, and this whiskey works well for me, even at 40% ABV. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know if there really is a "rye" with a lot of rye in it. There is. (And yes,there are some others too!)And I agree with Jim Murray that Gibson's Finest Rare 18 Year Old can hold its own on the stage as a world class whisky.