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Gibson's Finest Rare 18 Year Old

Average score from 5 reviews and 9 ratings 90

Gibson's Finest Rare 18 Year Old

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Gibson's Finest Rare 18 Year Old

I must first say that Canadian whiskey has come a long way since the days when we were the chief supplier of alcohol during the prohibition era. It’s not just for mixing any more. For some time Canadian distillers have been focusing their efforts on creating first class whiskeys for the more discerning whisky-whiskey drinker. I think they have created many such products for consumers to enjoy. This is one example.

On the nose gentle toffee and caramel, toasty vanilla. As it enters the mouth smooth, sweet toffee and caramel. This becomes quite easy to drink and enjoy. At 40%, a gentle pleasure and is to be enjoyed neat. It will not blow you away but rather you can just sip, enjoy and want for more.


This whisky, I find, is very highly regarded by most that have had it - but I, for whatever reason, don't find it recommended that often. Fabulous stuff.

Nose: Vanilla, honey, oak, caramel, creme brulee - it certainly develops as it sits. You can sense the sweetness of the whisky and the oak combines with that to make me think of maple. There are some beautiful cedar notes, and intriguing notes of pickle. The nose has a slight floral element to it as well reminding me of the blossoming of a tree we had in our house growing up which grew big balls of white flowers. Most excellent! 92%

Taste: Thick, slightly sweet, and creamy...lots of bourbon-like influence. There's a good bit of oak and spice kicks in with some nice sweetness at the end along with some wheat-like graininess. There's also a touch of cedar in the mix as well which pokes its head up here and there. The rye seems to be dusty, and the mouth dries out a bit as with other whiskies in the Gibson's line. The cereals also come out for me in a way that reminds me of stale bread. There are some fruit elements like grape juice. There's a touch of acidity which seems to lift the whole experience up a bit and keep everything in check. brilliant. good mouthfeel to it as well. 95%

Finish: Lots happens on the finish! There's some nice honey, alongside some oak and tannin. It's still wonderfully light even after all those years in oak. there are some really nice oaky and corn notes, similar to the smell of angel's share if you ever have a chance to visit a distillery. 93%

Intrigue: This is a fabulous offering by Gibson's and this whisky is one that demands your attention - it is excellent. The wonderful honey, caramel and light fruitiness is balanced against the oak and cedar, and lifted up by just a touch of acidity. A wonderful whisky - one well worth enjoying. 95%

Weighting the nose 25%, taste 35%, Finish 15%, and Intrigue 25% the overall grade is 94.

*I realized I would never have time to re-write all my Canadian whisky reviews to connosr, 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/…

@Victor, 'Gibson's Finest Rare 18 Years' is truly a rare whisky. The name of the whisky is now changed to Gibson's Finest Venerable 18 Years. Finding the true 'Rare' iteration is now a nearly impossible task.

Gibson's whisky was at one time produced exclusively at the Valleyfield plant in Quebec, which was also the home to Danfieild's 21 YO Limited Edition. Neither whisky is now produced at the Valleyfield facility.

The production of Gibson has transitioned from Valleyfield to Walkerville (Windsor) beginning with the youngest iteration, Sterling, and later followed by the 12 YO version.

The 18 YO whisky remains elegant and refined with the only noticeable change being on the label. I believe the name change, from Rare to Venerable, signals the transition of the 18 YO expression from Quebec to Ontario. Watch for the changing shape of the bottle stopper; when the acorn-shaped stopper changes to a sleeker more cylindrical top, the whisky will likely then be aged distillate from the Windsor facility, which happens to be the home of Corby's/Wiser's and Canadian Club.

With the exodus of both Gibson's and Danfield's (now produced in Lethbridge, AB at the Black Velvet facility) from Valleyfield, the era of a truly iconic distillery, the old Schenley's distillery, has come to pass.

Well I wasn't overly impressed with the last 12 year old I had - a great first tasting but subsequently didn't match out. I've seen the new hiram walker bottles at my local LCBO now, but not sure if I want to venture there yet. Davin says it is a bit richer than Valleyfield. I posted a review of my previous bottle on connosr, I think. It's not an expensive buy, so I might grab a bottle of the new juice before too long.


One of the lowest scores I've ever given a whisky is to the Gibson's 12 Year Old. Ugh. How could the same distillery that puts out that crap, also release this excellent, classically Canadian whisky? I have no words.

The Gibson's Finest 18 Year Old is an annual release, limited to 12,000 bottles per year. It is only available in Canada (Sorry! Not sorry.) The code on the bottle is A-33064 - it doesn't say what that is referring to, I presume it is a batch code.

The colour is a medium gold. On the nose, a caramel sweetness (reminiscent of the Pendleton I reviewed yesterday) but with a bit more bite: herbal, biscuity and with some nutmeg. Ripe plums and red apples. Light brown sugar. Water reveals the rye and enhances the spice. Everything in perfect harmony.

We have a creamy mouthfeel, with light spices, creme caramel, and some rye in the background. Lots of vanilla, too. Water allows the mouthfeel to become even creamier. Delicious - a real pleasure.

The finish is crisp, chalky and buttery, with a bit more spice as well. A stellar example of our nation's whisky legacy, it is a classic. Full-bodied yet delicate, sweet but never cloying and with a gorgeous mouthfeel and elegant delivery. I find the notes very similar to the Pendleton, except every individual element is dialled up to 11. FYI Jim Murray scored this a massive 95.5! Truly magnificent, though pricey at CDN$75 in Ontario (and currently out of stock in the province.)

@talexander - this one is special. Formerly distilled at Valleyfield Quebec, it is now produced at Walkerville, Ontario. I trust the absolutely stellar quality of this world class whisky will continue; only time will tell.

I have a self-imposed embargo on Canadian Whisky, especially bottles over $50. I refuse to pay that much for NAS, low ABV, filtered whisky with possible wine and/or other additives and minimal information about its provenance. HOWEVER, since we share two favorites when it comes to Canadian Whisky (Lot 40 & Wiser's Legacy) I am intrigued having read this review of the Gibson's 18. IF I come across an LCBO manager's special (20% markdown) I may break my embargo.


I am not going to impress you with fancy words or say things like it tastes like "American pancakes in syrup" (yep, saw that in a whisky review somewhere). You want to try a real Canadian Rye whisky, try this. Neat, on ice, with a splash of H2O...but no mix, save that for the 12 yr. This is a straight sipping whisky. You Scotch drinking folks who never tried a good rye, the first impression on the tongue is the spiceiness of the rye. Do not let that scare you, it is actually quite smooth. This is a whisky fit for the single malt snob. Don't think you can buy this outside of Canada, but cannot say for sure. If you are in Canada for a visit, make this your duty free bottle. Bottle #381258 is the one I based this on, and am drinking as I write this...or wrote by the time you read this.

On my next trip to Canada Gibson´s finest Rare 18 and Wiser´s Legacy are on my shopping list...


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.

@Victor, I too suspect there is not much, if any, influence from new oak upon this exquisite blend. Gibson's Finest Rare 18 Years is a consistently brilliant example of the effect of Canadian climate on long aged whisky. Combine this with the subtle influence of previously used barrels, and a gentle distillate, to produce the unique taste profile which has become known as Canadian. Green apples, toffee, caramel, black pepper, and rye (baking)spices make for an incredibly well rounded and delicious whisky. This is the current benchmark for Canadian whisky.

I would really like another bottle of this and I lament that it has shot up in price to $75. I remember getting it on sale for $35 a few years ago. It always gave me the impression of baked apples and brown sugar, but in a subtle way.

I also wish Gibson's would bring back the limited edition bottlings: New Oak and Bourbon Cask. New Oak was quite good, as I recall.

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