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- Brand: Harwood's
- ABV: 45.2%
Happy Canada Day! And so, to round out our five part series, we have a very rare treat here. This is a blended Canadian whisky by Duncan Harwood & Co., a now defunct Vancouver distillery. The tax stamp on the bottle dates it as 1946, but I am not sure if that is the date of distillation or the date of bottling (I suspect of bottling). Otherwise, I know very little about the provenance of this whisky, except that it is extremely rare. I should also mention that when I received the bottle from Bonham's, the cork had shrunken and the tax stamp labels had mostly disintegrated - I could nose the whisky without even opening the bottle! Needless to say, a lot had evaporated away.
The colour is a medium copper. On the nose, I detect a very definite sherry influence, along with something rather vegetal (parsnips??) Very juicy rye in the background. Savoury herbs, raspberries and overripe bananas. Quite unlike anything else I've ever nosed! It falls apart a bit with water (no surprise given it was bottled approx. 70 years ago) but some smoke comes forward.
On the palate, more ripe fruits - and then some spice creeps in. Syrupy mouthfeel. This is changing in the mouth in very interesting ways - from sweet to slightly sour to something meatier. But it never loses its way from a very quiet slate rye background. Interestingly, water makes it both sweeter and spicier.
The finish is mouth drying, leaving umami remnants and the very faintest hint of light maple syrup. This is a fascinating piece of history, not only for the obvious reasons of age and scarcity but also in comparing this style to today's best Canadians. Most of my favourite Canadian whiskies tend to be boldly rye forward (Lot 40, Wiser's Legacy) or boldly corn forward (Century Reserve 21 Year Old, Danfield's 21 Year Old). If it's neither, or tries to be both, it is lost on me. However, this one seems to somehow combine both a firm rye spiciness with a very pronounced corn sweetness. Highly unique. Of course, I have no way of knowing if any old bottle effect is at work here, or how evaporation has effected the flavour - but the whisky seems fairly fresh and genuine to me, so perhaps the influence has been minimal. I'm very proud to have this extremely rare bottle (not even Davin de Kergommeaux has tasted this yet)! If you really want one, though, it looks like The Whisky Exchange in the UK can sell you one (it's in stock ) for GBP300 (equivalent to CDN$548). I bought this at auction in NYC for the equivalent of CDN$140 (including buyer's premium but not including duties and taxes), which I was very happy about. In any event, I raise a dram of liquid history to celebrate Canada Day!