In the niche world of sipping whisky, there's a lot of disagreement (and heated debate) around what the "best" whisky is. Any whisky enthusiast who's ever been to a wedding has undoubtedly encountered a drunk uncle who slurs at length about how such and such a Single Malt Scotch is "proven" to be the best whisky in the world. Now it may be tempting to enlighten uncle Gord on the finer points of individual palates, the subjectivity of taste and so on, but he won't listen to you anyway, so you may as well save your breath.
Lot no.40 11 Year Cask Strength 100% Rye
If you haven't heard about this Canadian Rye, you've probably been living under a rock. According to my online exchanges with Dr. Don Livermore, Lot no.40 Cask Strength is produced from 100% rye grain, is distilled first in a column still (like all spirits produced at the Hiram Walker distillery) and then distilled a second time in a copper pot still. It was then aged in charred virgin oak casks for at least eleven years (for the 2018 release). Now some more astute among you may be saying "Hmmm, first column distilled, then copper pot distilled: isn't that like bourbon or American rye?" The short answer is "no". A copper pot still is different from a "doubler" or a "thumper" used in bourbon and American rye distillation.
- Nose (undiluted): much deeper in flavour than the 2017 release. Lots of deep dark toffee/brown sugar up front, there’s something suggestive of a good quality dark rum, the rye grain and clove notes are present, but are farther back. There's also a floral (violets?), slightly fruity aroma in the background (blackberries?) that really rounds out the nose. Delightful. With time in the glass, some toasted oak aromas develop.
- Palate (undiluted): rich on arrival, sweet, dark caramel, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, deep barrel char
- Finish: long and warming, cloves, a slightly herbal note (spearmint, maybe?), fresh tobacco, black tea, toasted oak, sweetened coconut and caramel lingering.
Adding water brings out more floral and spicy aromas on the nose. Even with water or (dare I write it?) ice, the whisky retains all of its rich, full-bodied character. The finish isn't quite as complex with ice added, but I tend to drink my whiskies neat. Adding ice is usually just a move to make my drinks last longer so I don't get carried away. And while I'm confessing my whisky sins, I admit I have made an Old Fashioned with this whisky and it was glorious! I'm not even sorry.
With Lot 40 Cask Strength poised to be a regular occurance, the debate will no doubt rage on about which year's release is "best". It's hard to choose one over the other since they're both terrific and I see no reason to think the 2019 release will be anything short of exquisite. But life is full of hard choices. To my palate, the 2018 Lot no.40 11 Year Old Cask Strength Rye is an even more satisfying whisky than the outstanding 2017 edition.