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- Brand: Toronto Distillery Co.
- ABV: 50%
This past week was a bit of a first for me; for two reasons: 1) on Saturday night (the 30th), which also happens to be Saint Andrew's Day, I attended a Whisky Tasting Fundraiser at the Diefenbunker Museum in Carp, Ontario, with a number of the other members of our informal Whisky Club; and 2) last Tuesday (the 26th) I participated in one of The Whisky Lassie's (@WhiskyLassie) Twitter Tastings (you can see all the related posts by searching for #C2CC on Twitter).
So, what exactly is a Twitter Tasting? Pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a bunch of people on Twitter doing a simultaneous tasting of the same whisky (sometimes it isn't disclosed in advance) and then discussing their tasting notes over Twitter.
I'd thrown my hat into the ring and agreed to participate, and as a result the Whisky Fairy obligingly deposited a small package on my doorstep. It contained a 50ml sample bottle made of dark, clouded glass which I placed on my shelf in anticipation of the day. Actually, that isn't entirely true...I opened the bottle and took a sniff...my initial thoughts were of diesel fuel and burnt rubber, which made me think I'd been sent something from Islay. It wasn't until a few minutes before we were supposed to start on the 26th that I checked my e-mail and read the instructions, which told me a few things, including the fact that we were tasting a new make spirit (aka 'White Dog') from the Toronto Distillery Company: their 'Organic Ontario Wheat Spirit', which is distilled from winter wheat and bottled at 50% ABV (they also do a Red Fife wheat spirit, but that wasn't what we were tasting).
Now that I knew what I was tasting, I decided to pour myself a small measure of Highwood Distiller's Centennial 10 year-old, which is also a winter wheat based whisky, for comparison purposes. So there I sat, with about 40ml of the Wheat Spirit poured into two glasses (a NEAT and a regular Glencairn), and a small sample of Centennial 10 year-old, waiting for this to start...and it quickly became chaos as Whisky Lassie tried to coordinate almost forty people across several time zones...a few of us jumped the gun and started posting comments before we were supposed to (and to this I must plead guilty).
Colour: clear...absolutely no colour...only the nose gives away that it isn't water, or vodka...very thick legs (probably 3mm) spaced about 10mm apart;
Nose: diesel, burnt rubber (straight out of the bottle), giving way to grapefruit rind, raw (not ripe) nectarines, and rose water (with the NEAT I also got a weird lemon/lime SpriteTM-like aroma...but for something bottled at 50% ABV, there was little to no alcohol burn;
Palate: thick, biting...much sharper than the nose implied. Then some white chocolate and popcorn transitioning to a very salty, briny flavour...with some black licorice (but not as strong as ouzo or raki)...very, very hot(!);
Finish: very, very long, with the white chocolate and buttered popcorn slowly changing to white grapefruit juice;
Balance: drinking this in contrast to the Centennial 10 year-old (which I should review sometime soon) was very informative as it really showed what barrel aging can do. The Centennial had a much softer and gentler feel to it (as it should be at 40% ABV) but you could taste the wood influence - the vanilla, the rye spices, etc.; and
Empty Glass: popcorn...that is all...which I'd sort of expect from a corn based whisky, but not a wheat whisky...
Final Thoughts: This was a very different experience, from both a taste and a social media perspective. I don't think I'd be drinking this stuff neat if it wasn't in the name of science and providing critical feedback, although as a mixer I could see it being pretty decent. I am curious, though, to see how it will turn out once it has been aged for a few years and whether the distillery intends to bottle the end result as single barrel expression or use it as an aged base spirit as part of a blended whisky, like many of the other Canadian distilleries do, although in response to some of the questions asked during the tasting, the distillery has indicated that it does not intend to use the spirit (aged or unaged) as part of a blend, nor do they intend to use artificial flavouring elements when bottling. Time will tell if they do decide to go this route.