At the end of the last decade I finally started taking more of an interest in Canadian whisky. I’d previously lacked enthusiasm for it. Many expressions, even the “good ones”, were bottled at low ABV. When Jim Murray crowned Northern Harvest Rye the World’s best whisky, it did not help. The few Canadians I had enjoyed until 2017 included Alberta Premium 25 and 30 YO (though I did find them a little weak), and Danfield’s 21. I still regret letting those 4 bottles evaporate in a small town in Alberta… Sorry @paddockjusdge.
Then Dr. Don introduced the Northern Border Collection in 2017 (which I previewed in the spring at Spirit of Toronto that year). From that point on my interest grew and I have developed an appreciation for Canadian whiskies, particularly the ryes and high proof (or both) versions. At SOT in 2018 we got to taste this one - it was released for Father’s Day. I was able to get a couple of bottles (with trepidation… $100 a bottle in those days was considered high for a Canadian…).
I don’t remember a lot of details and the info on the bottle is limited, but with the help of some of the prior reviews (which I looked at AFTER making my tasting notes), It seems that this release contains mostly aged corn spirit with a little rye thrown in. Dr. Livermore used re-fill casks and then, after 18 years, the spirit was finished for a year in casks made from wood that was allowed to dry (or “season”) outdoors for at least 4 years.
This bottle was originally opened in June 2018. Before taking this one out of hibernation 2 days ago, the last time I had opened it was Dec. 2019, when I shared it with @paddockjudge. It is still 2/3 full and likely gassed after each use.
This expression is reviewed in my usual manner, using both a standard and Canadian Glencairn, allowing it to settle after which I take my nosing and tasting notes, followed by the addition of a few drops of water, waiting, then nosing and tasting.
In the standard glencairn, very spicy. Lots of caramel and vanilla and butterscotch. A little green apple. The empty glass has a little dill. I’m sure others would tease out more but it’s all I really get. But a rich, vibrant nose. In the Canadian glencairn the alcohol becomes a bit more pronounced and overshadows the rest. I prefer the nose in the standard glass.
Water seems to dampen the nose.
Sweet on arrival, spicy with lots of caramel and vanilla. Some pepper. Very rich. Super oaky, lots of tannins. In the Canadian glass it somehow becomes “smoother”, and the flavours are less distinctive.
Water seems to wash out the palate a bit.
Astringent, oaky, with pepper at the end. A little less oaky in the Canadian glass.
Water shortens the finish and makes it less astringent.
The balance between nose and palate is good. I like the oakiness in it.
I like this whisky. I have to admit I was less impressed with it initially, but I think that over almost 4 years my palate has matured. It is very “Canadian”, in that its underlying flavour DNA reminds me of many standard expressions, but with a bit more richness and flavour.
I prefer this one neat. Water seems to simply dilute it.
If you don’t like oak or tannins, this one is not for you. But if you like a spicy, oaky whisky, you will want to try this one. Sadly, it is long gone from retail, but I know a guy who can get you a dram…