Canadian whisky…. The final frontier… These are the voyages of the vessel known as Glencairn. It’s ongoing mission, to seek out new spirits, to boldly drink where @Nozinan has not drunk before…
For those of you who have read earlier reviews of mine you will know 2 things. First, they tend to run on. Second, when I do a review of a Canadian whisky, I tend to score it lower than I tend to score scotches.
Well, no longer. In the spring my palate discovered Hiram Walker (Wiser’s, Corby etc…). I had the opportunity to taste a few at Spirit of Toronto, and when Dissertation and Union 52 became available I spent a lot of time on those reviews, tasting them more than once. For the latter, I actually did different glasses on different days.
Recently, when I found out that Wiser’s Legacy was being discontinued, not just on hiatus, I decided to use some gift card money to buy some, to see if I wanted to have some stashed away before it’s gone. This coincided with a visit by my brother in law, @Nosebleed, and I used the opportunity to taste together a few Canadians, including three other Wiser’s expressions, and then we opened this one. It was during this Canadian immersion that I had an epiphanic moment and I realized “I GET Canadian Whisky”. I think I finally understand, deep inside, what it’s about.
This expression is reviewed in my usual manner, allowing it to settle after which I take my nosing and tasting notes. As always, I did not add water to this Canadian whisky. The bottle was opened on October 9th and 19 and then today, and has been gassed after each use.
In the glencairn, I get caramel, a hint of spice and some fruit. Cinnamon, some sort of fragrant solvent. And something I’ve never noticed in a Canadian before, the smell upon entering a fish shop. This dissipates with time. After pouring most of it out into a Kentucky bourbon glass, what’s left gives off more fruit. Some apple.
In the bourbon glass, stewed McIntosh apples and cinnamon, and as it is drying after pouring into the next glass, I get butterscotch. In the Canadian whisky glass I get a spicier nose and some pickle juice. The drying glass is heavy on rye spice.
This definitely tastes like a “Canadian” whisky (a GOOD Canadian whisky). In the Glencairn, vanilla, caramel, pepper, spiciness. A little thin on the mouthfeel. A little sweeter in the bourbon glass , creamier. In the Canadian glass it seems to have a balance between sweet and savory. The longer it is in the glass (I’ve been working on this review close to 2h), the better the palate comes together.
Astringent, surprisingly long, peppery. Not sweet at all. A little anise at the drop off.
Maybe a little too bitter overall on the palate, and I would have preferred a slightly stronger nose with a little more complexity.
I give this showdown to the Canadian Whisky Glass.
I’m glad I have a spare bottle of this. I’ll be paying close attention to Legacy over the next couple of weeks as I decide whether I would like another in the bunker. I think I like the Dissertation profile a little better but that will have to wait for a H2H on another day.
I admit my bias as to always considering Canadian whiskies to be on a lower tier than Scotches and bourbons. Low ABV, filtered, coloured, sketchy 1/11 rules, all that stuff. But I’ve been thinking a lot of Dr. Don Livermore’s assertion that Canadian whisky’s strength is in its flexibility. It may be mostly marketing fluff, but I do see how our rules, while resulting in a lot of bottom shelf swill, allow certain expressions to stand out. Subtlety is key here, though the good doctor coaxes a lot of flavour from lower ABVs. As a big flavours person, it’s very different from the others and something I still have a lot to learn from.
Luckily I discovered this in time, when premium Canadian whisky is on the rise. Let’s hope the price doesn’t follow the whisky too quickly.
"... Hiram Walker (Wiser’s, Corby etc…)..."
That's part of what turns me off about Canadian whisky. Like bourbon, it seems to be a bunch of brands—a bunch of brands produced by a few big distilleries. (Is that about right?)
I can't follow it all. I dislike the "branding" element on principle and I find it all just too overwhelming to even attempt to sort through. To know what's what, you have to figure out which ones are made by the same people, and then figure out what distinguishes one brand from another within the same house? Get outta here.
I much prefer the situation in Scotland. Even though you have scores of distilleries with esoteric Gaelic names, at least most of the whisky comes from the place named on the bottle. (Single malts, not blends.)
On this scale, I s'pose Ireland is somewhere in between.
Of course, the other problem with Canadian whisky is that it all tastes like maple. Maple and beaver. Right, @Robert99?
@MadSingleMalt Oh, you mean like Springbank, Longrow and Hazelburn? I thought you were talking about Canadian whisky...