Ask many whisky drinkers how they feel about Canadian whisky and many don't have a good opinion of it, there are many reasons why but they all boil down to the same conclusion. There is just too much, low proof, smooth harmless whisky being released. It's like they got stuck in the 70's and didn't budge. What if people don't want to drink high proof flavor bombs you ask? Well bourbon is flying off the shelves here, The LCBO made a Facebook event for Old Weller 107 & 12 and everyone crapped themselves and cleared the shelves within a week. Lot 40 Cask Strength almost caused a riot (well a Canadian riot so a really polite one) upon release and folks have been clamoring for offerings of the same caliber as we are getting from elsewhere in the whisky world.
Not all is lost, the tide is turning albeit very slowly, the release in 2017 of Corby's Northern Border Collection was a major step in the right direction. Many would trace the turning point to 2012 as Wiser's re-release of Lot no. 40 and Pike Creek but I think the true beacon and to me still one of the best examples of what good blending can bring to the category was J.P. Wiser's Legacy.
Legacy was released sometime in 2010, it was a tribute to it's namesake and was unique on a few points. At the time there were few "ultra-premium" Canadian whiskys (Wiser's Red Letter and some Crown Royal Editions) but this differed in that not only did it push a very rye forward recipe but also sported a proper drinking ABV of 45%. It had a good amount of success but in the final years of it's availability (2016-2017) was largely ignored by folks and was ultimately discontinued. (I think in part because it would have competed with Corby's other new products) Sadly I believe it was not exported much either, so few outside of Canada had knowledge of it's existence.
￼I've blabbed enough let's dive in and see what makes this one so special.
Nose: Caramel corn, mackintosh toffee, golden delicious apple and a little barrel char perhaps? Then a good dose of cloves, allspice, and ginger, the addition of that Wiser's pot-still rye (AKA Lot No 40) is very apparent here in the middle. There is a bit of a lemon pith bite, you can feel the alcohol on the nose but it's not harsh , it gives zing and there's a lingering creamy, buttery bread note too. Really pleasant!
Palate: Sweet oak, brown sugar, a slight mineral tang, lemon zest, pretty silky entrance from the corn which then leaves behind the spicy and fairly drying astringency, it seems like it sticks to the middle of your palate. It has this boldness that many other blends lack.
Finish: Medium in length but effective, on lingering warm spices, maple butter, cedar and a minty, coppery tang.
The Blab (yes more of it): I like that it's still clearly a Canadian whisky but you see what a bit of boldness and good blending chops can bring to the game, definitely a yardstick by which to measure other entries in the category.
Don't get me wrong I am not shitting on other products, I think there is a place for all types of whiskies, I just think too many products are operating in the same spectrum and there is a notable void created by the absence of premium Canadian whisky. It's not like we don't have good stocks, look at how much of it leaves the country and is sold under the guises of Whistlepig, Masterson's, Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrels and so on.
@Victor sadly the bottle code is not very clear but I can tell by the label that it's from the final years of production post 2015.
I know there was a bit of a shift in profile on this whisky over the years, perhaps it is in part due to change of production on the rye, which might make sense in relation to that anise/licorice note.
Oh I know the Bourbon mania is real, it even extends to things like Blanton's which is apparently rare as hen's teeth in certain states it seems. A better example would be the arrival of JD barrel Proof at the SAQ, the first time I see it for sale in Canada I believe, or even the way things like Knob Creek Single Barrel sell here. If this isn't an indication that people are looking for and ready for full bodied, flavorful whiskys, I don't know what is.
It's much like anything that runs counter to popular tastes that one days shifts, I am happy to see the things I love get the recognition they deserve even if it pains me that it means I may have a harder time indulging in the very things I loved.
@cricklewood, that's a big mark from you, 88. I haven't had a bad bottle of Legacy, they are all great. There is batch variation and for that I am thankful, if they all tasted the same I'd say they were doctored. lol
We know from having access to two vintages of cask strength Lot No 40 that batches will vary for any of a number of reasons, such as discontinuation of malted rye in the mash or simply the selection process for mature barrels.
I sometimes blend my own Legacy to suit my mood. With an ample stock of Lot no 40 Cask Strength on hand I'll be doing this for years to come (Thank you @Nosebleed and @Nozinan and Alberta Tim and ....)