All posts by Richard

Founding Apostle

Auchentoshan Hepburn’s Choice 1997

1997 Auchentoshan 19 yr “Hepburn’s Choice” (K&L Wines Exclusive)
53.3% ABV

What the Retailer Says: Auchentoshan often gets overlooked in the new age of big sherry and big peat. The Lowland stalwart’s triple-distilled, light, and fruity flavors often have more in common with Irish whiskey than they do Scotch single malt, but that’s exactly why we love it! The longer Auchentoshan sits in wood, the more exotic those fruit flavors become, which is exactly what happened inside this hogshead from Hepburn’s Choice. There’s a kiss of sweetness right off the bat that’s lifted and bolstered up by the 53.3% ABV. The vanilla kicks in shortly after and there are cheerful notes of shortbread and oak spice on the finish. At 19 years old, this whisky is still full of malty character and by no means shows its age. Think of this whisky as a cask strength version of the Midleton Rare, but at almost half the price. With water, the fruit really opens up and flavors of caramel and king sugar begin to unfold. It’s a whisky that does justice and honor to the classic Lowland style.

What Gary Says
Nose: Clean, cereal malt, with a subtle citrus (kiwi & lemongrass) with fresh tobacco & tea leaves; just a hint of smoke.
Palate: Sharpens quickly with a pepper spice, and then sweetens to barley sugar, figs, tangerine, and a hint of nutmeg.
Finish: Moderate to long, and drying.
Comments: Classic Auchentoshan profile – at least from what I’ve read. I honestly haven’t had much from them before, but I found my tasting notes lined up pretty close with how they describe the retail Auchentoshan 18yr (which I often find the distillery notes tend to be overzealous – but hey, they’re trying to move product). While this is similar to their notes, and I imagine a fair representation of their offering – it isn’t right in my wheelhouse. When I first opened it, I was disappointed – but I’ve liked it more each time I’ve gone back to it. I’d love to try this after only the 2nd distillation, as thrice distilled it is just too clean for my liking.
Rating: Stands Out

What Richard Says
Nose: Green tea, lemon zest, and malt-o-meal. Water makes it a bit more grassy and vegetal.
Palate: This is lovely and much easier to drink than any other cask strength lowlander that I’ve had. Creamy and honey sweet with a kick of cracked black pepper at the end. A bit a water taps down the pepper and bring forward more a of an orange blossom note.
Finish: More pepper (even with water) and wood. Medium and dry.
Comments: Very nice. I really enjoy this whisky. I actually like it with very little water. The fullness dies quickly with too much additional dilution. A nice one for Auchentoshan and single malt fans alike. As referenced in the K&L’s notes, I agree that this might be something that would appeal to drinkers of Irish whiskey too.
Rating: Stands Out

Canadian Club 100% Rye

Canadian Club 100% Rye Canadian Whisky/
40% ABV

What the Distillery Says
This premium Canadian whisky is crafted 100% from single grain rye. Aged to perfection, it’s the purest expression of rye whisky, with more complexity, character and spiciness than other Canadian whiskies. It has the smooth taste you expect from Canadian Club® – making it the perfect choice for special occasions. Like Tuesdays.
Description: Complex, full and spicy
COLOR: Antique gold
AROMA: Balanced with toasted grains, gentle wood notes and a tantalizing hint of sweet vanilla
TASTE: Complex balance of rye spiciness, caramel and oak notes, warm and creamy
FINISH: Long clean finish with hints of clove, oak and vanilla

What Gary Says
Nose: Sweet & fruity, subtle pine note with a hint of nutmeg.
Palate: Thin mouthfeel, young, soft, subtle fruit salad.
Finish: Fairly short.
Comments: I picked this up for $18, as I recalled enjoying the Canadian Club Chairman’s Select 100% Rye (only offered in Canada) – and wanted to see if this version (offered in the US) was the same. Turns out it is (in fact, Canadian Club doesn’t even include both products on their web-site, but via Facebook they answered a consumer’s question that it is the same whisky). So you can read the review on that. I didn’t until I had written up my notes, and was only mildly surprised to see differences. I didn’t enjoy this as much as I did the original, which is more about my palate changing than the whisky (as I did a blind side-by-side, and couldn’t pick them apart – so I believe Canadian Club’s claim that they’re the same). I really would love to taste this whisky at 100 proof. Some drams hold up well at 80 proof, but this isn’t one of them. Compared to American rye whiskey, this is quite a bit softer. This might be a gateway rye for someone who likes Crown Royal, although I’d recommend they just go to Crown’s Northern Harvest Rye. It is certainly inexpensive enough to take a shot at if you are a rye fan.
Rating: Average

What Richard Says
Nose: Rich stewed fruit sweetness like fortified wine mixed with a bit of american brandy.
Palate: A bit thin. There is vanilla, baking spices, and a candy sweetness there but teasing it out is tricky and water doesn’t help.
Finish: Quick and clean.
Comments: Nothing spectacular and nothing off putting. I find the flavors a bit muted compared to other whiskeys but it serves well as a mixer or sipper. If you like Canadian whisky in general or Canadian Club specifically then it is probably worth giving this a shot.
Rating: Average

Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony

Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony Canadian Whisky
43% ABV
What the Distillery Says:
Introducing Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony!

Harmony is the pleasing sound of two or more notes heard simultaneously. With whisky, the skillful blending of two or more whiskies, is genuine harmony.

Forty Creek Three Grain Harmony is the 9th Limited Release from Forty Creek Whisky. This year, we decided to create a bit of music by carefully blending and harmonizing three single grains: rye, barley and corn. We began by fermenting and distilling each individual grain separately. Both the rye and the barley stocks date back to when we first began our Forty Creek Distillery. This Limited Release marks the first time these stocks have been introduced into one of our whiskies. As with many of our Signature Editions, the separate, single grain whiskies were patiently aged in toasted white oak barrels. At their peak flavour potential, they were then artfully blended to create the subtle yet complex whisky we named Three Grain Harmony.

To the nose, Three Grain Harmony displays aromas of vanilla, toffee and orange blossom with underlying spice notes. On the palate there are delicate soft flavours of exotic spices with a long dry finish.

Three Grain Harmony is a limited edition of 9,000 bottles.

Tasting Notes
Three Grain Harmony starts off with aromas of vanilla, toffee and orange blossom with underlying spice notes. On the palate there are delicate soft flavours of exotic spices with a long dry finish.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Prominent corn (but not “young”), rye beer-bread baking next door, corn muffins, with a hint of some type of cleaning chemical?
Palate: Corn sweetness up front with honey and vanilla, then some spiciness (rye spice, but not ‘American rye’; more gentle).
Finish: Moderately long and drying.
Comments: Of the three Forty Creek whiskies I reviewed this winter, this was my favorite and certainly the most interesting. If this were at a lower price point, it would be a “Must Try”. The nose reminded me a bit of the George Washington Unaged Rye made at Mount Vernon (which sounds like a dig, but it isn’t). When I think “rye”, I think sharp spice – and this is like that without the sharp edge, and with the spice dial turned down. It has a lot going on, and it is fairly well integrated. For me, this is a “sit and ponder” type of pour.
Rating: Stands Out / Must Try

What Richard Says:
Nose: Orange blossoms and corn mash.
Palate: Warm buttermilk cornbread (real cornbread, not the sweet Yankee kind) with orange blossom honey drizzled on top.
Finish: Spicy on the finish. Not in a “hot” way but it fires off with black and white pepper, cinnamon, crushed fennel seeds, and coriander.
Comments: Very nice and well put together. “Harmony” is the appropriate name. It plays well together. The finish on this release is really fun and gives you cause to linger on on the after aspects of the dram. However, for me it’s not something I would buy again over the standard Barrel Select. It’s interesting and fun for sure but it’s not $70 interesting or $70 fun.
Rating: Stands Out

Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve

Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve Canadian Whisky
40% ABV
confed oak
What the Distillery Says:
Notes from John Hall, Whisky Maker
I have worked with many types of oak barrels, first as a wine maker and then as a whisky maker. Every wood, whether it is from a bourbon barrel, port barrel, sherry cask, French, Balkan or American oak, creates a distinctive taste expression. As a proud Canadian whisky maker, I have always been curious what a Canadian whisky would taste like aged in a Canadian oak barrel, because most Canadian whiskies are aged in American oak.

To my delight, I discovered some massive Canadian white oak trees that were growing only 40 miles from the distillery! They must have started growing just before Confederation in 1867 because they were 4 feet in diameter and over 150 years old. The selected trees were harvested from a sustainably managed forest employing the principle of “no tree before its time.” This forest has a mixture of young trees coming up in the understory, mature trees in full productive vigor, and old trees whose growth has slowed. These older trees block sunlight and rainfall from the younger trees and when over-matured, need to be removed.

I thought I could give them a second career as whisky barrels. Canadian and American white oak trees are the same species. However, the cooler growing conditions in Canada result in slower growing trees that are more dense than their American counterparts. Consequently, the aromas and flavour profiles of Canadian oak are very different due to the Canadian terroir.

This is truly an iconic whisky. Canadian whisky, aged in Canadian oak barrels, harvested from trees that first rooted themselves in Canadian soil 150 years ago during Confederation.

Tasting Notes
Forty Creek Confederation Oak is the colour of old gold and is a very full bodied whisky. To the nose it is a big whisky with constantly evolving aromas and flavours. Beginning with a maple-raisin-vanilla-fig, layers of praline, banana, butter cream, honeyed nuts, marzipan, spice and orange blossoms. As it lingers, dark dried fruits and anise evolve. On the palate it has a very rich entry; soft, round and dry. Full bodied with vanilla, butter cream and pepper spice which is nicely framed with oak, walnut and smoke. An exceptional finish that has great depth. A long lingering finish with fading spice and white pepper. Excellent balance and vibrant flavour. A whisky to sip and cherish.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Soft, mellow Canadian maple syrup, fall leaves, faint apricots, plum wine.
Palate: Maple glazed donut with crumbles of praline pecans, mouthfeel is a tad thin.
Finish: Moderately long, with a bit of spice at the end.
Comments: I like sweet whisky, but this might be a bit too much sweet (definitely on the cusp for my personal taste). With the background all about the oak, I didn’t pick up much oak or spice – although full disclosure, I haven’t had a lot of experience with whisky aged in cooperage from really old trees. Maybe it is the Canadian oak that is just a different beast. Nothing off-putting about this pour (unless you’re not a fan of big sweetness), but nothing that stood out to me as particularly special. I’d be curious what this taste like at a higher proof, but I feel like I could say that about pretty much every 80 proof pour I taste (maybe the oak spice doesn’t get lost in the sweetness?)
Rating: Average

What Richard Says:
Nose: Bland and alcohol forward which is very odd given the 80 proof nature of the whiskey. It opens up with a bit time and water to fresh cut hay and fruit salad but there is a weird chemical-like note hanging way in the back.
Palate: Thank goodness this tastes better than it smells. It has a great creamy texture to it with gobs of vanilla cream filling (Boston Cream donuts) and poached stone fruit (pears and apricots) all drizzled with honey.
Finish: A bit dry and bitter. I was really hoping that some of the sweeter elements of the palate would linger a bit.
Comments: I really like the standard Barrel Select version of Forty Creek but I’m having a hard time liking this one. I really wish I had a chance to taste the original version back in 2010. My bottle is a later batch from 2015. This tastes very nice and it is easy to drink but the smell and finish are rough to get around. At $65 a bottle it’s rough to recommend buying one.
Rating: Average

Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve

Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve Canadian Whisky
40% ABV
What the Distillery Says:
Notes from John Hall, Whisky Maker
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to purchase some outstanding bourbon barrels from Kentucky. These barrels are excellent for ageing whiskies because they are “seasoned”. This means most of the fresh harsh oak tannins have been removed and what remains is all the good stuff, such as the softer oak tannins, wood vanillas, sugars and the toasty, smokey, spicy aromas, as well as the caramelized flavours from the heavy charring of the inside of the barrel.

After ageing my rye, barley and corn whiskies in their own special barrels, I decided to bring them together as a meritage, and placed the three whiskies into the bourbon barrels. This double barreling allowed the whiskies to hang out together and take on the subtle qualities offered by the bourbon barrels to enhance the finishing of the whisky.

Tasting Notes
Forty Creek Double Barrel has a wonderful golden roasted aroma filled with deep vanilla notes and highlighted with toasted spice, pecan and walnuts. There is a caramelized creaminess to the flavour with a rich spice that lifts it off the tongue. The finish is very smooth, mellow and extra long.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Soft, maple syrup, bit of burning leaves over freshly baked oatmeal raisin cookies, rich with a hint of malt.
Palate: Creamy mouthfeel, syrupy sweet (but not viscous), maple candies, butterscotch, vanilla ice cream.
Finish: Moderately long and wet.
Comments: I prefer the nose on this over the Forty Creek Confederation Oak (I thought they were similar, but this one was much more rich with a bit more character). On the palate, this one crosses the “too sweet” line for me. Again, nothing off-putting unless you don’t care for sweet whiskey (but if that is the case, you’re likely not a big fan of most Canadian whiskey, eh!) If you like that sorta thing (maybe a big fan of Crown Royal?), this might be right up your alley! It certainly has more complexity, and is quite drinkable.
Rating: Stands Out

What Richard Says:
Nose: Slightly burnt caramel creams washed down with a vanilla malted milkshake.
Palate: Rich sweetness reminding me of vanilla fudge and toffee crisps. Cherry syrup, Frangelico, and Kahlua round out the palate.
Finish: A bit spicy with mild wood notes.
Comments: This whiskey is put together like their standard Barrel Select and then finished in ex-bourbon barrels instead of sherry barrels. It’s more of a vanilla forward version of that whiskey. It’s very pleasant and easy to drink. If you like lighter, sweeter whiskies then I would recommend giving this a try.
Rating: Stands Out