Canongate 14 Year American Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


Independent bottlers are a ton of fun. They get to do things that most folks dream of. They get to pick barrels, often one-offs (yeah, I know, every barrel is technically a one-off, but you know what I mean), and either sell them as-is or they can go the blending or finishing (or both) routes. They’re usually transparent about where those barrels originated.


In the United States, independent bottlers are a relatively new breed. In contrast, in Europe, this has been a well-established industry. I’ve encountered a handful of the former, and what they produce is usually worthwhile.


One such independent bottler is The Perfect Fifth. Founded in Miami, Florida, in 2019 by Karl Schoen, it concentrates on barrels from Scotland. That’s because Karl grew up with Scotch; drinking it had been a generations-old tradition in his family. His goal is to obtain unique gems that a distillery may overlook. The Perfect Fifth was named Scotch Campbeltown Independent Bottler of the Year in its first year at the 2019 Whisky Magazine Awards Bottlers Challenge.


Everything The Perfect Fifth bottles is at cask strength. They’re all naturally colored and non-chill filtered to experience precisely what the distillery produced.


Canongate 14 is the whiskey we’re sipping today. It began as a single-cask whiskey distilled in 2009 by Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Kentucky. It spent three years in the state before it was shipped to Scotland to age another eleven years.


Distillers in the United States, in particular, Kentucky, have always had a harmonious relationship with Scotland, largely due to sending used bourbon barrels to Scotland for a second life, to mature spirits distilled in Scotland. Our Canongate expression, which is our ‘born and bottled’ line, is an ode to that symbiotic relationship.” – Karl Schoen, Founder


Why is this considered an American whiskey and not Bourbon? The answer isn’t what you likely expect. It sure took me by surprise. It isn’t the barrel. It isn’t the mashbill. There’s nothing added. The issue is two proof points on barrel entry! Legally, Bourbon cannot enter the new, charred oak barrel higher than 125°. For whatever reason, Heaven Hill sent it in at 127°, disqualifying it from classification.


Only 232 - 64.4% ABV (128.8°) bottles are available for distribution to California, New York, and New Jersey. You can also order directly from The Perfect Fifth at its website. Canongate 14 comes with a suggested price of $175.00.


How does it taste? You know the routine; we have to #DrinkCurious. But before that happens, I must thank The Perfect Fifth for providing me with a sample of Canongate 14 in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: I poured this whiskey into my Glencairn glass to sip neat. Inside, the liquid was a dull, brassy color. A fragile rim was produced – kind of – before dropping a massive curtain of tears.


Nose: The aroma was evident while I was pouring this whiskey. Butterscotch was the dominant smell. Beneath that were oak and ocean air. There was also a muted citrus note – so faint that I couldn’t discern what kind of citrus. It ended with vanilla. Then I drew that air through my lips; there was more butterscotch.


Palate: Canongate 14 offered a silky, full-bodied mouthfeel. The front of my palate found caramel, leather, and lemon zest. I tasted cinnamon, honey, and cocoa powder as it moved to the mid-palate. The back featured dry oak, plums, and black pepper.


Finish: The long, tapering finish included flavors of plums, leather, caramel, honey, vanilla, dry oak, and black pepper.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: This not-Bourbon provided a fun sipping experience. It was one that I didn’t want to stop sniffing, and once the liquid touched my tongue, I felt my eyes roll back with pleasure. It drank well below its stated proof – if I tasted this blind, I might suggest 105° or so. The black pepper on the back and finish was the only hint of its factual alcohol content.


This is a $175.00 American whiskey out of Heaven Hill. It is a one-off error on the distillery’s part. If it isn’t unique, it is at least highly unusual. Tack on its extra-aging in Scotland, and you’ve got something you’ll likely never have an opportunity to try again. In my opinion, The Perfect Fifth picked an exceptional barrel, one that you’ll kick yourself if you don’t buy a Bottle. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you to do so responsibly.