Showing posts with label Canadian Rye. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Canadian Rye. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Crown Royal DeLuxe Canadian Whisky Review & Tasting Notes



I have been a man on a mission for the last year. I’m determined to find a Canadian whisky that I could enjoy and recommend. So far I’ve come up empty, but I have a number of them in my whiskey library just waiting to be sampled.


I know there are a lot of fans of Canadian whisky, and in particular, Crown Royal. I’m prepared to take some flak with this review, as even my friend Lew Bryson, who I deeply respect, said earlier this week, that he enjoys Crown Royal with his Thanksgiving meal, and then tossed a friendly barb at anyone who hated it. His statement was the driver for me to taste and compose this review in time for Thanksgiving.

 

What is Crown Royal? Aside from being the standard-bearer of what Canadian whisky should be, it was established in 1939 as a means to commemorate the arrival of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth I, the first British monarchs to visit Canada. The blenders at Seagram's Waterloo distillery sampled some 600 different whiskies in an attempt to create the perfect representation. They managed to whittle it down to 50, and it is aged in a variety of cooperages, including new charred oak, vintage charred oak, and French oak.  

 

A fun fact is that from 1939 until 1964, you could not purchase Crown Royal outside of Canada. The final result has remained mostly unchanged by design. It was originally owned by Seagram’s and then sold off to Diageo in 2001. 

 

Some of the blends are single grain whiskies, some of it is a mix of grains. Regardless, all of the grains are sourced from Manitoba and surrounding provinces. It changes in a quest to keep consistency year-to-year, as grains change slightly each growing season. The whiskies are aged at least three years to comply with Canadian regulations. One of the components could qualify as Bourbon if it was made in the United States! Once matured and blended, it is packaged at 40% ABV (80°).  You can expect to pay about $32.99 for a 750ml bottle.

 

I’ve tried Crown Royal before, and I wasn’t a fan. However, it has also been several years since I’ve tried it. As many of us know, our palates tend to change over time, so I’m willing to #DrinkCurious and give Crown Royal another chance.

 

Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this whisky appeared as the color of golden straw. I have no idea if e150a has been added for coloring, but I’d suspect that’s not the case considering how light it is. It formed a medium rim which released a huge, wavy curtain that dropped back to the pool.

 

Nose:  Corn was the first thing I smelled, which was joined by caramel, barrel char, floral perfume, and acetone. Yeah, I remembered that acetone from the last time I tried it. When I drew the air into my mouth, a soft vanilla flavor rolled across my tongue.

 

Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be silky with a medium weight. The front of my palate picked out corn and vanilla cream. Next up was a blend of brown sugar and rye spice. The back featured oak, nutmeg, and milk chocolate.

 

Finish:  Medium-long in length, what rounded out this whisky were pepper, dry oak, caramel, and milk chocolate.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The nose was not something I relished. If the acetone wasn’t there, it might have been decent. The palate was okay, as was the finish. The best part of Crown Royal is the mouthfeel. That’s not enough to garner a Bottle rating from me. In this instance, my coronation is a Bar.

 

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 do so responsibly.

 


 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Revel Stoke Blended Canadian Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

 



I am Whiskeyfellow. I drink whiskey and I know things. I love whiskeys from around the world:  The United States, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Israel, France, Sweden, India... you get the idea. But, there is one niche of whiskey I've not been fond of, and that's the stuff from Canada.


One of the first non-American whiskeys I tried was a Canadian. To my then untrained palate, it was horrible. I've tried a number of Canadian whiskies since then. I've had some that were upper-tier, such as from Alberta Distillers but there was never a wow factor to any of them. I know Canadian whisky has its fanbase, and I respect that. And, part of the #DrinkCurious lifestyle is the requirement to revisit stuff you didn't like in hopes that a more mature palate (your palate is always maturing no matter how experienced you are) might appreciate it more. To be perfectly frank, I'm looking for a Canadian whisky that will change my mind about Candian whisky.


Canadian whisky has to be mashed, distilled, and aged in Canada for at least three years in small wood barrels, must possess the aroma, taste, and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky, and, finally, can be colored and flavored with caramel.


I'm sure you've heard of Canadian Rye. That's a general term for Canadian whisky. Did you know that in order to be called Canadian Rye, there is no requirement for a single grain of rye in the mash?


After a fairly long hiatus, I'm back to trying something Canadian. In this case, it is Revel Stroke Blended Canadian Whisky. Named after the mountain resort Revelstoke in British Columbia, Revel Stoke is known for its various flavored whiskies. It is owned by Phillips Distilling Co. out of Minnesota. Phillips holds a lot of information close to its vest. The mashbill is unknown. The distiller is unknown. It makes no secret, however, that this is a blend of three-year and eight-year whiskies. A one-liter 80° bottle will set you back about $12.99, making it a very affordable choice.


While the affordability aspect is nice, what's more important is how it tastes.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Revel Stoke presented as pale gold in color. It formed a thicker rim that stuck to the wall while the watery legs raced back to the pool.


Nose:  The initial aroma was caramel, which didn't shock me considering the legally allowed caramel additive is a factor. Behind that was an ethanol punch. Once I got past that, I picked up a faint Jolly Rancher green apple smell.  I tried to pull the vapor into my mouth, but there was nothing.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was watery and light. It offered an almost immediate tingle to my tongue but left the hard palate alone. I picked up just two flavors:  corn and toasted oak. Try as I might there was nothing else to be had.


Finish:  The tingle continued into the finish, which was longer than I anticipated based upon the mouthfeel and palate. It consisted of toasted oak, clove, and raw almond.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This isn't the Canadian whisky to change my mind about Canadian whisky. What this really is is a mixer or something to slam as a shot. Or, it is a whisky to drink for someone who really doesn't like the taste of whisky because there's just nothing there whisky-like, at least in my opinion. I don't buy whiskies for the purpose of having a mixer. I'd rather use a good whisky to make good cocktails. Revel Stoke earns a Bust. You can do much better than this. 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 that you do so responsibly.



Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Barrell Seagrass Review & Tasting Notes

 



Barrell Seagrass may be the most unique whiskey I've ever tried. There, I said it!  When it becomes challenging for me to figure out just what I'm tasting, that piques my interest. Each time I took a sip, I was tasting something else.


Seagrass begins with a blend of Ryes from MGP of Indiana and an undisclosed Canadian distillery. They've been finished separately in some rather unusual barrels:  Martinique rum, Malmsey Madiera, and of all things, apricot brandy barrels. If you're trying to imagine what this would taste like, don't bother. I spent a week wondering about it. I was wrong.

 

"Seagrass stands alone as a whiskey, while also inviting the drinker to explore the multitude of influences created by a global approach to sourcing, finishing, and blending. It highlights the grassy oceanside notes we love in rye and the opulence and spice of finishing barrels." -- Joe Beatrice, founder of Barrell Craft Spirits.


If you're unfamiliar with Barrell Craft Spirits, they're blenders. There are good blenders and less-than-good ones. Barrell is in the former grouping. That's not to suggest everything they do is awesome, I've had some blends that have fallen short. But, I've enjoyed most of what I've tried.


Seagrass doesn't carry an age statement, and like everything out of Barrell, it is packaged at barrel proof. In this case, that's 118.4°. You can expect to pay about $89.99, which is about average for a Barrell expression. 


Before I get to the tasting notes and recommendation, I'd like to thank Barrell for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. With that, it is time to investigate this whiskey.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Seagrass was bright bronze in color. It made a thin rim and perhaps the thickest legs I've seen. They were heavy and crashed back into the pool.


Nose:  Here's where things got really different - dried apricot and plum were sweet notes, then brine offered a barrier of sorts, separating out the grass and mustiness on the other end of the spectrum. When I inhaled through my lips, coconut and apricot rolled across my tongue.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was full-bodied and weighty. The front of my palate found candied apricot, peach, pear, and pineapple. Rich, strong pineapple. The middle consisted of chocolate, almond, and caramel. On the back, there was a mixture of cinnamon, molasses, candied ginger, and the bitterness of walnut.


Finish:  Long and warming, the finish had plenty of wood tannin, salted chocolate, molasses, ginger, rye spice, apricot, and pineapple. Again, these are things that are difficult to imagine intermingling with one another. I did find my hard palate zinged quickly, but the sweetness mellowed out any burn the proof may have otherwise presented.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  As I said at the beginning, this is probably the most unusual whiskey I've tried. It was sweet. It was spicy. It was earthy. The challenge became both exciting and a little frustrating. But, as I experienced the frustration, I caught myself smiling because the mystifying quality just worked for whatever reason.  


If you're adventurous and want to really #DrinkCurious, I'm here to tell you this is going to stimulate the heck out of you. Of course, I'm in that camp, which means Seagrass grabs my coveted Bottle rating. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It



Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Select Club Pecan Praline Ultra-Premium Whisky Review & Tasting Notes


Flavored whiskeys... I've been trying to have a more open mind regarding them, particularly since I've tasted some shockingly good ones. But, if I'm going to be intellectually honest with myself, I don't go in with much expectation. That allows me to be less disappointed when they taste phony and, to me, is a ploy to sell bad whiskey by drowning it in flavor. But, it also allows me to be happy when I'm wrong.


When a local distributor asked me to try Select Club Pecan Praline Ultra Premium Whisky, I was more open-minded than usual. The first pecan flavored whiskey I tried was William Wolf Pecan Bourbon and I found it enjoyable. When I saw Select Club was Candian Whisky mixed with neutral grain spirits, that open door creaked shut just a little bit. For the record, neutral grain spirits are akin to vodka, but can basically be anything that is pure grain alcohol distilled to a very high level of ethanol. 


Select Club is owned by a company called Mextor, a family-owned company located in Houston. They don't do any actual distilling as far as I could tell, rather, they just import various wine, beer, and spirits and then distribute to 46 states.


Mextor bills this as something that is "a tasty shooter, great straight, or pairs perfectly with other flavors to serve up an amazing cocktail." It is bottled at 70° and has a suggested retail of $17.99. The actual distiller is undisclosed, and considering there are over 250 working distilleries in the country, your guess is as good as mine who it actually is.


So, is Select Club good, bad or ugly? The only way to answer that is to #DrinkCurious. Here we go...


Appearance:  In my glass, Select Club appears as a pale amber. It left a thick rim on the wall of my Glencairn, which led to fat droplets that stuck like glue and never really went anywhere.  


Nose:  Within about a foot of my face, the aroma of pecan pie greeted my nostrils. No matter where I positioned my glass, it always came up as pecan pie, both the nuttiness and the sweetness. When I stuck my nose inside the glass, I was able to pick up mild ethanol, but it required work to find it. Interestingly enough, inhaling through my mouth brought absolutely nothing:  no pecan, no ethanol, nothing.


Palate:  Select Club had an incredibly thick mouthfeel, almost like drinking cream. In fact, the more I sipped it, the thicker it became. As expected, pecan and brown sugar dominated the palate. There was a certain wood quality that I would not define as oak, but also not to be mistaken by either nuts or nutshells.


Finish:  A medium-long finish was made of brown sugar, cream, and smoke. And, on a side note, when I ran my tongue across my lips, I picked up more brown sugar, which seemed to reboot some of what was on the palate.



Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Select Club Pecan Praline Ultra Premium comes with a very un-premium pricetag. Inexpensive is nice so long as it isn't cheap. I can see sipping this with many non-whiskey drinking friends and having them enjoy the hell out of it. It would make a nice campfire drink. Mrs. Whiskeyfellow enjoyed it so much she informed me we were buying a bottle, so we did. And, that, my friends, means this gets a Bottle rating. Enjoy this one, cheers!



My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:
  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • Bust = Leave it 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Beginner's Guide to Whiskey Review



Sam Green holds the honor of being the first person to earn the title of Whiskey Sommelier in Southern California. Despite that, he's not spent decades dealing with whiskey. After all, he's only in his late twenties. But, don't let his age fool you - Sam is passionate about whiskey and spent his entire adult life studying it.  


As always, I'm big into disclosure. I've known Sam for a couple of years. We've never met face-to-face but we do converse from time to time. The circle of whiskey writers is smaller than you'd think and we tend to know one another. Saying all of that, friendships are irrelevant when it comes to my composing reviews. It is my reputation on the line, and for me, my reputation is everything.


Shortly after publishing my most recent book review, Sam approached me and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing his brand new book, Beginner's Guide to Whiskey: Traditions, Types & Tastes of the Ultimate Spirit. Like I tell everyone, I'm always interested in reviewing anything whiskey-related, so long as the person making the request is prepared for me to write an honest review. Sam agreed, and he sent me a copy of his book. 


With that, the necessary disclosure is done.


You can get your own copy from Amazon. It is a shorter read at 144 pages and will set you back $14.99. It is a smaller paperback and the font size is large enough to see without eye strain. There is a Kindle edition available as well for $9.99.  Spending $15 on a book isn't much, but what matters is, is it any good?


Here's the thing. I'm far from a beginner. I've been reading and writing about whiskey for several years. I was curious if this book would be interesting or bore me to tears. 


Sam's book is divided intuitively. It starts with a brief history of whiskey. He then talks about how whiskey is made, with the first half dealing with grain and fermentation, and the second with distillation, aging, and finishing. He then talks about the major whiskey categories:  Scotch, Irish, American, Canadian, and Japanese. Then, he finishes with proper nosing and tasting methods and pairing whiskey with food. There are a few cocktail recipes as well.


This is a primer for beginners. Sam does a good job of writing at a level where things are easy to understand without treating the reader like an idiot. That's much more difficult than you can imagine and, as someone who writes educational pieces myself, I know it requires rewrites and revisions as you wonder if it is insulting or over someone's head. At the same time, as an experienced reader, it flows easily and naturally.


He even managed to teach me a new way to explain Bourbon with his ABC's of Bourbon. I've never seen it put together like that but it made a ton of sense. 


The font used was the proper size and offered no eye strain. 


Bottle, Bar or BustI appreciate non-fiction books written in a conversational tone rather than instructional. I believe that's because I write similarly. I also find it to be a more effective writing style than the latter. If you write the way people talk, the flow is better and the mind is open.


If I was I a whiskey newbie or at least someone fresh to learning whiskey basics, Beginner's Guide to Whiskey is a very easy read. I finished it in three fairly short sessions. I don't fathom anyone is going to finish it and remain confused. Sam touches on all the important points and I was left with the impression someone will walk away with newfound, useful knowledge, able to communicate with experienced whiskey connoisseurs without feeling left out of the conversation. As such, I believe Sam accomplished his mission, and happily hand over my Bottle rating.  Cheers!






My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:
  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • Bust = Leave it

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Punjabi Club Rye Whisky Review & Tasting Notes



Microdistilleries are interesting because you never quite know what to expect. Some micro distillers are very talented and know what they're doing. Others have, well, unique spirits that their family and friends "enjoy" because they know the distiller and don't want to be rude.


In 2019 Mrs. Whiskeyfellow and I took one of our random road trips and we found ourselves in Monroe, Wisconsin. If you're not familiar with Monroe, it is known as the Swiss Cheese Capital of the United States.  One of the businesses in Monroe is the Minhas Craft Brewery, which is home to the brewery, a restaurant, a gift shop, and a microdistillery.  The brewery is actually the second oldest in the nation. and has a sister operation in Calgary, Canada where the owners, Ravinder and Manjit Minhas reside. The distillery was established in 2006 and utilizes a 1000-gallon, 45-foot column still to make various spirits. For what it is worth, the tasting room is a fun experience, presenting an opportunity to try a wide variety of liqueurs and spirits.


Today I'm reviewing Punjabi Club, which is a Canadian Rye whisky. What you can make from that is it was not distilled in Monroe. The rules for Canadian Rye include that at least 91% of the whisky must be a product of Canada. 


The age and mash bill are undisclosed. While Canadian whisky must be aged at least three years, one thing to keep in mind is that just because the word rye appears on the label of Canadian whisky, there is no requirement for even a single grain of rye to be in the mash. In the case of Punjabi Club, from my sipping experience, there is likely a significant amount of rye content.


Punjabi Club is bottled at 86° and can be purchased both at the distillery and online from a few outlets. Retail for a 750ml is about $24.99. How does this one taste? Time to #DrinkCurious and find out.


In my Glencairn glass, Punjabi Club appeared as the color of straw and was clear and bright. It left a medium-thick rim that created a thick, heavy curtain. Once the curtain dissipated, fat, slow legs were left behind.


The initial nosing was aromas of heavy oak and floral rye spice. Beneath those, I found orange citrus and mint. There was also a certain musty quality of wet wood. When I inhaled through my lips, flavors of ginger and oak started off and then became sweet red pepper.


A light but oily mouthfeel greeted my palate. Rye spice and oak dominated the front. At mid-palate, it smoothed out to a nice mix of pineapple, citrus, and spearmint. On the back, rye spice returned, this time with white pepper and tobacco.


The finish was initially short, but that turned out to only be a hiccup. Just as it fell off, it suddenly built and lasted for almost a minute. A blend of very dry oak and white pepper started both initially and returned for the comeback. Then, it got very sour. I can't say I've ever experienced a sour note with whiskey before. It was both unexpected, unpleasant and overshadowed the entire drinking experience.


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  The $24.99 price tag is very enticing. I tell people all the time that price doesn't dictate quality. After all, I am Mr. #RespectTheBottomShelf. Unfortunately, Punjabi Club is not a bottom-shelf gem. Aside from the very sour finish, I was turned off by the musty nose. This is one that I would just avoid, and as such, I have no qualms rating it a Bust.  Cheers!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Root Out Root Beer Flavored Whisky Review & Tasting Notes



Sometimes, as a whiskey reviewer, I run into some outstanding whiskeys.   Then, there are the ones that are okay. Occasionally, something bad that earns a Bust rating.  Then, there are things that are so bad they become more of a Public Service Announcement rather than a review.

My review of Root Out Root Beer Flavored Whisky can be found at Bourbon & Banter.

Cheers!



Tuesday, September 3, 2019

WhistlePig 10-Year Single Barrel Rye (Niemuth's Southside Market) Review & Tasting Notes



I am not a fan of Canadian Rye.  It isn't really any specific Canadian Rye, it is the category itself.  It is not due to some amount of whiskey snobbery (which I try desperately to avoid) but mostly because I find Canadian Rye just not very good.


There are basically three rules as it applies to Canadian whisky:

  1. It must be mashed in Canada;
  2. It must be distilled in Canada; and
  3. It must be aged at least three years in small wood barrels in Canada


Wait a minute... there's nothing there about the mashbill!  You forgot that!


No, no I did not. Believe it or not, for Canadian Rye to be considered Canadian Rye, it requires not one single grain of actual rye.  Not one, single grain at all. There are also no rules about adding artificial coloring or flavoring.  


When the folks at Niemuth's Southside Market in Appleton asked me to review their WhistlePig 10-year Single Barrel, I asked if it was from MGP or Alberta Distillers.  When they told me Alberta Distillers, my heart sank a bit. But, it had been some time since I've had anything to do with anything Canadian and it was time to suck it up and review the category.  You know, that whole #DrinkCurious philosophy thing.


Let's start off with the facts:  Niemuth's WhistlePig is nicknamed the Happy Honey Beast. It came from Barrel #72355 and rested in Warehouse 1, Rick G, and Level 2.  Did it rest in Vermont for all of its 10 years?  Likely not.  Did it rest in Canada at least three years?  Probably.  WhistlePig claims they rescued aged stock before bringing it to Vermont and then aging it in new, American oak with a Bourbon Finish. It was then bottled at 118.5° and this barrel yielded 132 bottles. Niemuth's has this priced at $89.99 for a 750ml.  Alberta's ryes are, despite the lack of Canadian regulations, 100% rye content. 


It is also a Straight Rye.  From that, we can assume there is no artificial flavoring or coloring, and I'd assume it aged on the WhistlePig farm at least two years.


Appearance:  In my glass, this WhistlePig appeared as a deep amber.  It left a thin rim but created a thick, wavy curtain before dropping down to the pool.


Nose:  Aromas of dry oak, cinnamon were prevalent.  That dry oak was very strong.  But, behind that were walnut and cherries.  And then, just before fooling myself in thinking I'd identified it all, there was a punch of caramel.  When I inhaled through my lips, that caramel continued, which was followed by honeysuckle.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was very thin and oily.  Sometimes a thin mouthfeel thickens up and becomes coating after a few sips. That didn't happen with the Happy Honey Beast. At the front of the palate, flavors of cocoa and cinnamon were prevalent. That spice then changed up to spearmint. At mid-palate, it was coffee and rye spice.  And, then, out of nowhere, on the back, the honey appeared, making sense of this whisky's nickname. 


Finish:  The finish of smoky rye spice, clove, and vanilla fooled me into believing it was very short.  But, before I took my next sip, it all came back to make for a very long, dry finish. 


Before I get to my rating, for curiosity's sake I added two drops of distilled water to see what would happen by proofing it down.  The nose got very minty, but on the palate, the spearmint quality disappeared entirely, allowing the caramel to shine through. The clove on the finish changed up to the elusive spearmint and this time, there was no pause in the finish, it just kept building. The dryness on the finish went away, but it exaggerated the smokiness.


Between the two, I preferred it neat.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I started off saying I am not a fan of Canadian Rye. There are several things going on with the Happy Honey Beast.  It threw me for at least three loops.  I'm used to that happening once, or occasionally, twice. But I don't recall any doing it a third time until now. That's exciting. Moreover, in a blind tasting, I guarantee I would not identify this as Canadian.  It gets bonus points from me there.  The $89.99 is a bit steep, but this seems to be an average price for WhistlePig 10.


This is a better barrel compared to several of the other WhistlePig 10's I've tried. For a Canadian Rye, I would say this is very good. If you're a WhistlePig fan, Happy Honey Beast is an easy Bottle.  For those who haven't tried WhistlePig yet, you'll probably want to sample this before you buy it, but since it is a store pick, you're not going to find this one available at a bar.


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It