Collingwood 21 Year Old Rye Canadian Whisky

Posted on by Eric Burke

Collingwood 21 year old rye. I first heard of this while conversing with Davin de Kergommeaux during the Twitter tastings that were held to promote his book Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert. Now, Davin loves Canadian whisky so you need to take his enthusiasm for the category into effect when interpreting his comments on a particular whisky. And he was really enthusiastic about this. After doing a little reading online, I took his advice. “If you see it, buy two” to heart. It was getting close to Christmas 2013 at this point and I was doing a little shopping. 

Yes, for others…but for me too.

We were in the area so I stopped off at Surdyk’s, a liquor store in Minneapolis to see if they had this particular treat. The parking lot had zero spaces and the streets were full of snow so I sent my wife in. She nicely bought me one bottle…

I forgot to tell her to get two. I didn’t say anything until we were on our way home. Mostly because I was sick of circling the block waiting for either her to come out or for a parking space to open up. After listening to the fact that Davin suggested we get two, she agreed to stop off somewhere on the way home to see if someone else had one. Luckily, they did. 

But what is it? Collingwood whisky is a brand owned by Brown-Forman. This is a limited edition line extension of that brand. It is a 21 year old 100% malted rye whisky that was then vatted in a container containing maple wood staves and allowed to rest there for a year. It is produced at the Canadian Mist Distillery in Collingwood, Ontario, Canada. (See map below.) Having begun life as an experiment, what’s on the shelf is all there is. Even if Brown-Forman wanted to release more, we’d have to wait almost 20 years from now for there to be more to release.


As of today, it is still on Minnesota shelves. But, as this was a one time only production run, ever since then I’ve always had at least two bottles of this on hand. One open (or soon to be opened) and at least one in reserve. When I open one, I run to buy another so I always have a buffer for when it eventually runs out. To say I like this is a bit of an understatement. 

Collingwood 21 Year Old Rye

Purchase Info: $54.99, 750 mL. Surdyk’s, Minneapolis, MN (Dec 14, 2013, I’ve bought this often, so we’ll go just with the first one as it is roughly the same price today at other stores.)

Details: 21 year old (age stated), 40% ABV.

Nose: Clothes that have been drying outside on the clothesline. Black tea. Faint hints of dill. After some time strong vanilla and caramel develop.

Mouth: Delicate. Sweet with hints of maple. Very strong floral presence. Vanilla bean ice cream. Some oak.

Finish: Delicate and gentle. Black tea (thinking unsweetened ice tea where your ice has melted), some mint, some caramel. A bit floral.

A heart to show I love this whisky.

Thoughts: This is the third or fourth bottle I’ve bought of this and there is still one in my closet so that should tell you I love this one. I will admit that it isn’t for everyone—some people I know compare it to drinking perfume—so see if you can grab a taste of it before you drop almost $60 on it. To me, the disparate notes meld so well that this can be truly described as an exquisite whisky, but that's me. It isn’t for everyone.

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The people who keep me company at work: Whisky Podcasts

Posted on by Eric Burke

You may know that my main job is as a freelance designer ( I work on advertisements, direct mail, logos, promotional materials, posters, billboards and much more while standing at a desk just yards from my bed. 

My wife works a real job that pays a regular salary. A job that is nowhere near my bed.

This means that I spend a lot of my time with only dogs for conversation. Needless to say, they don’t talk a lot. And when they do it’s really only to complain that the UPS or FedEx person is here. In my need to add more human voices to my life, I listen to a lot of podcasts. 

podcast cover for WhiskyCast.

If you are a whiskey fan, you’ve surely heard of WhiskyCast. WhiskyCast was the first podcast about whisky I ever listened to, and I’ve been listening for four or five years now. WhiskyCast is hosted by Mark Gillespie. Described as “Cask strength conversation featuring news and interviews from the world of whiskey” Mark delivers just that every week. There is a news segment, a discussion segment and an in-depth segment that features interviews from people involved in all phases of whisky making from all of the whisky-making countries. It is such an interesting podcast that about a year ago my wife started making me wait for her to listen to them. Unfortunately that means I now binge listen to a month’s at a time while in the car with her. But even the older ones cause us to stop every few minutes to discuss what was just said. A 45 minute show may take us an hour and a half to listen to. 

Add in the fact that Mark is just a wonderful guy to listen to (and to talk to should you get the opportunity) and this is a can’t miss podcast for whisky lovers. 

For the longest time that was the end of my whisky podcast list. But recently I was made aware of another whisky podcast.

podcast cover for The Whisky Topic

(Full disclosure, I was made aware of it because Mark Bylok became one of the patrons of at The Whisky Topic is a podcast is hosted by Mark Bylok, author of the Whisky Cabinet, and Jamie Johnson who runs a bourbon club in Toronto. Its tagline is “a casual conversation with whisky.” And it is exactly that. It is two friends, occasional guests and whisky. The conversation ranges from whisky topics of the day to whatever the guest is an expert in. 

And they really do have exquisite taste in guests. While I’ve been listening, they’ve had their area’s brand ambassador for Jim Beam, Davin de Kergommeaux, Josh Peters from the Whiskey Jug, author Reid Mitenbuler and…me.

That’s right, I am going to be a guest on this week’s episode. We chat about topics ranging from Templeton Rye to experiments in blending to my favorite “everyday” bourbons and maybe even lying to your doctor. I haven’t heard the final edit yet so I’m hoping they make me sound smart. That episode should be available for download sometime Wednesday. But every one of the five or so I’ve listened to so far have been great. If you are a whiskey lover, this is another one to add to your favorite podcast app.

So, now I have a question for the rest of you. Do you know of any other whiskey shows we should all be listening to? If so leave them in the comments below. I’d love to find a few more. I need all the human voices I can get.

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The year 1870 and a review of Old Forester 1870 Original Batch

Posted on by Eric Burke

1870. Old Forester claims that George Garvin Brown started selling his Old Forester brand of whiskey in that year. And since renowned bourbon historian Michael Veach backs that up in his book Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey, I have no reason to suspect they are fibbing. In the story, Old Forester was the first bourbon sold exclusively in bottles. 

But 1870 is not a year that I, living in 2015, have thought too much about. And I’m going to guess that you, dear reader, haven’t either. So let’s learn a little bit about what was going on in the country in the year the bottled bourbon trend started.

  • Construction begins on the Brooklyn Bridge in January of that year. For many of us who have never been to New York City, it is one of the symbols that immediately comes to mind whenever the city is mentioned. 
  • African Americans technically gain the right to vote with the passage and ratification of the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution. It will actually be universally enforced almost 100 years later.
  • Reconstruction is ending in the former Confederate States of America as Virginia, Texas, Mississippi and Georgia become the last states readmitted to the Union.
  • If, like me, you are a Big Ten Football fan, you’ll be interested to know that the institution that would become the Ohio State University was founded in March of this year under the name the Ohio Agriculture and Mechanical College.
  • If you are, instead, an ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) fan you may be interested to know that Syracuse University was founded this year as well.
  • The US Department of Justice was founded in June of this year. I’m not making any comments…
  • Christmas becomes a federal holiday meaning that Congress gets one more day to officially not do their jobs. 
  • The first woman to legally cast a vote in the United States (since 1807…can you imagine the home life of the guys who voted to take away a woman’s right to vote???) does so in Wyoming in September.
  • The forerunner of the National Weather Service makes it’s first prediction. There is no mention of how accurate it was.

And of course the reason we are interested in 1870 today is that I recently bought a bottle of Old Forester 1870 “Original Batch.” The company says that George Garvin Brown—I wonder if we are allowed to say his name without the middle name, I never see him listed as George Brown—bought bourbon from three different distilleries to make Old Forester. So to honor that they chose bourbon from three different warehouses with three different entry proofs and ages. Sounds pretty cool, though it makes me wonder: just how many entry proofs does Brown Forman use?

Old Forester 1870 Original Batch

Purchase Info: $38.99, 750 mL. Total Wine, Burnsville, MN.

Details: 45% ABV

Nose: Floral apples, brown sugar and freshly painted walls

Mouth: The first sip is nice and spicy with cinnamon and cayenne. It’s sweet. Fruity pears and melon lurk underneath.

Finish: Decent length with lingering oak and more sweetness. 

A smiling face showing that I like this bourbon.

Thoughts: This is a really tasty bourbon. Is it twice as good as Old Forester 86 proof at $19.99? No. But bourbon math rarely works in such a linear fashion. It is too expensive for a regular purchase. I mean, it’s even more expensive that Woodford Reserve where I bought it. But I could see splurging now and again on this spicier and oakier expression of your typical Old Forester/Woodford flavor profile.

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Barbecue Sauce made from MB Roland Kentucky Black Dog

Posted on by Eric Burke

Disclaimer: I consider Paul and Merry Beth of MB Roland to be my friends and in my statement of ethics I promised to disclose when I am sharing one of my friend’s products and to only review them when it was truly something I really liked. While there is no review, one of their products does play a featured part in this post.

Minnesota is a cold place. We normally get snow until April. We get cold rains until mid June. And the threat of snow starts coming up sometime between mid September and the end of October. But summer? Summer is grilling season. Sure summer doesn’t last long, but that means that you just need to make the best of it. Every night from the Fourth of July until Labor Day the air in my neighborhood is filled with the smell of someone’s grill. It’s a magical time. 

Last week, I finished the last bottle of barbecue sauce from my last trip to Memphis. There is a barbecue place there that makes a sauce I just love and I stock up every time I drive through. In a pinch it’s available on Amazon, but I got to thinking that it might be fun to make my own. And of course, if I was going to do that, it would probably have to have some whiskey in it.

The idea of a whiskey barbecue sauce is not new. There are a ton of them out on the market. Go into any store and you’ll probably find two or three. The problem is that most of those are very sweet. I personally don’t care for sweet sauces. They just aren’t my thing. I like a sauce with a tad more tangy vinegar in it. Of course the first thing I did was look online. I looked at whiskey based sauces and most of them still looked too sweet. So I took a step back and thought for a minute.

A bourbon based sauce would be sweet to complement the sweetness of the bourbon, but what if I didn’t use bourbon? I started diggging through my whiskey shelves. When I pulled out the MB Roland Kentucky Black Dog I knew I had hit upon something. Black Dog is unaged whiskey distillate. The first step of creating it is to smoke the corn. And that smoke really comes through on the finished product. It is sweet, but hits you with a full head of smoke. I thought that this would be the perfect thing to build my sauce upon. I also grabbed some of their St. Elmo’s Fire, a cinnamon and cayenne flavored spirit to add a little heat.

The first step in making this was to see what it would taste like when I substituted it for bourbon in a whiskey barbecue sauce recipe I had used before and enjoyed. (I like this one from because I really like what making the whiskey reduction does for the sauce.) I tried it and it was pretty tasty. Still too sweet for me, but I could tell I was on the right track.

So then I got down to work and after some delicious trial an error came up with the following.

Black Dog Barbecue Sauce 

Makes about 1 cup of sauce. (All quantities are U.S. Fluid Ounces.)

Start by making the reduction: 

  • 4 oz MB Roland Kentucky Black Dog
  • 1 oz MB Roland St. Elmo’s Fire

In a small sauce pan, bring the spirits to a boil and let reduce. When you are finished you want to have a little over a tablespoon of liquid remaining. Please supervise this step. You are putting flammable liquid over heat and you don’t want it to catch fire. Once you have the reduction finished, remove from heat and add the everything else to the sauce pan.

Everything Else: 

  • 3.5 oz Tomato Ketchup
  • 2 oz MB Roland Kentucky Black Dog
  • 1.67 oz Dark Molasses
  • 0.75 oz Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 0.5 oz MB Roland St. Elmo’s Fire
  • 0.5 oz Worchestershire Sauce
  • 0.5 oz Dijon Mustard
  • 0.5 oz Tomato Sauce
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • Pinch of granulated garlic powder
  • Pinch of granulated onion powder

Stir thoroughly and bring back to a simmer. Let it reduce until it has reached your desired thickness. 

I’m really proud of this one. The sauce is sweet from the MB Roland spirits, ketchup and molasses but tangy from the vinegar and vinegar containing products (ketchup, mustard, Worchestershire, etc). It has just the tiniest touch of spice and enough smoke to play really nicely with meat. 

This was pretty tasty on a burger, but where it really shined was on some pulled pork that we brought home from a local barbecue joint. I’m going to need to head back to Kentucky, I think. My bottle of Black Dog is almost empty.

This post is brought to you by readers like you who have pledged their support of Not a patron yet? Go to to pledge your support. Don’t want to pledge but still want to support the site? Click the support link in the navigation to buy a tshirt or mug, share a link on your favorite social network or just tell someone about the site. And thank you.

Ask Arok: Eagle Rare Barrels

Posted on by Eric Burke

It all started with one little article shared on twitter. “Reverend Nat's Eagle Rare Bourbon Barrel Aged Revival Cider.” It’s a hard cider that they claim was aged in barrels that previously held Eagle Rare. This prompted a response on Twitter.

@arok is there such a thing as an Eagle Rare barrel? Gonna guess that isn't what was on it when it was dumped.
Andrew Elms ‏(@elmsandr)

Now, I’m going to guess that Andrew is asking this question with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek since I suspect he knows the answer to his question already. But still, it is a good question and one that someone who isn’t obsessed with bourbon might not know the answer to.

First a little background. Eagle Rare is a bourbon produced by Buffalo Trace. It is dumped out of barrels that were filled with distillate made from Buffalo Trace’s Rye Bourbon Mash Bill Number 1 (though I have been told that very occasionally a mash bill number 2 barrel will hit the flavor profile and become Eagle Rare). This same distillate is also used to fill barrels that will become Old Charter, George T Stagg, Buffalo Trace and Benchmark. Buffalo Trace has four mash recipes that are fermented and distilled to create all of their brands. There is the aforementioned Bourbon Mash #1. There is Rye Bourbon Mash #2 which is used to create the distillate that will eventually become Ancient Age, Elmer T. Lee and Blanton’s among others. There is a Wheat Bourbon Mash used to create distillate that will become the Weller line as well as the younger Van Winkles. And there is a Rye Mash that is used to create the distillate that will become the Sazerac Ryes and Thomas H. Handy Rye.

If you do a search online you will find no end to the things that claim to be aged in a certain Buffalo Trace brand’s barrel. There’s a Buffalo Trace, a George T. Stagg and a Van Winkle barrel aged Tequila. There are numerous beers aged in Stagg, Buffalo Trace and Van Winkle barrels. And there is the Eagle Rare barrel aged hard cider mentioned above. To name just a few. 

Which brings us back to the question: Is there such a thing as an Eagle Rare Barrel? The answer is: kinda.

You see, there is no barrel that was filled with the intention of it being Eagle Rare (or Stagg, or Van Winkle, etc) when it was emptied. Every barrel that is filled with something that might become Eagle Rare will be labeled Mash #1 (or on a rare occasion Mash #2). So if your perspective is driven by what went into the barrel, then no. There is no such thing. 

Of course, what went into the barrel and what came out of it were two completely different things. All sorts of factors act on that distillate to change it from Mash #1 to Buffalo Trace or Eagle Rare or (Benchmark for that matter). So if you look at it from the perspective of what came out of the barrel, then most certainly there is an Eagle Rare barrel. There is a barrel that held Eagle Rare. It just happens to be labeled Mash #1 (or on a rare occasion Mash #2).

So who is right? I tend to look at it from the "what came out" side. Blanton’s and Elmer T. Lee are both single barrel bourbons that came from the same distillate, but they taste much different. Old Charter tastes much different than Buffalo Trace or Eagle Rare even though they came from the same mash recipe. Based on that, as long as they are being honest about what came out of the barrel, I’d say Buffalo Trace is well within it’s rights to sell an empty barrel as an Eagle Rare Barrel or a Van Winkle Barrel or a George T. Stagg Barrel. Especially if people are willing to pay extra for it.

Do you have a bourbon question you'd like answered? Just get in contact with me using one of the icons in the sidebar to submit one. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll try to find it from someone who does.

This post is brought to you by readers like you who have pledged their support of Not a patron yet? Go to to pledge your support. Don’t want to pledge but still want to support the site? Click the support link in the navigation to buy a tshirt or mug, share a link on your favorite social network or just tell someone about the site. And thank you.