Until recently, I knew nothing about Canadian Whisky. Sure, I'd bought Windsor Canadian when I was in college to swish my mouth with when I had a toothache and couldn't afford a dentist. I didn't like it, but then I didn't like any whiskies. I'd never had anything else produced by our Neighbor to the North. And, honestly, based on that experience I wasn't in a hurry to remedy the situation.
As part of my whiskey education, I'd learned that Canadian Whisky was the product of blending whiskies. I had a vague thought that it was "blended whisky" like American blended whiskey. (You know, where they mix straight whiskey with neutral sprits (vodka) in order to make a lighter product.) This misconception did not make me in any more of a hurry to expand my whisky knowledge to Products of Canada.
So, yes, I knew nothing about Canadian Whisky but a dimly remembered dislike of a downmarket product and a series of vague misconceptions. But, recently, all that changed. You see, I'd been offered a wonderful opportunity to broaden my horizons with respect to whisky produced by our Northern Neighbor. Johanne McInnis of the blog: The Perfect Whisky Match arranged a Twitter book review/author Q&A of Canadian Whisky: the portable expert by Davin de Kergommeaux.
In fact she scheduled four of them. One each Sunday from May 5th through May 26th. Each Sunday at 2pm Central Time we spent/will spend about a half hour asking questions inspired by our assigned reading from the book. After that we crack open a "Mystery Whisky" sample that had been sent to us and we do an online tasting.
Canadian Whisky: the portable expert by Davin de Kergommeaux has been on my Amazon wishlist for the last bit of forever. The minute I heard about it, I knew I wanted to read it. This is a book that busts the many myths and misconceptions that most citizens of these United States have regarding Canadian Whisky. That "blended whisky" one from above? Yep. Untrue. A blend of whiskies is not a blended-whiskey. Hiram Walker? Turns out there is more than just those florescent liqueurs you see on the bottom shelf of the cordial section of most liquor stores associated with that name. This is a book fully worth buying. I'll admit, I was sent a review copy of the book for this project. I'm thinking really hard about buying the Kindle version though just so I can have it with me on the iPad at all times. Go buy the book. Today if possible, but as soon as you can if it isn't.
And if you buy today (or any day) as an added bonus: since those pesky Canadians keep most of the really good stuff in country and there are more tasty whiskies made in Canada than those of us in Middle North America have probably ever realized, Davin was nice enough to provide tasting notes in the book so that we are fully aware of just what we are missing out on.
And are we ever missing out. If Mystery Whisky number one is any indication, I need to visit Canada a lot more often.
Mystery Whisky 1
Nose: I'm first hit with a sour/acidic smell balanced by a hint of sweetness. After some discussion online and with my wife, I'll settle on pickles. Not strong and overpowering, but there. I also get some pine, vanilla and after a while cloves.
Mouth: Velvety and thick, spicy with a good strong rye flavor. Later sips reveal an underlying vanilla/caramel sweetness. After adding water, the spice is muted to reveal some citrus.
Finish: pickle juice is back along with pine and cinnamon spice. This is a good finish.
Thoughts: I love this whisky. It is elegantly balanced with a thick, velvety mouthfeel. I prefer it with no water as I love the spiciness it presents. Others, including my wife, prefer muting that with water and allowing other flavors to come to the front. To each their own, I guess.
So what is it? After about an hour, the reveal happens: this is called Lot No. 40, is produced at the Hiram Walker distillery, bottled at 43% ABV...and (as near as I can tell) is not available in the US. So that makes the opportunity to taste it even more special. I want to thank Johanne and Davin for the opportunity to participate in these twitter tastings and greatly look forward to next weekend!
If you missed today's tasting, search for the the twitter hashtag #DavinTT to get caught up. And please make sure you follow along each Sunday at 2 pm Central time between now and May 26th using that same hashtag to live vicariously though us as we expand our knowledge and palates.
2019 UPDATE: I took another look at Lot 40 in August of 2019. It has completely changed. Read about it here.
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