Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Whiskey Wednesday #4

Feeling better, but pressed for time, so no music this time. Just two recent Canadians.

Alberta Rye Dark Batch, 45%
A couple things to note right away. First, 45%. This steps up for Canadian, which was mired in an 80 proof/40% swamp for years. That's how you got Canadian, son, and if you wanted something stronger, you had to go searching. The higher proof proves that the Canadians are taking cocktails — not highballs, cocktails — seriously. Second, this whisky takes the curious 9.09% law (which says that one part in eleven (9.09%) of Canadian whisky can be...other) and uses it to a flavor advantage, rather than as a tax advantage, or a flavor stretcher, by adding 8% bourbon and 1% oloroso sherry to aged, 100% rye whisky.

To clarify, Alberta Distillers are old hands at making whisky from 100% rye grain, it's their thing (they use enzymes for conversion, not malt). The Canadian rye in this is about half "flavoring whisky" — distilled to relatively low ABV in a pot still, aged about 6 years in new barrels — and about half of it is "blending whisky" — distilled to relatively high ABV in a column still and aged 12 years in used barrels. Davin de Kergommeaux explains it in more detail in this Whisky Advocate blog post. But the key is that this is 91% Canadian whisky, 8% bourbon (guess where it comes from...Alberta Distillers is owned by Beam Suntory), and only 1% sherry. Is that weird? A little? Is it interesting? Yes. But does it work? Let's see.

The nose has wads of dried fruits — apricots, raisins, "craisins" — and a paneled woodiness of cedar and oak; very Canadian, that, as is the underlying sweetness. The whole thing smells like an enchanted forest. The 45% strides strongly into the mouth, carrying armloads of wood, baskets of fruit, and big trenchers of warm, sweet cereal, wreathed happily with the spiciness of all that rye. That's the dominant feature of the finish, too, that spiciness.

I can tell you this: pleasant as it is to sip this stuff (which it is, despite what I'll be telling you next month...wait for it!), it's also the basis for a Manhattan variant that has been my go-to for the past few months. This has been the darling of Canadian mixologists since it came out (it's labeled "Dark Horse" in Canada, and whether that's the only difference or not depends on who you ask, but the bottle of Dark Horse I have sure smells and tastes a LOT like this one).

Seriously Canadian, but in a way that takes advantage of everything the Canadian whisky category offers...including the very reasonable price. Get a bottle and start playing around with it and some cocktail ingredients. You'll find it's quite fun.

Verdict: Good

Canadian Club Chairman's Select 100% Rye, 40%
I've been drinking a lot more Canadian Club recently. Mainly because I've been going to a lot more dive bars, and cash bars at events. When you're at places like that, the beer selection often sucks, and the whiskey selection ain't much better. But you can almost always count on a bottle of CC, and a supply of club soda, and that's my dive bar go-to.

But this is a big change for CC, going 100% rye. Is it worth it? Let's find out. Nose is sweet, spicy, minty, with a hint of cedar/pencil in the background. Smells like a good young craft-distilled rye: sweet, spicy, simple, not overwhelmed by wood. Hmmm...not goopy sweet at all. Balance of rye and sweet grain, some of that rye oiliness, but a nice light finish that hangs on and flavors things. I'd take that in my club soda, and it's nice...but I think I'd rather have the Crown Royal Northern Harvest.

Verdict: Okay


Matthew Aungst said...

Love your work, seems Alberta dark not available in PA. Surprise, surprise. Please keep highlighting what crosses your posts PLCB be dammed!

Lew Bryson said...

It is, I looked earlier...but you have to buy six of them. Hey, that's pretty great!