Whisky has taken me around the world and given me experiences that I honestly hadn’t even dreamed possible. Adding in a bucket list trip to Canada’s Yukon this past September tipped the scales as the most amazing week of the year.
I was honored to be able to present some delicious whiskies and help the Yukon Whisky faithful experience some never before seen offerings. I have to say that this was just way too much fun to even remotely be considered work. Flying from Calgary to Dawson City included a brief pause in Vancouver and an awesome back to basics flight on one of Air North’s Hawker Siddeley 748’s that excels in landings on gravel and ice.
First event was at the historically restored Red Feather Saloon and I must say that I have never presented whisky in such a cool location. A trip to Dawson City is like stepping back in time complete with dirt roads and perma frost damaged buildings. Tasting through a line up of various calendar whiskies meant that companies like A.D. Rattray, Wemyss Malts, Samaroli and the Malt Whisky Company were showcased for the first time ever. Not often an Aussie in a Kilt pours whisky in Dawson so it was a somewhat bemused and eager group that ran through the 7 drams on offer.
No trip to Dawson is complete without a visit to Diamond Tooth Gerties and the after party started watching the fabulous stage show and finished at the blackjack tables which just had to be done as part of the historical experience. A big thanks to Coralee for making me feel like a returning resident rather than a wide eyed tourist. Coralee went above and beyond and organised an absolutely perfect event.
Nest stop was Whitehorse and a collaborative tasting with some delicious fresh shucked oysters from Wayfarer Oyster Bar and hand selected cheeses from Fine Cultured Cheese making it an event to remember. An energetic group if ever I saw one with loads of interesting questions and interaction right throughout the evening. I was so warmly welcomed, Whitehorse was really sparkling in fall colors and an opportunity for the most Northern Golf I have ever had the privilege of attempting was too good to pass up.
A massive thanks to Rachel who showed me the sights and sounds of Whitehorse including the Klondike Rib and Salmon, a preview of the oysters to come washed down with a terrific Whisky Sour at the Woodcutter’s Blanket and for taking me to 98 Hotel where I mostly guessed the pelts on the wall and got my official “breakfast club” pin. Rachel like Coralee was amazing in organizing the event and it is now locked in for a return visit in 2017.
I would highly recommend anyone with half an excuse to head to the Yukon. It’s an experience you will not soon forget.
So just one sleep away from getting the party started with the first of 25 straight days of whisky blogging.
See you then
Finding 25 unique whiskies truly is a challenge and this year we have increased the number of independent bottlers to 10 (including Secret Spirits). This means that we now have 10 cute furry little kittens to herd into the box and if you have ever seen a litter of kittens you will know that this is no small feat. The template that has really worked for us showcasing a wide range of ages, regions and styles to take everyone on a Scotch whisky journey of discovery each year also makes the sourcing a real challenge. Casks tend to come on the market in batches. For example I can be inundated with offers for a certain distillery because a broker had a large parcel of casks. We wouldn’t be very excited about 25 expressions from the same distillery so we need to be picking the best examples we can find and keep looking for the variety we need. We are helped by the amazing independent bottlers we work with who try really hard to offer up their best whiskies from the regions I need.
Things have been busy here at Secret Spirits over the Summer as we ramp up a new look Singlemalting website and get deep into preparations for launching the third edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar and the first edition Rum’s Revenge.
More than just a tasting of epic proportions it was first and foremost a way to raise some much needed funds to help send a fellow whisky lover on a trip of a lifetime to Islay. The gentleman in question will remain nameless to protect the innocent (see picture attached).
I was really bummed that I had not cleaned out my whisky connoisseur kit to take along as I had to leave many a delicious dram behind.
That time of year already the the annual Glenmore Cricket club tour to Vancouver and Victoria is well under way. Instead of whisky reviews out of paper cups and pictures of dodgy bedspreads this year I had the opportunity to crank it up a notch.
Have you ever been on vacation thinking that you would just love to relax with one of your special drams that sits safely in your bar 100’s or 1000’s of kms away? Well now you can with a product produced by a good friend of mine Ken Jaremco of Whisky Connoisseur.
Leather Deluxe Travel Kit
I received a deluxe travel kit for my birthday (thanks Ken) and quickly put it to good use picking out 6 delicious drams for this trip to British Columbia. One of the guys from the cricket club Chris Williams shared a room with me and also got in on the dram sharing thanks to the 2 Glencairn glasses that are part of the kit.
6 one ounce bottles all marked with bronze numbered neck tags correlate to the entries you make in a whisky ledger. Fun to be able to offer a friend their pick of a diverse range of whisky. Half the fun was in choosing half a dozen drams and filling up the wee bottles with the amazing funnel that is designed to never blow back. Ken really did think of everything including a couple of tiny water droppers. Of course if you really want to delve into your whiskies the deluxe edition also comes with a Whisky Journal so you can write your own tasting notes.
The whiskies I chose this time around
*Whisky Jewbilee Chicago Bottling of MGP American Light Whisky aged in an IPA beer barrel – you may remember this from blog #
*Tipperary 11 Year Old Irish Single Malt – Blog to come soon on this whisky it’s delicious
*Glenglassaugh 41 Year Old Sherry Cask – You can read the blog here #
*A.D. Rattray Craigellachie 16 – you may have read the review here as it came on tour a few years ago if not here it is #.
*A.D. Rattray Macallan 17 – one from the dark past and definitely unobtanium now. Malt Whisky Company Tobermory 21 – part of the 2nd edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar check out the blog here #
This little kit is going to become part of my getaways from now on.
If 6 wee drams is just not enough then you can always add a masterclass or share a dram kit as well to get in another dozen selections. Either way it is just amazing to be able to take a selection of whisky away with you and have everything you need to enjoy it at your fingertips.
I’m off to crack that Macallan!
You can buy Whisky Connoisseur kits HERE
As promised this week I am delving into a new brand to hit Canadian shelves that has garnered some decent press. The Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old is the brainchild of Beverage group Fountana. Distilled by Highwood distillers in Alberta these aged casks were chosen specially by the Fountana team to form the foundation of what will become their core brand. As a caveat I have to let readers know that I have worked for a long time with Fountana sales director Roberto Roberti in various capacities and am excited to have the opportunity to write about their first brand.
Aged in American oak casks for a minimum of 21 years the mashbill is simple – 100% corn. Slightly unusual for Canadian whisky 100% corn reacts extremely well to additional aging where the sometimes overtly sweet corn base is balanced by barrel added complexity.
Lets get stuck into the dram itself:
Canadian Rockies 21 Year Old Canadian Whisky, 46% ABV no chill filtration and no added colour – Batch number 1
Tasted in the ever faithful go to Glencairn glass
Colour: Certainly light for a 21 year old whisky and I would think the majority of casks used for this first batch might have been 2nd fill. Having said that the lovely 14 carat gold polish looks inviting in my glass.
Nose: Recognizable sweet corn notes wrap around alpine meadow floral character much like the heady scents after a serious hike to the top. White chocolate dusted brandy snaps filled with vanilla infused whipping cream.
Palate: Soft and caressing sweetness that delivers all of the above. The 46% gives it weight and helps to spread it all over the palate giving a complete mouth feel. Rather than a candy apple this reminds me of what a toffee covered pear would taste like if such a thing existed. A firm ripe pair thinly dipped into fresh vanilla toffee on a stick now that would be awesome.
Finish: Long and sustained notes of ripe pair carried along on the creamy vanilla wave with accents of toffee. The weight is really impressive given the age and the mashbill.
This is a really well balanced whisky which can be harder to accomplish utilizing just corn as the base. This is really yummy and something that especially now that Summer is here will be a go to on the deck when the sun is shining.
I am looking forward to trying that because based on this 21 year old I can only think that this freshness will still be evident after another 14 years in cask but the added complexity should be amazing.
Always exciting for a company to branch out with their own brand (I know personally just how exciting) so congratulations to Fountana for taking the plunge and for being so selective in releasing such a delicious combination of casks under their Canadian Rockies label. For around $ 69 on the shelf this is well worth the investment.
So here we are at our second whisky of this combined blog. Sorry it has taken a while between drinks here as there has been a lot going on with Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar manufacturing and the launch of our new Rum’s Revenge.
After a delicious Rye it was time for us to get a little serious with a single cask bottling of Balblair from Gordon & McPhail. As one of the oldest independent bottler’s Gordon & McPhail have the enviable status of probably holding more single cask stock than anyone right now. This often means that some of the more rare and interesting bottlings tend to be found under the G&M banner. Without further ado let’s delve into this little beaut.
Gordon McPhail Cask Strength Balblair 21
Distilled on June 28th 1993 bottled in October 2014
1st Fill Sherry Puncheon
Colour: Dark unctuous tawny port with a touch of hidden gold
Nose: Dark chocolate covered raisins soaked in a Sherry reduction sauce. The smallest hint of a freshly opened box of matches in the background and A touch of antiseptic swab like my mum applied liberally to my brother after he ran his bike into a parked car on the way to the beach wearing nothing but bathers and a beach towel. Poached blood oranges (not at all related to my previous comment) drizzled with chocolate and grande mariner.
Palate: Zesty initially with the higher ABV at first it quickly coats the palate with layers of rich dark chocolate orange peel crescents, quite dry almost fino Sherry like especially with the start being so fleetingly feisty. Ovaltine and warm milk by the fire.
Finish: Big dry sherry finish on this one leaving no doubt how much impact this puncheon had on the Balblair over 21 long years but in a good way.
This is why so many people love Sherry casks. Dessert in a glass is never a bad thing
Water: On this occasion just a wee couple of drops of water was sensational. On the nose sweet caramel came into play and on the palate a bowl of sweet fruit pastels got poured into the mix. Yummo.
This is a perfect example of a whisky where a touch of sulphur is neither off putting nor detrimental. This is an absolutely delicious older sherried cask and one that I would happily shell out for (if I could wrench said bottle out of Joshua’s hands).
A big thanks to Joshua for getting in on this and for the fun times in Chicago. Looking forward to the next time we have whisky in front of us.
Next week I will be reviewing a new Canadian whisky brand on the older side of the aging tracks.
Aussie, Jew, Aussie – Oi, Oy, Oi!