Canadian Club 8 year old

Canadian Club probably isn’t the first whisky brand that comes to mind for the average reader of this site. But just because it’s not, doesn’t mean you should ignore the the history of the brand and the impact it’s had on whisky-drinking markets the world over. Long before it became a top-selling brand in Australia it had some seriously strong links to a very pivotal period in whisky history; the era of prohibition in America.

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After founding his distillery in 1858 in Detroit, prohibition (among other things) would prompt Hiram Walker to up and move across the border to what’s now known as Windsor, Ontario in Canada. Although there was a constitutional ban on alcohol in place, prohibition didn’t exactly hurt Canadian Club’s sales, far from it. They’d already made a name for themselves in the United States before 1920 thanks to their well-aged, ‘Canadian’ style of whisky.

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So when the laws kicked in and local whiskey became hard to find, Canadian Club would go on to become one of the most heavily smuggled brands, thus cementing itself as a solid whisky favourite once the laws were eventually repealed in the 1930s. By the 1940s Canadian Club was sold in over 90 countries; fast forward a further six decades and it continues to be hugely popular the world over.

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In recent years in Australia we’ve seen big-spend campaigns marketing ‘CC and Dry’ as a beer alternative and you’ll even find it pre-mixed on tap in plenty of venues around the country. It’s been hugely successful for the brand and has been responsible for attracting plenty of new people to the whisky category. In fact it’s done so well that that Canadian Club has recently become the fastest growing spirit brand in Australia. So whilst it might not be the single malt whisky-sipper’s whisky of choice, there’s no denying CC’s immense popularity. Thanks to this success, Canadian Club have recently chosen the Australian market as the global launch pad for their newest release, the Canadian Club 8 year old and have kindly sent over a bottle to Whisky Ledger HQ for a bit of a road test.

Canadian Club 8 year old

The new expression sits firmly between the standard release and the 12 year old (in terms of age), but I’m told that it’s not actually the same whisky. With the 8 year old expression, the mashbill of grains used contains a higher malt and rye content compared to its siblings, so I’m expecting to get some nice ‘rye spice’ notes on this.

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Tasted neat, the nose has plenty of caramel, creamy vanilla and a touch of baking spice. This same general profile carries through to the palate delivering flavours of creamy caramel, honey, pastries and baked goods and nice gently spice on the finish.

There’s a good chance this will be consumed mixed though, so I put it to the test in a classic highball (CC & soda with a squeeze of lime) along with the ever popular CC and Dry (ginger ale) and yep, they’re both pretty darn refreshing. Whilst it won’t convert me from being a beer drinker, I can definitely imagine this going down a treat in summer!

The Canadian Club 8 year old is exclusively available in Australia (for the moment, at least) at a recommended retail price of AU$50.

The Glen Moray Mastery

Glen Moray celebrates its 120th anniversary this year and to mark the occasion they’ve released something pretty special. But I’ll get to that in just a sec.

My experience with Glen Moray

I was first introduced to Glen Moray in a slightly unconventional way after tasting their whisky bottled as a single cask for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS). On paper, the whisky I tried sounded fairly pedestrian. It was from a refill bourbon cask and was mid-teens in age, but the spirit quality that came through on that particular cask really caught my attention. SMWS have gone on to release some pretty stellar casks from Glen Moray and I’ve bought many of them (especially those toasted oak releases).

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Trying big, punchy single casks is all well and good, but it dawned on me a little while ago that I haven’t really tasted that many of Glen Moray’s original bottlings, the ones you can easily find on the shelf at your favourite bottle shop. That’s been on my to do list for a little while now and thankfully I recently had the chance when Master Distiller, Graham Coull made the trek to Sydney to launch his latest creation.

Mastery launch time

I was generously invited to a long-lunch one Friday, held at The Roosevelt in Potts Point to taste through not only the core range, but also the range-topping, limited release known simply as the ‘Mastery’.

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On arrival we were treated to the flare that’s synonymous with The Roosevelt, enjoying a nitrogen Glen Moray ‘Triple Wood’ cocktail, garnished with a thistle and served alongside a moreish haggis oatcake. That would have done me just fine, but moving through to the dining space we were in for a treat as a five course meal followed, each dish paired with a whisky from the core range, including whiskies from the Classic range, along with their age-stated siblings.

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I didn’t take detailed notes on each, but it was great to be able to taste them all back-to-back and be able to form some general observations. I genuinely like the spirit character of Glen Moray and feel as though it lends itself well to ex-bourbon cask maturation. The young Glen Moray Elgin Classic was spritely and fresh, whilst the older age stated expressions like the 12 and 15 year old definitely showed more maturity and depth.

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The Chardonnay cask is really quite interesting, bringing an earthy oakiness to what’s normally quite a light fresh spirit, whilst the port cask finish is entirely moreish (to me, anyway). Graham let us in on some interesting info on this one, informing us that it starts life as a five year old ex-bourbon matured Glen Moray before being finished in a port pipe for a whole year. Why a year? Well, in Graham’s words “If you’re finishing something, you should always give it a full summer as that’s when the real wood interaction happens”. A super drinkable dram that comes in at only $50 a bottle! I’m struggling to think of another whisky at that price point with that level of flavour.

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Graham also let slip that there are a few other finishes being added to the Classic range in the near future, include whisky finished in Cab Sav, Rum and Sauternes casks, so keep an eye out for those!

The Glen Moray Mastery

Back to the main subject of this post though, Glen Moray’s 120th anniversary and the new Mastery! The whisky can best be described as a multi-vintage single malt, which combines Glen Moray distilled in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Graham wanted to include some of the oldest stocks in the warehouse when putting this together, so 20% of the make-up includes ex-Port cask whisky distilled in 1988, whilst 80% of the whisky in the Mastery was distilled in 1994 or earlier. The heart of the whisky was finished in Madeira casks and to really lift the sweetness even further Graham also blended in some ex-sherry casks from the 1990s. That’s about as much as I can tell you, as Graham insists on keeping the final recipe of The Mastery a closely guarded secret!

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On the nose it’s completely different to any other Glen Moray I’ve tried. It’s rich and deep, with notes of beeswax, dried fruits and chocolate. It’s jammy, with raisins, apricots, toasted nuts and even something a touch smoky, like dried tea leaves or coal ash. Super inviting stuff and a dram you could nose for hours.

On the palate it’s thick and oily, with a chewy sweetness of dried fruit and dark jammy flavours. There’s a touch of spice, some dark chocolate and oak, but not in an overwhelming way. The port casks used in this really shine through nicely.

It’s a properly tasty whisky, but then again, you’d hope it would be considering it comes in at a cool $1,400 a bottle. Just eight of the individually numbered decanters will be arriving in Australia, so if you’d like to get your hands on The Mastery, get in touch with your nearest Dan Murphy’s flagship store.

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A special thank you to the truly down to earth Graham Coull and his lovely wife Faye for making the trip down here to present this great experience. I look forward to seeing you both again, hopefully at Glen Moray next time.

Glen Garioch 21 year old for Abbey Whisky

I buy a fair amount of whisky from different retailers all over the world, but one of my favourite online stores would have to be Abbey Whisky. They’ve got a slick website, great prices and above all, the service – from communication, to packaging and delivery times – is absolutely top-notch.

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I recently bought a Springbank from them and noticed a little something extra in the box when my delivery arrived and it turned out to be a sample of their latest bottle from their Rare Casks series, a 1994 21 year old Glen Garioch. Here’s what Abbey Whisky have to say about it:

“We continue The Rare Casks story with this magnificent Glen Garioch, the sixth release in the series. Distilled in 1994 and fully matured in a refill hogshead until 2016, only 126 bottles have been filled exclusively for Abbey Whisky. As with each previous release in The Rare Casks series, the whisky has been bottled in it’s natural form, at full cask strength, without chill filtration or colour additives.”

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What I’ve got to say

On the nose it’s bright and citrusy, with fresh cut pineapple, lemon and grapefruit zest, a touch of honey and a mossy herbal vegetal note. Is that some peat influence in there?

On the palate it’s oily and thick, with the spiky citrus and honey hitting you first. Pineapple, custard and more citrus follow, with chalk and a sooty, grassy vegetal note arriving toward the finish.

This isn’t what you’d call an ‘obvious’ whisky, as in it doesn’t leap out of the glass at you, hitting you with big vanilla, or peat, or sherry. Instead, I get the hallmarks of a quality spirit, rested in a cask that allows the spirit to shine through, without being dominated by oak. A really nice change of pace, if you have the patience for it. The smallest amount of water (or a good amount of air) doesn’t go astray with this one.

Abbey Whisky’s 21 year old Glen Garioch is still available on their site now for a smidgen under a hundred quid, so go check it out. Thanks to Mike and the team for kindly slipping this one in with my delivery, it was a lovely surprise and is a top little dram!

The Macallan 12 year old Double Cask

It’s Father’s Day here in Australia on Sunday 3 September and The Macallan reckon their new 12 year old Double Cask expression would make the perfect gift for any Dad. So, what better way to validate that then putting it to the test with my very own Dad!

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What Dad has to say

That’s a classy looking bottle! It’s got broad-shoulders and I like the colour and design on the box. It’s really eye-catching and the blue looks great with the gold accents on it. Very smart. What’s the ‘double cask’ thing mean?

What I have to say

Good question Dad! Not to be confused with the Macallan 12 year old Sherry Oak (or the 12 year old Fine Oak); the Double Cask is an entirely new expression that has only just recently hit Australian shores. The Double Cask gets its name from the fact that two different cask types are used in the maturation process; a mixture of both American Oak and European Oak casks, seasoned with sherry.

Keen Macallan fans might be aware that the 12 year old Sherry Oak expression from Macallan is also made up of a combination of American Oak and European Oak casks, so what’s the difference? The Double Cask reportedly has a higher proportion of American Oak in the mix, so along with the dried fruit sweetness from the sherry, I’m expecting to find some big honey and vanilla notes in there too. Only one way to find out!

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Dad’s tasting notes

“This has got a nice soft brown sugar note to it, a nice sweet smell. It’s really pleasing and warm. It’s got a really smooth and silky taste to it as well, nice and warm with a hint of a spice to it, almost like cinnamon or an all spice fragrance to it. Really nice and easy drinking.”

And with that, Dad poured himself a second glass, No, seriously, he did..

“I tell you what, that second glass is really smooth and warming, it’s very much the kind of whisky that would make me want to go back for more.”

My tasting notes

Quite a rich nose with warming honey, oak and light spice. I get notes of poached or stewed fruits and nuts (hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts), with a dose of brown sugar and candied orange.

The palate is thin initially, but with a bit of a citrus burst. I get flavours of orange marmalade, vanilla custard and honey and runny toffee; fading to a slightly bitter finish of oak and light spice.

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So if you’re still struggling with ideas for Dad (or if you just feel like spoiling yourself), keep an eye out for the Macallan 12 year old Double Cask which can be found on shelves now. A special thanks to The Macallan for the bottle pictured here. I’m pleased to say that it well and truly passed the Dad test.

Glen Grant 1954 Rare Vintage

A tasting and review

It was the year Queen Elizabeth II visited my home country of Australia, the first time a reigning monarch had ever done so. It was also the year an unknown hipster by the name of Elvis recorded his first demo and the year Godzilla premiered in Tokyo. That year was 1954 and it also happens to have been the year this particular whisky was distilled by Glen Grant.

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A lot has changed in the years since this was distilled, including the way whisky is made at Glen Grant. Back in 1954 Glen Grant operated with four coal-fired stills, which you could argue would’ve produced something of a rich, heavy spirit. In 1973 two further stills were added, but this time they were gas heated. Impressed with their performance, the distillery added a further four gas-heated stills in 1977 bringing the total to ten. At some point in the future coal firing ceased altogether.

Aside from this being incredibly old whisky, the bare bones of it – the spirit – are fundamentally quite different to what is being produced at Glen Grant these days, which makes it even more a piece of liquid history in my mind. Thanks to a generous sample from the kind folk at Gordon & MacPhail, I recently had the chance to sit down, relax and a spend some quality time with liquid time capsule.

Glen Grant 1954 Rare Vintage

The first thing that struck me about the nose is how active it still is. It’s slow moving, but there’s a lot in there. Old oak, cedar boxes, melon (cantaloupe) with honey drizzled on it, leather, earthy dried tea with a hint of soft smoke, tobacco, some soft stone fruit notes (fleshy blood plums, peaches, apricots) and raisins. Really quite fruity for something of this age and very well integrated, as you might expect.

On the palate it’s slightly oily but light in weight. I found it had a rum-like sweetness to it with lots of integrated soft oak spice at the front. After a few seconds lots of juicy tropical fruit salad/ oak notes emerge (like green mango, papaya, paw paw). There’s some light acidic sourness to it (grapefruit and orange marmalade) and some menthol or eucalypt notes. Toward the finish sweet rum-soaked dried fruits emerge before the finish turns drying with fragrant wood, light spice and lots of oak tannins.

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The idea of whisky that’s been deep in slumber for more than half a century is always alluring, intriguing and attractive. However from the limited selection of old whisky I’ve tasted, the reality of it is not aways so grand and I’m sure there are plenty of hyper-aged whiskies out there that are simply an over-oaked mess. This is not one of them though.

It has a gorgeous nose, almost ‘Japanese’ in the way it manages to integrate fruit, smoke and a leathery-tobacco in a sophisticated way. It took me right back to the times I sat at The Mash Tun in Tokyo, drinking some incredible Japanese whiskies at the bar.

There are just 610 bottles in existence and this expression is available now globally. What’s more, it has recently been awarded a double gold medal – the highest award – at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, as well as gold at the 2017 International Spirits Challenge. So I guess Im not the only one who thinks this whisky is pretty great? A very special thanks to Gordon & MacPhail for the sample tasted here.