Christmas Whisky for 2012
What a year 2012 has turned out to be! It seems that nearly every distillery had Christmas giving in mind when they came up with their new releases. Never in recent history has there been such an abundance of truly great Canadian whisky. Here are this year’s suggestions for the thoughtful gift giver: twelve (plus one) whiskies to make every secret Santa a not-so-secret success.DANFIELD’S LIMITED EDITION 21 YEARS OLD Limited quantities of Danfield’s 21 year old keep this connoisseur’s treasure below the average whisky lover’s radar. The label says 21 years old, but reliable sources tell me that this year’s batch has some whisky from the 1960’s added in for good measure. Rich corn whisky accented by long-aged rye yields a sweet voluptuous dram that exemplifies crisp, clean Canadian wood. Currently $44.95 at LCBO.BLACK VELVET TOASTED CARAMEL Flavoured whisky is trending this year and right at the head of the pack, this sweet, richly creamy luxury delivers exactly what the label says. It is rich in caramel and oh so campfire-roasted-marshmallow toasty. Not a contemplative, it's simply a lot of fun. Sip before or after dinner as a liqueur or digestif. LCBO price is $27.65.ALBERTA PREMIUM DARK HORSE Vying with Lot No. 40 and Masterson’s Rye for whisky of the year, this robust beauty is rich in rye spices, creamy fruits, and cleansing citrus pith. Very moreish, you may want to pick up an extra bottle just in case the first one runs dry sooner than expected. Dark Horse is available at LCBO for $29.95.MASTERSON’S STRAIGHT RYE Masterson’s delivers the spicy punch of straight rye whisky in the smooth elegant whisky glove that Masterson’s masterful minglers so skillfully don. Powerful, robust and complex, it remains ever so sippable. Of the Canadian whiskies released as “straight rye” this one is clearly the best of a phenomenally great bunch. Available at LCBO for $109.95 - about 1/3 the price of a comparable single malt.HIGHWOOD 25 YEAR OLD CALGARY STAMPEDE WHISKY You’ll have to search for this beauty. It was released in Alberta only, but dear old Dad (read me!) is well worth the effort. A one-time batch of just 6,000 bottles, in celebration of the 100th Calgary Stampede, it may well be the best whisky yet to come from Highwood Distillers. $64.49 at Kensington Wine Market in Calgary.STILL WATERS 1+11 CANADIAN WHISKY For micro-distillers to hone their blending skills using sourced whisky is a stroke of sheer brilliance that will save a lot of tears when their own spirit is mature. The guys at Stillwaters did just that. They created their 1+11 Canadian whisky from purchased whisky and surprised even themselves with just how well it was received. LCBO sells Still Waters 1+11 for $29.65. Or pop by their shop in Concord, Ontario and have them sign a bottle for that someone special.COLLINGWOOD Collingwood was last year's vanguard for the 2012 invasion by top-notch Canadian whiskies and it created quite a sensation. Loads of robust rye notes are bolstered by time spent resting in a marrying vat with staves of toasted maple. The resulting fruity, spicy quality is unmatched in any other whisky. Available in its striking squared bottle at LCBO for $29.95.FORTY CREEK DOUBLE BARREL RESERVE What began as a special release drew so much praise that whisky maker John K. Hall added it to his regular Forty Creek line-up. Spicy rye and nutty barley whisky are awash in buttery, creamy corn. Feels great in your mouth and tastes even better. $54.95 at LCBO.FORTY CREEK PORT WOOD RESERVE 2012 Another reprise of a Forty Creek Special Release, this one is available in limited quantities only. Luscious dark fruits and tingling spiciness energize the palate while sweet pipe tobacco, clean oak and murmurs of gunpowder add even greater excitement. $69.95 at LCBO.LOT NO. 40 – 2012 RELEASE 100% rye-grain whisky with a twist. Lot No. 40 is made from a mash of rye grain with 10% malted rye added to it. This enhances the floral notes in the already abundant rye fragrance. Distilled in an old-fashioned copper pot still, Lot 40 is redolent of old-country German rye bread and sweet dark fruits, in perfect balance with a spiciness that trails off into dill pickles and refreshing citrus pith. Simply spectacular! $39.90 at LCBO.PIKE CREEK 10 YEAR OLD The return of portwood-matured Pike Creek to whisky store shelves after a decade’s absence brought cheers of sheer joy from whisky lovers in 2012. Spicy dark fruit, poached pears, gingery spice, and clean oak almost burst from the dramming glass. The finish reminds me of a nutty fruit bar, closing in slowly on cleansing bitter grapefruit pith. Strays softly into Speyside single malt territory. There's not a lot of it around but LCBO carries Pike Creek for $39.90.WISER’S 18 YEARS OLD, AKA WISER’S VERY OLD A solid, reliable old standard, Wiser’s 18 has been one of Canada’s top sipping whiskies for over seven decades. This rich and oaky wonder surges with wood, wood, wood, and ripples of ever-so-complex hot pepper, baking spices, butterscotch, vanilla, rye grain, tobacco, cigar box, sour-dough, and dried baking fruits. A long finish comes to its conclusion in citrus zest. An all-time favourite. $65.95 at LCBO.GIBSON’S FINEST RARE 18 YEARS OLD This sophisticated synthesis of creamy grain flavours and clear crisp wood reveals sweet and spicy dimensions amidst fresh pine sawdust and tingling white pepper. Fresh-baked biscuits are laced with dusty rye, spice, fruit, and just a drop of pickle juice. Soft, supple, and oh so elegant. LCBO has a limited supply at $74.95.And don’t stop there; there are so many more great whiskies on Canadian whisky shelves this year. Twelve days is the Christmas tradition so we'll stop with this Christmas dozen. On the other hand, let's make it a baker's dozen and add an extra one for Boxing Day. “On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me…” Hohoho! Merry Christmas 2012!