Revel Stoke Spiced Whisky (45% alc/vol (90 proof))


Rich and creamy; smooth as the proverbial baby’s bottom. Vanilla, camphor, cherry cough drops, spicy pepper, and pleasing citric pith. Tasty Spice.Phillips Distilling Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota, has just re-launched Revel Stoke Spiced Canadian Whisky in all-new livery. The packaging has been updated to project a rugged, old-West, outdoors image, clearly aimed at the younger crowd. That said, it’s now a full 90 proof, yet smooth enough to shoot straight without wincing. You can almost picture rock climbers back at base camp pulling out a bottle to celebrate conquering another brutal rock face.Originally released in 2000, an 80-proof version of Revelstoke, as it was known back then, quickly found fans across western Canada and the U.S. Its enticing spiciness and an irreverent promotion campaign that featured, among other things, bikini-clad lap dancers and advertising on urinal mats saw to that. However, there were significant corporate changes at Phillips in 2001, and a shift of focus to other products. This left Revelstoke to languish for lack of support. A small core of fanatics refused to give up on it though, and went to great lengths to find what few bottles were still being produced, thus helping to keep the brand more or less alive. Well the intervention of fanatical supporters has finally paid off; Revelstoke is now back as Revel Stoke Spiced Whisky and distribution has been ramped up in 13 states.Named after Revelstoke, the mountain resort town in British Columbia, Revel Stoke Spiced Whisky is actually distilled in the next province over: Alberta. It is distilled from Canadian prairie wheat and rye, and after ageing, it is infused with spices and natural flavours. On the nose these evoke essences of vanilla, camphor, and cherry. Phillips, prides itself on its innovation and modeled Revel Stoke on spiced rum, noting that about a third of all rum sold in North America has had spices added. If adding spices worked with rum, they gambled that adding spices to whisky would similarly spice up whisky sales.Sampling Revel Stoke head to head with other spiced and flavoured beverages is most revealing because you will discover that Revel Stoke's appeal really is unique. The ever-popular Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum, for example, tastes very sweet with caramel, powdered sugar, and delightful hints of maple cream cookies on the nose. Meanwhile, the muscular Revel Stoke is redolent of cherries, creamy vanilla, and camphor. Both are quite peppery. The mild, refreshing bitterness of Captain Morgan’s rum palate is in contrast to the richly flavoured Revel Stoke’s robust cleansing citric zest. Revel Stoke has a little more breadth of palate than Captain Morgan and is fuller bodied - almost a little bit syrupy, like a liqueur. Both seem to lie in wait for Coca Cola®.If Revel Stoke seems slightly syrupy (and it certainly does), why not compare it with a liqueur that is popular with the younger set, Southern Comfort, for example? But it takes just one sip to discover “No! There’s no comparison!” Southern Comfort is overloaded with peach flavouring, SweetTarts, and lemon candy in high contrast to Revel Stoke’s toothsome vanilla and ample spicy pepper. The singular Revel Stoke is no Southern Comfort wannabe.So maybe another flavoured whisky would be a better comparison. Jim Beam has recently released a cherry flavoured Bourbon: Red Stag. Perhaps we’ll have a little more success comparing whisky to whisky. But then, Revel Stoke does not have what you might call a lot of typical rye whisky character. The wheat whisky, which makes up most of the Revel Stoke blend, lives up to its reputation as mild, smooth, and eminently quaffable, while its woody notes linger shyly, and way in the background. This Revel Stoke certainly has loads of vanilla, though, but Red Stag is more whisky-like – or Bourbon-like to be more exact – with cords of wood, pepper, vanilla, plus, yes, oodles of sweet black cherries. Red Stag tastes like Bourbon with a Dr Pepper™ mixer, whereas the spice-forward Revel Stoke is a posh, velvety, and mouth-filling wheat whisky.But let’s try one more comparison before getting to the Revel Stoke tasting notes: The makers of Yukon Jack call their product the black sheep of the Canadian liquor family. Its very vegetal cousin, Snakebite, is decidedly more tonic than liqueur. Compared with Revel Stoke, Yukon Jack tastes sharp and almost musty. Although Revel Stoke certainly has a spicy kick, it is smooth and luxurious next to Yukon Jack which is loaded with cutting citrus notes and hot pepper. Yes, Yukon Jack entertains the palate – a literal amuse bouche – with a four-part sequence of syrup, pepper, sweet lemon, and bitter lemon appearing with each sip. However, as with Revel Stoke, rye is not the first thing that springs to mind when sipping Yukon Jack.Among the commonly available choices, it would seem that Revel Stoke really does stand apart. No doubt word of mouth and a bit of promotion will attract newly-minted drinkers who might otherwise end up in the safe Jack Daniels or Southern Comfort camps. Revel Stoke’s very zippy peppery notes make it a great mixer, and sipped neat Revel Stoke is a pleasure unto itself. And, honestly, while Phillips recommends “Stoke & Coke” and “Stoke & ginger” (and certainly, lots of people are bound to enjoy lots of it that way), Revel Stoke sipped neat after dinner really complements a piece of apple pie with vanilla ice cream.Nose: Creamy vanilla, black cherries, Smith Brothers cherry cough drops, Dr Pepper™, pink cherry ice cream, butterscotch, camphor oil, wax-candy lips, baby powder, hints of allspice, oak, tobacco, and sweet car grease. Quite expressive.Palate: Very sweet like a liqueur but not as unctuous or syrupy. Quite cherried with some zippy bitter citric zest, and spicy hot pepper. The heat and bitterness play neatly off each other. As the sweetness fades, cherry cough syrup, camphor oil, menthol, hot pepper, and hot cinnamon take over the palate. A veritable spice box. Revel Stoke’s blender has taken great care to ensure none of the flavourings overpower and as a result, although they are quite expressive, the flavours remain well integrated. Although Revel Stoke is not overtly Canadian rye whisky, it does exhibit elements of dry whisky wood, but these stay way off in the background. Voluptuous vanilla ice cream notes on the tongue complement a rich mouthfeel and weighty body. Pleasing bitter citric pith and slight herbal notes round it out. Very expressive but not overly complex.Finish: Medium and fading. Sweetish. Hot, spicy, and peppery. Cherry cough syrup, creamy vanilla, and some cleansing bitterness.Empty Glass: Very expressive, even a day later, with vanilla ice cream, Dr Pepper™, cotton candy, butterscotch, creamy caramel, and the vaguest hints of oak.The Phillips Distilling Company is an independent family business, founded in 1912 as Ed Phillips and Sons Company, a candy and tobacco wholesaler. The company introduced its first alcoholic drink, a peppermint schnapps, in the 1930s, shortly after American Prohibition ended. Phillips salesman, Al Dorsch, had noticed people adding peppermint candy to their newly-distilled post-Prohibition whisky in order to give it a bit of flavour.Apparently wry humour, not to be confused with rye humour, is a Phillips family tradition. The company introduced its first Canadian whisky in 1967, the year that Canadians celebrated the country’s Centenary with uncommon expressions of fervent nationalism. Not to be outdone, Phillips produced a campy short film, seemingly shot on Super-8, showing its employees, including former CEO Jay Phillips, dashing manically out of the plant in red flannel lumberjack jackets and black toques. It was Jay’s great-grandson and current CEO, Dean Phillips, who forty years later came up with the idea to advertize on urinal mats. Incidentally, 20,000 of these were stolen (while in service, and hopefully washed before use elsewhere) before the campaign ended.Revel Stoke is still the same delightful spiced whisky it was back in those early days, but the new image is much more backcountry, much more overtly Canadian, and ever so much more, dare I say it, tasteful. Not for the overly serious whisky connoisseur, but an unusual treat, loads of fun, and well worth trying.Suggested retail price $16.99 at U.S. liquor stores, $26.95 at LCBO.Other flavoured whiskies include:Black Velvet Toasted CaramelDock 57 SpicedDock 57 BlackberryForty Creek Cream Liquor Gibson’s Maple 100th Grey CupHighwood Canadian Maple WhiskyWhite Owl Spiced