Snake River Stampede 8 year old 40% abv (80 proof)


Butterscotch, dusty rye, hot white pepper, dark fruits and ginger. Refreshing citric pith and zest. Creamy smooth, then slightly grippy. Spicy Rye. ★★★★Since the 1970s a major component of the business of Canadian whisky distillers has been bulk whisky shipped to the U.S. for bottling and distribution. This is how many of the best known Canadian whisky brands enter the American market. But along with big names such as Lord Calvert, Windsor, and Canadian Mist, there is also a growing niche of independent private labels that buy custom-blended Canadian whisky and bottle it themselves. And within this burgeoning group is a sub-niche of ‘rodeo whiskies,’ that is, whiskies created especially for ever-popular rodeo events.  These are best exemplified by Pendleton and Snake River Stampede.Although bottled in Cottage Grove, Oregon, by former Indio distiller, John Ufford, Snake River Stampede whisky is most definitely crafted to make the most of its Canadian heritage. To begin with, before being shipped to Oregon, the whisky spends 8 years in Canada, maturing in ex-Bourbon barrels before being blended and transferred for an additional 6 months to used sherry casks for marrying. While it is not a super-complex whisky, it is no mere mixer either. Eight years in wood, and additional time in sherry casks for finishing have given it significant breadth of palate. Among the rodeo whiskies this one is a real standout.Not that I am a big fan of so-called “smooth” whiskies – a little edge can be quite invigorating – but though its peppery spice may kick like a stallion, Snake River Stampede really does feel good going down neat. The bottler recommends drinking it on the rocks or with water, or with a soft drink, but also suggests that there is enough flavour that it can be warmed and served like a cognac after dinner.Nose: Unlike some bottled-in-the-U.S. Canadian whiskies, this smells like real Canadian rye. The nose starts slightly sweet, but it is also as dry and dusty as August on the range – you can almost imagine the sage brush. There is not a lot of rye spiciness at first, but that quickly changes to sweet ginger and allspice, along with hints of dark fruit and vague suggestions of lilacs. The initial hard-rye dryness soon gives way to a slight oiliness as the nose becomes rich and more expressive. Hints of cedar, a touch of spirit, the vaguest pickle juice, and a citric bitterness round it out.Palate: Sweet, with creamy butterscotch, burnt sugar, sweet citric notes, and a spicy warming pepper that quickly becomes very hot. There are suggestions of oak, refreshing bitter grapefruit pith, almost acidic grapefruit zest, and a hard steely rye. It’s big and fruity and not overly complex, but a really good sipper. A neatly-integrated synthesis of sweetness, tantalizing citric zest, pepper, and just a flash of hot sushi ginger hangs together well into the middle. Ginger, cloves, and cinnamon linger under a really tingly pepper that grows progressively hotter. Slight notes of fresh lumber provide quiet support in the background. An initially syrupy mouthfeel develops a certain grippyness, but with less wood than you might expect in an eight-year-old whisky. And don’t ask me how, but there is a vague suggestion of salt.Finish: Medium. Glowing white pepper with a slightly sweet and fruity background. Refreshing zesty citric bitterness.Empty Glass: Not much, maybe a hint of lumber, dry grain, sour fruits, and dusty rye.Oregon’s Indio Spirits launched Snake River Stampede Canadian Whisky in August 2006, in partnership with Snake River Stampede Rodeo. The story of how that came to be is classically Western frontier. It seems Steve Tester, president of the Snake River Stampede Rodeo, was seated next to Indio president, Bob Turner, on a commuter flight from Boise to Portland. The two got to talking and after exchanging life stories decided that they might benefit from a joint venture. Turner had the idea of pairing a distinctly western whisky with a uniquely western rodeo. Turner had the whisky; Tester had the rodeo. It all made perfect sense. Before they parted, the two had clinched the deal with a gentlemen’s handshake. That’s right, no focus groups, no test marketing, no lawyers, just good personal chemistry and a handshake. The result: Snake River Stampede 8 year old Canadian whisky. Thank goodness some people still trust their gut.Each July, the Snake River Stampede Rodeo brings thousands of riders, rodeo fans, and country music lovers to Nampa, Idaho. Tester, who has been involved with it for 34 of its 95-year history, says that this event has grown to become the eighth largest rodeo in the world. Its huge purse, now $400,000, has attracted A-list rodeo stars such as singing cowboy Gene Autry and bareback bronc-riding champion, Clint Cannon. Fortunately, although the rodeo is over in less than a week, Snake River Stampede whisky is available year round, and in 18 states from Florida to Hawaii. And what’s more, you need not even own a pair of cowboy boots to enjoy it. A ten-year-old version is currently in the works.Suggested retail price $27.00Highly recommended. ★★★★