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whisky review 107 - Canadian Club (Barrel Blended)
At the same time, they also added WhistlePig to the list of American whiskies on the rye whiskey page. Reading these updates we learn that, among other things, at age 34, Bhakta is a former contestant on The Apprentice, is a notorious womanizer, is responsible for the resurgence of the bowtie, is a failed political candidate, is a former investment banker, sells Colombian aguardiente, and has a knack for publicity stunts, though not necessarily in that order. And believe it or not, he is also the founder of WhistlePig Whiskey. He spent 18 months running around the world talking to every reasonably large producer of rye whisky and tasting most of their products. After all this searching and tasting, he finally declared that the best rye whisky in the world is made right here in Canada. We Canadians may be bland and accommodating but Dave Pickerell says we make the very best rye whisky anywhere, and he should know! Unmalted rye does have fairly good diastatic properties on its own. Still, most rye distillers add commercially produced enzymes to help quickly break the rye starches down into sugars that the yeast can turn into alcohol. Commercially produced enzymes are made by culturing Rhizopus or Aspergillus fungi which have been specifically selected to produce high levels of very effective alpha- and gluco-amylase. After all, corn is less expensive than rye, which is why it is the primary grain used to make most North American whiskies. Most whisky makers just accept the inefficiencies and all the extra cleanings that go along with using corn-specific enzymes for rye. Most American distillers get around the problem by using the minimum rye grain allowed and adding malted barley to help convert the starch. In Canada, however, there are two distillers who have found a way to overcome the problems of sticky rye mashes and gummed-up equipment. Hiram Walker distillery in Windsor, Ontario, has solved the problem by using malted rye. The perfect rye-converting enzymes, of course, are made by the rye grain itself as it starts to germinate. They apparently have bought enough whisky that double that number of cases will be available in and even more in subsequent years. I can report that this first batch of WhistlePig is just excellent whisky, taking us back to the days before trade agreements brought an end to the production of Bourbon in Canada. Is there ever some Bourbon! After 10 years in new oak, the vanillins have subdued everything else. Tasted head-to-head with the hugely rye-forward Lot 40, a succulent vanilla toffee and hot, hot chili peppers rule the WhistlePig palate. In all my tasting, I have never encountered such rich tantalizing chili pepper before, except maybe in chocolate-chili ice cream. Crown Royal is known for its Bourbon-like qualities, a reputation earned in part because much of its whisky is made using a Bourbon sour-mash recipe. It has just enough mashy notes and bitter lemon to balance an obvious, Bourbon-like vanilla. A high-end mixing whisky, Crown Royal De Luxe is equally good on ice, with cola or ginger ale, or in a cocktail. I suppose you could make a pretty dandy cocktail with WhistlePig too, but why would you want to do that? WhistlePig is hot, hot, hot over a caramel-like sweetness. There is a lot of depth there; if only the vanilla would let it through. Crown Royal Black, which is a very spicy, Bourbon-influenced whisky and somewhat peppery. There is rye in Crown Royal Black all right, but also caramel, dark fruits, and a certain mintiness, although vanilla and charcoal dominate. This is great mixing whisky and a pretty good sipper too. It has been flying off the shelves since it was introduced earlier this year. If Crown Royal Black is the whisky you buy to impress your poker buddies or a first date, then WhistlePig is what you bring out when you sit down with your oldest friends to set the world to right. Rich as it is in vanilla, Crown Royal Black smells more like dark fruit when nosed right after WhistlePig. On the palate, Crown Black is weighty and robust with black fruit, caramel, burnt sugar and lots of pepper. Both are slightly salty. In reverse order, WhistlePig just keeps on with the vanilla though it is toned down considerably, and underneath there are lilacs, caramel, and the ever-present chili pepper. Pickerell has done a masterful job selecting the barrels that make up this WhistlePig, and though there is an aura of simulacra to the carefully managed buzz around it, the only thing that really matters is the marvelous dance it does on your tongue.
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