I wish I could say that after tasting through all that blended Canadian whisky, that I personally discovered this gem. That would be dishonest, though, and if you can’t trust something you read on the Internet, then what can you trust? Seriously, though, I had it on good authority from David Driscoll at K&L that Lot 40 was worth a close look, so I bought a bottle blind. It’s also significantly more expensive than any other Canadian whisky I’ve reviewed, and it’s not a blend, so it’s not fair to compare to the cheapo blends below. Still, THIS is what I wanted – really good Canadian whisky available in the US. It’s happening!
This guy was Whisky Advocate’s 2013 Canadian Whisky of the year. Apparently available (even in the States) previously, it disappeared from production for over a decade and sparked a global bottle hunt among Canadian whisky drinkers in the know. Bottler Corby Distilleries has re-launched Lot 40 with its 2012 Release. The whisky is distilled at the Hiram Walker plant from a mashbill of 90% rye and 10% malted rye using a copper pot still. This is the real deal. This is what Canadian whisky (should be) all about, and thank goodness it’s available in the US!
Update 3/31/2015 David D. over at K&L conducted an interview with Hiram Walker Master Blender Don Livermore and he had this fascinating tidbit to share about the production of Lot 40:
It’s 100% rye whisky. The rye is passed once through a column still and then a pot still. When yeast ferments, it makes fruity, floral, green grass, soapy, and sulfur characters. We can control the fermentation’s temperature, the nitrogen level, the pH, grain levels or a number of other things in order to influence the yeast to make these characteristics. We do a warm ferment that helps the yeast grow quickly and ultimately make alcohol quickly. After 3 days of fermentation we achieve 8% abv. When you put that fermented rye mash once through the column still you keep the grain character (spicy), as well as the floral, the fruity, the green grass, and the soapy notes that yeast has made. […] We then pass the column distilled liquid through a pot still for Lot 40 [which strips out the grass and soapy notes].
for more on the topic of distillation of Canadian whisky at Hiram Walker, read the whole interview.
Nose: Oh my God. Delicate cherry blossoms, crushed eucalyptus, sticky dried golden delicious apples. No dusty spice cabinet. Instead, the “rye spices” smell like freshly-opened seed pods of clove and allspice. I now know what rye whisky is supposed to smell like. This is -amazing-.
Palate: Soft. The spices are slightly more predominant on the tongue, with clear cinnamon and clove. Gingersnap cookies. Soft rye grain with a touch of oakiness and some vanilla-flecked caramel. Nice, but not as earth-shattering as the aroma.
Finish: Mild, medium-length. The eucalyptus returns, with a ghost of fresh mint leaves. Finishes totally devoid of bitterness.
With Water: Oddly, a few drops of water dulls the aroma. The palate is sweeter, with some nice fleshy stone fruit. I’d avoid the water here, just because of the disservice it does to that lovely aroma.
Overall: This isn’t saying much, but this is the best Canadian whisky I’ve ever had. It’s also the best nose I’ve ever smelled on anything with rye in it. Hell, I’ll say it, it’s even better (on the nose) than any bourbon I’ve tried, including those from Van Winkle. The palate doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the nose (what can?), but is soft and subtle in its own right. The finish is sedate and unobtrusive. Really, though, I could sit here and smell this all night.
If you like bourbon, rye, Canadian whisky, or American craft whisky, then you now have a mission. You must smell this whisky. Find a bar that carries it, a friend with a bottle, a retailer who will pour you a sample under the table, or a public tasting event. Buy a bottle if you have to. You must smell this whisky.