You might remember my blind tasting of Té Bheag blended scotch, in which a reader sent me a blind sample to review. Well, thanks again to Scott N. for a second sample, this time in a miniature bottle simply marked “Canadian” – at least I get a clue this time.
As before, I don’t normally taste things blind. For one reason, anyone who pretends to know anything about wine, beer, spirits, etc. knows to avoid blind tastings like the plague because they have a way of revealing exactly how full of crap we are. For example, at a recent tasting group I attended, 24 whisky enthusiasts had two chances to guess the origin of a mystery pour for an opportunity to win a bottle. It turned out to be Johnnie Walker Green Label (which is now back on shelves after a hiatus), and nobody even got close. At a similar event last year, nobody was even able to guess that a blind pour was rum instead of whisky!
This sample smelled blindingly sweet (so I could guess low-end Canadian blend) and the color was a very dark red-gold. After a taste, my best guess was one of the Crown Royal special editions. Surprise! It was Forty Creek’s Barrel Select, the entry-level product from the upstart Canadian distillery. As it’s positioned as a direct competitor to the entry-level Crown Royal, the flavor profile makes sense. It definitely tastes like a “higher end” Crown for not much more money. It’s also cheap enough to mix with. Forty Creek ages their copper pot-still components (rye, corn, and barley) in separate barrels and then carefully blends them together for the final product, an unusual approach. I’m also looking forward to tasting some of the celebrated higher-end products from the distillery.
Please remember that these notes were written while tasting blind, which show clearly that I don’t really know what the heck I’m talking about.
Nose: Initially, heavy new-make character (grassy, vegetal, reminds me of white dog) – that dissipates after a rest in the glass, leaving a thick layer of caramel, with buttercream frosting and a thin veneer of tannic oak. Vanilla pervades, while the caramel is verging on burnt caramel, with wisps of char.
Palate: Thick, sweet, syrupy. Did I mention sweet? Repeated caramel notes, butterscotch candies, dulce de leche, etc. It all tastes heavily sweet, but not in a fake/corn syrup way.
Finish: Medium-short in length. Initially, vanilla dominates and then gives way to coconut extract and marzipan (almond). No bitterness.
With Water: A few drops of water release a little cinnamon (now it smells like a Cinna-Bon), and perhaps thins the body a touch.
Overall: Like many cheaper Canadian whiskies, this is over-the-top sugary sweet. The effect is decadent rather than fake (a major plus), reminding me of a high-end bakery treats rather than cheap mass-produced candy. Aside from the various iterations of sugar, there’s just a little bit of oakiness and not much complexity. A dessert – something that might be good poured over ice cream.
I’m marking this as “Try Before Buy” because it’s a little too young and a little too sweet for my tastes. However, if you regularly drink Crown Royal, this is a MUST HAVE for you. Yes, you, I’m talking to you. Don’t try to hide in the back.