And now for something completely different. I’ve made fun of Canadian whisky in the past because of the slightly lax laws which allow Canadian distillers to mix things into their whisky that would make the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association) choke on its daily dram. Then along comes a product that shows the upside of such a liberal policy. Rather than try to explain exactly what’s in this, I refer you to Drinkhacker’s excellent description. Suffice it to say this is two types of Canadian rye (12 years and 6 year of age) blended with 8% bourbon (actual bourbon, purportedly Old Grand-Dad) and 1% sherry (actual sherry). Try getting something like that past the US’s TTB labeling review!
We have something unique here, people. Everyone knows that some whisky (specifically scotch) is aged in sherry barrels (some of which are “wet” with residual liquid sherry), but who puts actually sherry in the vat with the whisky? Who’s actually allowed to do that? Canadian distillers, that’s who.
Nose: A robust – dare I say, “bold”? – aroma of fungal wine caves, sweet fortified wine (duh), and soft, sweet, round Canadian “rye”. More fun than serious, this smells like a glass of something a bunch of drunk whisky people would mix together after a particularly long cask-strength tasting. You can tell there’s sherry (as opposed to sherry cask-aged whisky) in here, because the aromas are winey and with a dense, fresh, watery fruit note that one does not normally find in whisky. If you think of this like a bottled cocktail, the effect is quite pleasant, and very well-integrated.
Palate: Syrupy body. Black raisins, pine resin, soft wheat, and red wine dregs. After the initial (very tame) tongue burn, there is some malty cereal sweetness like marshmallows and coconut shavings.
Finish: Long-ish. The sherry pervades, with raisins, resinous sappy wood, and the barest reminder that this is rye: cloves. Fades without bitterness.
With Water: A few drops of water bring very sweet melted vanilla ice cream to the nose, along with a heightened sense of rye spice (cinnamon, primarily). muting the “wet” sherry notes. The palate is downright “smooth” (aka doesn’t burn) with a little water, but no new notes appear. Water is fully optional here.
Overall: I think the best way to think of Dark Batch is as a bottled cocktail, and a damn good one at that. A masterful balance of dark, resinous sherry with your typical round, sweet Canadian rye. At a very reasonable price, this is something that could form a tasty, satisfying drink neat, or as a component in some unique cocktails. In fact, it’s quite pleasant by itself on ice.
I’ve marked it “Must Try” because this defies classification, and is really something every whisky lover ought to experience. This is especially true of every whisky lover (guilty) who has ever tried to tip a little fresh sherry into a glass of whisky to see what happens. (Hint: It didn’t go well).