Bombay Canadian Club – Lohin McKinnon Single Malt Lot 0001 43%

From blends to a single grain to a single malt, our Bombay Canadian evening had a rather civilized progression ending on this new single malt from Central City Brewing. The whisky’s name is a combination of Gary Lohin, Brewmaster and Stuart McKinnon, Head Distiller. Started as a brewpub in Surrey, British Columbia, Central City Brewing then grew to build a full fledged craft brewery and distillery – continuing to make beer, adding cigar, gins, rum and now whisky.

Lohin McKinnon Single Malt Lot 0001 43%

  • Nose – Going bananas big time! Initially sour overripe bananas it then shifted to more ripe fruits like apricots and pineapples, lots of barley, then a delicious banana cake, very fruit forward
  • Palate – You that banana cake on the nose? It was banana bread on the palate with cinnamon, still oodles of fruit with peach, apricot like that 5 fruit Tropicana juice
  • Finish – Simple yet long, light and satisfying

For most this was the favourite of our Canadian quartet – the banana cake quality was simply lip smacking! It also paired rather well with the cigars of choice for the evening too.

And here’s what the folks over at the LCBO have to say:

The brewing talent of Gary Lohin of Central City Brewing Co. and the distilling artistry of Stuart McKinnon culminate in this smooth craft whisky. Bourbon barrel ageing gives complexity to this malt that is layered with hints of cherry, vanilla, and wood smoke on a medium weight/creamy palate, finishing with gentle spice.

While still only available through your provincial LCBO, this new single malt from BC is a bit harder to track down and may require going to a “specialty” store, finding the folks with the key to the locked cabinet. However the price remains most reasonable – currently C$60.40. This 1st edition was released in July 2017.

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Bombay Canadian Club – Gibson’s Finest Venerable 18 year 40%

When you think of a Canadian whisky, one typically assumes a 3 year old, normally a blend or a rye… not an 18 year old whiskey.

This time from Gibson’s Finest – a distillery that started in Pennsylvania then with prohibition relocated to Quebec, where they have been producing whiskey every since.

Gibson’s Finest Venerable 18 year 40%

  • Nose – Sweet lemon, clean and simple, a touch of butterscotch
  • Palate – Very soft on the front, boiled sweets at the back then bread, sweet lemon cake, settling into a cream and biscuits with a hint of maple
  • Finish – Very light, warm

Overall we found it to be the epitome of spring, fresh and light, just skipping around ones palate. It is a day whisky, easy going, with a gentle single note. Not one harsh element and while one would ideally want a bit more complexity in an 18 year old, it was enjoyable in a innocuous and pleasant way.

As we tried this in one of Bombay Malt & Cigar evenings, the next step was to consider that combination. With this Gibson’s a cigar simply overpowers… best to enjoy each separately!

In Canada, you can find this through your provincial LCBO – currently for C$89.95.

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Bombay Canadian Club – G+W, Gibson’s, JP Wiser’s, Lohin McKinnon

The funny thing about Canadians is we pop up all over the globe. It just so happens that one of our Bombay Malt and Cigar members is married to a fellow Canadian… and happened to have a trip back there recently… and just so happened to pick up a few bottles of Canadian whisky.

Which meant this month, our Bombay Malt and Cigar group was temporarily dubbed the “Bombay Canadian Club” with a chance to check out some offerings from my home and native land Canada!

Here is what we sampled, standing politely in a row:

Read on in the coming days for more details and impressions about our tasting experiences.

I had barely recovered from a rousing Canadian Thanksgiving feast the previous week with friends in Mumbai when our host followed up our whiskies and cigars with Canadian cuisine of tourtiere meat pie, poutine and nanaimo bars! After such an evening, we practically stood up to sing “O Canada!” (But were too polite to do such a thing.)

What was clear across the board is that these were all quite approachable and easy to enjoy whiskies. Not a single one was priced above CND 100, with most around (or even below) the C$50 mark. Making them equally approachable on the financial front as well.

However in terms of availability, some may need an extra check to see which local Canadian LCB (Liquor Control Board) has stock… as not all are “standard” fare. Case in point, our host really did try to track down other single malts such as Shelter Point… alas not a drop to be found where he went in the East or West!

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Bombay Canadian Club – Gooderham and Worts Four Grains (Take Two!)

This wasn’t my 1st brush with Corby’s reconstruction of an old time Canadian blend which had a checkered past of being sold from Ontario to Quebec and smuggled back to meet the demand during temperance times…

Nope! This Gooderham and Worts Four Grain featured in an earlier “O Canada” evening – with initially not so enthusiastic impression followed by social occasions where it was a complete hit!

Gooderham & Worts Four Grains A.A1129 44.4%

  • Nose – It started off quite musty, grainy like wallowing in a granary, definitely had rye, then shifted into a lovely citrus, settling on a clear orange, even chocolate orange, some caramel, warm… back to wheat husk and barley, a drizzle of honey
  • Palate – Sourdough bread, very malty, sweet sugar on the 2nd sip, light spice, and lots of sourgum, more substance than expected
  • Finish – Surprisingly long, paprika and cinnamon

Overall we found it was very sweet. A clear reflection of all its components of corn, rye, wheat and barley. Most had started with rather – ahem! – modest expectations and were quite pleasantly surprised.

After resting covered for some time, we came back for a revisit – initially greeted with a sharp grain, vanilla and then… remarkably a most distinctive chaat masala emerged with full on black salt. It may sound odd but it wasn’t bad, just unexpected.

As we settled into the cigar puffing part of the evening, this blend held its own… not such a bad start to our Canadian explorations.

Here’s what the folks at the LCBO have to say:

A blend of corn, rye, wheat and barley and bottled at 44.4% ABV this pours a golden/amber colour. On the nose look for notes of honey, toffee, dried flowers, and bubble-gum; the palate is rich and full with a smooth/viscous mouthfeel and flavours of sweet floral and stone fruit followed by a medium-length spicy finish.

Thanks to Canada’s regulated approach to the sale of liquor, one can easily find both where to buy (simple – your provincial LCBO) and how much (currently C$44.95), with this blend relatively easy to find in Ontario.

And if you are picking this up in Toronto and feeling a little nostalgic, I’d recommend a wander through the old distillery district where you can see what once upon a time was the building that produced an earlier avatar!

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Bombay Canadian Club – JP Wiser’s 18 year 40%

Ah…Canada and Canadian whiskies… Time to shift from blends to a single grain… In our case, aged for a most respectable 18 years… Welcome to our experience with J.P. Wiser’s 18 year old!

JP Wiser’s 18 year 40%

  • Nose – When we freshly opened the bottle were initially hit with acetone and varnish, however this quickly settled down into wood, spearmint, pine sol, apples, warm, liquorice, cotton candy, light toast then sawdust
  • Palate – Very soft, at first thought it almost watery on the 1st sip but don’t pre-judge…. the 2nd sip reveals light caramel, nicely rounded, a bit oily… the 3rd sip revealed even more depth and complexity with sucking candy
  • Finish – A lovely liquorice spice

Overall we found this one you should give a bit of time.

For our Malt & Cigar gents, what mattered most was it paired rather well with a good cigar, thank you very much!

The folks at the LCBO have this to say:

A single grain whisky that is dominated by aromas of green apple in part due to the unique aging conditions in Southern Ontario. It pours a medium golden amber with additional aromas of caramel, orange peel and spice; the palate is round and medium-bodied with a silky texture and a smooth vanilla driven, finish.

Thanks to Canada’s regulated approach to the sale of liquor, one can easily find both where to buy (simple – your provincial LCBO) and how much (currently C$79.95).

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Mithcher’s Small Batch Bourbon Sazerac Cocktail

After sampling Mitcher’s Small Batch Bourbon solo, we had a change to try it in a different avatar – an exceedingly good Sazerac… so good that a few even had a repeat!

Mitcher’s Small Batch Bourbon L16F747 45.7% (91.4 proof)

This isn’t quite what we tried but pretty close…

  • 2 1/2 oz. Mitcher’s small batch bourbon whisky
  • sugar cube
  • dashes bitters
  • Absinthe
  • Lemon peel
  • Old-fashioned glass
Directions:
  1. In an Old-Fashioned glass, muddle a sugar cube with a few drops of water.
  2. Add several small ice cubes and the whiskey and bitters.
  3. Stir well and strain into a second, chilled, Old-Fashioned glass in which you have rolled around a few drops of absinthe until its inside is thoroughly coated, pouring off the excess.
  4. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel

The quality of the absinthe makes all the difference. In our case, we had a Czech absinthe – Bairnsfather;’s Reality Absinth – that was truly exceptional.

Our Bourbon trio included:

  • FEW Bourbon 46.5% was the base for a rather delicious Manhattan
  • Mitcher’s Small Batch 45.7% morphed into a marvellous Sazerac
  • Cleveland Underground AP Bourbon Whiskey finished with Apple Wood, Batch 3, 45% frothed into a twist on an Old Fashioned

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FEW Bourbon Manhattan Cocktail

After enjoying the FEW Bourbon straight up, it was time for cocktails!

While I’m not sure if this is exactly what was whipped up for us, this is in the same territory…

FEW Bourbon Manhattan

  • 2 oz. FEW Bourbon Whiskey
  • 1 oz. Italian vermouth
  • dashes Angostura Bitters
Directions
  1. Stir the whiskey, vermouth, and bitters well with cracked ice.
  2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a twist or a maraschino cherry.

In this case, the cherry was soaked in a rather fine bourbon, and naturally it was also a quality vermouth, hence the results were frankly fabulous.

Our Bourbon trio included:

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FEW Bourbon 46.5%

The beauty of bourbon is how its full sweet flavours can make a killer base for a solid cocktail. The better the bourbon, the better the base, the better the cocktail.

And that’s just what we explored with our FEW Bourbon Manhattan…

First we sampled it blind, then we had it in a specially crafted cocktail.

FEW Bourbon 46.5% Batch 17H30

  • Nose – Fresh yeasty, flowers… like marigold or chrysanthemums, light citrus, quite sweet, light sacred ash, honey, raisins and apricots, dusty grains, perfume and lightly sour
  • Palate – Tastes quite different than the nose indicated, spice, cloves and oils, not at all harsh, sweet, with a walnut bitterness, something odd not normally found in whiskies like pulses or lentils
  • Finish – Minimal and a bit bitter.

While it came across as a bit soft and thin, there was still plenty going on. For the bourbon fans in the room, there was no doubt this was a fine specimen. Too soon our wee snifters with just a few sips were empty and it was time to move on to the next…

But this wasn’t it for us! No siree! After the teasing sample, out came one really quite fabulous Manhattan.

What do the folks at FEW have to say about their Bourbon?

Southern Tradition meet Norther Rye…

This spirit, distilled through timeless liquor-making techniques, utilizes a three-grain recipe that infuses generations of Southern tradition with the spiciness of northern rye and a touch of malt for smoothness. FEW is hand-crafted through a small-batch process in charred oak barrels to age its bourbon whiskey.

In a terrific twist, FEW Spirits takes their name from Frances Elizabeth Willard, a key figure in the Temperance Movement, The craft distillery is based in Evanston which has seen its fair share of Prohibition…. which sparked the creation of a remarkable array of illicit liquor plus import of Canadian rye whisky that was sometimes so harsh it had to be mixed up with various ingredients… making way for the famous flapper accoutrement – the cocktail!

Our Bourbon trio included:

  • FEW Bourbon 46.5% was the base for a rather delicious Manhattan
  • Mitcher’s Small Batch 45.7% morphed into a marvellous Sazerac
  • Cleveland Underground AP Bourbon Whiskey finished with Apple Wood, Batch 3, 45% frothed into a twist on an Old Fashioned

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The Glenrothes 21 year Minister’s Reserve 43%

The Glenrothes is one of those distilleries that you know what you are likely to get – strong sherry influence, robust and full.

It is what one of our samplers called a “Ronseal” after a well-known UK ad for varnish that came out over 21 years ago… The brand was known for its simple ad line “Does Exactly What it Says on the Tin” which soon became synonymous with anything that is what it says it is.

And what did we think?

The Glenrothes 21 year Minister’s Reserve 43%

  • Nose – Spice, sherry, fruity, sweet cinnamon, cloves, chocolate, plus fruit cake and icing, old raisons, tinned fruit, nutty, some berries, more vanilla cake, dash of mocha chocolate
  • Palate – Desert in a glass! Dangerously easy to drink, soft and smooth with some Christmas spice, a very classic sherry on all accounts, enjoyable and full
  • Finish – Fab long finish with tobacco

Nice and classic, and so sweet it was almost like sipping rum. In short, it was exactly what you expect from a quality sherry matured whisky.

While I preferred the Highland Park solo without a cigar, The Glenrothes was a perfect cigar partner!

What do The Glenrothes folks have to say on the box?

Distillation is unusually slow and takes place in unusually tall stills which deliver a sweet, clear, fruity spirit. Maturation is in American oak and Spanish oak casks, a combination designed to deliver a perfect balance of flavours associated with our award-winning Speyside single malt; ripe fruits, juicy citrus, creamy vanilla and complex spices.

Would we agree? Yup!

And what would this set you back? These days, it would be about £155.46 online at Master of Malt. We opened our bottle in September 2018.

In our latest greatest adult evening, what all did we try?

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Highland Park Vintages – The 1991 21 year 40% Official Bottling

Once upon a time, Highland Park was a ‘gateway’ whisky for me… more specifically the 18 year which opened my palate and senses to the character and complexity of a decent dram.

Shift ahead a few years to a period where Highland Park made to the switch to vintages and no age statement “Heroes”, “Warriors” and “Legends”… with the 1998 and Einar disappointing while the Thor surprising and pleasing.

Enter the 21 year old that is known by its vintage 1991. Introduced to travel retail in 2012, the thinking was as each vintage ran out, it would be replaced by the equivalent next vintage i.e. this one replaced the 1990 vintage and the expectation was by 2013 the 1992 would be released and so forth.

Except a funny thing happened along the way… for Highland Park, after a few years the vintage approach didn’t “stick”… quietly without fanfare the duty free shelves holding vintage whiskies were slowly replaced by age statements.

Which means our patient whisky host had managed to keep one of the few 21 year olds from the vintage marketing “experiment”.

As we opened this bottle that had sat patiently waiting its turn for nearly 6 years, talk turned to our varied experiences with Highland Park – good, bad, brilliant and much in between.

And this bottle? Read on to see what we thought…

Highland Park 1991 40%

  • Nose – Grassy, pine, spruce, sea grass or a seaweed salad, light citrus coming from behind, lemon flower bouquet, light fruity, inviting comforting nose, short bread, butter biscuits, vanilla and a hint of cloves
  • Palate – Islands, light leathery peat, very smooth and round, had some substance, chewy mouthfeel, creamy and buttery, yet a slight citrus twist in there too which added a refreshing element
  • Finish – Subtle nuanced finished, cinnamon spice

We really enjoyed it – very yum! And more importantly, had all those elements many of us once enjoyed in a Highland Park – character, complexity and just a darn good dram.

Even more remarkable is that it was full flavoured at only 40%. While none of us were tempted to add a splash of water, these days anything lower than 46% tends to come across as a bit “watery” – not so with this Highland Park.

We set it aside for some time and the revisit just confirmed it is a lovely whisky and a clear winner for most.

However when it came time to pair with cigars, this would not be my pick… I’d prefer to simply enjoy it on its own.

What would this set you back? It was last seen for about £120 on auction.

In our latest greatest adult evening, what all did we try?

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