Canada’s Glen Breton 10 year 43% (Glenora Distillery)

Normally I’m proud to be a Canadian and equally proud to call India my adopted home.

Except when it comes to single malts… We have fabulous grain, cool conditions (OK, maybe a bit TOO cool!), lots of folks who appreciate whisky, so… one would logically think that Canada could be a contender in the single malt space.

With great anticipation, on my 2013 Canada trip, I picked up a Glen Breton from Nova Scotia’s Glenora distillery – touted as Canada’s first single malt Scottish-style distillery in Canada.

I’ve sampled it on three occasions:

Glen Breton

Glen Breton 10 years 43%, Canada, Glenora distillery

  • Appearance – Very light pale yellow, quick thin legs
  • Nose – Sweet and light, initially nothing remarkable, medicinal, lemon fusion, hint of vanilla, the longer it airs, became increasingly sour like old curd
  • Palate – Initially sweet on the palate, then spice, finishing with a faint bitter twist of kerela (bitter gourd) or turmeric – nothing else, more sips and a little mint
  • Finish – Slightly bitter then vanishes
  • Water – Don’t. All it does is dampen the sweetness with nothing further gained

During the 1st tasting:

  • Speculation – There was debate about the maturation barrel given the colour. There was also a sense that it must be a very ‘young’ whisky or a possibly a blend, likely not from Scotland.
  • Revelation – When revealed as a 10 year from Canada – there was universal surprise. From two perspectives – one was the age as many thought was closer to 3 to 5 year old – certainly not a 10 year! The other that Canada is known for its Rye whiskey blends not single malts.

My 1st impression was of disappointment. My 2nd impression, not so different. And my 3rd time?

Funny thing is, when I picked it up today for another revisit, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes it is light, and no it doesn’t have the complexity I prefer in a whisky, but it certainly isn’t the disaster I remembered. In fact, I must have been in the mood for something uncomplicated, simple and refreshing as it actually hit the spot quite nicely.

Glen Breton Rare 10 year

Glen Breton Rare 10 year

Glenora’s official tasting notes:

Aged for 10 years with American Oak in traditional warehouses situated within the apple orchard of the Glenora Distillery property in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

  • Nose – Orange, Spice, Chocolate, Honey, Vanilla, with hints of Tobacco Maple & Cherry
  • Palate – Fruit, Chocolate, Hazelnut, Maple and Cherry
  • Finish – Long and smooth, eventual Apple and Ginger

I also understand that Glenora’s offerings have been steadily improving plus there are more Canadian single malt whiskies cropping up – Shelter Point, Victoria Spirits and Pemberton (organic). Something I completely welcome as I would like to have as much ‘whisky pride’ in my country of origin as I do in my adopted home India!

PS – Fast forward a few years and I’ve become a complete FAN of Shelter Point!

What others say about Glen Breton 10 year:

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World Tour – Hammer Head, Glen Breton, Nikka from the barrel, Mortlach 15 year

One consequence of gallivanting off to Amsterdam in November is I missed our monthly tasting session. However given it featured whiskies from four different countries, I convinced our host to do a special ‘make-up’ session.

What follows is a blend of the original sessions notes from another club member and mine from last night for your reading pleasure. 

Hammer Head (Photo: Carissa Hickling)

Hammer Head 23 year

Hammer Head 23 years 40.7%, Czech, Pradlo distillery

  • Colour – Pale
  • Nose – Bright fresh citrus, dry fruits, hint of bourbon
  • Palate – Mild chewy yet dry oak, a tinge of sour, lack of depth… re-tasted after 20 mins and had a flash of masala paan
  • Finish – What finish?? Really nothing much at all…

Blind tasting reactions:

  • Guessed may be around 40% as had no ‘punch’ on the tongue, age of around 10-12 years, likely not a blend
  • Declared an evening no-nonsense malt, easy on the palette

You can be forgiven for not being instantly familiar with this single malt from the Czech republic. Back in 1989, Pradlo distillery decided it was high time to make a proud Czech single malt. With only Czech barley, water from the Bohemia region, aged in 100% Czech oak, the one concession was using a hammer mill masher from Scotland, a single batch was produced. Then the Berlin wall fell and everything changed. Any further production stopped and the distillery was more or less forgotten. Til 23 years later it was ‘rediscovered’ and commerce took over with a decision to bottle the mystery malt.

The result? A curiosity piece, great story and slice of history more than a memorable malt.

Glen Breton

Glen Breton 10 year

Glen Breton 10 years 43%, Canada, Glenora distillery

  • Colour – Light pale yellow
  • Nose – Medicinal, lemon fusion
  • Palate – 1st impression is spice then a bitter turmeric – nothing else
  • Finish – Slightly bitter then vanishes

Coming from Canada, we’re known for Rye whiskey blends not sophisticated malts. Touted as one of only two single malt Scottish-style distilleries in Canada, it is ‘matured’ in American oak barrels. However seems much more akin to a not so great 3 year old, certainly not a 10 year! We previously sampled this disappointing offer and were reminded – do not repeat!

Nikki from the barrel

Nikki from the barrel

Nikka from the barrel, no age stated 51.4%, Japan, Nikka distillery

  • Colour – Warm wheat
  • Nose – Plum cake, fruit basket, mild citrus aroma, bold & woody yet unmistakably sweet
  • Palate – Sweet on the first sip, then slightly spicy finish, mild hint of leather and cinnamon. When returning after 20 mins – pure sweet smoothness
  • Finish – Comes out to say an exuberant ‘hello!’ with sassy spice
  • Water – Shot up the spice, but then settled

This blend reminds that sometimes it is worth playing around – in this case blended and then re-casked to further mature. Definitely worth trying but not a future purchasing priority.


Mortlach 15 year

Mortlach 15 year

Mortlach 15 years 43%, Scotland, Mortlach distillery, Gordon & Macphail

  • Colour – Burnished gold
  • Nose – Oily, christmas cake, overripe banana
  • Palate – Dances on the tongue, dry yet somehow also with a heavy oily undertone, hint of sweetness, smoooooth
  • Finish – Finally a ‘real’ finish like it never wants to let you go! Spicy

By far the most interesting of the evening and a reminder to keep grabbing the Gordon Macphail bottlings. A cross-sampling of the Mortlach and the Ledaig led to speculation that while each is distinct, there is a stamp of ‘character’ that distinguishes Gordon Macphail products.

Must say I’m glad I didn’t miss our little trip around the globe!

Glen Breton, Hammer Head, Nikka from the barrel, Mortlach

Glen Breton, Hammer Head, Nikka from the barrel, Mortlach

Other global tasting adventures include:

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