Monday, 29 October 2012

Whisky Discovery #219

Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old (40%, OB Bottled 2012, 75cl) 
Canadian Blended Whisky
Haven’t found to be available in the UK (yet) 

Canadian Whisky
My first Canadian Whisky on this journey, resplendent in some Canadian Autumn sunshine
What started out as another Whisky Discovery or ‘notch in the bedpost’, has developed into three blog-posts being written, all to be posted at the same time, all three of us will ‘appear’ on each others blog and will share our thoughts on the same whisky. I have the very great pleasure of introducing two guest bloggers to this post. Let me explain; 

I've probably said this a few times but, but there is a wonderful world of whisky fanatics on the 'twitterverse', and I came across a dram of this by way of a five dram sample swap with Johanne McInnis who tweets under the handle of @Whiskylassie and is also half of another great whisky blog 'The Perfect Whisky Match'. 

We had mentioned sample swaps a number of times before finally getting around to sorting out five drams and posting them off to each other. Johanne wanted four Scottish and one English (Chapter 6) whiskies, and I was keen to try five Canadian whiskies from her impressive collection. The only one that was defined on my list was this Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old, purely because it was listed in my latest guide Ian Buxton’s 101 World Whiskies To Try Before You Die. We posted more or less on the same day, and within two weeks we had both received our packages, safely intact.

So with five Canadian drams lined up on the mantelpiece I tweeted one evening asking for advice where to start, Scottish, Canadian or Japanese whisky? The Gibson 12 Year Old was going to be my choice, and Johanne suggested that we blog simultaneously. 

Another Canadian, twitter pal and blogger Jean-Francois Pilon, tweeting as @jfpilon and of the French language ‘Whisky Plus’ blog noticed this thread, and having just jotted down his notes on Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old, tweeted that he too would like to be involved, and so this ‘Ménage à trois’ was born! 

Canadian whiskies are often referred to as Rye Whiskies, though rye is not always used. The majority of Canadian whiskies are blended and distilled from a selection of grains, which usually include a good proportion of rye alongside barley and corn. This style is quite similar to Scotch blended whisky, save for the often used rye. As with Scotch and English whisky, the spirit must be aged for at least three years, before being called Whisky, and yes no ‘e’ is used in the Canadian spelling of whisky. 

I know very little about Gibson’s whisky apart from what I've read in Ian Buxton’s book and that it is now owned by William Grant & Sons of Glenfiddich and Balvenie heritage. I've not seen it available in the UK yet, so will hand you over to Jean-Francois who has filled me in with a little of the distillery detail:

Saying that Gibson's Finest has a complex story would be too simple. The brand was born in the US as a Pennsylvanian rye. But, like so many others, prohibition forced the distillery to close. Half a century later, Schenley revived it in Valleyfield, Quebec. Gibson's Finest 12 year old was distilled there until the plant was sold to Diageo. It has since, in 2008, moved to Hiram Walker's plant. But the 18 Year Old is still blended and bottled there. Both are very sought after as almost none is available outside of the country and at less than $28 for a 12 Year Old, it is quite a deal. 

So what did we think?

Johanne Says:

Nose: Very distinguishing rye spiciness. This one in particular reminds me of dark rich earth on a warm day, almost like walking through the forest after a rain storm. Very "organic" in nature. A bit of nail polish remover at the back but with a sweet attached to it, like a creme caramel. I do get a hint of sweet vanilla. With a bit of water added, it opens to a softer sweetness but I really had to hunt for what I thought it was, it reminded me of standing in an apple orchard when the blossoms are full out. 

Palate: Such a typical spicy whisky, I can taste a gingery or hot cinnamon type of spice. A bit of bitterness of a pink grapefruit, sweet but makes the back of your mouth sort of stand to attention. It's very tannic in nature. Once I added water, it becomes a bit oilier in nature, and very recognizable flavors of wood appeared.

Finish: Still quite spicy in nature, more citrus pith (almost like a palate cleaner containing lemon peel). I would say this has a small-medium finish. 

It doesn't stay with you for long, and I really had to work at this one, especially after I added water. One afternoon, I let it sit for almost a full hour and then went back to it. I found this very helpful as far as getting so much more on the nose from it. However, most people would not let their whisky sit for an hour before they drink it.

Jean-Francois Says:
Well, the nose has nice fresh oranges and more than a touch of rye bread with those classic earthy rye spices. There are also whiffs of white wine laid down in casks. Some banana nuts muffins. And some echoes of bourbon: sweet corn, vanilla and acetone. Finally, we get dry dust, just to strengthen the wine cellar and earthy rye feel. Dry and complex. 

Once it hits the tongue, we get sweet citrus at first that then becomes spicy, with pepper, clove and nutmeg. Following that, we get that wine thing again: it is now clearly Pineau des Charentes. It evolves once more into rye spices (cloves) and nuts. 

The finish is sweet oranges with touches of pith. Somewhat long and juicy. 

All in all the Gibson's Finest 12 YO is a very refreshing dram with some nice complexities. A day dram; it does well as an aperitif, and would easily replace the aforementioned Pineau des Charentes. You could even enjoy it thusly on ice. You'd then get dry woody oranges with a spicy grape finish on burnt wood.

and Dave says: 

Gibson’s Finest is quite similar to a blended Scotch whisky, with the exception of the Canadian rye, and is made from rye, barley and corn. The rye and malted barley are fermented separately from the corn to maintain the distinct fermentation flavours in the mash. This fermented grain mash is distilled, again separately, to produce both a grain spirit and a corn spirit which are then blended together before barrel maturing in ex-bourbon barrels. 

On opening the bottle I noticed an immediate bourbon rye note which quickly settled. It doesn't have a strong nose, in fact at times it seems to fade away quite quickly until the glass is swirled to release the spicy, herbal bouquet of dusty rye, caramel custard, butterscotch candy and vanilla bourbon notes. The fruit comes through with banana bread, dark cherry, then spicy cardamom, fennel and caraway seeds. However let the glass settle and the nose retracts back into itself until swirled again. 

On the palate it is silky smooth and sweet, although not overly, and with lots of bitter citric zest. There’s a fresh-cut wood feel, candied orange peel, spicy white pepper, but again not overly, and perhaps even a hint of ginger beer. It’s all over quite quickly and fades out with a little peppery spice, some sweetness of crème brûlée fading to nothing while the oak tannins start drying the mouth making me want some more – too late! The sample has all gone.

So, my first Canadian Whisky of my journey, and I was pleasantly surprised, very easy drinking and would give a good number of our blended scotch a run for it’s money. Why isn't this available in the UK? Come on William Grant & Sons, bring it on! One down, four to go, I'm looking forward to continuing my first trip to Canada.

Thanks due

Thank you Johanne @Whiskylassie and Jean-Francois @jfpilon for making this post a little different. Please check out their blogs and make sure you're following them on Twitter - the links are all here!

Finally many thanks to Johanne for supplying some very artistic photographs for this post, I hope I'm able to reciprocate with mine!


Jean-Francois Pilon said...

Really fun experience: I enjoyed seeing the different things that the same smell or taste evokes on different persons, while still being quite similar.

Great pics from Johanne!

Until next time, santé!

Dave said...

Thanks Jean-Francois, yes it was great fun, and precision timing as well!