Spirit of Toronto 2021: Virtual Warehouse Experience Hiram Walker
Each year, Canada holds its annual Spirit of Toronto whisky showcase event. Distillers from across the globe hold masterclasses where they share samples of spirits from their core lineups as well as debut upcoming and even experimental releases. Unfortunately, due to COVID, the event was held virtually for the second year in a row. I had the pleasure of joining Dr. Don Livermore, of Hiram Walker, on a Zoom masterclass where he walked us through the history of Canadian whisky and blending, while also sharing some of the new spirits he’s been working on.
I can happily report that there were no bad whiskies in this tasting. Dr. Don put together a wonderful lineup of samples and a truly enjoyable and informative class. If you’re in Canada and haven’t tried it, I’d highly recommend checking out Spirit of Toronto next year and consider signing up for a tasting. Hopefully 2022 will see the return of their regular festival. Anyway here are some of my tasting notes from the evening:
Pike Creek 22 Year PX Sherry Finish, 45%
Nose: Red berries, vanilla, stone fruits, cocoa
Palate: Sherry fruit notes, chocolate, clove, vanilla cake
Finish: Cinnamon, fruits, oak, cocoa, drying
Tasty older Canadian whisky with a little extra fruit. This is a well finished, easy sipper but nothing here is blowing me away.
Lot 40 Rye Explorations Project 01 – “Peated Quarter Cask”, 55.6%
Lot 40 rye finished in an peated scotch quarter cask from an undisclosed distillery
Nose: Brine, peat, rye bread, sour cherry, black pepper, BBQ
Palate: Spice forward with rye and pepper, peat, herbal, salt, floral, savory
Finish: Very long length, pepper spice, orange, smoke
Huge palate with a finish that seems to linger forever. This is probably the most savory Canadian whisky I’ve ever tasted. It has just the right amount of cask influence to let you note the peat but not overwhelm the rye. I’ll probably grab a bottle of this when it releases.
Lot 40 Rye Explorations Project 02 – “EU Wine Casks”, 53.4%
Lot 40 rye finished in PX Sherry, Oloroso Sherry, Madeira, and Port casks (25% each)
Nose: Salt, fruity with apple and raspberry jam, vanilla, espresso
Palate: Cherries, raspberries, cinnamon, pepper, more espresso notes, vanilla
Finish: Cinnamon spice, tobacco, white chocolate, fruits, oak, long and drying
It’s amazing how well these wine casks pair with the rye. It’s still bright and spicy but there’s a whole new fruit dimension. The finish is long, woody, and not dominated by the casks. I would love to see Dr. Don release this expression.
Lot 40 Rye Explorations Project 03 – “Bourbon Blend”, 56%
A blend of 10/11 parts Lot 40 rye with 1/11 parts bourbon.
Nose: Apple and pear, sour rye bread, caramel, vanilla
Palate: Caramel, rye spice, pepper, vanilla, nuts
Finish: Long, rye and baking spices, green apples, charred oak
To me this is a more boring version of previous Lot 40 Cask Strength releases. Still a great whisky but the experiment falls flat.
Wiser’s 22 Year Madeira Finish, 45%
Nose: Vanilla frosting, cocoa, caramel, raspberries, citrus
Palate: Sugary with a lot of cocoa powder, tannic, red berries, vanilla
Finish: Medium to long, drying, raspberry, vanilla, chocolate cake
How is this so good? It’s sugary and chocolatey without being cloying. The fruit notes come in towards the end and the whole experience is like a flourless chocolate cake with raspberries. It drinks remarkably well at 45%. Fantastic stuff.
Gooderham & Worts 23 Year, 46.1%
A blend of 6 casks and 4-5 distillates. Includes rye, barley, wheat, corn, and peated light corn whisky.
Nose: Vanilla bomb, apples, smoked oak, sour bread, barrel char
Palate: Weighty mouth feel, French vanilla and custard, more sour bread, white pepper and baking spices
Finish: Long length, custard, green apple, slight smoke
This is a very complex blend that’s difficult to describe. It starts with that classic sweet older Canadian profile and then contrasts it savory notes and a slight smokiness. It’s masterfully done but I’m not in love with the final profile.