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Friday, February 10, 2017

Bourbon and Rye Day Friday: Lot No. 40 Canadian Rye Whisky (2013)

I have served almost 150 individual world whiskies at the private and public events I have led over the past three years. And you know what was, by far, the whisky that won over the most people? This:

A screenshot from a '90s softcore Canadian sex film
Lot No. 40. Yes, a Canadian whisky. A Canadian rye. Aside from all those new Lot No. 40 fans, we've sorta gone through a few bottles on our own here in Ohio. No whisky has vaporized at this speed at home since Willett held court.

Now, like most of you, I'm not a big Canadian whisky fan. Not a lot of Canadian whiskies get reviewed on this site either. The only Canadian whiskies I've ever recommended were an early-'80s distilled Canadian Club blend and Collingwood 21yo rye. The former read like a high quality Irish blend. The latter is liquid rye bread and only appeals to specific tastebuds.

But then there's Lot No. 40, which—as I have seen live many times—has broader appeal. The 2012 version of No. 40 put it on the contemporary whisky map, and you can find a number of good reviews of it online. (Here's Serge. Here's Sku. Here's MAO.) Alas, I am not reviewing the 2012 batch today. Instead I'm reviewing the No. 40 bottled in 2013. That's the one that I've been sharing and enjoying.

Brand: Lot No. 40
Company: Corby Distilleries
Distillery: Hiram Walker Distillery
Region: Canada (a big region)
Age: ???
Mashbill: 100% rye (10% of which is malted)
Bottling Year: 2013
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Chillfiltered? Probably
Added Colorant? Also probably

There's a direct rye delivery in the nose, a fennel and mint combination that's almost absinthe-like. A soft floral (blossoms not perfume) note meets real maraschino cherries. Mint leaves become mint candies. Salty almonds and a gentle bourbon note. I give it more than 20 minutes of rest, pick up the whisky glass to give it a sniff and suddenly I'm waist-deep in a meadow of herbs. There there are moments of baked peaches and ground mustard seed in the distance. There's a pleasant, but not weak, minty spicy arrival in the palate. Some floral hints, reminiscent of young cognac. And creamy root beer. With 20+ minutes in the glass, the whisky keeps coming back to a mix of mint, black pepper and white sugar. A slight fizziness. It has a rye bite throughout, and it builds with time. The finish has fennel in the back and a soft bitterness in the front of the tongue. Root beer. Mint leaves. A melting sweetness.

This is a great drinking whisky. When enjoying it casually, I don't find all of those notes listed above. I mostly find, "Mmmmm." That's important. Lot No. 40 stands so far apart from all the 40% Canadian blends in quality and content—yet also a bit different in character than American ryes—that it's difficult to compare it to anything else.

Back when Lot No. 40 hit The States 4+ years ago, there was a lot of blog talk about Canadian whiskies being the next big thing. As far as fads and economics go, that never happened. Apparently there are a number of Canadian ryes of quality that never pass beyond our neighbor's borders, so perhaps potential comparisons await. Until then, this is without a doubt my favorite Canadian whisky.

Availability - Available at most specialty retailers 
Pricing - $35-$65, though Ohio had it for $33 not too long ago
Rating - 87


  1. There appears to be a Lot. 40 Cask Strength being released later this year and it's going to be Canadian-exclusive for now. Which frankly infuriates me because Lot. 40 is my favorite Canadian at this point.

    1. Perhaps the fact Canadian whisky didn't become the next hot thing was because the producers had no interest in it blowing up. For some reason. I know it doesn't make any sense financially, but they never opened up the market any wider than Canada.

  2. Weeeelllll, another very VERY good CANADIAN whisky is Whistlepig :)
    But I also managed to grab the current green label Lot 40 (just says "100% rye") and the previous yellow label (although post-2012 and says "made with malted rye" or something like that). Very lovely stuff. Russian rye bread notes in Lot 40!