...where distraction is the main attraction.

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