Although somewhat outside of our normal single malt comfort zone, we recently had the opportunity to taste Gibson's Finest Canadian Whisky, owned by William Grant & Sons, in the Distillery District. Not having had much experience with this Canadian whisky, we welcomed the opportunity to explore the three expressions of Gibson's.
Arriving on a blustery wet evening to the Martini Club, we were greeted with a Hot Taughty upon entering. A heated mixture of Gibson's Stirling whisky mixed with lemonade and accented with with pineapple, orange and lemon juices along with vanilla, cloves, orange zest and ginger, we were pleasantly surprised at how wonderful this drink was.
The format of the evening was quite unique. Rather than a "mix and mingle" period followed by a formal, sit-down guided tasting, the "mix and mingle" was the whole event - with several Gibson's representatives in the crowd, one could simply enjoy the various drink options available and engage the Gibson's reps as they pleased in order to learn more about the three offerings. Steve Wright, Gibson's brand ambassador, explained to us that Gibson's is the #1 producer of age-stated Canadian whisky. All Gibson's varieties are made with a mash of corn, barley and rye.
Upon venturing to the bar, we found that there were four different types of mixed drinks on offer, all featuring Gibson's Finest as the feature ingredient.
First drink I tried (and the best of the four) was called a 'Mint Divine". Strikingly similar to a mohito, but lacking the sourness. A very delicious drink in all, I had several of these before the night was out.
After a few mixed drinks, we decided to try each of the three Gibson's whisky products. Gibson's Finest Stirling, their "entry level" whisky; Gibson's Finest 12 Year Old, their best selling and mainstream product; and Gibson's Finest 18 Year Old Rare - their flagship and higher-end offering.
Gibson Finest Stirling
Described as a "fresh and crisp" whisky - their entry-level product offering is mainly described as being for mixed drinks, and after trying it neat, I certainly do not disagree. Not suitable for drinking neat (or even with water), this whisky with no age statement contains a significantly higher rye content than the Gibson's 12 and 18. With a nose full of alcohol solvents, it is quite a harsh whisky to drink, and definitely needs to be flavoured with other ingredients to be palatable.
Gibson's Finest 12 Year Old
The 12 year old is Gibson's best selling product. We were informed that Gibson's just recently came out of a 3-year supply glut caused by primarily higher than expected sales and poor grain yields. In this dram the rye content is prominent and distinct, without being offensive. Raisins and vanilla are present on the palate. A fine whisky for mixing in cocktails, and not disagreeable by any means, I would not recommend drinking it straight. It does however beat the pants of Gibson's Stirling by a country mile.
Gibson's Finest 18 Year Old Rare
This whisky was quite impressive. Based on the previous two samplings I was expecting a mediocre product. I was pleasantly proven incorrect. With lots of raisins and dates on the nose (in fact it actually smells like you actually have a glass filled with raisins!), it is an extremely drinkable whisky. The oak and rye flavours are well developed and intermingle exceedingly well for a Canadian Whisky. No harshness, very smooth. I could drink a lot of this.