November 2015 Archives

Bowmore 12 years old

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bowmore12.jpgIt should come as no surprise to even the most casual reader of this blog that we've got big love for Bowmore. Established in 1779 on Islay, it's one of the few remaining distilleries that still runs its own floor maltings and peats their malted barley using a kiln on site. This hands-on approach allows the malt to be peated exactly to their specifications and allows the distillery to have greater flexibility when making custom peat levels for special or one-off whiskies. A few years back I visited Bowmore and tried my hand at turning and raking the barley before I stepped into the kiln for an epic smoke bath. To this day I can still recall the signature smell of Bowmore's peat reek.

On these cool and dreary November evenings, I tend to look for smoky, warming whiskies with lots of character to lift me from my doldrums. Which brings us to the bottle at hand; Bowmore 12 year old. Bottled at 40% ABV, it's not quite the same as being in the distillery on Islay but it's a damn sight cheaper! 

J.P. Wiser's Hopped Whisky

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wisershopped.jpg

Hearing Master Blender Dr. Don Livermore speak about his latest creation, J.P. Wiser's Hopped Whisky, it's hard not to get swept up with his enthusiasm. A dedicated student of flavours, he's got advanced degrees in both brewing and distilling and his passion for whisky-making is palpable. At a media event at CC Lounge & Whisky Bar in Toronto, a few weeks back he explained that the idea for a hopped whisky was born from a conversation he had nearly ten years ago with a friend in the brewing sector that grows hops; "looking at how the hops were used, we realized there's an opportunity to use them in a different way, with whisky."


Made with a blend of five- to nine-year-old Canadian whiskies aged in three types of barrels: previous Canadian whisky fills, once used American bourbon casks, and brand new virgin oak casks , J.P. Wiser's Hopped Whisky is "dry hopped" at the end of its aging process. This technique is the same employed by makers of the ubiquitous and highly-popular IPA style wherein dried hops are steeped in the beer, imparting the juicy aromatics of hops without as much of the bitterness that's obtained from hops in the boil. 

"We went through 158 prototypes to make [it] before I hit upon dry hopping our whisky post maturation, like some of the best IPA's do...and I think it's going to be a game changer for Canadian spirits!" Flavoured whisky is a growing trend in the market and, according to Wiser's Master Blender, "it's partly a reflection of our [Canadian] palette. We're eating spicier foods, or trying things from different cultures, and so we're looking for something bold in whisky, too. But flavoured whisky isn't like flavoured vodka; the amplified flavours-whether honey, maple or toffee-are authentic to whisky. In other words, we're taking what's already in Canadian whisky, and just ramping it up a bit." 

With a new spirit came the need for a new bottle. Just as the hops in beer sometimes can go "off" and produce a skunky aroma with prolonged exposure to light if it's stored in a green or clear bottle, so too did the hopped whisky when it was put in a the standard Wiser's bottle. This led Dr. Livermore to continue innovating to make a specially tinted bottle to prevent "skunkification." 

For those of you who are imagining a clumsy mash of rye whisky and bitter hops, rest assured that the similarity of this whisky to IPAs ends with the dry hopped process and the coloured glass.

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Recent Comments

  • Ryan commented on Talisker 10 years old:

    John, I can't say that I'd recommend a dip in the North Atlantic but I admire your courage! :) Thanks for the feedback.

  • John commented on Talisker 10 years old:

    Thank you for a great review! I enjoy comparing Talisker's lighter peatiness to Lagavulin 16.

    I appreciate your "brine" and "salty" descriptions. I visited the distillery last summer and took a cold plunge into the water off of a beach on the Isle of Skye. The cold, salty waves slapping my face and lips were like Talisker splashing on my tongue!

  • John commented on Legacy Lost: The Macallan 1824 Series:

    Thank you for this tragic review. I tried Mac Amber and found it to be industrial scotch.

    I visited a number of distilleries in the Spey Valley last summer. Normally the staff are highly competent and enthusiastic whisky tutors. At Macallan, we felt like we were being sold an overpriced used car.

    Macallan 12 is magnificent. I am buying as much as I can before it is gone from U.S. stores. It hasn't been available in Canada for several years.

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