Monday, March 23, 2015

Maybe it's in dog years?

The other night, I decided it was time to crack my bottle of "Bison Ridge Special Reserve Canadian Whisky, Aged 8 Years."

It was pretty bad.

Like "this is why people don't like whiskey" bad. Maybe even "this is why people who like whiskey don't like Canadian whisky" bad.

The worst part was how young it smelled and tasted. I know 8 years for Canadian whisky isn't like 8 years for bourbon, but can't it at least be like 2 years? Were the summers too cool? Were the barrels too old? Did the shipment of flavouring whisky not arrive in time for this batch?

I did a quick Google search to see if I was completely off base. It turns out lots of folks think Bison Ridge is lousy, and lots of folks think it's pretty good. I couldn't quite shake the suspicion that Crosby Lake Spirits Co., the Minnesotan bottler, has a financial stake in a ginger ale company.

When the whiskey's own webpage quotes reviews calling it "Mildly flavorful" and recommending you "drink it tall with lots of ginger ale," you know you're not bracing yourself for a world beater.

On one website, I came across the claim that Bison Ridge 8 yo and Ellington Reserve, also aged 8 years and reputedly a big favorite of Total Wine salesfolk, are the same whiskey. I happened to have a miniature of Ellington Reserve 8 yo, so I thought I'd put that theory to the test with a side-by-side tasting.

Pick your poison.
I don't want to leave you in suspense. They weren't the same whiskey. I don't say Ellington Reserve is any better than Bison Ridge. I do say it's different.

Bison Ridge Special Reserve (8 yo) Canadian Whisky
Nose: Faint, grass, sugar, soap
Palate: Medium mouthfeel, not much flavor at all, kind of a bland sweet light grain whiskey flavor (why Canadian whisky doesn't have a good reputation)
Finish: Alcohol prickles, followed by generalized sourness

Ellington's Reserve (8 yo) Canadian Whisky
Nose: Faint, spirity, dishwasher detergent, sweet apple
Palate: Sweet, vanilla (and not in an extracted-from-oak way), peppery
Finish: Short and unpleasant

The Bison Ridge was so bland, in fact, that I decided to try seasoning it with a few grains of salt. (Yeah, I taste whiskey in my kitchen sometimes.) The salt actually did kick up the flavor a bit, especially the sweetness, and the sourness on the finish was all but gone. I suppose if I -- heh, when I use this in cocktails, I might think of adding just the tiniest pinch of salt, if only to be sure I can tell I didn't use vodka.

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