Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Canada Week Part II: Caribou Crossing


As my second in a week of Canadian Whiskeys, I thought I'd finally try Caribou Crossing.  This is a Canadian Whisky from an undisclosed distillery bottled by Buffalo Trace.  (Buffalo Trace is named for the path created by migrating buffalo, so the name "Caribou Crossing" is a bit of a play on that).  It's a single barrel whiskey that was first released in 2010. Buffalo Trace isn't revealing whether this is a single-grain Canadian "flavor whiskey" or a blend which was blended prior to barreling or rebarreled after blending. As always with single barrels, results may vary.  There is no barrel number or other identifier so you just have to take your chances, though I should note that I've had this particular bottle for a few years.

Caribou Crossing Single Barrel Canadian Whisky, 40% abv ($45)

This has a nice bourbony nose with caramel and some oak notes; nosing blind, I would certainly guess that it was a bourbon.  On the palate, it's more distinctly Canadian, but with a richness that isn't typical of Canadian blends (at least the ones we tend to see in the US).  There's chocolate, rye and some nice oak notes all backed up with some traditional Canadian sweetness.  The finish has muted rye spice and honey.

This is a nice whisky, certainly better than most Candian Whiskies I've had.




9 comments:

Rabbi Charles Arian said...

How can a blend be single barrel?

Dan said...

Most Canadian whiskies, despite actually being what would be considered single grain whiskies (as in, grain whiskies produced at the same distillery) and up being labelled as blends when exported to the US. They are not blends as per US regulations (which allow GNS to be added), but rather blends of various different types of grain whiskies produced at one distillery.

As Sku has pointed out though, if you're sourcing single barrels of Canadian whisky, it can be hit or miss since each distillery produces a variety of whiskies that are meant to be blended together to create a specific product, and you could end up with a base whisky (one that has been distilled to a higher proof and then aged in a re-fill barrel), as opposed to a barrel that contains a flavouring whisky (generally aged in new oak or first fill ex-bourbon barrels).

sku said...

Good point Rabbi. I was assuming it was a blend, but the bottle doesn't say that. Based on the flavor, I'd be surprised if it were a single grain whisky (i.e. a Canadian "flavor whisky") so perhaps they whiskies were married prior to barreling (or aged, married and rebarreled). I'll see what I can find out.

Lazer said...

Have you tried Wild Turkey's new Canadian whiskey? its called Crazy Goose.

sku said...

Buffalo Trace gave me a "no comment" so I edited the post to reflect that we don't know anything about the composition of this whisky.

Jack Smith said...

Here's a thought. Caribou Crossing could be sourced from Alberta Distillers Ltd. (Beam-Suntory). It is the only Canadian distillery that I know of that makes a single style of whisky (Rye based on a mashbill of 100% rye and synthetic amylase enzymes). If CC were to bottle ADL whisky as a single barrel, it would be just a matter of selecting exceptional barrels that would be excellent without any need of blending. Thus my guess is that Caribou Crossing is actually a Rye whisky in which case Buffalo Trace could legally label it as Canadian Whisky (it meets both the Canadian and USA criteria for such classification). All of the other Canadian distilleries mash, ferment, distill and cask-age each of its component cereal grains separately... thus a single barrel would be either 100% corn whisky, rye whisky, malt whisky for which single barrel bottling would be a challenge. There are no Corn/Rye/Malted Barley mashbills in Canada that I'm aware of. If Caribou Crossing were labeled 'Rye Whisky' we would all early on conclude that it must be sourced from ADL.

sku said...

Jack, Alberta is definitely a possibility, and we know they sell their whiskey to other companies. As you note, other distilleries also make rye for blends but age it separately, so it could be one of those as well.

Jack Smith said...

A bit more: (1) I'd guess that a majority of the casks are 2nd and 3rd fills to soften the rye. (2) ADL whisky is produced to be a stand alone. The other Canadian distillers produce rye as a flavoring ingredient for its post-maturation component whisky blending recipe. (3) As ADL is owned by Beam-Suntory, the quid pro quo could be Buffalo Trace/Sazerac's generosity in supplying a lot of aged bourbon to Beam (who doesn't have a bourbon distillery... yet... it is building one now: Bulleit Dist) for its orphan barrel series (a bit of a scam that one!). Jack Smith, CSS

sku said...

Hey Jack, I think you are confusing Beam Suntory and Diageo. Beam Suntory, which owns Alberta Distillers, has not one but three bourbon distilleries. Two for Jim Beam and the Maker's Mark Distillery. Diageo is the one that makes the Orphan Barrels and is working on opening a Bulleit Distillery. Given their size, I don't think Beam would have any need for BT's bourbon.