Thursday, October 17, 2013

Canada Week Part III: Lot 40 Canadian Rye

For my final Canadian Whisky of the week, I thought I'd sample Lot 40.  Lot 40 was a popular Canadian Whisky about a decade ago but was abruptly discontinued.  The whisky was rereleased in fall 2012 in Canada, and it was sent to the US shortly thereafter, but I've only recently started seeing it in California. According to Canadian Whisky blogger Davin de Kergommeaux, Lot 40 is produced by a bottler, Corby Distilleries, from whisky distilled at the Hiram Walker Distillery.  The mashbill is 90% rye and 10% malted rye and it is distilled in a pot still.  For the full story, as with any Canadian Whisky, check out Davin's (and buy his book too!).

Lot 40 Canadian Rye, 2012 Release, 43% abv ($60)

The nose on this has a strong rye, very reminiscent of the herbaceous rye notes on Whistlepig and the other Canadian straight ryes. Then some cocoa notes emerge.  The palate is both drier and less aggressive on the rye than I expected with some brandy notes, cherries, chocolate and a more muted rye than the nose.  The finish is the first time you get more traditional Canadian Whisky notes with some honey joining the rye spice.

This is a very nice whisky.  It has the nice, spicy rye notes of the Canadian straight ryes but with more complexity.  I've been skeptical of recent talk about a Canadian Whisky revival, at least based on we've seen in the US, but this whisky gives me hope that we will start to see some real gems coming out of Canada.


EllenJ said...

Until rather recently, the Bourbon world had been almost totally Kentucy-centric. There are, in fact, many bourbon drinkers who believe that Kentucky origin is a requirement of bourbon. That idea has rubbed off on rye whiskey as well, since most of the ones we know about are bottled by Kentucky distilleries. The rise of artisan/craft distillers (as well as knockoff bottlers) is beginning to dispell that old (and carefully crafted) myth, and that li'l ol' distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana (LDI/MGP) has been a major factor. The LDI distillery was once the Seagrams distillery, and it was here that some really REALLY good whiskies (bourbon, rye, and other mashbills) were routinely cranked out and aged. These whiskies were never intended to become brands of their own, but rather they were for use in blending some of Seagrams fine blended brands. They were made strong enough (flavor-wise) to stand up to being mixed in small quantities with neutral spirits and still provide acceptable -- no, make that desireable -- flavor in products like Crown Royal and 7-Crown. The first time most of us ever heard of these whiskies was when Jim Murray waxed ecstatic about them in his "Classic Bourbon, Tennessee, & Rye Whiskies" book.

But Seagram's certainly wasn't the only one doing that. In fact, what they did in Indiana was the same thing they'd been doing in Canada all along. And so did other Canadian distillers, since blended whisky has been the standard in Canada from the beginning. Schenley, Walker, Corby, and others do the same, either with whisky they themselves distill or with whiskies they've sourced from multiple small distillers (which is the way it's done in Scotland)

Lot No.40 was originally released by Corby as part of a group of brands designed to provide a Canadian version of United Distillers', Kentucky Bourbon Distillers', Jim Beam's, and Buffalo Trace's "heritage collections". There were three brands in the Corby collection, Pike Creek, Gooderham & Worts, and Lot No.40. At the time, nobody in the U.S. really gave a hoot about rye whiskey, and those who did realized that "Canadian Rye" really wasn't. So here comes Lot No.40 with its 100% rye mashbill (10% malted/90% unmalted) and us South-of-the-Border types, whose only access to real rye whiskey had been (Beam's version of) Old Overholt, (Heaven Hill's version of) Rittenhouse, and Wild Turkey's better, but still Kentucky-type nearly half-corn style, went bonkers over it.

Briefly. Until Corby stopped producing it just a couple years later.

Lot No.40 was bottled here by David Sherman (now Luxco)in St. Louis, but the version you could get at the Niagara LCBO was bottled by Corby. We have some of that, and it is NOT the same whiskey as it was fifteen years ago. But then, neither is Wild Turkey, Rittenhouse, or even VWFR. Side by side, you can tell; taken alone, probably not. Pennsylvania rye, which is different from Kentucky-style rye, is directly related to both Ontario rye and Monongahela. The roots of all of those are in eastern Pennsylvania, southern New York, and adjacent New Jersey. Kentucky-style rye whiskey (and bourbon as well) originated in southern Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the Shenandoah valley of Virginia. There are some artisan/craft rye whiskies that capture that old Pennsylvania flavor: Dad's Hat, Finger Lakes, Delaware Phoenix, and -- surprisingly -- the rye marketed as James Pepper 1776 that is made in Indiana at LDI/MGP! But Lot No.40 was, and the new one is again, the best Canadian version of all-rye whiskey I've ever tasted. And I'm not just whistling "pig", either!

sku said...

Thanks for the great background info. EllenJ!

Anonymous said...

Sku, thank you for this extended look at Canadian whiskys. There is a great deal of quality to our north. Unfortunately, a good sized quantity is not available to us in the States which is a shame. I have had the opportunity to try Alberta Premium and a few others and so wish I could get my hands on them once again. They are very much worth the money.

Arok said...

This is quite possibly my favorite out of the Canadian whiskies I've tried. Though living in a border state does have some benefits in this arena, I'm very glad I won't have to go to Canada to get this one when I want another bottle.

ChainWhip said...

I've had a bottle open for some time now that I acquired from Vancouver BC. It took me a while to warm up to this rye in part because I'm somewhat new to the whisky world and my palate had no frame of reference to provide context to what I was tasting.

Fast forward 6 months and I recently tried some '70s Old Overholt and then something clicked for me on the Lot No. 40 - some of the same flavors I tasted in the Overholt were coming through for me in the Lot No. 40.

EllenJ's comments really hit home the connections for me.