Thursday, November 24, 2016

Pike Creek Whisky (U.S. Edition)

Last time, I reviewed Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, an excellent port barrel-finished single malt Scotch. This time, I have another great port barrel-finished whisky for you, and it comes from...Canada?

Despite what prejudiced people of all races, ethnicities, and colors assume about me based on my name and/or appearance, I am in fact American! Born and raised! No, really!!! Is my political soapbox caving in? Well, how about a whisky soapbox:

My fellow Americans, if you think Canadian whisky sucks, you probably haven't had the right Canadian whisky.

Research how much Canadian whisky sold in the United States is made primarily or exclusively for the US market. You might be surprised. And too much of it ranges from "okay" to "terrible." And sure, we have our stalwart Canadians like Crown Royal and Canadian Club, but just think how much great Scotch you're missing out on if you just stick with the Johnnie Walker and Chivas Regal product lines. Some of the best Canadian whiskies available in the United States are not well-known outside of connoisseur circles. Pike Creek (not to be confused with Forty Creek) is one of them.

Pike Creek has a long, strange history, and I mean really strange, but even though I studied history and have worked as a historian, I won't attempt to be one here. Pike Creek is aged in a non-climate controlled warehouse in (drumroll, please) Pike Creek, Ontario, near Windsor. This area has dramatic temperature variations which cause dramatic expansion and contraction of the wood, which increases the interaction of the whisky with the wood and thus the wood's impact on the whisky. And yes, the whisky is finished in port barrels.

In Canada, Pike Creek carries an age statement of 10 years, but I'm reviewing the US edition with no age statement. If you want to know why we get a NAS edition, read the long, strange history linked above.

Pike Creek (U.S. Edition)
Blended Canadian Whisky
No Age Statement
40% ABV (80 Proof)

Color: Amber and crimson.

Body: Light, though the legs are persistent. Not much in the way of tears. After a brief while, dew-like spotting and specks inside the glass.

Nose: Twizzlers. Yes, Twizzlers! Spicy -- that rye kick. Sweet red berries, especially fresh strawberries. Peppery oak; white pepper in particular. Aged balsamic vinegar. A creamy grain foundation, calling to mind creamed corn. Some tanginess joining the creaminess; still a corn-dominated aspect of the nose. Honey. Molasses. Then something a tad minty. Pancake syrup. Sea breeze. A quick whiff of barley, sweet and a tad earthy. Medium-dry red wine. Sit with this one for a while!

Palate: A sweet, creamy corn entry. The peppery spice characteristic of rye in a blended Canadian whisky -- this also adds a touch of bitterness with a slightly floral quality. Rich, supple dark fruits and red berries, especially dates and strawberries. Smooth-yet-tingly on the tongue. An oaky backbone adds much-needed density. A nice tartness in the finish and a slightly vegetal aftertaste, both balanced by a lingering, round sweetness. Continued sipping (and moderate swishing) yields a beautiful honeyed streak. Some prunes appear on the palate over time, but are thoroughly integrated into the broader profile.

Besides Sipping Neat: Rocks if you must. Does not mix well in my opinion.

Overall: Damn good, but I think it would be even better at 43% ABV to give it a bit more kick and heft. Still...damn good.

Cooperage, a wine and whisky bar here in Philadelphia, has been offering this as the Canadian representative in a world whisky flight. Definitely one of the better choices for that purpose.

If you buy a bottle in Pennsylvania, the good news is that it now costs $25 (+tax) per 750 ml, which is $7 less than it used to cost in the Keystone State. And it occasionally goes on sale or comes with instant coupons attached.

Thank you for reading, and as always...Happy Drinking!

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