Colour: Yellow gold.
Nose: Oak, sweet corn, cinnamon and baking spices, vanilla, corn husks, citrus and cereal notes.
Taste: Baking spices, white pepper, cinnamon, caramel, and vanilla.
The unrepentant miser saw the errors of his ways. He swore he would change and change he did – for the better. Chances are, you’re well acquainted with miserly Ebenezer Scrooge and his highly “spirited” evening. Paralleling Mister Scrooge’s phantasmic odyssey, I confess that I too was recently visited by a spirit. No, I wasn’t dreaming and no, I wasn’t in my pj’s when it happened. My spirit, you could say, had me over a barrel – literally. Conjure up the words “ghost whisky” or ghost distillery” and names like Port Ellen, Piityvaich, Kinclaith and Brora make their way through the smoky mist of time. However, this spirit has a definite Canadian accent: Toronto Distillery’s First Barrels Straight Canadian Whisky. It’s also a ghost distillery because the doors are closed, production has been shut down for a few years and only 1,452 bottles were released.
First Barrels labels itself as a straight whisky. In the U.S. a “straight” whiskey’s mash has to have 51% of a particular grain in its mash, e.g.: bourbon has to have 51% corn, rye has to have 51% rye, etc. First Barrels mash is different in that it’s made up of 40% rye, 40% wheat and 20% corn. Also, unlike a mash that’s comprised of all the grains, here, all three single grain whiskies ware aged separately in charred Canadian Oak and American Oak barrels.
The past of First Barrels appears with a soft hue of yellow gold in the glass. On the nose, oak and dust swirl around notes of vanilla, sweet corn and corn husks. With the char, cinnamon notes are there but they aren’t in your face; they are soft and weathered. The spiciness of the rye, like the cinnamon, is there but whisps by gingerly. On the tongue, you’ll notice the presence of a little heat. Not four-alarm but enough to get the fire started thanks to the white pepper and the spices. Caramel and vanilla show up hand in hand as well cloaked in oak. The finish doesn’t stay past way check out time. Yet, it isn’t ephemeral either. First Barrels is perfectly content to stay in the middle with its medium finish.
This isn’t an angry, aggressive spirit. It has Casper’s friendliness but with a bit Spooky’s attitude. It’s a dram worth enjoying, even though the end of its story isn’t the happiest. And, with such a limited release of bottles, it’s not the sighting of one is a common appearance. Still though, if you do come across one, I suggest you snap it up like the dickens. Cheers.