This past March 27 was a day filled with both solemnity and mirth, as well as no small amount of whisky.
For those not in the know, March 27 was the 12th annual International Whisk(e)y Day, celebrated the world over, wherever whisk(e)y is to be found.
That mysterious (e) in the name is to ensure that no country feels left out, whether they make Irish Whiskey or Scottish Whisky, or any other spelling.
Longtime boozers may recall the works of Michael Jackson (the booze writer, not the funky pop star).
Michael Jackson came to prominence in 1977, when he published The World Guide To Beer, which is still considered to be required reading for any student of the craft. He later published The Malt Whisky Companion in 1989, which shortly became the authoritative tome on the subject.
Tragically, Michael Jackson passed away from Parkinson’s Disease in 2007, a loss felt by the entirety of the beer and whisky industries that he was integral in shaping over the decades.
To recognize his contributions to the world of whisky, the industry honored him with the creation of International Whisk(e)y Day, held on his birthday every year, with fans being encouraged to donate to a charity performing Parkinson’s research.
As I do each year, I made a donation to the Parkinson Association of Alberta to mark the passing of one of the giants of whisk(e)y world. In years past, I would spend the day at a well-stocked whisky bar with a few drinking companions, but the global pandemic has me self-isolating at home, so I pulled a few whisk(e)y bottles out of the cellar and toasted with a few friends via videoconference.
There were slim pickings in my liquor cabinet after a few weeks of lockdown at home, but I was able to find a few dusty bottles on the top shelf, including a Wiser’s Deluxe Canadian Whisky, a Bell’s blended Scotch, and a Knob Creek Bourbon from Kentucky.
Wiser’s Deluxe is Canada’s oldest continuously produced brand of whisky, first established in 1857, and produced continuously since then, even through the dark days of Prohibition.
Located in Windsor, the distillery is on the banks of the Canadian side of the Detroit River, just a few hundred meters from the City of Detroit, a distance easily paddled across with a contraband-laden boat in the dead of night during the days of the American Prohibition from 1920 to 1933.
Wiser’s Deluxe is the signature blend, and is made up of a blend of whiskies ranging from 5-9 years aging in oak. Flavours are typical of Canadian whiskies, with toasty grain overtones, and a slight hint of toffee on the finish.
Bell’s Original is a blended Scotch Whisky from the Speyside region, and has long been the most popular whisky in the UK, perhaps thanks to the notoriety gained as the favourite tipple of the Maggie Thatcher, the Iron Lady herself.
I am not a fan of the highly peated Scotch whiskies, which made the Bell’s Original right up my alley. A nutty aroma with mild smokiness on the palate, followed with a briny finish reminiscent of the salty air of the North Sea makes this an easy drinking blended Scotch whisky, so it is unsurprising it has remained highly popular in the UK for decades.
In the past, I have shown much disdain for Bourbon whiskey from south of the border, looking down on corn as a lesser grain than our Canadian whiskies made from barley and rye. However, the hillbilly reputation that once dogged Bourbon is now largely a thing of the past, with the distillers of Kentucky and Tennessee upping their game to survive in an increasingly global drinks business.
Bourbon does tend to be sweeter than Canadian or Scottish whiskies, thanks to corn being the majority of the grain bill. Typically aged for 9 years, Knob Creek is dark gold in colour and has a rich and almost fruity bouquet.
Each of these whiskies are in the neighbourhood of $30-$40, so do not need to be saved for a special occasion. They just happened to be available in my liquor cabinet during the pandemic lockdown, but can also be found at your friendly neighbourhood booze merchant, who may be willing to deliver straight to your door if you are in isolation.