The Occasion and The Whisky Gift Guide

How to give the best whisky gifts? It’s the thought (process) that counts

If you’ve arrived here, it’s probably because you’re looking for a great whisky gift suggestion for someone you know. 

We can help — but the thing is, there isn’t an easy answer to the question of what’s the best whisky to gift. There isn’t “one weird trick” to giving whisky. 

Whisky gifting, like whisky itself, is complex. Multifaceted. And like great whisky making, great whisky giving takes time. (But thankfully not 12 years or anything like that — we’re only talking a few minutes here.)

With whisky giving, the thought really does count — which is to say, the thinking you do as the giver. The way you think about the gift from all angles. We can distill the thought process down to three main facets: the taste of the recipient, their personality, and the occasion.

To help you choose whisky gifts that are meaningful, and will be appreciated (and, if you’re lucky, may even be reciprocated), we present The Drop Collective’s guide to whisky gifting. Keep reading for practical advice, and look throughout at the examples of our approach in action. But remember they’re just examples. Figuring out the perfect gift is something only you can do. That’s what makes it special. 

Whisky gift consideration 1: The receiver’s personal taste

First things first: You obviously want the receiver to actually enjoy the whisky you’re getting them. Leverage whatever knowledge you’ve got about their tastes — for example, if you know they enjoy bourbon, get them a bourbon. Figuring out the best whisky gift can really be that simple.

And from there, you can master the art of giving whisky gifts as you develop more whisky knowledge Whisky.The more you know about whisky, the easier it’ll be to think of whiskies to get someone. For example, let’s say your recipient is a big fan of Redbreast. You could surprise them with another single pot still Irish whiskey, like the Spot Whiskeys or Jameson Single Pot Still.

You can also match a person’s overall food adventurousness to their whisky adventurousness. A picky eater might not enjoy a peaty whisky, but someone who will eat anything is a good candidate for enjoying the funky smoke aromas. For the particular eater, conversely, stick with something mellow and sweetish — say, a blended whisky, especially one that’s Canadian (e.g. Wiser’s Deluxe) or Irish (Jameson Original).

The way someone enjoys their whisky is important, too. If they like sipping whiskies, single malt Scotch and single pot still Irish whiskey both work splendidly. Arend they into cocktails and mixing? How about a bold Canadian whisky (they don’t get bolder than Lot 40). Both? Then make it bourbon, which works equally well for sipping and mixing (this is true of any of Rabbit Hole’s bourbons, for example).

There’s also nothing wrong with getting someone the exact thing you know they like. If you know a fan of Aberlour A’bunadh (which is definitely a thing for lots of people) and you get them a second or third bottle of Aberlour A’bunadh, we promise they will not mind. 

And finally, if you know nothing about the recipient’s taste in whisky — all you know is that they enjoy some kind of whisky — don’t fret: There’s always balanced, classic Scotch whiskeys, which are reliable choices because they’re universally admired by whisky fans.

(Good old The Glenlivet 12 comes in handy. It really is hard to imagine a whisky lover who wouldn’t be happy to receive it.)

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Tasting Notes and Where to Find Them

How to ‘nose’ and taste whisky like a pro

Baked apple. Almond blossom. Antique shop. Dried orange peel. Cedar. Amontillado sherry.

As you get to know whisky better, the descriptions you come across in reviews and tasting notes can seem obscure, pretentious — made-up, even.

Yet you’ll also discover for yourself that these dazzling aromas and flavours are very real. Aromatic and flavour complexity is what makes whisky such an exciting beverage. As you’ll learn below, science can help us understand why.

But you don’t need a laboratory to delve into the aromatic and flavour complexity of whisky. The only apparatus you need are your nose, mouth and eyes.

If you want to “nose” whisky like a pro — and come up with your own vivid descriptions — follow The Drop Collective’s whisky tasting guide. 

Step 1: How to set up a whisky tasting

Before you begin any whisky tasting, gather everything you need. That means:

  • Glassware. People have lots of preferences for whisky glasses. But tulip-shaped ones — like the famous whisky tasting glass made by Glencairn — are ideal because they focus the aromas and direct them at your nose (which is your most essential piece of equipment);
  • Mixers, ice and water. Especially the last of these — read why water is so important to nosing whisky in the section on “Preparing the whisky for nosing and tasting,” below;
  • Snacks. Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach. For a whisky tasting, simple is best. Nuts, fruit, crackers, cookies, and chocolates are all fine partners for whisky.
  • The whiskies, of course. If you’re trying multiple whiskies, how should you choose them? You could taste within a themed grouping — Irish whiskeys, for example. Or all over the map. (Whisky potluck nights can be fun — everyone comes to your house with a surprise bottle.)

Now you’re ready to sniff out what you’ve got. 

Step 2: Taking a moment to look at the whisky

Notice carefully: What colour is the whisky? This can offer clues as to its maturation process. All whisky emerges clear from the still and takes on colour in the cask. Casks are fired — literally charred with fire — before whisky is added to them; this caramelizes the sugars in the wood, which colours the whisky and also adds caramelized sugar aromas and flavours.

Some casks colour the whisky more than others. Port casks and first-fill sherry casks can give a whisky a deep copper, verging on ruby-red colour. This is easy to see in Redbreast expressions like Tawny Port Edition and 27 Year Old. Bourbons tend to be a deep amber-brown because they must be aged in freshly charred casks. Those casks routinely go on to be reused by the Canadian, Irish or Scotch whisky industries — and once they’ve been filled a few times, they’ll lend the whisky a light golden straw colour.

Another way to use your eyes? If it’s not a blind tasting, read the label for the whisky (and the box, if there is one). There’s often interesting info there!

Step 3: Preparing the whisky for nosing and tasting (Answering the question: “Why do you add water to whisky?”) 

The big question for debate at this stage is often: To water or not to water?

There are lots of ways to enjoy whisky — neat (that is, with nothing added), on ice (“on the rocks”), with a mixer or in a cocktail. They’re all acceptable. Your whisky belongs to you, and you’re free to enjoy it however you like.

For nosing and tasting, however, the best mixer for whisky is a few drops of bottled spring water — up to a small splash for stronger whiskies (i.e. cask strength). Why should you add water to your whisky? Because some of the chemical compounds that make whisky smell like whisky are chemically “locked” to the ethanol (alcohol) until a bit of extra water “frees” them to move around the liquid and into the air — and toward your nostrils.

In the next section we’ll explain a little more about the chemistry of whisky … 

Step 4: How to nose whisky 

This is the main event. Yes, smelling the whisky — “nosing,” to use the in-the-know parlance — is often more of a highlight than actually sipping, particularly for long-experienced whisky enjoyers.

Nosing is so important because what we often think of as our sense of taste is actually more our sense of smell. Taste is pretty basic, our sense of smell is what allows us to experience the dazzling kaleidoscope of aromas in whisky.

So take your time at this stage. Sniff gently, with your nose above (not stuck in) the glass. A connoisseur’s trick is to open your mouth while you sniff — you’ll look a bit silly (sorry) but you will detect more aromas. 

There are other little tricks that will help you find the subtle hints in your whisky. Dab a drop into your hands, rub them together, and sniff. Let a couple drops of the whisky dry out in a glass for a few hours and sniff the residue. And compare notes with a friend (or with a published review) — sometimes all you need to detect an aroma is for someone to give you a hint about what to sniff around for.

Here are some of the common aromas found in whisky, grouped into sensory categories. Search for these first and then follow your nose from there…

The biggest question a lot of whisky novices have is whether this stuff is all made up. It definitely is not. It’s science. No, really.

The whisky distillation process creates minuscule amounts of chemical compounds known as “congeners.” These are chemicals that the human sense of smell locks on to and remembers, often associating them with a particular food or experience. For example, ethyl hexanoate (belonging to a group of chemicals called “esters”) is often present in whisky. But to your smell-memory it’s probably originally associated with red apple peels (and other fruits)

Barrel maturation also lends a lot of flavour to whisky. That vanilla aroma, for example? That’s vanillin, a phenolic aldehyde (for you chemistry majors out there) which is present in vanilla (obviously) but also in American white oak — which happens to be the most common wood used for aging whisky.

There are many versions of the flavour wheel in circulation. They contain categorizations that might not seem to make sense at first — for example, caramel belongs in the “woody” flavour category because charring casks caramelizes the sugars that naturally exist in wood, which is why whisky very often smells and tastes like caramel.

If this is all starting to sound too academic, don’t worry: You absolutely do not need to know the chemistry to enjoy whisky (most whisky lovers don’t know any of it). You just need to know that the flavours and aromas that take shape in your mind — vanilla or caramel or a hint of freshly cracked black pepper, and so on — are grounded in fact. Don’t fall victim to impostor syndrome: You really can smell compounds in whisky that are also found in foods, flowers, and other materials stored in your smell-memory.

You’ll notice in whisky tasting descriptions and reviews that certain descriptors are more common than others. A lot of whiskies smell and taste like caramel, vanilla, citrus fruit, baking spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, and (for bourbons especially) coconut. But as you read more reviews and try more whiskies, you’ll encounter more unusual aromas and descriptors for them — leather, marmalade, iodine, candle wax, sandalwood … we could go on and on. Even when delving into quite specific aromas, you may find lots of people detect the exact same thing. If you say “green apple” when nosing Green Spot, you definitely won’t be the first! 

The nosing learning curve may feel overwhelming. Maybe it all just smells like “whisky” and you’re having trouble picking out more granular flavours. And that’s OK: Being able to articulate your sensory experience of whisky comes with time and practice. And even the most experienced whisky tasters will often admit they can’t smell everything — just like they don’t know everything

Step 5: Sipping — how to taste whisky

While your nose does most of the lifting, you’ll also notice additional sensations when you sip the whisky. Many tasting notes and reviews for whisky are in fact divided between nose and palate (or nose, palate and finish), depending on which stage the taster noticed the aroma at. 

And in addition to aroma and taste (which, again, are really two sides of the same coin), there’s structure. Tasters talk about a whisky’s mouthfeel as being “robust,” “cloying,” “angular” and so on. The basic thing to know about a whisky’s body or structure is that there’s something of a spectrum from mellow (which you’re likely to find in Canadian and Irish blended whiskies) to rich (discover the “rich” sensation in Irish single pot stills and single malt Scotches) and bold (see what “bold” is about through bourbons, like Rabbit Hole, and Canadian whiskies with a high rye content, like Lot 40).

Finally, there’s the “finish,” which tells you how smoothly the whisky goes down, plus the aftertaste. It can be rich, it can be spicy, it can be sweet and, if the alcohol level is high, it can be “hot.” Thanks to the whisky’s long contact with the tannins in oak, it can be “tannic” — that refers to the tart, puckering sensation you may have experienced with oversteeped black tea. 

And if you’re lucky, the finish is pleasantly long and lingering. 

Step 6: Make sure you enjoy the whisky

Above all, remember that tasting whisky is supposed to be an enjoyable pastime or social occasion. You can take notes. You can discuss the whiskies with your friends. But remember not to take it too seriously. This is supposed to be fun.

On the lookout for interesting whiskies to try? (Of course you are, that’s why you’re here.) Find out about new and upcoming releases for Canada — make sure you don’t miss a drop.

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Whisky: The Fundamentals

The Drop Collective’s distilled guide to whisky and how to enjoy it

If there’s one thing whisky lovers know, it’s that the more you learn about it, the more you realize there is to learn.

So, to feed your thirst for knowledge — and fuel your hunt for the best, rarest and most enjoyable whiskies — the Drop Collective presents Whisky: The Fundamentals. This page will help novices understand the world of whisky, while experts can use it as a handy reference and occasional refresher. (Because you can’t always remember, say, the difference between single malt and single pot still off the top of your head, right?)

The guide is divided into three sections:

  1. What is whisky? Learn about whisky types in Part I
  2. What is whisky made from, and how? Learn about whisky ingredients and processes in Part II
  3. Now, how to taste and serve whisky? Get tips on enjoying your dram in Part III

Before you dive in, make sure to get even more knowledge delivered to your inbox. Join the Drop Collective and you’ll also get advance notice on exciting whisky releases in Canada.

I. Types of Whisky

Irish whiskey

Irish whiskey is one of the world’s oldest distilled beverages, with its production roots deeply embedded in Ireland’s history. Alongside Scotland, Ireland is acknowledged as one of the initial whisky-producing countries.

Irish whiskey is particularly noted for its smoothness, which makes it appealing to a wide range of palates and suitable for various ways of consumption.

Despite its relatively small output, the Irish whiskey industry offers a growing and diverse range of products. This diversity is a result of the unique production processes and the types of whiskey produced in the country, including:

  • Blended Irish whiskey, which combines malt and grain whiskies, creating a versatile, mixable and approachable spirit;
  • Single pot still Irish whiskey. Unique to Ireland, this style is made from a mix of malted and unmalted barley distilled in a pot still. The inclusion of unmalted barley gives it a distinctive spicy character, setting it apart from other whiskey types. (Examples include the Spot Whiskeys — Blue Spot, Green Spot, Yellow Spot and Red Spot — and Redbreast);
  • Single malt Irish whiskey, crafted from 100 per cent malted barley in a single distillery;
  • Single grain Irish whiskey, which again is made in a single distillery, but from grain that is not malted;
  • Blended malt Irish whiskey, a blend of two or more single malt whiskies from different distilleries.

The great Irish whiskeys (that is, the best-rated and legendary brands) span across all these categories.

How to drink Irish whiskey varies based on personal preference, with some enthusiasts preferring it neat to appreciate the full flavour, while others may enjoy it with a splash of water to dilute its strength slightly and release different aromas.

Scotch whisky

Scotland, alongside Ireland, stands as one of the original whisky-producing countries, with a distilling tradition that reaches back to the Late Middle Ages. Today, it proudly holds the title as the world’s largest whisky producer, offering a vast and world-famous range of brands known for their varied, complex and exquisitely balanced aromas and flavours.

By definition, Scotch whisky must be distilled and matured in Scotland for at least three years.

By far the two most popular types of Scotch whisky are:

  • Single Malt Scotch whisky, which is produced from 100 per cent malted barley at a single distillery. Single malt Scotch is celebrated for its diversity; each distillery has its own distinct house style, which is usually a variation on the typical character of its region of origin. (Elegant and sweet for Speyside, for example.)
  • Blended Scotch whisky, which accounts for more than 90 per cent of Scotch whisky production, combines malt and grain whiskies from different distilleries. Contrary to common myth, blended Scotch is not just for beginners or inferior to single malt. Many of the “best” and highest-rated Scotch whiskies on the market are blended, and are appreciated for their balance, versatility and superior mixability.

The region of Scotland in which a whisky is produced plays a crucial role in its flavour profile. The primary regions include Islay, known for its peaty whiskies; Speyside, which has by far the largest number of distilleries and is celebrated for its sweet and fruity characteristics; the Highlands, offering a diverse range of flavours; and the Lowlands, known for lighter and more delicate whiskies.

For those new to Scotch, selecting the best beginner Scotch involves considering both flavour preferences and the whisky’s complexity. Unpeated, smoother whiskies from Speyside, like The Glenlivet, are often recommended for beginners thanks to their accessible character. And thanks to their balance, blended Scotch whiskies like Chivas Regal are very suitable for novices as well.

As with Irish whiskey, how to serve and drink Scotch varies based on personal preference. Some prefer it neat, while others enjoy it with soda water or ginger ale in a “highball.” Many serious connoisseurs insist that a splash of water “opens up” the aromas and is the best way to appreciate a favourite or unfamiliar Scotch.

Did you know? There are nearly 150 operating distilleries in Scotland, which together produce some 1.35 billion bottles of whisky for export each year — more than the industries of the United States, Japan and Ireland combined.

Bourbon whiskey

Bourbon whiskey, a distinctive American spirit, has its roots in the 19th-century whiskies of Kentucky. From there, it evolved into a robust and flavourful whisky style enjoyed worldwide. Bourbon is noted for its paradoxical balance between boldness and smoothness, and an overall sweet profile compared to other whiskies. Since the emergence of super-premium bourbons in the 1980s and ’90s, bourbon has elevated its reputation to a level where the best-rated and rare bourbons are as sought after as their Scotch counterparts.

Not all American whiskey qualifies as bourbon. To earn the bourbon label, according to U.S. law, the spirit must adhere to specific criteria:

  • The mash (the mix of grains used in the fermentation) must contain at least 51 per cent corn; this contributes to bourbon’s characteristic sweetness.
  • It must be aged in newly charred oak barrels, which impart a distinct flavour and colour.
  • Bourbon must be distilled to no more than 80 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV), entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 62.5 per cent ABV, and bottled at 40 per cent ABV or more.
Did you know? Contrary to common belief, bourbon does not need to be produced in Kentucky. It can be distilled anywhere in the United States.

Enjoying bourbon, as with all whiskies, is a matter of individual taste. It can be savoured neat, with water, on the rocks, or as part of a cocktail. Drinking bourbon neat or with a splash of water can help the drinker appreciate its full range of flavours and aromas. Meanwhile, bourbon cocktails, like the old fashioned and the mint julep, take advantage of bourbon’s bold flavours, which noticeably shine through even when it’s mixed with other ingredients.

Tennessee whiskey

Tennessee whiskey is similar to bourbon, but it’s filtered through charcoal chips before maturation. This unique step is called the Lincoln County Process and it’s essential to the character of Tennessee whiskey; distillers believe it removes impurities and imparts a smooth, mellow flavour.

Tennessee whiskey must meet certain criteria, which are similar to those that govern bourbon. (Yes, it must be made in Tennessee.)

Canadian whisky

Canadian whisky is the crown of Canada’s rich distilling history, which dates back to the early 19th century. Canada became the first country to legally define the quality parameters for its whisky in 1890, setting a high standard for production and craftsmanship. Today, Canadian whisky encompasses a wide range of flavours, from mellow blends to spicy ryes. Canadian whisky has experienced a well-deserved resurgence in popularity and critical acclaim in recent years.

A hallmark of traditional Canadian whisky is its distinctive method of production. Typically, whisky-makers in Canada distill each grain type — most often corn, rye, barley and wheat — separately, and then blend the distilled spirits together. This approach allows for a precise control over the flavour profile of the final product, and it makes Canadian whisky somewhat unique in the whisky world.

Canada’s regulations give distillers the creative latitude to produce a wide array of flavours. This versatility ranges from the traditional mellow, sweet vanilla- and caramel-scented blended whiskies that Canada is renowned for to spicy all-rye whiskies and complex single malts. The best and top-rated Canadian whiskies span this entire flavour spectrum, catering to a variety of palates.

Did you know? Canadian whisky is colloquially known as “rye” within Canada, even if the grain bill contains little to no rye. This convention stems from historical practices and continues today; asking for “rye” in Canada typically means requesting Canadian whisky, regardless of its actual rye content.

How to serve Canadian whisky is a question of personal preference. Traditionally, Canadian whisky was often known for its mixability — often with ginger ale or cola, or in a cocktail (most famously, the manhattan). Today, however, as whisky enthusiasts rediscover Canadian whisky, they’re finding that the best and top-rated Canadian whiskies are as suitable as any of their international peers to be served neat or with a splash of water and savoured carefully.

Rye whisk(e)y

Rye whisky is celebrated for its distinctive spicy and floral character, deriving from the rye grain. This type of whisky is predominantly produced in two varieties: Canadian and American, each with its own traditions, regulations, and flavour profiles.

Canadian rye whisky

In Canada, a whisky can be called rye without necessarily containing a significant amount of rye grain. This tradition stems from the early days of Canadian distilling when rye was commonly used to impart a spicy flavour to whisky, and its presence became synonymous with Canadian whisky.

In recent years, there has been a trend in the Canadian distilling scene toward producing rye whiskies that do indeed feature a majority (and sometimes even 100 per cent) rye in their grain bill. These Canadian rye whiskies are known for their robust and spicier notes compared to more traditional, milder Canadian whiskies.

American rye whiskey

In the United States, rye whisky follows a stricter definition. It must be made with at least 51 per cent rye, which imparts the whisky with its characteristic spicy flavour. American rye whiskey shares some flavour characteristics with Canadian rye-forward whiskies but typically exhibits a distinct profile due to differences in distilling practices between the two countries. The result is a richly spicy and bold spirit that works particularly well in cocktails.

When a cocktail recipe calls for rye whisky, either American or Canadian is acceptable, depending on your preference. Thanks to its bold flavour profile, Lot 40 is an example of a Canadian rye whisky that will perform well even in cocktails that were written with American rye in mind.

Japanese whisky

Originally inspired by the distilling methods of the Scotch whisky industry, Japanese whisky has developed its own distinct identity, characterized by a focus on refinement and balance. With offerings that range from light and floral to more complex and peated profiles, Japanese whiskies have gained international acclaim and the interest of whisky enthusiasts worldwide.

Single malt whisky

“Single malt whisky” refers to whisky made exclusively from malted grain — generally barley — produced at a single distillery. The term is most commonly associated with Scotch whisky. And while the “best” Scotches are by no means all single malts (see blended whisky), the category nevertheless evokes a certain mystique and prestige in the minds of whisky lovers.

The tradition of crafting single malt whisky extends to the other major whisky-producing countries as well. Ireland and Japan are especially notable for producing famous and top-rated single malts.

Did you know? Single malt Scotch is a newer product category than you may think. Before the 1960s, blended whisky dominated, and relatively little single malt was ever sold outside of Scotland. As recently as 1989, there were just 104 single malts on the market. (Today there are more than 4,000 different “expressions,” or versions.)

Blended whisky

Blended whisky is a category that demonstrates the art of combining various whiskies to create a harmonious and balanced spirit. This type of whisky amalgamates components distilled and often aged separately, offering a complex and layered taste profile. A Canadian blended whisky can also include a small percentage of non-whisky elements, such as sherry spirit, adding to the depth of flavour.

Contrary to some perceptions, blended whiskies are not inferior to their single malt counterparts; they are simply different, designed to achieve a consistency and complexity that might not be possible with a single malt. These whiskies are particularly appreciated for their versatility. Blended whiskies often serve as the foundation for mixed drinks because their nuanced flavours can complement the mixers without overpowering them.

Blended Scotch Whisky

A notable subset within this category is blended Scotch. Around 90 per cent or more of Scotch whisky is blended — that is, crafted by mixing single malt Scotch with grain whisky produced in Scotland. (Similarly, around 90 per cent of Irish whiskey production is focused on blends.) Many of the best- and top-rated Scotch whiskies are blended — Royal Salute, to give one example.

The grain whisky component of blended Scotch typically comes from corn, wheat, and/or barley. Although the specific single malts used in blends are often kept confidential, some brands, like Chivas Regal, openly acknowledge that they rely on particular single malts to achieve their signature smooth flavour (for example, Strathisla Single Malt is a key ingredient in the subtly balanced blends of Chivas Regal).

Did you know? Scotland, Ireland, the United States, Japan and Canada are often known as the “big five” whisky-producing countries, both in terms of their volume and the fact that they’ve each contributed unique styles to the world’s whisky heritage. But whisky-making is increasingly a global affair, with notable and award-winning examples being produced in South Africa, India, Taiwan and beyond.
II. What is whisky made from, and how?

The grains: Barley, corn, wheat and rye

What are Scotch, Irish, Canadian whisky and bourbon made of? The answer for all of these is grain. Whisky is made by fermenting malted and unmalted grains, a process that transforms these basic agricultural products into complex and enjoyable spirits. The primary grains used in whisky include barley (both malted and unmalted), rye (malted and unmalted), wheat (mostly unmalted, but occasionally malted), and corn.

The grains used in whisky production are more than just ingredients; they are the essence of the whisky’s identity, shaping its flavour, aroma, and character. Each of these lends a different set of aromas and flavours in the whisky, as follows:

  • Barley: Malted barley is the cornerstone of Scotch and Irish whiskies, imparting rich, biscuity, and sometimes peaty flavours. Unmalted barley, often used in Irish whiskeys, contributes a spicier, more robust taste. Barley plays a supporting role in bourbon and Canadian whisky production.
  • Corn: Corn is the primary grain in bourbon and the most common grain used in Canadian whisky. It gives many North American whiskies their characteristic sweetness and notes of caramel.
  • Rye: Rye grain adds spicy, fruity, and floral notes to whisky, creating a sharper, more pronounced flavour profile that is particularly appreciated when using whisky as a cocktail ingredient.
  • Wheat: Wheat offers a softer, sweeter, flavour compared to the other grains. North American whisky-makers in particular employ it to give a whisky a mellow profile.

In the United States and Canada, distillers often employ all four major grains, creating a range of whiskies that offer a broad spectrum of flavours and experiences. Canada’s Gooderham and Worts whisky is an example of a whisky that achieves balanced complexity with a recipe containing corn, barley, rye and wheat.

Did you know? Triticale, a little-known grain created in the 19th century by crossing wheat with rye, is occasionally used in Canadian whisky-making.

Malt and malting

Malt and the process of malting play a crucial role in the production of whisky, notably single malt whisky.

Malting is a traditional method used primarily with barley, and occasionally with rye or wheat, to prepare the grain for whisky making. It involves steeping the grain in water to germinate, and then drying it in a kiln to halt the germination — and enhance the aromas and flavours.

The malting process serves two main functions in whisky production. First, it activates enzymes within the grain that break down starches into soluble sugars. These sugars are vital for the fermentation stage: Yeast converts them into alcohol, forming the base spirit of the whisky. Second, malting the grain contributes a distinct flavour profile to whisky. Malted barley is typically described as sweetish, bready, or biscuit-like, providing a foundational backbone to the spirit’s taste.

All of the grain in a single malt whisky is malted, but blended whisky can contain whisky made from unmalted grain.

Casks (barrels)

Wooden barrels, referred to as “casks” in the whisky industry, play an indispensable role in defining the flavours and aromas of whisky. Along with grains, casks are one of the major components that influence whisky’s character. The interaction between the whisky and the cask during the aging process significantly impacts what final whiskey tastes like.

Much of the distinctive taste of whisky can be attributed to the characteristics of American oak (Quercus alba) and European oak (Quercus robur), by far the most common woods used for whisky casks. American oak imparts a variety of flavours to whisky, including vanilla and caramel; European oak is known for aromas including nuts and baking spices (cinnamon and nutmeg). These aromas result from chemical reactions that occur between the whisky and the charred interior surfaces of the casks. Charring the casks before use not only contributes to the complexity of the whisky’s flavour (notably campfire smoke aromas) but also plays a crucial role in its colour (whisky distillate is clear before it is matured).

The bourbon industry is unique in its requirement for the use of virgin American oak casks, which are new and have never been used to age spirits before. Once the bourbon is decanted, these barrels are often sold to Canadian, Irish, and Scotch whisky distilleries for re-use. This practice is a key reason why whiskies from these regions often refer to bourbon casks on their labels. Similarly, sherry casks (also known as “butts”) made from European oak are used to age sherry, and are also popular for aging whisky.

In addition to traditional aging, some whiskies undergo a process known as “finishing.” This involves transferring the whisky to different types of casks for a relatively short period towards the end of the aging process. Finishing casks can include those that previously held rum or wines (port or Bordeaux, for example), with the goal of introducing additional layers of flavour and complexity to the whisky. This technique allows distillers to experiment with flavour profiles and offer rare and unique whisky expressions to consumers.

It’s worth noting that many popular whisky styles are subject to legal requirements regarding the minimum aging period in oak. This aging process is crucial for developing the depth and richness of flavour that whisky enthusiasts expect.

Did you know? Canadian, Scotch and Irish whiskies must all be aged for at least three years in oak casks before they can legally be considered whisky.

Cask strength whisky

Cask strength whisky is bottled directly from the cask without the addition of water. (Most whiskies are diluted down to the 40-46 per cent ABV range for bottling. Cask strength whiskies are not.)

As a result, cask strength Scotch and Irish whisky and bourbon typically have an alcohol percentage around the low 60s.

Did you know? Casks are not completely air-tight. Alcohol slowly escapes from them over the years. This loss is called “the angel’s share.” Distillers who want to produce very old whiskies must bottle it before the evaporation can bring the ABV down below 40 per cent — because beyond that point, the product is no longer legally considered whisky!

Peat/peated whisky

Peated whisky is a distinctive subcategory of whiskies, especially those from Scotland (and Ireland to a lesser extent).

Peat, a naturally occurring substance made of partially decomposed vegetation, has been traditionally used as a fuel source in Scotland and Ireland for centuries. When burnt, peat releases a dense, medicinal-smelling and smoky aroma that infuses the malted barley. Peated whiskies are known for their unique flavour profile that comes from the use of peat in the malting process.

Until around the 1950s, the pungent aroma of burnt peat was a common characteristic of all whiskies from these countries. Today a minority of Scotch and Irish whiskey brands still use peat (or include peated whiskies in their blends) but these brands often have cult followings. The use of peat can be extreme, in the case of single malt Scotch whiskies from the region of Islay. But historically, peat was often used in moderation — today, whisky lovers can still get a taste of this “hint of smoke” approach in balanced, traditionally styled whiskies like Royal Salute.

Did you know? The large majority of Scotch is not peated (despite whatever you might read elsewhere).


Fermentation is an early, critical step in the whisky-making process, taking place between the initial preparation of the grain (which includes any malting) and the subsequent distillation stage. This process transforms the sugary liquid extracted from the mashed grain into an alcoholic wash, setting the foundation for the whisky’s character and flavour.

After the grain — whether malted or unmalted — has been mashed, it produces a sweet, sugary liquid known as wort. The wort is then cooled to a temperature conducive for yeast; these living organisms consume the sugars in the wort, producing alcohol (ethanol, specifically) and other compounds, known as congeners. Congeners are flavourful, and crucial for the aroma and character of whisky,

Once the fermentation process is complete, and all the sugars have been converted into alcohol, the liquid is then referred to as “wash.” The wash, now containing alcohol and a spectrum of flavour compounds, is ready for the next stage in whisky production: distillation.


Distillation began centuries ago as the semi-secret practice of alchemists, moonshiners and bootleggers. Today, distillation has evolved into a modern, science-dependent process. It uses heating and cooling to separate alcohol (ethanol) from water, and from the undesirable chemical byproducts of fermentation (methanol, for example).

Whisky distillation can be performed using two primary types of stills: the copper pot still and the column still.

  • The copper pot still is squat and round in shape similar to an alembic. It’s used for batch distillation, which involves distilling spirit and then emptying the still to create a new batch. This method is traditionally associated with the production of single malt Scotch whisky and Irish pot still whiskey, which are often distilled twice (more typical for Scotch) or three times (more typical for Irish whiskey) to achieve the desired flavour profile.
  • The column still, resembling the shape of a chimney, allows for continuous distillation, making it more efficient for producing larger quantities of spirit. Whiskies distilled in a column still typically have a lighter flavour compared to those distilled in pot stills, which are known for their more robust taste.

Many distilleries offer tours that demonstrate the distillation process, providing insights into the craftsmanship involved in whisky production.

Note that many whisky producers create their final products by blending whiskies made using both distillation methods, achieving a balance of flavours and textures. Most expressions in the Jameson range, for example, are a blend of pot and column distilled whiskey. Same with blended Scotches like Chivas Regal, and some Canadian whiskies — Lot 40, for example.


After distillation, whisky is aged in barrels — usually for at least two or three years, depending on the country’s requirements, but often for much longer (see barrel/cask).

It is often said within the whisky industry that up to 70% of a whisky’s flavour is derived from barrel maturation. During this period, the whisky interacts with the wood, absorbing a multitude of compounds that contribute to its taste and aroma. Factors such as the type of wood, the previous contents of the barrel (if any), and the aging environment play pivotal roles in shaping the whisky’s character.

The duration of maturation and the choice of barrel have a profound impact on the whisky, with longer-aged spirits often exhibiting richer and more nuanced profiles. The interaction between the whisky and the wood allows the spirit to extract various flavours, such as vanilla, caramel, and spices, as well as tannins that add structure and depth.

Whiskies that undergo extended maturation, or those finished in special casks, are frequently among the rarest and most expensive in the world. The rarity and value of these whiskies stem from the unique characteristics imparted by the extended aging process and the distinctive influence of the finishing casks.

The pursuit of rare and aged whiskies is a passion for many in-the-know collectors, who seek out bottles for their exceptional qualities and the stories they tell. Rare Scotch and bourbon whiskies are particularly renowned for their desirability among collectors and enthusiasts, but rare Canadian and Irish whiskies also attract attention for the unique qualities that a long or unusual maturation can give them.

III. Enjoying and serving whisky

Tasting — a.k.a. ‘nosing’ — whisky

Tasting, or as it’s affectionately known among enthusiasts, “nosing” whisky, refers to the slow and deliberate meditation using multiple senses to enhance the enjoyment and appreciation of whisky. In essence, it means attentively sniffing the whisky to fully experience its aromatic complexity before sipping.

A whisky’s aroma can exhibit a wide array of scents, from common scents like oak, vanilla and smoke to more exotic notes of guava, bacon, or dill pickle. The main tools to assist nosing are:

  • Glassware: Whisky lovers often use specific types of glasses for nosing. The Glencairn glass, for example, is designed to concentrate and direct the whisky’s aromas, making them easier to detect and appreciate.
  • Water: Adding a splash of water to the whisky — a practice often referred to in guides on how to drink bourbon, how to drink scotch, or more generally how to taste whisky — can unlock even more aromas by reducing the alcohol’s overpowering effect on the nose. The addition of water can also change the whisky’s taste, through chemical reactions with compounds in the spirit.

Identifying the wide range of aromas in whisky is a skill that develops over time and with practice. There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to nosing whisky because no two people have the same subjective sensory experience of a whisky. What matters is the personal experience and the pleasure derived from exploring.

Did you know? The Glencairn glass, which has a shape designed to enhance the flavours and aromas of whisky, has only been marketed worldwide since 2000 but has quickly become the experts’ “standard” whisky tasting glass. There’s now a version specifically designed for Canadian whisky.

Serving whisky

There are a number of ways to enjoy whisky, none of which are “right” or “wrong.” Some of the most popular ways include:

  • Serving whisky “neat”: Enjoying whisky neat, or without anything added, is a traditional way to appreciate the spirit’s aroma, although some may find the scent of alcohol overpowering when trying whisky this way.
  • With water: Adding a splash of water to whisky can enhance the drinking experience by making some aromas more accessible and softening the spirit’s intensity. This method can reveal hidden flavours and is often recommended during tastings to explore a whisky’s full profile.
  • With ice (“on the rocks”): Serving whisky on the rocks, or with ice, offers a chilled and slightly diluted drink, making it more refreshing and often smoothing out the harsher edges of the spirit. However, excessive ice can overly dilute the whisky, muting its flavours. And some feel that the cold temperature can numb the tongue, lessening the sensory impact of the experience.
  • Mixing whisky: Mixing whisky with other beverages like club soda, cola, ginger ale, green tea, or even coconut water is a popular choice, especially with blended whiskies and bourbons. This creates a more approachable drinking experience, which may cater to a broader audience.

Serving whisky at home tastings

When hosting a whisky tasting, it’s important to accommodate different preferences. It’s recommended to offer a variety of serving options, including water, ice, and mixers, along with a choice of glassware, such as highball glasses, rocks glasses, and specialized tasting glasses such as the Glencairn glass. This ensures all guests can enjoy whisky in their preferred style.

Storing whisky

Whisky, unlike some other alcoholic beverages, is straightforward to store, and generally hardy stuff.

There are, however, a few guidelines to ensure your whiskies enjoy a long life:

  • Avoid direct light: The sun’s rays can, over time, degrade the condition and flavour of a whisky.
  • Keep bottles upright: Whisky bottles should never be stored on their side.
  • Store in cool conditions: Storing whisky at either room or cellar temperature (around 10-15 degrees Celsius) is fine; 15 to 20 degrees is ideal. Don’t store it in the fridge or freezer.
  • Avoid excessive humidity: Hot, humid whisky can expand and damage the cork seal. Dry storage is ideal.
  • Keep whisky sealed after opening: Consider swapping the cork for a specialized bottle stopper, or store in a lead-free decanter with a tight seal.
  • Once a bottle is opened, turn the bottle on its side every few months: This is to remoisten the cork so it doesn’t get dry and crumbly, which can cause the whisky to escape via evaporation.
  • and decant it into a smaller container or finish it promptly after it’s halfway done (or more). Perhaps you’ve got a special (but opened) bottle set aside for important celebrations. To preserve its quality over an extended period, it’s advisable to transfer your whisky into a smaller bottle when about half of it remains or less. This will ensure it maintains the flavour and character that made you fall in love with it.
Did you know? Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton’s whisky stash famously survived in a deliciously drinkable state after being stuck in some ice for a century.

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Upcoming Whisky Releases, from the Best Bourbons to Rare Scotch

If you’re here, you’re interested in the most delicious, exciting and rare spirits. Whether you’re an expert collector or just learning, you’re always on the lookout for great new products to try and bottles to add to your collection. 

The Drop Collective’s here to help you stay on top of new and upcoming releases in Canada. From award-winning Irish whiskeys and Scotches to sought-after bourbons, this page gives you a heads up about new launches and releases that will only be available here for a limited time. (Which makes them great gifts for whisky lovers, by the way.)

The list reflects upcoming releases for Ontario, but other provinces often have similar releases and dates. So check your local liquor stores if you live elsewhere in Canada. 

Jump to: 

  • Available now
  • What’s dropping soon
  • Coming later this year

The list will be updated regularly. But if you want to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the excitement, join the Drop Collective — Canada’s club for whisky lovers. By joining, you’ll receive emails that give you the drop on limited releases, promotions and exclusive content from distilleries producing some of the world’s finest spirits.

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Available now

Redbreast Lustau Edition

The Drop Collective’s take: There’s probably no Irish whiskey brand that has won more converts to the single pot still style than Redbreast. And no sherry bodega (that is, sherry producer) has done more to persuade modern audiences to try the old-fashioned Spanish wine style than Lustau. Now Lustau and Redbreast have joined forces to create this richly spiced and aromatic sherry-matured whiskey. Talk about a power couple. (Learn more about Redbreast Lustau here.)

Awards and accolades: Spirits Business Global Irish Whiskey Masters — Master (top medal) 2023; 2023 International Spirits Challenge Gold; World Whiskies Awards Category Winner 2023

Who should try it: Fans of sherry-matured whiskies, and of single pot still Irish whiskeys. 

How to enjoy it: Like all sherried drams, Redbreast Lustau really comes alive with a splash of water. If you’ve ever imagined pairing an Irish whiskey with tapas, you can’t do better than one aged in Oloroso sherry butts. 

When: Available now

Yellow Spot Whiskey 

Limited time release — e-commerce exclusive

The Drop Collective’s take: Among the Spot Whiskeys, it’s been said that if Green Spot is reminiscent of green apples, then Yellow Spot calls red apples to mind. Maturing for 12 years in a combination of bourbon, sherry and Spanish malaga wine casks has also infused this single pot still Irish whiskey with a savoury nose of mown hay, red bell pepper, clove and nutmeg, with the profile sweetening toward honey, milk chocolate and crème brûlée on the palate. We expect you’ll like them apples. (Learn more about Yellow Spot here.)

Awards and accolades: Gold Medal, Irish Whiskey Awards 2023; Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2017, 99 points and Chairman’s trophy; Gold Medal, International Spirits Challenge 2017

Why you should rush to get this now: The vibrant, spicy character of Yellow Spot helps make it a unique proposition, even among other Irish single pot still whiskeys. And once again, if you’re collecting Spot Whiskeys, now’s your chance to try to collect ’em all. 

How to enjoy it: Take advantage of Yellow Spot’s lively sharpness by enjoying it as an aperitif. In a tasting lineup, its bright character makes it a great choice as thefirstsingle pot still whiskey to try (so you can pick up the subtlety with a fresh palate). 

When: Now. Get it here.

Aberlour 14 Year Old

The Drop Collective’s take: The youngest whisky in the Aberlour range nevertheless shows great maturity at 14 years old, with a rich spiciness and a soft, jammy and creamy finish — but also youthful aromas of ripe cherry and blackcurrant. 

Awards and accolades: Double Gold, International Wine and Spirits Competition 2020; Gold, International Spirits Challenge 2020

Who should try it: Anyone looking for a splendidly balanced single malt Scotch on the rich side of the flavour spectrum. 

How to enjoy it: Ideally, alongside other Aberlour expressions for the sake of a fun comparison. Or pair it with a sweet treat containing toffee or caramel (even just a simple chocolate bar — why not?).  

When: Available now at select stores. 

Royal Salute 21 Year Old Lunar New Year Edition

The Drop Collective’s take: The Lunar New Year may have passed, but you can keep celebrating the Year of the Dragon with this special release of Royal Salute’s 21 Year Old Signature Blend. Royal Salute partnered with multi-award-winning Chinese illustrator Feifei Ruan to create a special edition box aflame with floral bouquets; it houses a hand-crafted blue flagon to contain the liquid. 

Awards and accolades: International Wine & Spirit Competition Silver medal (93 points), 2020; International Spirits Challenge Double Gold, 2021

What it adds to your collection: Created in 1953 to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Royal Salute brings the understated elegance of blended Scotches steeped in tradition — expect sweet pear and autumn flowers on the nose, a hint of sherry, a wisp of smoke. 

How to enjoy it: This is an experience to savour — say, on the rocks with the dessert course at a dinner party with close friends and family. 

When: Available now.

Jameson Single Pot Still Five Oak Cask Release

The Drop Collective’s take: You probably know Jameson as a smooth-tasting blended Irish whiskey, but every bottle contains some pot distilled whiskey to give it a robust backbone. Now Jameson Single Pot Still gives you a chance to try the rich, complex and alluring pot still component all by itself. This release has been aged in three different types of virgin oak (Irish, European and American), in addition to ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks

Awards and accolades: “A scintillatingly spicy and engaging single pot still whiskey with ample flavor and a youthful strut. 90 points — gold medal.” —

Who should try it: Fans of Jameson who are curious to know how it may have tasted back in the 1960s and earlier, when most Irish whiskeys were all pot distilled.  

How to enjoy it: As the pinnacle of a tasting across the Jameson range. 

When: Available now.

Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea Bourbon

The Drop Collective’s take: Bourbon must be distilled in the United States, but barrel maturation? Well, there’s latitude there. This gave Jefferson’s Master Blender Trey Zoeller a brain wave (as it were): Why not try aging bourbon at sea? Here’s what happened: The constant motion churns the whiskey, increasing its interaction with the wood of the barrel. The temperature changes from place to place during each batch’s unique voyage also accelerate maturation. All in all, the ocean journey gives this bourbon a whiff of the maritime — sea spray in the nose and salt in the finish.

Awards and accolades: “Complex, medium-long finish evoking nuances of butterscotch, vanilla and corn, corn cake with salted butter, and caramelized banana. An unpretentious, sweet, corn-forward sipper with vanilla and baking spice highlights. 94 points — gold medal.” —

What it adds to your collection: Who doesn’t like a bourbon with a backstory? A tale of the sea, no less? 

How to enjoy it: With a splash of water, of course! And thanks to its salted caramel and buttered popcorn aromas, Jefferson’s Ocean Aged makes a fine sipper for movie night (Master and Commander again, anyone?). 

When: Available now in select stores. 

The Glenlivet 12 Year Old 200 Year Anniversary Edition

The Drop Collective’s take: A storied Speyside single malt Scotch celebrates two centuries of excellence with a special version of its popular 12-year-old. For this anniversary, The Glenlivet 12 is presented at 43% ABV and is exclusively aged in American oak (rather than the usual 40%and a mix of European and American oak). Translation? Expect a little extra dose of vibrant fruit and honeycomb on the nose as you raise a toast to 200 wonderful years. 

Awards and accolades: International Wine & Spirit Competition Bronze 2023; World Whiskies Award 2023 Silver (both for original 12 Year Old expression)

What it adds to your collection: A one-time-only, special version of a widely beloved single malt. 

How to enjoy it: The Glenlivet’s mellow flavour profile — creamy vanilla, orange marmalade, hazelnut praline — is as classic as classic gets. That a can’t-miss gift for just about any whisky lover. 

When: Available now.

Redbreast Tawny Port

The Drop Collective’s take: Redbreast matures its Irish whiskeys in a combination of bourbon and oloroso sherry casks, a combination that gives the brand its signature sweet richness. This edition is finished in tawny port casks, which enhances its luscious aromas of buttered pastry, caramelized almonds and seasoned oak. 

Awards and accolades: One of the world’s best Irish whiskeys gets even better with a new port cask finish … 96 points.” — Robb Report

Who should try it: Fans of the richness of Redbreast who are up for something new, and even richer. 

How to enjoy it: Try it during a cheese course, just as you would with a fine glass of port. 

When: Available now.

Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength

The Drop Collective’s take: Another Redbreast? Yes! It wouldn’t be spring without a lot of robins. The Cask Strength expression gives us a glimpse of our beloved bird in its natural, full-flavoured state. Redbreast Cask Strength 12 Year Old is matured in bourbon-seasoned American oak barrels and Oloroso sherry-seasoned Spanish oak butts, just like the popular regular-strength 12-year-old. This time the nose is even fruitier (with dried figs, dates and raisins) and the palate oilier and spicier, all leading up to a satisfyingly dry, oaky, spicy finish. (Learn more about Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength here.)

Awards and accolades: “You feel more Irish with every sip. — 95 points, Editor’s Choice.” — Whisky Advocate

Who should try it: Anyone who has loved Redbreast 12 and wants to experience the intensity of a cask strength version. 

How to enjoy it: As the coup de grâce at the end of an all-Irish whiskey tasting (or even an all-Redbreast tasting). Or with plenty of water as an accompaniment to dessert. 

When: Available now.

Dropping soon

Rabbit Hole Heigold

The Drop Collective’s take: Appearing for the first time in Ontario, Rabbit Hole’s Heigold is the award-winning Kentucky distillery’s “high-rye” bourbon, meaning it has a large proportion of rye in the mash bill — and a thrilling prickle of pepper spice on the palate. Baking spices, silky butterscotch and hints of bright citrus round out a boldly delicious straight bourbon whiskey.  

Awards and accolades: Category Gold, Best Kentucky Small Batch Bourbon, World Whiskies Awards 2022; Platinum, SIP Awards 2021; Gold medal, Barleycorn Awards 2021; 92 Points — Whisky Advocate

What it adds to your collection: Rabbit Hole Heigold is a great choice for bourbon lovers looking to explore brands that belong to Kentucky’s new wave of craft distillers. Meanwhile, Heigold will still feel a little familiar for Canadian whisky fans, thanks to its spicy rye flavours.

How to enjoy it: While it’s great as a sipper neat or on the rocks, Heigold’s 47.5%ABV makes it particularly well-suited to cocktails. (Perhaps you know the old debate — should  manhattans and old fashioneds be made with bourbon or rye? You can get the best of both worlds with Heigold.) 

When: Coming soon. Sign up for The Drop Collective to get details on this release!

Redbreast 21 Year Old

The Drop Collective’s take: Now here’s a splendid bird to track down. The second-oldest expression in the Redbreast range (and the oldest you’ll find in Canada), Redbreast 21 takes this single pot still to new levels of depth of flavour, starting with fruit (tropical as well as dried) and finishing with a long, oaky finish and silky mouthfeel. (Learn more about Redbreast 21 Year Old here.)

Awards and accolades: Winner, World’s Best Pot Still Whiskey, World Whiskies Awards, 2020; Gold Medal, Irish Single Pot Still Super-Premium, 2020, Irish Whisky Masters 

Who should try it: Those who want to experience the pinnacle of Irish whiskey-making, especially in the form of a satisfyingly lavish single pot still whiskey.

How to enjoy it: Slowly, to savour the sheer flavour density on offer as you meditate on its complexity. And invite a friend over — as the distillers say, “The best way to enjoy a glass of Redbreast is with someone else.” 

When: Coming soon. Sign up for The Drop Collective to get details on this release!

Blue Spot Whiskey

Limited time release — e-commerce exclusive

The Drop Collective’s take: You may know that the Spot Whiskeys are fine, complex single pot still Irish whiskeys. But Green Spot, Yellow Spot, Blue Spot — it can be hard to keep track. We’re here to help: Blue Spot is the cask strength one (bottled at 58.7%). It’s the one aged for seven years, matured in a mix of bourbon, sherry and madeira casks for a heady mix of spices and fruity complexity. It’s the one you’re going to show off if you’re lucky and smart enough to snag a bottle during the availability window. (Learn more about Blue Spot here.)

Awards and accolades:  Beverage Tasting Institute Top ranked World Whisky 2023 — 99 points; Spirits Business Global Irish Whiskey Masters — Master (top medal) 2023

Why you should rush to get this now: Blue Spot is revered for its exuberantly fruity and spicy aromas at what Forbes called “outstanding value” for money. And you’ll need Blue Spot if you’re trying to collect all the Spot Whiskeys … 

How to enjoy it: Generous dilution is the way to go with cask strength whiskeys to bring down the alcohol level. We recommend spring water, but ice and/or soda water will also help bring out the best in Blue Spot. And if you’re tasting a few Irish whiskeys, leave the cask strength for last so your taste buds aren’t overwhelmed before you get to the lighter stuff! 

Where to get it: In Ontario, it’s an LCBO online exclusive.

When: Coming soon. Sign up for The Drop Collective to get details on this release!

Red Spot Whiskey

Limited time release — e-commerce exclusive

The Drop Collective’s take: At 15 years old, Red Spot is the longest-matured of the Spot Whiskeys — and in many ways it’s the deepest and most complex. Like the other Spot Whiskeys, it’s aged in a mix of sherry butts and bourbon casks; Red Spot alone also has Sicilian marsala wine casks in the mix. For fans of the Spot Whiskeys and competition judges around the world, the resulting ripe fruit sweetness has proven to be a winning formula. (Learn more about Red Spot here.)

Awards and accolades: Winner, Single Pot Still 12 Year and Over, Irish Whiskey Awards 2023; Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2023, 97 points and Chairman’s trophy

Why you should rush to get this: Red Spot makes a fine centrepiece for any Irish whiskey collection. It’s surprisingly affordable for what it is. And again, if you’re trying to gather all the Spot Whiskeys, you’ll definitely want to make sure you’ve got Red. 

How to enjoy it: Invite over your whisky geek friends. Many have tried the Green Spot. Some have tried Yellow or Blue. But Red? That’s a rarer whiskey for sure. A chance to taste it is an occasion in itself.

Where to get it: In Ontario, it’s an LCBO online exclusive.

When: Coming soon. Sign up for The Drop Collective to get details on this release!

Aberlour 18 Year Old

The Drop Collective’s take: When the label says “Speyside single malt whisky,” you know you’re in for a classic ride. And in the case of Aberlour 18, the experience is extra classic thanks to a double cask maturation that emphasizes sherry — just like the Speyside malts of decades ago. That gives you a whisky that’s structured, deep and spicy, with licorice-like tang above rich raisin and toffee. Stay classic. (And learn more about Aberlour 18 here.)

Awards and accolades: “Bright and pronounced caramel in many forms, from rich caramel chews to caramel pudding. Then a spice backbone jumps out … With or without water, it finishes long and strong with a hint of pepper — 92 points.” — Whisky Advocate

Who should try it: Lovers of rich, sweetish, full-tasting single malt Scotches — especially the many admirers of Aberlour A’bunadh who may not have sampled the distillery’s other delicious offerings.  

How to enjoy it: Sometimes a big meal calls for a big-tasting whisky to cap it off — Aberlour 18 will serve very nicely there. Try it neat before adding water, to breathe in the full range of spicy aromas from the sherry maturation. 

When: Coming soon. Sign up for The Drop Collective to get details on this release!

Aberlour A’bunadh Alba

The Drop Collective’s take: Say “cask strength” to an expert-level Scotch taster and they’ll probably picture a bottle of Aberlour A’bunadh (pronounced “a-boon-ACK”), a whisky with a well-deserved cult following. (Is any other Scotch whisky distillery best known for a cask strength edition? Probably not.) Now there’s a newer edition of A’bunadh to try: A’bunadh Alba. “Alba” means white — as in, American white oak — and it signifies that this edition is matured in American oak barrels rather than the sherry of the original. That means a lighter colour and more vanilla, cinnamon and pepper. (Learn more about Aberlour A’bunadh Alba here.)

Awards and accolades: “If you are a fan of Aberlour A’bunadh … you should certainly give Alba a taste..” — Forbes

Who should try it: Admirers of the original Aberlour A’bunadh, obviously, but also bourbon fans with a curiosity for Scotch. The American oak imparts aromas and flavours they’ll find comfortingly familiar.

How to enjoy it: Aberlour A’bunadh Alba should express itself best in a rocks glass with just a small splash of water, just as you would enjoy the bourbons that it may remind you of. 

When: Coming soon.Sign up for The Drop Collective to get details on this release!

Aberlour 16 Year Old

The Drop Collective’s take: If Aberlour 14 is a balance of youth and age, Aberlour 16 Year Old is fully mature — arguably beyond its years. Deep, full and complex with richly scented floral and sweet raisin aromas, it boasts a long, warm, spicy finish. (Learn more about Aberlour 16 Year Old here.)

Awards and accolades: Gold medal, World Whiskies Awards 2017; Second place, Best Single Malt Scotch 16-17 Years Old, International Whisky Competition

Who should try it: Anyone looking for a beautifully long-aged, full-tasting single malt Scotch at an attractive price point. 

How to enjoy it: As part of a toast — because trying an old Scotch is always a celebration. Or as your slow-sipper for a night of conversation next to a fire.

When: Coming soon. Sign up for The Drop Collective to get details on this release!

Redbreast Bird Feeder Bottle

The Drop Collective’s take: For the fourth year in a row, Redbreast is raising funds for BirdLife International with a limited-edition bottle of Redbreast 12 Year Old housed in an intricately designed festive casing that transforms into a bird feeder. Proceeds from each sale go toward BirdLife International’s ongoing efforts to reverse the worrying trends in the global bird population. 

Awards and accolades: Trophy for Best Innovation in Packaging at the The Drinks Business Awards.

What it adds to your collection: It’s a great addition to both your whiskey cabinet and your garden. 

How to enjoy it: While bird watching, of course. 

When: Coming soon. Sign up for The Drop Collective to get details on this release!

Dropping later this year

The Glenlivet 40 Year Old and The Glenlivet 55 Year Old

The Drop Collective’s take: “There are mysteries of maturation. Things that we don’t understand.” That was former Glenlivet master blender Jim Cryle talking in 2004 about super-aged whiskies — in that case, an earlier version of The Glenlivet 40 Year Old. A new 40-year-old and a new 55-year-old Glenlivet are coming soon to Canada. You may think you know Speyside single malts — especially ones as widely beloved as The Glenlivet — but a mysterious transformation happens in the cask when a whisky is this old. Vanilla turns to marzipan, the fruits become dried yet somehow still vibrant, oak becomes warm and leathery … To find out for yourself, you’ll just have to become one of the lucky few to experience the upcoming Glenlivet 40 and 55 Year Old.

Who should try it: Collectors of the finest, rarest and longest-aged whiskies. People who are on The Glenlivet’s long list of committed fans. 

How to enjoy it: In a moment of celebration at a critical juncture of your life. You can’t try a whisky of this age without a wistful reflection on the nature of time. (Where were you 40 years ago? Or 55? If anywhere.) You’ll also want to share a unique tasting experience like this with those near and dear to you. 

When: Coming soon. Sign up for The Drop Collective to get details on this release!

Royal Salute 21 Year Old Miami Polo Edition 

The Drop Collective’s take: Royal Salute promises that if you’ve ever spent a day at a polo event, this blended Scotch whisky will bring back warm memories. And if you haven’t? (Gasp! Tsk tsk.) Well, you’re still in for a lusciously old-school whisky, one in a series of editions that Royal Salute has created to celebrate the spirit of polo around the world. Check back at this page later for details still to be released for the upcoming Miami Edition.

Awards and accolades: (Praise for the earlier Beach Polo Edition:)“Rich notes of waxed mahogany, old leather books, sultanas and a dash of passionfruit. … A whirlwind finish, with complex flavours bursting through eventually — 8.8/10. Recommended.” — Whisky Magazine

Who should try it: Collectors of rare and unusual whiskies. Royal Salute’s polo edition whiskies are presented in unique ceramic flagons that would look wonderful in any library — or polo club. 

How to enjoy it: Royal Salute described the related Beach Polo Edition like so: The nose opens with a nostalgic mix of salt and smoke, evoking summer evenings of bonfires and fireworks.” Summer nights it is, then — with or without a polo match.

When: Coming soon. Sign up for The Drop Collective to get details on this release!

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Think inside the barrel

Think inside the barrel.

Distillers, brewers and of course wine makers understand the power of wood barrel aging. Done right, the results are almost alchemic. Transforming potential into something great, dare we say magical.

The makers of J.P. Wiser’s absolutely recognize the power of the barrel. So much so that they tripled down on the process for their incredibly smooth, full, and balanced J.P. Wiser’s Triple Barreled 10-Year-Old Canadian Whisky. So, let’s get into it. Let’s talk wood.

This unique corn and rye distillate spent a decade moving from barrel to barrel to barrel. Growing ever richer, darker, and fuller bodied by the year. What makes J.P. Wiser’s Triple Barreled 10-Year-Old Canadian Whisky so special however, is the selection of wood barrel that was used.

New white oak wood barrels

This is where J.P. Wiser’s Triple Barreled gets its smoky melt-in-your mouth vanilla and caramel notes (and do we detect traces of coconut?) This is where J.P. Wiser’s latest really developed and matured over the years inside.

Once-used American bourbon barrels

Lucky for us, American bourbon making casks can only be used once, so we’re happy to take them in and to put those seasoned barrels to work. You can taste and smell the southern honey, green apple and pears imparted on J.P. Wiser’s Triple Barreled 10-Year-Old Canadian Whisky by the oak.

Used Canadian whisky barrels

Last but most definitely not least J.P. Wiser’s Triple Barreled 10-Year-Old Canadian Whisky aged and finished in used Canadian whisky casks – oak for the most part. This is where both the fragrance and fullness you enjoy with this whisky are perfected.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly which barrel variety gives J.P. Wiser’s Triple Barreled 10-Year-Old Canadian Whisky it’s unique taste and distinctive aroma. We will leave that one to science, but what is certain is that this ten-year-old has aged nicely and offers the relaxed drinker pure pleasure in any setting.


A refreshing new take on single malt Scotch whisky: The Glenlivet 14 Year Old

“The beauty of the whisky lover is that their palate is always evolving, searching for the next flavour experience.”

That quote comes from someone who would know: The Glenlivet Master Distiller Alan Winchester. He was talking about the curiosity that drives the whisky lover — the hunt for new flavours, new expressions, new experiences.

Curiosity is the beast that Alan was feeding when he created the latest Glenlivet expression that’s reaching the Canadian market.

The Glenlivet 14-Year-Old is one of the most innovative releases so far from The Glenlivet, a Speyside Scotch whisky distillery that boasts a deep history (but doesn’t rest on it). Finished in ex-Cognac casks, the expression adds a tantalizing layer of complex aromas to the tried-and-true Glenlivet experience of a smooth, sophisticated dram. Why are we so excited about it? Keep reading.

What’s so special about ex-Cognac casks?

First, how about a primer/refresher on the importance of oak barrels to the flavour of Scotch whisky? As many readers will know, Scotch is aged in second-hand casks. (In contrast to certain other whiskies that must be aged in new barrels only — notably bourbon.)

The Scotch industry has traditionally aged its newly distilled spirit in casks that it sourced from bourbon country in the United States and the sherry bodegas of Spain. As the newly distilled spirit is put in the casks to rest, it takes on the flavours and aromas of whatever used to be in the barrel. So, for example, if you age Scotch in an ex-bourbon barrel, it has the potential to borrow the pineapple, coconut and vanilla aromas that we associate with American whisky. Sherry barrels (known as “butts”) give us ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and dried fruit.

In this century, Scottish distillers have been mixing things up a bit. Whiskies aged in Caribbean rum casks are becoming more and more established, as more people discover their rich fruitiness.

Now it’s time to experiment with Cognac cask aging. The Glenlivet 14 is initially aged in a conventional way, in American/sherry casks (first fill, for those who want to get technical), before being “finished” in ex-Cognac casks.

And that’s where things get a bit unusual, and super interesting. Cognac producers use barrels made from two different oak species (quercus pedunculata and quercus sessiliflora, in case it comes up at trivia night). Working together, these French oaks will impart tannins and spice to a spirit, and have a softness and subtlety that will remind you of, well, Cognac.

So what does The Glenlivet 14 taste like?

Delicious, and uniquely so. On the nose, there’s a sweet start of honey and apricot jam, with notes of cinnamon toast and licorice. The classic Glenlivet smoothness is the first thing you notice on the palate, then succulent mandarins in syrup, poached pears and chocolate-dipped raisins.

Scotch and Cognac — a match made in heaven? Yes, it turns out. The Glenlivet 14 boasts an intense, bold and unconventional flavour profile that could inspire you to think of fresh ways to enjoy Scotch whisky. And we can help with that …

Three refreshing ways to enjoy The Glenlivet 14

First, you could simply serve it on the rocks. Controversial? Maybe. There are purists who insist that neat or a splash of water are the only ways to savour a single malt. But where’s the fun in boxing yourself in?

Especially with summer upon us, give yourself permission to chill your Glenlivet 14 down to patio temperature by serving it on ice (hint: See if it brings out the licorice notes). And for extra fun, why not serve it in a brandy snifter as a nod to its French roots?

Second option: Try The Glenlivet 14 in a whisky smash.A smash is essentially a julep, just more casual — as in, easy to make if you have intermediate bartending skills.


  • 2 parts The Glenlivet 14 Year Old
  • 3/4 part simple syrup
  • 3 lemon wedges
  • 4 mint leaves
  • mint sprig garnish (save the nicest-looking mint for decoration)

Method: Muddle lemon in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add other ingredients (except mint garnish) and ice. Seal and shake well. Strain into a glass filled with fresh crushed ice. Add the mint sprig as a garnish.

Third and finally: To serve a larger crowd, make a Glenlivet punch. This recipe can scale up or down to whatever size your gathering may be, and remember that freshly squeezed lemon juice is the thing to use in mixed drinks — never the stuff from the plastic lemon.


  • 3 parts The Glenlivet 14 Year Old
  • 1 part orange juice
  • 1 part lemon juice
  • 1 part maple syrup
  • 1 part ginger ale
  • 48 dashes Angostura Bitters

Method: Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl with ice. Garnish with lemon wheels, orange half wheels, and grated cinnamon and cinnamon sticks.

Five Quick Questions with Kaveh Zamanian, founder of Rabbit Hole Distillery

Each bourbon is a special experience. A sensory delight. But is each one unique? That depends on how you look at it.

Most bourbons are made from the same handful of mash bills — in other words, there’s a few tried-and-true grain recipes that almost everyone uses (as fans of America’s flagship whiskey already know). That’s all well and good, but when Kaveh Zamanian founded Rabbit Hole Distillery, he wanted something different. He brought a desire to add unique flavours and expressions to the tradition.

Thanks to Kaveh’s passion and distinct approach to whiskey-making, we think Rabbit Hole is the most exciting example of the new wave of Kentucky craft distillers. And the great news for Drop Collective members? Rabbit Hole whiskeys are now available in Canada.

In our latest video, Kaveh talks about his drive to create unique whiskeys, and how Rabbit Hole Cavehill embodies that purpose.

Watch now and enjoy meeting Kaveh and Rabbit Hole.

The Hiram Walker Distillery, Ontario

Hiram Walker & Sons distillery in Windsor, Ontario. In operation for more than 160 years, this historic facility produces some of the very best whiskies in Canada, and has been awarded Distillery of the Year by the Canadian Whisky Awards for the last four years in a row.

When you wet your lips against a glass of Hiram Walker & Sons whisky, you’re not just drinking a multiple Distillery of the Year-winning blend.

You’re taking a sip of history.

At Hiram Walker & Sons, tradition blends with innovation. Since its foundation in the 1850s, the Hiram Walker & Sons method is a tried and tested one. Selecting the highest quality grains. Fermenting the corn, barley, rye, and wheat separately. Distilling all the different liquids at their individual boiling points.

Experience the story of Canadian whisky – from its vibrant history to the craftsmanship and process behind making it. Sample some of the award-winning whiskies (J.P. Wiser’s Deluxe, Lot No. 40 Rye Whisky, Pike Creek 10 Year | Rum Barrel Finish, J.P. Wiser’s 15 Year Old).

To help us plan future incentives for Drop Collective members, we’d like to know how many Drop Collective members intend to visit distilleries in the near future. Please let us know by answering our poll.

Would you be interested in experience a tour to the Hiram Walker & Sons distillery in Windsor, Ontario?

Would you be interested in The Drop Collective Special Tours to our partner distilleries?

Hiram Walker distillery Tour Photo
Hiram Walker distillery Tour Photo

Irish whiskey: Five quick Qs with our man in Midleton

Let’s imagine someone hands you a glass of an exquisite Irish whiskey like Redbreast 27 Year Old. How should you enjoy it? Neat? With water? Uh … splash of cola?

For this and other Irish whiskey questions, we asked the biggest expert around. We’ve enlisted Kevin O’Gorman to deliver the straight goods on Irish whiskey, continuing the Irish whiskey exploration that we began last month.

Kevin is steeped in Irish whiskey: He started working at Midleton Distillery in 1998 and worked his way up, finally landing the top job at Ireland’s biggest distillery last year. His role now is to protect and continue the storied heritage of legendary brands including Jameson, Powers, the Spot Whiskeys and, yes, Redbreast. (And who wouldn’t love that job?)

Watch the video and enjoy Kevin’s honest, no-blarney take on Irish whiskey.

Make St. Paddy’s Special with Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey

Ireland produces a lot of great whiskey, from beautifully balanced blends to surprisingly complex single grain whiskeys. Yet for some superfans of Irish whiskey, single pot still will always be the Emerald Isle’s brightest jewel.

Single pot still is robust, it’s complex, and it’s the only kind of whisk(e)y** that can exclusively be made in Ireland. It’s as Irish as a Donegal sweater — and as thick and warming as one, too.

(**Note — we add an “e” when talking about whiskey from Ireland.)

Whether you’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day or just continuing your never-ending exploration this March, we’re giving Drop Collective members a chance to ask Midleton Master Distiller Kevin O’Gorman a question about Irish whiskey this month — see the end of this article for details. And in the meantime, with some single pot still …

Single pot still: What you need to know

It’s labelled “single” because it’s made at a single distillery. The “pot still” part comes from the fact that the whiskey is distilled in a traditional copper pot kettle (like single malts, bourbons and some Canadian whiskies).

What’s unique for pot still whiskey is the mash bill. It’s at least 95% barley, and at least 30% of the barley must be malted — in other words, soaked and allowed to germinate, and then toasted in a kiln to bring out toasty and nutty flavours.

But the rest of the barley that goes into the still is left “green” or unmalted. This is where single pot still differs from single malt. And it’s where the real fun begins. This handy cheat sheet should help you keep it all straight …

Irish whiskey: the cheat sheet

Most people find the green barley gives single pot still a “bigger” flavour than other Irish whiskeys. You also get some bright, sharp fruity overtones like lemon, apple and pineapple. All in all, these whiskeys pack a wallop. Which makes them ideal for cocktails, too. Try a Redbreast old fashioned and see for yourself.

Speaking of old-fashioned, all Irish whiskey was made this way until the 1950s or so. The style’s been making a comeback recently, thanks in massive part to Redbreast and Green Spot, two brands from the New Midleton Distillery in County Cork.

A few great Irish whiskeys are making some seasonal appearances in Canada for March. At The Drop Collective, a little red birdie tells us there’s something especially special in store this year …

Exploring Irish Whiskey


Redbreast 27 Year Old arrives in Canada

There’s no better way to fall under the spell of single pot still Irish whiskey than with the oldest permanent expression in the Redbreast range, now arriving in Canada.

Redbreast 27 starts with ripe and exotic fruits on the nose — mango, blood orange, pineapple — along with aromatic, oily herbs and woody spices. Rich and ripe on the palate, it evolves to cherry menthol, nutmeg, toasted oak and more.

This is a complex and special whiskey that really shows off not only the huge flavours that are characteristic of single pot still Irish whiskey, but also the beautiful balance of fruit and wood that a master distiller can achieve by employing a mix of ex-bourbon, sherry and ruby port casks.

Speaking of master distillers …

Ask Kevin (Redbreast Master Distiller Kevin O’Gorman, that is) 

We’re giving Drop Collective members an exclusive opportunity to throw some burning Irish whiskey questions at our man at Midleton, Master Distiller Kevin O’Gorman. Pop a question in the comments section on our Instagram and get ready for some straight talk about Irish whiskey — .