Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old Whisky
Review: Gibson’s Finest 12 year Old Canadian Whisky (91.5/100)
a Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on August 28, 2011
On November 15, 2009 I completed one of my early Canadian Whisky Reviews. It was for the Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old Whisky. Recently I was sent a new sample bottle by the brand’s media company (Jesson + Company), and I have decided to revisit this Gibson’s Whisky to provide a more rounded out review, and to see if perhaps the blend has undergone any noticeable changes since my earlier review.
As a little background, Gibson’s Finest Whisky is produced from of two sources: a base grain whisky (which would be a corn-based column still whisky) and a combination of rye based flavouring whiskies which contain rye and malted barley (distilled by a single column still and a pot still). It is bottled at 40 % abv. When aging their whisky, Gibson’s Finest uses a variety of barrels, ex-bourbon barrels, new oak barrels, etc. The ratio of each barrel-type used can differ from batch to batch because the whisky is blended to a specific taste profile rather than to a specific barrel regimen.
In 2002, the Gibson’s Finest brand was purchased by William Grant & Sons who acquired the brand to strengthen their position in the Canadian spirits marketplace. William Grant & Sons has moved the production of Gibson’s Whisky from the Schenley plant in Valleyfield, Quebec to the Hiram Walker Distillery in Windsor, Ontario. It is this move from one distillery to another which causes me to believe the taste profile may have changed recently. I do not believe any change would have significantly altered the taste profile, but I am curious.
In the Bottle 4.5/5
Jesson + Company have been great with supplying me with background information and J-Pegs for my review. The J-Peg they sent me for Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old Whisky is shown to the left. As you can see from the bottle shot, the presentation is solid. The squat bottle is a nice change from the taller barroom style bottles which are so prevalent in this category. The label is attractive, and the entire look is solid.
In the Glass 9/10
In the glass the whisky has a golden amber colour which shows me light flashes of orange in the light. A tilt and slow swirl of the glass reveals a lightly oily sheen on the inside which stubbornly gives up droopy leglets that slowly slide down the side of the glass forming long slender legs.
The initial nose from the glass is of honey and fruit filled rye spices, some light butterscotch, and a vague dry oakiness. As the glass breathes, ripened fields of rye grain and corn seem to waft up out of the glass. I can sense the cornstalks and rows of freshly swathed grain. Sawdust, chaff, and then bits of orange peel bring to my nose a sense of dry spiciness that is appealing. As the glass decants the aroma becomes richer, and soon I also sense impressions of canned fruits (peaches, apricots and pears) joining the fray adding some sweetness and even more complexity.
Much later after my sample glass is almost empty, the last few drops of whisky are just oozing caramel and baking spice. Yumm!
In the Mouth 55/60
Fruity rye spice and oaky tannins lead out giving the whisky a spicy-warm mouth feel. I taste hints of tobacco and orange peel which although mildly bitter are also very complimentary to the sweeter caramel and treacle flavours that accompany them. The rye spices are throwing me bits of ginger and cardamom and riding under all of this is a little honeycomb and corn. I am finding the flavour much more complex than I remember from my previous review. It is hard to decide whether the whisky has gotten better, or whether my memory has gotten worse. (I read my old tasting notes and decided the whisky has improved significantly.)
In the Throat 13.5/15
The finish is mildly dry and mildly sweet in a paradox which features warm rye spices and oak providing the dryness and the sweeter caramel and butterscotch providing the sweetness. A satisfying warmth of cinnamon and ginger keep the back of the throat warm as you reach for another sip. I am noticing a little vanilla which was there all the time but was not identified until the finale.
The Afterburn 9/10
If you read my older review (see bottom of the page) you will see that I found the Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old Whisky much more complex the second time around. In particular the oak was much more apparent. It could be that my palate has become more attuned to small variations in flavour, or it could be that the blend really has changed. A clue can be found in the media information sent to me where the company admits that there was product shortages after the brand was purchased by William Grant & Sons and moved from the Schenley plant in Valleyview, Quebec to the Hiram Walker Distillery in Windsor, Ontario. My previous review may have been from a bottle produced during this time period.
My theory is not conclusive. and what ever the reasons for the changes I have noticed, I am not complaining. I found the Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old very much to my liking almost two years ago. I like it even more today!
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
The Old Fashioned Cocktail
1 1/2 oz Gibson’s Finest 12-Year-Old Canadian Whisky
1 tsp simple syrup
1 dash bitters
2 large ice cubes
1 twist of lemon or orange peel
Add the first three ingredients to a rocks glass over the ice cubes
Rub the cut edge of the orange peel over the rim of the glass and twist it over the drink. (This will release the oil from the orange zest into the drink)
Drop the peel into the cocktail if desired.
Please Enjoy Responsibly!
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)
Note: The original November 15, 2009 review of Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old Whisky has not been discarded, it is still here, at the bottom of the page.
Review: Gibson’s Finest 12 YR Canadian Whisky 89/100
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on November 15, 2009
In the Bottle 4/5
Gibson’s Finest comes in a clear flagon style bottle with a gold plastic screw cap. The label looks very professional, but we have no extraordinary flair here. The particular bottle I reviewed was a 375 ml bottle rather than the normal 750 ml bottle.
In the Glass 8.5/10
The whisky is a rich golden colour with very slight reddish highlights. The aroma from the glass is one of straightforward rye, with honey and toffee accents. Splashes of oil appear on the sides of the glass but they disappear very quickly. Perhaps this is slightly sweeter than most Canadian Whiskies.
In my Mouth 54/60
We have a very nice soft oil on the palate with a sweet honey taste interlaced with toffee and rye. This has a very balanced profile which when given time in the mouth, displays touches of caramel, flashes of hot spices, and a wonderful underlying sweetness. We do not get the typical thick bourbon sweetness so common in today’s whiskies but something milder which accents the rye flavour but does not try to devour it.
In the Throat 13.5/15
Smooth all the way down with a crisp landing. The butter and oil noted in the mouth give this a nice finish. The final exit from the palate is a mild vanilla and caramel in the throat, which compliments a honey and rye burst at the end.
The Afterburn 9/10
This is a very nice Canadian whisky. The underlying sweetness is not typical in this category and for me brings the whisky to a higher level.
Gibson’s Finest is very smooth and easy to drink neat or on the rocks.
Gibson’s and Schweppes over Ice
Mix to the ratio you prefer.
(See the above Picture)