Monday, January 23, 2012

2011 Canadian Whisky Awards

In general, whisky awards can be a bit confusing and cause the onlooker to be overwhelmed with information because there are so many categories, classes, levels of medals, etc.  In an effort made by the organizers to be comprehensive and fair, these events can contribute to information overload for the whisky enthusiast.

The 2011 Canadian Whisky Awards was celebrated on January 19th, 2012, in Vancouver, Canada.  I was one of the judges (it's wholly independent, with no compensation flowing to the judges, by the way).  The results are in, and guess what?  There are several categories like:

  • Domestic Market Winners
  • Export Market Winners
  • Multiple Market Winners
  • Overall Winners and Awards of Excellence
The last category is further divided into various classes of medalists (gold, silver and bronze).  Click here for all the results.

That's a lot of info eh?  Don't worry if your head starts to spin.  I am here to dumb it down, as I am so uniquely qualified to do.

There are two whiskies that emerged for me to be truly noteworthy that I would like you to consider at some point.

Forty Creek John's Private Cask No. 1 (suggested retail $69.95)
Forty Creek John's Private Cask No. 1 won in the category of Canadian Whisky of the Year.  I agree.

This whisky is best enjoyed neat.  It delivers a rich, full palate of toffee, caramel and spiced ginger, that textures but never offends the tasting experience.  This spirit provides plenty of nip to the taste buds, as it is anything but smooth.  Recommended for the serious whisky fan.

Canadian Mist Black Diamond (suggested retail $14.95)
This is a real gem.

There were five judges plus our chairperson, Davin de Kergommeaux, weighing a great many whiskies.

Canadian Mist Black Diamond was ranked as a silver medalist overall by the other judges, but not by me.  If ever there was a gold medalist, I thought this was the one.  Priced around $15, this is a steal!  What's it taste like?

Big, towering tastes of caramel stung by cinnamon and citrus flavors.  Lots of brown sugar and then followed by more citrus elements too.  Not what I would call a gentle whisky.  Lots, I mean lots of flavor.  I enjoyed it neat, but could see it as a great mixer, especially at the modest price point.  A detailed review can be found here.  Canadian Mist Black Diamond represents great value at a price point of $20 or less.

. . .

So, if you have been wondering about Canadian whisky, the above are two splendid places to start.  One at the high end, and the other at the entry level.  For more information on these and other Canadian whiskies, please click here.


Jason Debly
Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission except for photograph of gold medals.  Photograph of medals belongs to Melissa Lao, who holds all copyright to it.  It is used in this post with her permission.


  1. Jason, as a former scotch drinker (gave it up for medical reasons) and current irish drinker i was looking to branch into canadian whisky. I shy away from american bourbons due to sweetness and how my body reacts to corn. As I also read the Canadian whisky blog, I would like your option of CC sherry cask. Or as a Canadian novice would I be better served by sampling the Canadian mist black diamond or looking for the pure rye brands from north of the border?


  2. Hello Mr. Bill!

    A lot of Canadian whiskies are certainly sweet and very smooth. If the corn sweetness is not suitable for you, certainly try White Owl. I did not mention it in my post, but it is another affordable and very interesting Canadian whisky. Quite different from your typical ones.

    Canadian Club 20 yrs is quite dry on the finish and Gibson's Finest 18 is another.

    My only hesitation in recommending Canadian Mist Black Diamond is that it is a big whisky. I mean the flavors are closer to what Scotch drinkers enjoy than say Irish whisky fans.

    Black Diamond is not sweet, but the flavors are really out there. I like it, but not sure you would. On the other hand, if you can pick it up under $20, you are not out a lot of money. Remember you can always tame it with some ice and/or ginger ale.

    I would encourage you to also email Davin de Kergommeaux at Canadian Whisky. He would be happy to offer up some suggestions.


    1. Mr. Bill, I forgot to answer your question about CC Sherry Cask. I would take a pass on it if I were you.

  3. Thanks Jason, next trip to bevmo I'll look for white owl and probably try the CC and/or Gibson. And I'll heed your advice and pass on sherry cask.

  4. Jason,
    Congrats on participating in this fine whisky event. I am starting to get into Canadian whiskies more. How did Canadian Club 12 and Crown Royal Reserve do? I've been thinking of picking them up. My state carries a limited Canadian whisky selection (even though I live pretty close to vancouver, Canada)...

    1. I recommend the Crown Royal Reserve. Please avoid the Crown Royal Black though. It is a travesty and tastes nothing like Canadian whisky. More like amber rum, and not in a good way.

      As for Canadian Club 12, I have to check my notes and will get back to you on that one shortly.

    2. I looked at my notes on Canadian Club 12 and as I suspected, I cannot recommend it.

      The Canadian whiskies I recommend are:

      Crown Royal (standard bottling)
      Crown Royal Reserve
      Wiser's Legacy
      Caribou Crossing Single Barrel
      Forty Creek John's Cask No. 1
      Masterson's Rye
      White Owl


  5. Thanks for taking the time to look those up for me Jason. Ill be sure to read your full reviews on these as well.

    Cheers mate!