Booze Review

A Rush of Canadian Whiskey

Nova Scotia looks right smack dab into the expanse of the northern Atlantic Ocean. It’s bucolic on the best of days and darn right nasty when a sea fueled squall (or worse) rushes in to darken, dampen and chill its door. Hearty souls are created in these extreme conditions. And whiskey can only be expected to help warm the insides when needed. It’s easy to imagine a local sipping a dram on a beautiful summer day dockside with gentle waves kissing the shore. It’s also easy to imagine a bundled up denizen hunkered down at home or at a friendly pub in front of a crackling fire with a favorite whiskey in hand to get him or her through a long day and night of bitter cold.  “Pull up a stool, Mr. Brass Monkey, you look like you need a dram to help thaw out.”

Back in the fall of 2016, I was graciously sent various Canadian whiskey samples by one of Nova Scotia’s finest gentlemen. Bruce Fraser is well-known for his affinity for brooding heavy metal as well as a biting charm and wit, love of his family and fondness for a whiskey or two. His well-curated box of said spirits covered local and not-so local Canadian whiskey from Ontario to Prince Edward Island to Nova Scotia with a rousing variety that easily had this taster yearning for a journey to eastern Canada and its Maritime Provinces, if only to sit back with Bruce and drink while listening to an incessantly slow death metal dirge from a band that he only knows as we discuss the topics of the day, or just to laugh ourselves silly over absolutely nothing or over our teenage daughters which easily will drive one to drink. And smile.

Now, my musical tastes happily range from screeching incomprehensible metal to Francis Albert Sinatra, and many points in between. But it’s difficult for me not to think of a certain treasured trio when even remotely pondering any aspect of Canada. Staples and terms like Maple Syrup, Poutine, Old Time Hockey (eh), Polite, First Nations, The Loonie, Tim Horton’s, Johnny LaRue, Geese, Inuit, and “World’s Longest Undefended Border” only reinforce to me that I want dual citizenship so that I can happily call Rush one of “our” own!

And on the occasions of tasting this group of whiskies from north of the border and a dog leg to the east, my head turned to the sounds of Rush in all of their many layers. With music never far away for an analog kid thanks to the digital age, I spent an evening or two random sampling Canadian whiskey new to my palate with the sounds of Lee, Lifeson and Peart (a Macallan man, by the way) filling the invisible airwaves. We will save speaking at length on the complexity and grace of Rush and the impact they and their music have had on this whiskey drinker and let their music speak for itself, paired with Canadian spirits courtesy of Sir Bruce…


Caldera Distillery Hurricane 5

NAS, 40% ABV
River John, Nova Scotia

  • Color: Light, weak tea
  • Nose: Butterscotch pudding a tad burnt, lemon, brown sugar, shoe leather from days when shoes were made of leather
  • Taste: Sharp rye notes, over the counter medicine-y, light, oak, burnt sugar (not Burt Sugar), faint sweetness
  • Finish: Short, slightly astringent

Jacob’s Ladder

The clouds prepare for battle
In the dark and brooding silence
Bruised and sullen storm clouds
Have the light of day obscured
Looming low and ominous
In twilight premature
Thunderheads are rumbling
In a distant overture

All at once,
The clouds are parted
Light streams down
In bright unbroken beams

Follow men’s eyes
As they look to the skies
The shifting shafts of shining
Weave the fabric of their dreams

Music: Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson
Lyrics: Neil Peart


Forty Creek John’s Private Cask No. 1

NAS, 40% ABV
Grimsby, Ontario

  • Color: Medium brown
  • Nose: Vanilla, oak, light, fruity
  • Taste: Very spicy, bit of peppercorn coarsely ground, warm mouth feel, viscous, dry, cinnamon, butterscotch
  • Finish: Long-ish (more ish than long), sweet, lingering spiciness

Middletown Dreams

Dreams flow across the heartland
Feeding on the fires
Dreams transport desires
Drive you when you’re down
Dreams transport the ones
Who need to get out of town

The boy walks with his best friend
Through the fields of early May
They walk awhile in silence
One close, one far away
But he’d be climbing on that bus
Just him and his guitar
To blaze across the heavens
Like a brilliant shooting star

Music: Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson
Lyrics: Neil Peart


Canadian Club CC 20

20 Year Old, 40% ABV
Windsor, Ontario

  • Color: Dark amber
  • Nose: Mango, pineapple, wet firewood waiting for a toss into the burning embers, oak like a barrel it came out of
  • Taste: Cinnamon, burnt banana, marshmallow, wisps of orange, black tea, a slow burn with a thin texture
  • Finish: Long, warm, soothing, really nice and balanced

The Garden

In this one of many possible worlds, all for the best, or some bizarre test?
It is what it is – and whatever
Time is still the infinite jest

The arrow files when you dream, the hours tick away – the cells tick away
The Watchmaker keeps to his schemes
The hours tick away – they tick away

The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect
So hard to earn, so easily burned
In the fullness of time
A garden to nurture and protect

In the rise and the set of the sun
‘Til the stars go spinning – spinning ’round the night
It is what it is – and forever
Each moment a memory in flight

The arrow flies while you breathe, the hours tick away – the cells tick away
The Watchmaker has time up his sleeve
The hours tick away – they tick away

The treasure of a life is a measure of love and respect
The way you live, the gifts that you give
In the fullness of time
It’s the only return that you expect

The future disappears into memory
With only a moment between
Forever dwells in that moment
Hope is what remains to be seen

Music: Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson
Lyrics: Neil Peart


Myriad Distillery Strait Whiskey 43

NAS, 43% ABV
Rollo Bay, Prince Edward Island

  • Color: Shockingly light (did it see the inside of a barrel or just look at Polaroids of one?)
  • Nose: Mellow citrus like that orange someone cut, forgot to eat and left on the counter for a few days, pepper, bit of wood
  • Taste: Honey, lemon, mint(!)(did he say “!”?), a quick burn that fades fast
  • Finish: Medium that fades ultimately like a Clayton Kershaw curveball that the bottom fell off of

Something for Nothing

Waiting for the winds of change
To sweep the clouds away
Waiting for the rainbow’s end
To cast its gold your way
Countless ways
You pass the days

Waiting for someone to call
And turn your world around
Looking for an answer
To the question you have found
Looking for
An open door

You don’t get something for nothing
You can’t have freedom for free
You won’t get wise
With the sleep still in your eyes
No matter what your dreams might be

What you own is your own kingdom
What you do is your own glory
What you love is your own power
What you live is your own story
In your head is the answer
Let it guide you along
Let your heart be the anchor
And the beat of your own song

You don’t get something for nothing
You can’t have freedom for free
You won’t get wise
With the sleep still in your eyes
No matter what your dreams might be

Music: Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson
Lyrics: Neil Peart


Glynnevan Double Barrelled Rye

NAS, 43% ABV
Guysborough, Nova Scotia

  • Color: Medium dark
  • Nose: Faint sea air on a spring afternoon a few blocks from the coast, cloves, vanilla
  • Taste: Pepper, burnt rye, burnt maple, sweet fruits, slightly oily
  • Finish: Long, full, lingering, rich

 Available Light

The restless wind
Has seen all things
In every kind of light
Rising with the full moon
To go howling through the night

The sleepless wind
Has heard all things
Between the sea and sky
In the canyons of the city
You can hear the buildings cry

Oh the wind can carry
All the voices of the sea
Oh the wind can carry
All the echoes home to me

Run with wind and weather
To the music of the sea
All four winds together
Can’t bring the world to me
Chase the wind around the world
I want to look at life
In the available light

Play of light
A photograph
The way I used to be
Some half forgotten stranger
Doesn’t mean that much to me

Trick of light
Moving picture
Moments caught in flight
Make the shadows darker
Or the colors shine too bright

Oh the light can carry
All the visions of the sea
Oh the light can carry
All the images to me

Run to light from shadow
Sun gives me no rest
Promise offered in the east
Broken in the west
Chase the sun around the world
I want to look at life
In the available light

All four winds together
Can’t bring the world to me
Shadows hide the play of light
So much I want to see
Chase the light around the world
I want to look at life
In the available light

I’ll go with the wind
I’ll stand in the light

Music: Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson
Lyrics: Neil Peart


Glen Breton Rare Single Barrel Select, Cask #14

10 year old, 62.6% ABV
Glenville, Nova Scotia

  • Color: Lighter than expected for the age
  • Nose: Rubber bands right out of the package, acetone, seaweed (right out of the package)
  • Taste: Sweety, nutty, salty, coffee, thiny
  • Finish: Fiery (ooh la la!), hot (yowza!), sweet, relatively short (gotta go, baby!)

La Villa Strangiato

Music: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart


Special thanks to Bruce Fraser for a taste of Canadian whiskey, and to Rush for providing the music to pair them with.

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