Whisky Review – Glen Breton Ice 10 Year Old Canadian Single Malt
Glenora Distillery is a place I’ve talked about before. In fact, most years I take a jont out there because it’s only about an hour’s drive from me. Additionally, it’s a lovely drive, a beautiful sight, a great pub/restaurant and I always feel a nice sense of calm. No, not because I’ve had a bunch of Whisky, but because just being at that place really placates my desire for at least a little bit of Cape Breton.
Cape Breton, if you’re reading this and not a Canadian is an Island that is a part of Nova Scotia. It’s a place that closely resembles Scotland, in culture, land and spirit. About 26 years ago a distillery started to bottle North America’s first single malt Whisky, a Lowland style that since has gone through some ups and downs, some controversy and overall success. As a Whisky lover, and blogger I always look forward to reading/viewing people’s opinions of the Glen Breton in all it’s offerings and find it very interesting as to the variety of responses. What I can tell is that either it’s mildly disappointing to shockingly different and positive. Most recently I’ve seen several reviews from folks who have opinions I respect state how different and enjoyable they find it compared to other Canadian Whiskies, and then some flip right around and think it’s terrible stuff.
I myself, a little critical of Glenora not because they make bad Whisky. That’s because they don’t make bad Whisky, not at all! My critique has always been the prices as to which they sell their product.
They present a Craft reputation, and that ultimately seems to translate directly to craft prices, ie; expensive. I get that, making Whisky has a lot of overhead. The standard bottle of Glen Breton 10 yo retails for about $80 CA and that’s a lot for a 10-year-old Whisky. For most other 10yo you pay in the mid to low 70’s. In fact, some worldwide respected gold medal winner top tier high ranked stuff out there often goes for the same price or less than Glen Breton, so why buy it. The reason you buy it is two fold.
1 – experience something new. Glenora really creates a whisky that isn’t like anything else I’ve personally had. That comes itself in two fold, one, they have a very light, refreshing malty style, very green as well. Secondly, in the expression side of things they’re using Ice-wine Casks to mature their Whisky, which is something new (well it can’t be so new as they’ve been at it for a while) and that is something that’s exciting.
2 – supporting a regional product creates jobs and excitement. Since Glenora opened a whole crop of new Distilleries have opened up in the region. Rum, Vodka, Gin and yes, more Whisky. Right now there are 3 whisky distilleries all within an hour and a half drive from me making good products and that folks is extremely exciting.
I wanted to do a run of these and visit their sites however the summer got away from me and now with Fall approaching I don’t have time for much fun, only Music and that will have to substitute however you will see reviews of these products here over the next few weeks or months.
I got away from myself there in fact.
This weekend marks my birthday and as is typical on a Whisky lover’s birthday, people give you Whisky. My friends are typically intimidated to buy me Whisky, I don’t blame them, I no doubt come off as a Snob about it and I really love it when they do it because honestly, you can’t go wrong. This year, a bottle of Glen Breton 10, ticked I was and actually, to be honest, I’ve not had it before.
The 17-year-old, I had forever ago and I enjoyed it. It’s very different, sweet, and crisp. These days the 10yo Ice is popular online, perhaps in the wake of the Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye win, an interest in Canadian Whisky has resurfaced internationally. It’s featured in 1001 Whiskies to try before you Die as well as other Whisky books when they do an all too brief section on Canadian Whisky.
Bottled at %40 and non-chill filtered this has spent 10 years in Ice-Wine casks from Jost Wineries here in Nova Scotia. Ice-Wine is a desert wine from harvested grapes after a thaw (the exact process eludes me like most things to do with Wine). It’s very sweet stuff, much too sweet for me if I’m honest but I’m thinking that it will balance itself out with the intrinsic qualities of Whisky.
Typical of all Glen Breton there’s a big malty cereal note right up front on the nose and boy I love that big cereal malty note, it’s so unexpected. It’s youthful and spirited. The nose is slightly closed without water, however, there is a very sharp citrus note, lemon and apples. You can get a grape note, yes a white wine like note, and a bit of oak. A lavender note, something that reminds me of scented hand soap. Water brings up the vanilla and more fresh fruity notes.
Medium plus bodied pallet, and super sweet indeed. Icing Sugar, caramelised pear and apple, vanilla loads of sweet fruits. Malty, syrupy with still a little bit of a youthful bite to it before water. Then I get that lavender soap note in the pallet, faint but it’s there. Upon adding water, the unpleasant note of Soap goes away, the sweet and oak balance and it comes together a little better. Warning through, it’s fragile, it’s easy to add too much water, just drops.
A medium length finish with lots of Cereal, oak turning rather sweet and sour and then goes a little bit soapy (not too off putting but it’s there). With Water, it subsides and gives some more oak, sweetness.
This soap note that I’m picking up is something that others have mentioned. I would say that I had trouble deciding what it was until I recalled, yes some people detected of a strong Soap note. I’m not getting it as strongly as they seem to have, it’s faint to me, but it’s there. On the nose it’s rather nice, on the finish, it’s somewhat distracting but is outshined by more positive aspects. Still, soap smell is good, taste… I think this is where Glen Breton is losing people.
Ultimately most Glen Breton expressions have big noses full of character and then let down on the Pallet and finish. The Ice-wine version is worth the Experience. It’s good, but it’s not great. For a Whisky lover you know who’s not ever tried it, this would be a nice thing to offer them to give them something different. It’s challenging, it’s not for a novice, and I think that is very key here. There are smells and flavours here that are very complex and you have to stick with it to get the most out of it.
This is why I would recommend this to someone who hasn’t tried it before. With the 17 year old that I had years back all of the soap notes I picked up had been matured out of the expression and replaced with a more mellow sweetness, for me I prefer it entirely, however, it is very expensive, like all Glen Breton which is why I do not intend to purchase any until either they bring down the prices, bottle the 14yo and send it everywhere other than duty free and at %33 less cost or I win a lotto.
I don’t buy lotto tickets, so the ball is in Glenora’s court.
This was a fantastic gift, and while I am critical of it, I do enjoy it and intend to continue to dig into it to see how the neck fill effects the smell and taste.