Gibson’s Finest 18 Year Old

Gibson's Venerable 18yo bottle

Gibson’s whisky has a long history in Canada, with production having passed through several producers and distilleries over the years. Through it all, the 18 year old expression has remained the top of their line. It currently holds the distinction as the highest ranked Canadian whisky in my Whisky Database (for the “Finest Rare” 18 yr): 9.12 ± 0.41, on 8 reviews.

The latest bottlings at the LCBO have a “Finest Venerable” subtitle. Although I think “rare” still applies – I received this bottle as a Father’s Day present, and I know it took some driving around by my family to find a LCBO that stocked it (it was on my list of wanted whiskies). 😉

That subjective impression is borne out in my recently posted analysis of LCBO inventories. Looking at the data table in that post (compiled from the LCBO iPad/iPhone app), you will see that there are only ~650 bottles of the 18yr available in all of Ontario right now. Compare that to >42,000 bottles of the base Gibson’s 12 yr and Sterling expressions. And most of those 12yo/Sterling bottles are the larger 1140 and 1750mL sizes. So if you do a comparison by volume, only 1.1% of Gibson’s whiskies available in Ontario right now are this top-shelf 18 yr.

In case you are wondering, I agree with the consensus wisdom in the Meta-Critic score – this is an outstanding Canadian whisky!

Nose: Very creamy sensation from the start, with oaky caramel, butterscotch and vanilla aromas that seem more like creme caramel in this case. “Yellow-flesh” fruits come to mind: plum, pear and pineapple especially (I admit that last one seems a bit weird). Something slightly nutty. like crushed peanuts. Nice nose.

Palate: Much the same flavours as found on the nose, with even more butterscotch up front. Luxurious creamy mouthfeel. Rye “baking spices” start to come out now (nutmeg, cinnamon, touch of cloves), but not as strongly as most quality Canadian blends. I’d swear there a bit of wheat sweetness in this blend – definite bread-making flavours come out, in addition to the rye. A bit of bourbon sweetness throughout. Finally, a touch of bitterness comes in at the end, but doesn’t seem out of place or glaring (like it does in cheap blends)

Finish: Still sweet up front – although more focused on those bread baking characteristics than any of the fruits. Still relatively creamy, it moves more toward a slight bitterness over time (although well balanced with the sweetness). Not hard to handle at all.

As I describe in recommendations for hosting a whisky tasting, I always suggest people ignore their taste impressions on the first sip (to allow your palate a chance to cleanse and recover from the initial alcohol burn). But this is an example of that rare whisky where I knew I was in for a treat from the first few seconds – a nice compilation of aromas and flavours.

Gibson's Venerable 18yo bottleI guess the only question now is who do I give that old bottle of Gibson’s 12 year old to – the one that has been sitting in my cabinet barely touched for awhile? As an aside, the 12yr is a decent budget whisky for the price, but it’s really best suited to mixed drinks.

One thing for Gibson’s – and this is a plus or minus, depending on your point of view – they have very plain packaging. The 18 year old doesn’t come with a box, just the bare bottle is sold off the shelf. And some of the “decoration” around the top is just part of the security packaging (i.e., comes right off when you open it). So while it may not make for the prettiest gift package – your recipient is likely to thank you once they sample it!

For a recent review of this whisky, you can see Jason Hambrey’s Whisky Won review here, or check out the main list of reviewers used in this meta-analysis.

8 comments

  • Eugene V. Saunders

    Don’t forget to note that Gibson’s was originally a Western Pennsylvania producer of straight rye whiskey, which fled north in order to stay in business and escape Prohibition.

    As of today, 3 July 2015, Gibson’s Finest Rare 18 yo is rated 14th highest on the Connosr.com list of 100 highest rated whiskies, worldwide, as rated by Connosr.com’s nearly 10,000 members. It is the highest rated Canadian whisky on that list.

    On the basis of only one sample, so far, I do not share the sentiment that the current Gibson’s Finest Venerable 18 yo is the equal to what I’ve had of the Gibson’s Finest Rare 18 yo, which preceded it…but I am certainly willing to give it additional tastings.

    ‘Victor’ from connosr.com

    • Thanks for the comment. There has definitely been wide agreement on the quality of the Finest Rare 18yo. We’ll see if that changes under Finest Venerable label as more reviews come in.

    • And did all 10,000 review this whiskey? Good to see what it too was also top-ranked for canada, but I would like to hear what the expert panel thinks of the difference between the two.

      • I will be tracking reviews of the “Venerable” label separately as time goes by, to see if this batch/label differs significantly. Right now, my Whisky database only reports meta-critic scores for the “Rare” version, as I only know of one review of the new Venerable (Whisky Won, linked to in the commentary above). As explained on my Methodology pages, I only report on whiskies in the database once I have 3 reviews to work from.
        FYI, if you want to see Jason’s earlier review of the Rare version (to directly compare to his Venerable review), you can find both on his site (just search, or look up in his index).

  • Don’t let the name change fool you. This is just the next batch of Gibson’s 18 YO.
    The nomenclature is part of the marketing platform.
    Positioning for future opportunities has resulted in the word “Rare” being replaced by “Venerable”. The “rare” handle now appears on the 12 year-old expression.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if the age statements disappear some day.
    We should now be referring to these expressions as Rare and Venerable…get used to it.

    Until the actual whisky in the 18 YO Venerable is distilled and fully aged at the Walkerville facility, there shouldn’t be much variation in this Canadian Classic. History has proven this to be a consistently high performing release.

    On a slightly different note, I prefer Danfield’s 21 YO ($45, consistently scores in the mid-nineties) to Gibson’s 18 YO. Both were were originally produced at the Schenley facility in Valleyfield, QC…go figure. Gibson’s 18 has traditionally been bottled once per year, and Danfield’s, probably less often.

    • Great info, thanks for sharing paddockjudge. This underscores the difficulty the consumer has in knowing whether or not a label change is just marketing, or if there has been an actual change in batch consistency and/or process. By the same token, batch consistency can be poor with no change in label. This is part of why I focus only on whiskies reviewed in the last few years on this site (although that is of course no guarantee of consistency, given how frequently batches are made).

      I will track reviews on the Venerable label, and if they don’t differ significantly from the previous Rare batches, I will integrate the scores.

      Can’t wait to try the Danfield’s next time it comes back to Ontario.

  • I love the 18 year old
    My shelf will never be with out one..

    I have 27 bottles of $150-500 dollar scotch/whisky.. and for what I paid, 78 dollars in BC, this is a great, great tasting whisky, and better then most I have

    Jan 20th, 2016

  • I have a unopened bottle of Olympic Canadian Whisky Limited Edition, aged 16 Yrs. Bottled in 1960, especially bottled for the Montreal Olympics in 1976. Bottle is number 4708. I comes in a Black Velvet bag with Gibson Olympic on the front.
    Is it worth anything? I cannot find a phone number of Canadian Gibson Distillery Ltd. Montreal, Canada
    Does anyone know it?
    My email is rcrehan@telusplanet.net
    Regards
    Rick Crehan

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