Following on in my reviews of the “Captains series” – the third release of the J.P. Wiser’s NHL Alumni series of whiskies – today I am looking at the whisky named after Yvan Cournoyer of the Montreal Canadiens. This series is actually the second batch of the 2019-2020 edition, which includes fellow Captains Dave Keon (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Mark Messier (Edmonton Oilers).
Collectively, the NHL Alumni whiskies are something of the sleeper hit of the Canadian whisky scene in the last couple of years. While they don’t garner a lot of reviewer attention, all the individual whiskies are limited editions that feature age statements and more distilling and barreling details than typically found in Canadian whisky. As before, the profits from the series are shared evenly with NHL Alumni Association, to help support former players in need. This batch all currently retail for ~$45 CAD in most jurisdictions.
At this time (July 2020), all of the second batch 2019-2020 edition whiskies are available from J.P. Wiser’s website (for delivery in Ontario only).
Let’s check out the composition of this Yvan Cournoyer whisky:
Grains: a blend of corn, rye, and malted barley
Age: 12 years old
Distillation: single column distilled rye, column and then pot-distilled rye (i.e., Lot 40), double distilled corn, and column distilled malt.
Oak: a mix of used Canadian barrels, ex-Bourbon and Virgin Oak casks
Yvan “The Roadrunner” Cournoyer was a right-winger and Captain of the Montreal Canadiens from 1975-78. But his peak years were 1971-73, and he was famous for his role in the 1972 Summit Series – scoring three goals, and providing the crucial assist for Paul Henderson’s series-ending winning goal. And that is one of the nods here – apparently the mix for this whisky was “inspired” by the 1972 recipe for Carleton Tower, an old Hiram Walker blend. It is aged for 12 years in honour of Cournoyer’s retired Canadiens jersey number. This was the whisky that I was most curious to try when the new edition was released, with its inclusion of Lot 40 rye.
Here is how it compares to other Wiser’s whiskies in my Meta-Critic Database:
Gooderham & Worts Four Grain: 8.58 ± 0.33 on 18 reviews ($$)
J.P. Wiser’s 15yo: 8.32 ± 0.27 on 8 reviews ($$$)
J.P. Wiser’s Alumni Series Darryl Sitter 10yo: 8.08 ± 0.41 on 7 reviews ($$)
J.P. Wiser’s Alumni Series Dave Keon 14yo: 8.86 ± 0.17 on 7 reviews ($$)
J.P. Wiser’s Alumni Series Guy Lafleur 10yo: 8.48 ± 0.10 on 10 reviews ($$)
J.P. Wiser’s Alumni Series Lanny MacDonald 9yo: 8.09 ± 0.47 on 10 reviews ($$)
J.P. Wiser’s Alumni Series Larry Robinson 6yo: 8.55 ± 0.33 on 7 reviews ($$)
J.P. Wiser’s Alumni Series Mark Messier 11yo: 8.76 ± 0.35 on 6 reviews ($$)
J.P. Wiser’s Alumni Series Paul Coffey 7yo: 8.20 ± 0.41 on 7 reviews ($$)
J.P. Wiser’s Alumni Series Wendel Clark 11yo: 8.90 ± 0.28 on 10 reviews ($$)
J.P. Wiser’s Alumni Series Yvan Cournoyer 12yo: 8.68 ± 0.32 on 6 reviews ($$)
J.P. Wiser’s Triple Barrel Rye: 8.48 ± 0.29 on 10 reviews ($)
Lot 40: 8.88 ± 0.36 on 26 reviews ($$)
Pike Creek 10yo Rum-finished: 8.47 ± 0.27 on 11 reviews ($$)
Let’s see what I find in the glass:
Nose: Sweet corn, corn syrup, and candy corn (notice the theme?). Peaches and dried apricots. Dried barley. Quite floral – but again, in a dried flowers way. Not really getting a lot rye spice yet. Slightly organic note, but not offensive. Overall has a young and bright nose, with a lot gentle dried fruit and flowers.
Palate: Creamy corn. Vanilla. Dried apple and apricots. Orange zest. The grainy notes are coming through more stewed than dry now. Woodier than the nose suggested, with a nice mix of oaky notes. The rye spices show up on the swallow, with some classic cinnamon. Mouthfeel is fairly light, in keeping with the standard 40% ABV.
Finish: Relative quick finish. Remains pleasantly floral, with violets and touch of roses. Orange citrus still. Bit of lingering saccharine, balancing out the slight oaky bitterness (and a touch of spice).
The corn notes are fairly dominant here, as you might expect. The rye is coming through more in a floral way than in a spicy sense. And the fruits definitely tend toward the dried variety. A refined and contemplative whisky. I can’t help but feel that a higher proof would have helped amp it up a bit though.
This whisky received a gold medal at the annual Canadian Whisky Awards. Among reviewers, the highest score I’ve seen comes from Chip the Rum Howler. Jason of In Search of Elegance was fairly positive as well. This whisky received moderately positive reviews, but mediocre scores, from Andre, Patrick and Martin of Quebec Whisky. My own assessment is good match with the overall Meta-Critic average score. A good buy, but the Wendel Clark and Dave Keon whiskies remain my top picks.