Updated April 28, 2016
By Father John Rayls
Lot 40 Canadian Rye Whisky is a product of Hiram Walker & Sons, the former parent company of Canadian Club and now part of Pernard Ricard. The namesake, Hiram Walker, was one of Canada’s pioneering whisky distillers in the early 1850s, along with fellow luminaries J.P. Wiser and Henry Corby. The Ontario distillery bearing Walker’s name is huge, and the town it’s found in is named “Walkerville.” Hiram Walker & Sons, in turn, is the majority shareholder of Corby, so this is not some little out of the way Mom and Pop operation.
This is the second attempt at resurrecting Lot 40, so named as a homage to Master Distiller Mike Booth’s ancestors, who were responsible for its initial creation. The title refers to the plot of land where the family’s first distillery was located. Mike was responsible for its first reappearance in the late 1990’s, and its premature demise helped create a (small) frenzy of love and devotion which continued on through its current second reappearance.
Add in a growing demand for rye south of the Canadian border, and you have an ever growing market for this sleeper of a Canadian rye. Made with a recipe of 90% rye and 10% malted rye at 86 proof with no age statement, you would be correct in guessing this whisky is made for real rye lovers.
The whisky has a coppery brown appearance in both the bottle and glass, and seems to foreshadow a full-bodied explosion of pure rye whisky. It looks substantial in the glass. The nose is a blend of caramel and rye, oak and rye, and rye and rye. Being a lover of rye, it started my heart pounding. There is no alcohol burn in the scent, only that sweet and spicy invitation.
This may surprise some of you, but the first taste reminded me of biting into a big loaf of moist rye bread, only slighter sweeter. It’s a soft experience, even slightly creamy. Some might term it oily (in an affectionate sense), but there is no mistaking that this is 100% rye. Lot 40 is also unusual in that it is a whole mouth experience. It starts at mid tongue but quickly spreads in all directions. It’s peppery and spicy with some subtle earthiness all wrapped in rye. The finish is long and spicy with some light ginger making its way onto the palate. Waves of pepper and rye keep appearing just when you think the show is over.
I don’t believe this is the same 2012 version that won the Best Canadian Whisky Title, but this is very good and very easy drinking. I prefer a higher proof in my whisky, and anxiously await a barrel proof version.
Addendum By Richard Thomas
I recently had the chance to try Lot 40 in Germany of all places, and found it an interesting example of what you can do in the odd, loosely regulated world of Canadian whisky. It’s dry and very rye, full of grainy spiciness, but also understated and light. What makes the whisky so interesting is how light it is on the sweet vanilla and caramel flavors imparted by new white oak, and because Canandian whiskies need not (and frequently aren’t) aged in new wood, I suspect at least part of the content of Lot 40 comes from used barrels. That allows the native flavors of the spirit to really stand out on their own, making Lot 40 a pleasant, interesting sipper.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find Lot 40 Canadian Rye Whisky sitting readily available on the shelves anywhere in my South Texas locale. However my whisky guy, Daniel, was able to order it for me and get it fairly quickly. You will find it priced between $39.99 and $59.99.