The march of interesting new whisky finishes has taken another large step with the introduction of Collingwood, the first whisky of its kind to undergo an extra aging step wherein it rests with toasted maple wood.
Collingwood is a triple-distilled Canadian whisky, initially aged in charred-oak barrels before the extra maturation, which the producer, Brown-Forman, says is intended to make the whisky "exceptionally smooth." And at that it has succeeded, although despite having the rough edges honed, the whisky manages to be quite flavorful. The flavor profile is very fruit driven with a complex spice load.
The term finish in the whisky world refers to a period of extra maturation (usually not more than a year) that is performed with wood casks of a varying type. The practice was developed in Scotland, where Scotch typically aged in former Bourbon barrels would then enjoy time in a former wine cask.
Brown-Forman also makes Jack Daniel's Tennessee Sour Mash whiskey, which is in part defined by a mellowing process in which the whiskey is filtered through sugar maple charcoal. Another B-F product is Woodford Reserve Bourbon, which recently released a Master Collection edition that was finished in maple wood.
Chris Morris, the master distiller of Brown-Forman, comments that "by now, people have figured out fancy bags and bottles don't make great whisky, it's what's inside that counts." That said, the Collingwood package is nonetheless impressive. The 750-ml bottle is in a distinct rectangular shape with a large black over-cap that hides the neck when closed.
While the whisky is quite smooth, it is in a category—Canadian—that already tends to be quite mellow. What struck us more was the profusion of flavor. We've so far enjoyed it only neat, but the preponderance of sweetness suggests it would be an amicable whisky for mixing, especially in Manhattans and Old-Fashioneds.
Collingwood is currently available in Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas. More markets will be added during 2011.
Collingwood, Hand-crafted Blended Canadian Whisky, (80 proof, 40 percent alcohol by volume) $26.99
APPEARANCE: Amber and copper color. Medium-slow, fat legs.
NOSE: The maple finish is immediately discernible on the aroma. Other sweet notes-honey, flowers and fruit-follow.
PALATE: There is a moment on the tip of the tongue when the whisky is almost saccharine, but it passes instantly as the liquid rolls through the palate it gains structure. Deep red fruits are the first impression, followed by maple sugar and an alluring rich spiciness in the direction of licorice and cinnamon.
FINISH: After a return its candied fruitiness, the whisky shuts off abruptly on the finish.