Pike Creek, a Canadian whisky formerly regulated to distribution in the Great White North, is opening up a new frontier, coming to America as a younger version of its typical 10-year-old self that is finished in Port casks.
The move by Pernod Ricard, the whisky purveyor that brings us Glenlivet and Chivas Regal and recently took over distribution of Pike Creek, reflects the emerging popularity of Canadian whisky. The introduction of a big, round whisky from the North also belies the notion that Canadian spirit is only about smoothness.
Matured in Pike Creek, Ontario, in warehouses that are not climate controlled, Pike Creek enjoys the give and take of seasonal expansion and contraction that brings full flavor from the barrels.
The spirit begins as a blend aged in Bourbon barrels, then enjoys extra aging in vintage Port casks. While there is no age statement, the whisky is said to be between seven and eight years old by the time it is bottled.
The notion of Port finishing is not a new one, having been used widely in Scotland and, to a lesser extent, in the United States for Bourbon. Forty Creek, another Canadian distillery (unrelated to Pike Creek) has also used the technique.
What makes this Port finish stand out is its relative affordability and the fact that it makes pairing with Canadian whiskies such an obvious alternative.
(Cigar pairing notes on next page)
Pike Creek Small Batch Whisky (80 proof, or 40 percent alcohol by volume; no age designation; $31.99 a 750-milliliter bottle)
APPEARANCE: Very interesting color: like a very deep version of a pink Champagne mixed with the tan of undyed leather. Beads up slowly and once it gives up the legs fairly run down the glass.
NOSE: Inviting but two-dimensional nose of flowers and fruity hard candy.
PALATE: Comes on very creamy and smooth, a coy introduction to what is a substantial flavor profile. First comes honey, before a fruity Port taste spreads out like jam. Once past the initial sugar, the spicy cinnamon charms settle in.
FINISH: As you ponder this whisky in the moments after it is gone, you get a better sense of how complex it is with sweetness and spice. And returning to the nose, you even get woody and hearty notes.
CIGAR PAIRING: Headley Grange Estupendo (5 1/2 inches by 52 ring gauge, 91 points, February 2013 Cigar Aficionado, Top 25). The cigar is medium to full in body, with rich coffee flavors as well as notes of almond and spice. With the notes of Port from the Pike Creek, it becomes sweeter and more complex, the whisky finding subtle charm, once hidden. The Headley seems to start at the bottom most notes of the whisky emerging to the surface as it reveals the ultimate depths of the Pike Creek.
Romeo by Romeo y Julieta Piramide (6 1/8 inches by 52 ring gauge, $7.50, 94 Points, February 2013 Cigar Aficionado, Top 25).
The Piramide from the Dominican Republic is a classic Cuban pyramid size. Each puff layers the palate with a brawny core of black and red pepper spice, savory leather flavor and sweet impressions of raisins and dried fruit-a truly balanced smoke that covers the sweet, salty and spicy spectrum with elegance and strength. The cigars makes the Pike Creek's body blossom with a great burst of savoriness. Against the Romeo's leather, it becomes full and round, a new whisky experience all together. The cigar shows off its fruity character more and becomes quite tangy. A very lively match up.