How much of a difference can 1 year really make? Well, I just tested that, and it can make a big difference. But with the Innis & Gunn Canadian Casks the differences are more than just age; they are also organic. You see, Innis & Gunn changed the recipe for the 2010 version slightly; they brewed it with malted crystal rye rather than fresh rye, and more of it, to give it a deeper and richer flavor, it was aged in older, more refined Oak Rye Barrels, and it was matured for 54 days rather than 71 leaving it with a better oak characteristic as far as Innis & Gunn was concerned.
So now we have two rye beers created specifically for Canadians to Celebrate Canada Day; one is fresh, and the other is now 1 year old. This is my kind of beer tasting!
When I first had the 2009 Canadian Cask I was hugely impresses. It was the first Rye beer than Innis had done, which is one of my favorite styles. I loved the smooth gentle rye characteristics it had, and still maintained the classic toffee, caramel and oak flavors of the Original. I did however think that it was a bit ripe and needed some of time to mellow. I revised it at the 6 months mark, but I don’t recall a big change.
In 2010 the 2nd edition of the Canadian Cask also impressed me, but my first taste was bigger and richer than last years. The use of malted crystal rye rather than fresh rye added a big, juicy range of rye and caramel flavors. This version was smoother and creamier right off the bat with stonger oak characteristics, a rounded char and vanilla flavor, and more distinct rye whiskey aromas and tastes. Immediately it won me over. This was the superior version.
But now one year has gone by and it was time to get back into the 2009 Canadian Cask. Now it is better equipped to stand against the 2010 version, and does so brilliantly. This was a tough one, really. The 2010 shows big rich flavors of sweet caramel, oak, vanilla and toffee with a distinct rye malt sweetness – almost brown sugar like. Its bolder and creamier than the 2009 was when fresh, and shows greater maturity right off the bat. I think taking the beer out of the oak early was key, as well the oak that they used certainty has a better character.
Longer doesn’t always mean better with oak aging. You may not want all of the flavors that are hidden in the oak to penetrate the beer. Every moment it is in there the flavor is changing subtly – and Innis waited until they felt the beer was perfect, rather than just waiting until it had been in there for a while. I think the oak really is the key here. The flavor in the beer is more refined and clean indicating a richer and better maintained oak barrel.
The Rye does come through pretty perfectly in the 2010, but it is the 1 year old 2009 that hits the nail on the head for Rye Whiskey flavor! The year in solitude treated this beer so well. Now the oak has mellowed into a smooth and gentle wave of sweet vanilla and toffee, and the fresh rye flavor has evolved into smooth Crown Royal like whiskey sweetness. It is undeniably perfect and so completely distinct. I love it and wish that I had stored many more of them.
The 1 year aged 2009 Canadian Cask wins the battle for Rye Whiskey flavor, but the 2010 probably still has it beat on overall balance and drinkability. I think the overall population will enjoy the 2010 much more too. And besides, I don’t know of one other 2009 Canadian Cask still in existence. If there is one out there, whoever you are, I hope your enjoy it as much as I did! Cheers Canada!