Why am I writing about last year’s Canadian Cask? Well, I was able to get a bottle of the 2010 ahead of time, and just couldn’t wait the 6 weeks to enjoy it. So I’ve already talked about the 2010 version. Besides, it was availbale at the LCBO 3 or 4 weeks ago anyways – so we’ve had had the chance. Plus, I specifically held on to one bottle of the 2009 last year so that I could embrace Canada Day with two version of its own beer and reflect on the year past, and dream for the year to come!
2009 was the very first year for Innis & Gunn’s Special Edition Canadian Cask. It came in a 300ml bottle housed in a red box bearing Canada Day 2009 on the front. Only 150 barrels of this beer were produced, and they were of course only sent to Canada. Innis & Gunn brewed the beer with rye grains, and aged it in Canadian Whiskey Barrels, then matured it for a total of 71 days; brining it to 7.1% abv. What was produced was music to my palate then, but is now a magical symphony.
I opened the Canadian Flag Red box and gently slid the once dormant Canadian Cask out of its resting place. I poured it into a stemmed Innis & Gunn glass at a cool 8C (45F). The pour was smooth but rumbled with excitement as a darker than normal, creamy tan-brown head build almost immediately. Sowing the pour produced a ruby red crystal clear beer with rich golden browns, copper oranges and beaming rays and sunny yellows. A soft and airy, but dense 1 and a bit inch head was created – ummm.. Yes, I was very, very excited.
Leaning in for a nose brought classic Innis & Gunn flavors of toffee and caramel. But most evident on the nose was the unmistakable scent of whiskey soaked oak, and a tumbler of Crown Royal. Could this be? Really, I was amazing at the potency and also accuracy of the nose here. It didn’t smell kind of like rye, it smelled like a creamy, soft and warm glass of rye. Honestly. Soft vanillas balanced with toffee, and beat away any brief scent of hops that may have existed. The nose was now a game of oak, char, whiskey, and rye grains.
The year has treated the Canadian cask apprizingly, and appetizingly well! The first thing that I noticed in the flavor perfectly mimicked the nose; a much richer and more prominent whiskey and oak character. Before, the oak was apparent, but was hiding behind the rye malt sweetness that I felt strongest in the beer. Now though, right away I am hit with the familiar sensations of aged rye whiskey. Now that I think hard about it… and go in for another sip… This 1 year old Innis & Gunn Canadian Cask could possibly display the leanest and most accurate rye whiskey flavors I have ever tasted in a beer!
A big imperial stout aged in rye is one thing – that can just be menacing and overpowering. But this ’09 Canadian is shinning deep with smooth and mellow sweet flavors of charred oak, gentle sweet rye, and that honey and grain sweet rye whisky flavor that I love in Crown Royal and Wiser’s Very Old.
The whole character of this beer now is improved well beyond its age. I am so, so happily surprised – party because of how magnificent this beer is now, but mainly because I have had a bad experience with a 1 year old Innis & Gunn. I aged the first batch of Rum Casks for 1 year and it came out of my cellar sour and just totally ruined. This though, this beautiful glowing amber gold beer has warmed my soul and lifted my spirits. I have many 2010’s, and I will be putting more than half my stash in the cellar after this genuinely astonishing experience.
Thank you Innis & Gunn. I hope you have the chance to experience what I just felt. Happy Canada Day!