Whisky Review: Gibson’s Finest 18-Year-Old Rare Canadian Whisky

The Gibson label, now one of the better-respected names in Canadian whisky, has an interesting backstory—not unlike Bomberger’s, it’s one of those 19th-century brands that had to shut down during Prohibition, only to be reappropriated later by an unrelated party.

Originally, Gibson was a producer of American, not Canadian, rye. John Gibson was a western Pennsylvania distiller who started up in the 1830s, and by 1856, according to Canadian whisky guru Davin de Kergommeaux, his operation spanned 40 acres alongside the Monongahela. Once Prohibition rolled around, though, the distillery shut down and was demolished. A New York company called Schenley Industries bought the rights to the Gibson’s name and held onto them until 1972, when Schenley started using it for Canadian whisky produced at a distillery it owned in Valleyfield, Quebec.

Gibson’s Finest Rare is the older labeling of their 18-year-old expression, which is now sold as Gibson’s Finest Venerable. According to de Kergommeaux, anything with the 18-year-old label is the same juice, just under a different name.

Like other Canadian whiskies, Gibson’s is made by blending various finished expressions: a higher-proof corn-based whisky, and lower-proof rye- and malt-based whiskies for flavor. All these component whiskies are aged in a variety of barrels, some new, and some that once housed bourbon; the specifics can vary from batch to batch, as the emphasis is on keeping the end product consistent, not the process itself.

 

Tasting Notes: Gibson’s Finest 18-Year-Old Rare Canadian Whisky

Vital stats: Corn, malt, and rye. Aged 18 years. Bottled at 40% ABV. Retails around $70-85 in Canada only.

Nose: As usual with Canadian whiskies, the first impression my very American nose gets is quite confectionary. It’s light and sweet, with powdered sugar and vanilla frosting being the predominant notes. I can also pick out prunes and a faint marzipan nuttiness.

Palate: I still get some almond/marzipan, but on the palate, it veers more toward wood. Sugary vanilla predominates; “sweet” and “oak” are the two major flavors here. Light on the palate. Finishes with green wood and cake frosting.

The Takeaway

Tasting Canadian whisky always makes me feel faintly inadequate. While I rarely get much more than "sweet" out of the experience, I recognize that that's probably at least in part due to my own inexperience with it. In any case, to me, this is a light, after-dinner type of whisky; I can imagine enjoying it alongside a dark chocolate dessert, or as dessert in its own right.

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About the author

Katelyn Best

Katelyn is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon. She's a regular contributor to the Whiskey Wash with an affinity for the unique and weird side of whiskey.