Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.
As a Canadian, for the most part, craft distilling has not been a thing up until the mid-2000s. However, whiskey drinkers still think of Crown Royal, Canadian Club, or Black Velvet. There are, in fact, over 300 distilleries in Canada, but due to taxes most of the distilleries do not produce enough whiskey for export.
In Canada, three provinces are known as the “Prairie Provinces.” Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba have rich and fertile farmland, which accounts for eighty percent of the country’s agriculture. Scattered along the Prairies are massive grain elevators both old and new – this is my favorite part of driving home.
Red Deer, Alberta is home to Troubled Monk, a craft brewery founded in 2015. Halfway between Edmonton and Calgary, Troubled Monk decided to make Red Deer’s first legal whisky. After adding a 500 liter still to its operations, GrainHenge was born and rightly named in honor of Alberta’s grain elevators and mills.
While many Canadians still refer to all whisky as rye, 2021 saw the launch of the exclusive GrainHenge Meeting Creek Single Malt. More recently, GrainHenge Alliance Whisky, a.k.a Albourbon, was chosen as an exclusive collaboration with Wine and Beyond. Ryan Engen hand-selected barrel number 131. Alliance represents both a harmonic relationship and one of Alberta’s grain elevators demolished in 2016.
So why is it nicknamed “Albourbon”? The mash bill and oak all follow the bourbon-making rules except that it was made in Alberta, Canada. It is a corn whisky with seventy-two percent corn, seventeen percent malted rye, and eleven percent two-row malted barley. The GrainHenge Alliance is aged slightly over three years in a new American oak, number two char barrel.
It will be interesting to see how this “Albourbon” compares to actual bourbon.
Tasting Notes: GrainHenge Alliance
Vital Stats: 56.6%ABV. Canadian whisky with a mash bill of 72% corn, 17% rye malt, and 11% two-row barley malt. Aged 37 months in a number two char new American white oak barrel (No. 131). 232 bottles available exclusively for Wine and Beyond.
Appearance: Golden sunset
Nose: Nosing the glass, it has the aroma of freshly baked cranberry orange scones— almost like shortbread. A second layer comes through similar to cherry cough syrup. The whisky has the sweet scent of butterscotch. However, it is musky at the end.
Palate: At first, I could only taste sourdough bread and a bit of hickory. It seems subtle to me, but eventually, the flavors come through. The whisky is peppery with chili flake and peppercorn. Then the whisky is layered with fruit. I get strawberry jam and prunes mixed with cardamom and fennel seed. Shortbread comes through the finish and reminds me of vinarterta.
Whisky Review: GrainHenge Alliance
The GrainHenge Alliance is quite different in comparison to American bourbon. The whisky is rustic with a lovely mouthfeel. Even though it has a high percentage of corn, it isn’t super sweet. I think anyone could try this and have their minds changed about Canadian whisky.
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Courtney Kristjana is a leading whiskey taster in the country. She left a career in Gerontology after an article on Heather Greene inspired her to follow her passion for whiskey. She is studying to become a Master of Scotch and someday hopes she is nominated for the Keepers of the...