Whisky Review Round Up: Okanagan Spirits Rye and BRBN - The Whiskey Wash

Whisky Review Round Up: Okanagan Spirits Rye and BRBN

In 2004, when Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery first opened their doors they were the only liquor producers in the Canadian province of British Columbia, making them industry leaders in Western Canada. With British Columbia’s restrictive tax laws in place, it was difficult for small operations to get their production up and running. Attitudes changed in 2013, when legislation passed making it easier for craft distilleries to set up shop and since then, many have, but Okanagan still remains the first to carve the way for a rapidly growing whisky industry in Canada.

Father-son duo Tony Dyck and Tyler Dyck run the self-proclaimed “farm-to-flask” company together. Their dedication is apparent in their robust line of products and list of pretty impressive list of awards. Okanagan Spirits has garnered a reputation for quality, receiving World Class Distillery accolades from the European-based World Spirits Awards (WSA), and Distillery of the Year from WSAs in Denmark and Austria in 2013.

In addition to whisky, Okanagan Spirits also produces gin, eaux-de-vies, aquavit, absinthe, vodka and liqueurs. They have four lines of whiskey; I’m taking a look at Okanagan Rye and BRBN, a bourbon-style whisky made with corn. Both are unique takes on typical and not-so-typical Canadian styles.

Okanagan Spirits BRBN

Okanagan Spirits BRBN

Tasting Notes: Okanagan Spirits Rye

Vital Stats: 40% abv. The mash bill is 51% rye from Coldstream Valley, and 49% locally malted barley. It’s aged in Tennessee Bourbon casks – charred American White Oak barrels. I read one review that said these were old Jack Daniels barrels, although I couldn’t find any information to corroborate. It typically sells out very quickly, and costs about $60 Canadian dollars per bottle.

Appearance: Mahogany hues reflect in the soft, elegantly fragile legs. It’s viscosity is light and airy.

Nose: Buttered popcorn and toasted vanilla waft around, leaving room for light asian pear, allspice, sourdough bread, maple syrup and orange peels. It’s very sweet-smelling, light and floral with citrus and other warm, baking spices complementing.

Palate: The rye makes itself known with soft, lingering spice creating a backbone for the swarm of interesting flavors surrounding it. There are hints of lavender, coriander, charred oak, apricot, and orange-vanilla cream soda. I usually tend to go for a more in-your-face rye whiskey, but I like how this expression leaves the rye as a more subtle note that kicks in on the back of your tongue right before you swallow. The finish is short and sweet, literally, with notes of vanilla and maple syrup.

Final Thoughts: It’s a pretty unique take on a Canadian Rye, with a lot more complexity and depth. It’s also easy to sip because of its low ABV.

Score: 4/5

Tasting Notes: Okanagan Spirits BRBN

Vital Stats: The mash bill is actually 100% corn, grown in Coldstream Valley. It’s touted as a bourbon-style corn grain whiskey, and it’s aged in toasted White American Oak barrels. According to the distillery, the honeycomb barrels infuse a toasted caramel flavor into the whisky. The ABV is again, pretty low at 40%. A 750ml bottle costs $60 in Canadian dollars.

Appearance: An orangey ocre, with red hues and sticky, thick legs.

Nose: Smells a lot like corn, toasted and coated in movie theatre butter.

Palate: If I mixed it with cola, it’d be like drinking the movie theatre experience, but not necessarily in a bad way. It’s a little bit thick with bitter notes of sweet corn, honey, Kix cereal, freshly-mowed grass and oak. It fell a little flat of my expectations, and didn’t really remind me very much of bourbon at all.

Final Thoughts: I think calling this a bourbon-style is a little bit of a stretch. It’s more interesting to look at it as a 100% corn grain. As a bourbon-impersonator, it felt very one-dimensional, because it’s lacking the complexities that I would look for in a typical bourbon.

Score: 2.5/5