Big game hunter or no, finding a 20-year bottle of anything for south of a grand these days is enough of a score to (provisionally) assuage even your Baddest Beats (“There it was, a Weller 12, in a shopping cart under a big Marked Down Sign. If only I had had the sense to buy…” et cetera). You may have resigned yourself to another day without George T. Stagg on your bar cart, but the “Cotton Club” Canadian Rye Whiskey from Chicken Cock (aged 20 years, bottled at 100 proof; a limited edition from Grain & Barrel Spirits) should stimulate just enough joy to ease you into the the New Year, or at least next Wednesday.
Even temporary joys come with caveats, though, and 20 can be a tricky age for a New World barrel regimen. Pappy 15, for instance, always seems like a safer bet than the 23. Even in chilly Scotland, Mac 25 can sometimes feel like a hand overplayed. That said, Canadian rye in first-fill bourbon casks lands softly in a very sweet spot. Sure, the barrels are in charge here, but they rule with a whisper rather than a bark. And even at a relatively hot 100 proof, Chicken Cock is nectar, not rocket fuel.
Nectar, let’s recall, is sweet, and since we’re on the subject, sweetness is what sets the table for this whiskey. Being Canadian, that’s no surprise. On the nose, a warm breeze of cotton candy, white and red blossoms, dairy caramel, and a touch of those esteemed Kentucky barrels promises an end to world weariness. On the palate, sweetness switches gears: caramel gives way to a pleasant prickly spice, a caress of cedar, and a glowing persistent heat. The finish is as soft as that old leather armchair you used to play on in your grandpa’s study.
Speaking of armchairs, that’s a good place to be for enjoying this whiskey. For sure, it’s a limited release bottling that seems tailor-made for a fancy gift display in a very fancy shop. But at the end of the day, having a lovely amber dram, shot through with rosy gold, rolling in a nice glass, something for long contemplation on a long cold night, is the best kind of gift to give. Especially if you’re giving it to you. SRP is $499.99.