Caribou Crossing single barrel Canadian whisky

Caribou Crossing Single Barrel (40% alc./vol. (80 proof))

August 1, 2013


Creamy vanilla, a dusting of rye spices, bursts of citrus and a veritable tsunami of fresh-cut wood. Soft Corn. ★★★★★

Caribou Crossing is the first single-barrel Canadian Whisky produced by a major whisky company since the 19th century. That was the time when people would arrive at Canadian distilleries with jugs to be filled straight from the barrel. The now infamous Bush Pilot’s, from the late 1990s, was also bottled one barrel at a time, a fact that contributed to its legendary status among the whisky cognoscenti. Caribou Crossing Single Barrel, from the Sazerac Company/Buffalo Trace, now advances this concept further, drawing its very best whisky from an inventory of over 200,000 barrels produced for it by several prominent Canadian distilleries.

For Caribou Crossing, Sazerac’s Master Blender Drew Mayville selected the most mature and flavour-rich of these barrels and oversaw the bottling of each individual barrel. Each barrel has its own unique subtleties so identifying each barrel with a number on the package would help whisky lovers find bottles from different barrels and be able to compare them. Since this is single-barrel bottling, there are no laser codes on the bottle to help the more obsessive find different batches.

“Our goal was to put forth the highest-quality whisky available and to give consumers a new way to look at Canadian Whisky,” Mayville said when he introduced Caribou Crossing earlier this year. “We are very proud of the end result and hope these new products will foster a greater appreciation among consumers for what Canadian whisky can be.” If market acceptance is any indication, Mayville seems to have achieved his goal quite nicely. Not only has Caribou Crossing won accolades from prominent whisky writers, it has sold well enough that a second batch was soon required to replenish empty shelves.

Speaking at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, Sazerac’s home town, earlier this year, Mayville said that he wanted to use Caribou Crossing and another new Sazerac whisky, Royal Canadian Small Batch, to re-define the Canadian whisky category. That may be a little bit hopeful, given the large number of other high quality connoisseur whiskies coming out of Canadian distilleries these days. Even so, Caribou Crossing certainly raises the bar for current U.S. releases. Mayville has promised to keep the momentum going with more new and exciting Canadian whisky expressions. OK, Mr. Mayville, that’s a promise; we’ll hold you to it.

Nose: Rich rye spices, vanilla, and butterscotch with lots of dark fruit. Stewed prunes and a hint of spirit. Elements of Cognac.

Palate: Soft, creamy corn, with prunes, spice, and citric pith. Hot pepper, and just a touch of rye spices complement a bitter citric middle. Refreshing citric notes abound, though the palate stays creamy throughout. Slight hints of clean oak on first tasting simply tease the tongue, but soon fresh-cut wood and tantalizing red cedar envelope the palate. The influence of corn is obvious here in the smooth robust body, but rye notes poke through also with their fruitiness, together with that rye-specific essence of fresh-water plants. What starts out as a “nice” palate becomes more and more interesting as pleasing tannins, peppery spices, and ripe red fruits slowly emerge from the vanilla creaminess.

With single barrel whisky the balance won’t always be perfect, and here the creaminess slightly swamps some of those scrumptious oaky notes. Still, it’s spectacular whisky. That untamed quality—and the fact that there will never be another one exactly like it—are two of the main attractions of single barrel whisky. An experienced blender’s hand might have given a bit more definition to this whisky, but then it wouldn’t be single barrel whisky, would it?

Finish: Medium. Some tasty woody notes come out after a few minutes, but there is not much spice and no pepper until the end when it joins the tannic oak in a dry and spicy crescendo.

Empty Glass: Surprisingly little, but for hints of caramel and fresh-sawn lumber.

Very Highly Recommended. ★★★★★

Caribou Crossing is not yet available in Canada, but the folks at the Sazerac Company teasingly advise Canadian whisky lovers “to wait and see.” $50.00 at liquor stores across the U.S.

Royal Canadian Small Batch review here.


48 Responses to “Caribou Crossing Single Barrel (40% alc./vol. (80 proof))”

  1. Now this is a whisky, I would love to get my hands on!

    Another great review Davin, and I eagerly await the Canadian distribution!



  2. [...] Connoisseur Whisky of the Year – Export Market: Caribou Crossing Caribou Crossing Single Barrel whisky was released early in 2010 to high acclaim from whisky writers and connoisseurs. They were all impressed with this complex and richly flavoured new whisky. As a single barrel whisky, Caribou Crossing introduces a new Canadian whisky in a style much admired by connoisseurs. [...]

  3. John:

    I have a couple questions I’m hoping can get answered:
    1. have all the barrels been used up yet?
    2. any idea how old the whisky is?
    3. Has Caribou Crossing released other bottles in the past?

    • Davin:

      Hi John,
      1. No, there are still lots and lots of barrels left so there will be more bottlings of Caribou Crossing.
      2. Sorry, no, but it does not taste young.
      3. No, this is the first year for Caribou Crossing. They do plan some other new releases for the future though.

      By the way, thanks for your post on WWW.

  4. John:

    Davin, which post are you referring to?

    • Davin:

      Sorry, I went back and checked. It was Mellow to Yellow who posted a link to the awards on WWW forum.

  5. Piers:

    Davin, great review, and thanks to the award, I went looking for this, and may have possibly found the last one in Calgary. It came with a price tag of almost double the US price you listed, but it’s Christmas-time and I’ve been good all year, so I treated myself..

    well, I fully concur with your five stars.. It was delicious and complex, and I don’t think I’ve ever detected such wonderful wood notes in a Canadian whisky before.

    I’ve purchased and tasted both the Confederation Oak and now the Caribou this week, and I’m in such a state of bliss, I can’t even describe it.. Thanks again for your great reviews and your work on the Canadian Awards.


    • Davin:

      Thanks for your comments Piers. So a few bottles made their way into Calgary did they? That’s great. I hope it comes to the rest of Canada soon. Yeah, some of these new Canadians really do knock the ball out of the part for flavour and texture. They just feel so good in your mouth. I love the wood in Canadian whisky. It can be so clean and fresh despite old age. I’m glad you concur with the awards. And already there are some great new contenders on the horizon for next year.


  6. Matt:

    I received a bottle for Christmas, and I am surely impressed. A beautiful spirit.

    • Davin:

      Hi Matt,
      Yes, this is really good whisky. Good news for those of us in Ontario is that it is coming to LCBO shortly into the new year.

  7. John McLellan:

    For BC rye lovers…Caribou Crossing is available in it seems it is working its way back home.

    Intend on purchasing some this coming week when I will be in Seattle.


  8. John McLellan:

    oh yeah..almost forgot…so is Whistlepig…will be picking that up as well.

    • Davin:

      Hi John,

      Fantastic news on both accounts. thank you so much. We just poured WhistlePig at the Victoria Whisky Festival and it got a lot of favourable comments. And yes, rumours have Caribou Crossing available here in Canada soon as well.


  9. AndyM:

    Just bought A bottle of Caribou Crossings. Its fantastic, smooth is the first word that come to mind. Ive been a crown royal fan for along time but after today The caribou crossing Single Barrel will be my drink of choice.

  10. Charles Chins:

    Davin, I read your review about Caribou Crossing and also its review in Malt Advocate magazine. So I bought a bottle of Caribou Crossing Single Barrel with high expectations since it is from Sazerac/Buffalo Trace. I was very impressed as this whiskey is smooth, flavorful and well balanced. However I was curious that, since the label states it is a “single barrel” does that mean it has no flavoring (like sherry wine) added to it during bottling. Does anyone know if this whisky has any wine or other flavor as allowed per Canadian regulations added to it?

    • Davin:

      Hi Charles, I have not asked the question, but given the strict labeling laws I think you can be certain there were no blenders used.

  11. Rob:

    I believe I cleared out the Toronto stock of this stuff. After the first bottle which I bought for 84.95 Canadian, I feverishly looked for other locations that had some. To my luck and surprise I found a Toronto store with 3 left and bought all three. So I’m down to two now and I was planning on storing one of these, any ideas on what the best way to do this is if I plan to store for 10+ years?

    • Davin:

      Hi Rob,
      The best way to store it is standing upright so the cork does not get wet, and in a cool dry place.

  12. John Velocci:

    has this bottle already been to the LCBO and sold out? I never seen it.

    • Davin:

      Hi John,
      Yes, it was at LCBO earlier n the year.

  13. Axel:


    can i buy this Whiskey in Germany?

    • Davin:

      Hi Axel,
      I am not sure. You would have to check at your local liquor stores or an on-line retailer.

  14. paddockjudge:

    Mr. Mayville has sourced some great whisky, this particular offering is full of rye, rye, and more rye; it screams ALBERTA. This is a dead ringer for Alberta Premium limited edition. Having the bottles identified by barrel(warehouse/barrel/rick) would have been a nice touch, much like the Blanton’s offerings. This bottling resembles the Blanton’s presentation with the outrageous bottle, attractive packaging, and the ornamental stopper. With all of the bells and whistles, and the premium price, this whisky makes a statement and does not disappoint.

    • Davin:

      Not sure where it comes from, but it is great whisky, I agree.

  15. Joyce:

    I received a bottle of Caribou Crossing as a gift, yesterday. Knob Creek is usually my drink of choice. This was by far more flavorful and so smooth.

  16. paddockjudge:

    The last release of Caribou Crossing had a heavy rye inluence; this recent release of the single barrel Canadian whisky is dominated by corn. This expression of Caribou Crossing is every bit as impressive as Crown Royal Reserve and Century 15-25. Whisky piñata.

  17. Bonnie:

    Was at a local liquor store and they told us that caribou crossing is not being made. Is this true?

    • Davin:

      As far as I know it is still being made.

  18. [...] on Partager:PlusWordPress:J’aime chargement… Catégories : [...]

  19. Rory:

    Since it is a Single barrel it must be made with a single grain, correct? Do you know if it was made with corn or rye?

  20. Davin:

    It may well include several grains blended together before barrelling. The palate tells me there is a fair bit of corn in there and likely some rye too.

  21. Mark binions:

    This by far the best whiskey I’ve ever tasted. I’ve drank more expensive stuff and it doesn’t compare to how smooth and wonderful this tastes. I just wish I could get some more right away. The lady at the liquor store told me I have to wait till October before I can get another bottle. It’s going to be worth the wait.

  22. Willie:

    Thanks for the recommendation Davin! This is an exceptional whisky! Very smooth. Much better than Crown Royal! My father’s special gift was perfect! He admired the holographic box. I think the decanter with the etchings is exquisite. What material is the maple leaf stopper made of? Seems heavy – perhaps lead? On first look I thought it was made of plastic.

    • Davin:

      Glad it worked out. I think the stopper is white metal and certainly NOT lead.

      • Willie:

        My mother thought it was lead from the heft. I didn’t think so. The packaging is that like of Crown Royal but so much better! That blue velvet bag gives it really nice a touch. Makes for perfect gift giving.

        Incidentally, out of the four bottles in the store, (all covered in dust I might add) I was fortunate to find the only one with a box.

        I also caught your interview with Brian Lilley of Sun News on his blog. My father never mixes, so the Caribou was perfect for sipping. We’ll have to give Forty Creek Select a go sometime which is a bit more plentiful in LA.

  23. Corey M.:

    I read your review about one month ago and decided to bring a case in for my liquor store in Grande Prairie. I picked a bottle up for myself and was extremely happy with it. It’s so smooth and has great flavors.
    Thanks for the review!

  24. [...] Canada’s finer offerings? Among Abrahamson’s picks for great Canadian whiskies include Caribou Crossing, a single barrel whiskey, Forty Creek and Pike Creek. De Kergommeaux also lists Lot No. 40 and [...]

  25. [...] else have I been missing out on in our pretty extensive Canadian section? How about the world’s first single-barrel whisky from Canada? Hand-selected by Sazerac’s Master Blender Drew Mayville, no less! That’s gotta be worth [...]

  26. I tested the whisky in Kebec, wanderful.
    it is possible to buy 2 bottles to be shipped here im Milano Italy??
    Thanks erminio bosi

    • Davin:

      Your best bet is to find a retailer at that will ship out of the country.

  27. [...] you will say Green Apple Jolly Ranchers, but I love it.) The Caribou Crossing came recommended by Canadian Whisky guru Davin de Kergommeaux, and got a respectful writeup from Mark Bylok in his fine book The Whisky Cabinet. Good [...]

  28. Bob Gordon:

    Canadian whiskey is what I drink. I like the dry stuff: Canadian Club, VO, not the sweet stuff, Crown, Wisers. This Caribou Crossing is, bar none, the best, most delicious whisky I have ever had. Here is my question stated in February 2016: Is it available in Washington State?

  29. Hi! Is this whiskey still available? I tried it at the winter food and drink festival in Banff whilst I was there on my honeymoon! I need to get some somehow? Any ideas?

    Many thanks, Alex

    • Davin:

      Yes, but not all stores carry it.

  30. Sam K.:

    Brown Jug in Alaska just received a shipment. So come one down and pick up a bottle before they disappear!!!

  31. Denise:

    How can something called Canadian whiskey not be available in Canada….am I the only one wondering that?

  32. Joshua:

    Why cant I find this in Canada? Need to find a bottle for a christmas gift. Any suggestions?

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