First Barrels – Straight Canadian: Standard and Cask Strength Versions

As you may or may not have heard recently, the Toronto Whisky Society both a) became a real thing and b) visited a couple distilleries.

I was lucky and privileged enough to join in one of these nights, and ended up at one of these nights, at Toronto Distillery Co.

There are much better people who can go into detail about Toronto Distillery Co. Go to muaddib99’s great review here for more.

Personally I’ve been waiting for a few years for Toronto Distillery Co. to bring out a whisky. I was so excited, I went out and bought some of their first clear spirit they made, and then aged it myself, just to see how it was.

Got to give a sample to the distillers and see what they thought. Was pretty cool about it, and gave me some recommendations.

A couple things I found interesting:

  • This whisky is made of a mix of whiskies ranging from 2-26 months in age. This goes against Canadian laws currently, and on purpose. Canada requires whisky to currently be aged at 3 years. Toronto Distillery Co. thinks this is silly and that the laws should change.
  • Unlike other Canadian whiskies, this is aged in new char Canadian oak barrels ranging from 10L to 110L. Thus you have different years, different sizes, and different amounts of aging. Interesting technique.
  • This is an organic whisky. The reason? That was the only way they could track the different grains to exact farms. Otherwise they mix it all up during the logistics process. And I think that’s the best use of the Organic label I’ve ever heard.
  • As part of our tasting, a special run of Cask Strength was made and offered to us. When I say limited, I mean 6 bottles. And we got to try it as well.

Sounds pretty cool in the end. If I was better at anything longer than these reviews, I’d have much, much more. For now, please take my word that the other spirits (especially the gin) were well made.

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After much water, some other drinks of various uniqueness, and multiple tours, we partook in First Barrels – Straight Canadian. The non-cask strength version first. Because we’re not barbarians.

Well… most of us aren’t.

Price: $49.95 (CAD) at the LCBO and the Distillery

Region: Canadian

Mashbill: 40% Wheat, 40% Rye, 20% Corn

Abv: 42%

Colour: 2.5Y 8/10

Nose: Vanilla, wheat, acetone, caramel, light green apple

So we tried some of the wheat, corn, and rye spirit before this, and this has a nice balance of each different note from the spirits.

There are some young notes here. That said, not as many as I’d expect. There’s no strong pine or maple notes, as I’m used to in younger Canadian whiskies. Nice use of virgin casks here.

Taste: Soya milk, cream, pepper, custard, wheat, cornbread

It was /u/throzen who correctly helped point out the soy milk note. Again, more flavours than I would ascribe to a younger blend of whiskies. Really thick mouthfeel as well, which I attribute to the lack of chill-filtering.

Again, other than pepper, this doesn’t taste young. Nice flavours. Nothing overly complex or over the top, but nice.

Finish: Vanilla custard, melted ice cream, green pea

Light finish. Really quick finish. Which is too bad, because there’s some interesting, more complex flavours.

Conclusion: Surprising dram. I’m not going to lie, when I was told the age and the makeup of this dram, I was concerned. Very concerned. Also had to review this in front of the distiller.

So, to start off, I told them I’d review this honestly. Even if I didn’t like it or not. And they were fine with it, even though it was given to me for free.

The finish is super short. That’s an issue. A pretty big issue for me. It’s so fast it makes my wife appreciate what she’s got.

The taste and the nose are quite nice. Very creamy. Good amount of apple on the nose. The nose has a little acetone, otherwise no overdone pepper, pine, or maple as found in other young whiskies.

If more Canadian whiskies tasted like this, I think we’d have a better reputation in the whisky world.


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And now for the Cask Strength Version. Same whisky, but cask strength. You can just about figure out the rest.

Price: $70 (CAD)

Region: Canadian

Mashbill: 40% Wheat, 40% Rye, 20% Corn

Abv: 63.2%

Colour: 7.5YR 7/10

Nose: Vanilla, green apple, custard, green wood/earth, milk

Similar to the standard version, this shows more of the creamy elements, and additional egg/milk notes. Takes less time to pick apart the different flavours as well.

Oddly enough, any acetone is gone, and is replaced by what I would expect is green wood from the virgin cask.

Taste: Pepper, maple, cranberry, sage, dill

So this is where the cask strength really differed for me. Instead of cream, it’s closer to a sweet, herbal mixture of flavours. Lots of maple on the taste as well.

But not fake maple, like the mentally deranged enjoy.

Finish: Lots and lots of caramel, green wood, green apple, dill, oak

Very different from before. No longer quick and creamy, this is now a huge amount of caramel.

On top of that it shows off the really great fruit elements. Tons of apple and caramel here.

Conclusion: Wow. Very interesting and unique, young dram. Tons of sweet notes throughout. Really changes at cask strength. Loved the green notes in the finish.

Didn’t enjoy the taste as much on this versus the standard release, however I think that was due to the maple aspect. The nose and finish were much better.

Also, holy shit, I get to try a one time batch! How cool is that!

Really excited to see what else Toronto Distillery Co. has in the future. I ended up buying some of the beet spirit for my wife, which if you love beets (I really don’t), go for it.


World Whisky reviews #168-169, Canada review #60-61, Whisky Network review #823-824

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