The Wild North

Canada, the true north where pines and maples grow. Where great prairies spread and lordly rivers flow. How can you capture such a broad domain, in a single spirit? It seems an immense task, as vast as the country itself. Yet it’s exactly the goal Station 22 set for their rye whisky: “The Wild North”.

The Spirit of Canada

That spirit of Canada is exactly what captured Anita and Rob, many years ago. This time I am not talking about spirit as an alcoholic beverage though, but as the essence of the country and the people that reside there. When the couple first visited the country, they immediately fell in love with it. So much so that not long after the first trip, Anita decided to study there. She had always planned to study abroad for half a year or so, but after their trip she knew she wanted to continue her education there, in the heart of Alberta: Calgary.

Fate strikes

In that half year of studying abroad, her love for Canada only grew. All the way to the point, where she and Rob decided to move to Canada for good. They arranged everything and got all the paperwork in order. But then fate struck. Rob’s father fell ill and they found out that he would be unable to travel much from that point on. And thus, they decided to stay in the Netherlands to take care of him and so that he could stay in touch with his grandchildren. But that did mean giving up on their dream.

But their connection with Canada remained deep. And as it often goes, things that are meant to be find a way to make it back into your life. In the case of Anita and Rob that didn’t encompass them going to Canada though, in their case it was Canada that came to them.

A new adventure

Because of different occurrences at work, Rob became very unhappy with his job. Which eventually led to him parting with the company and starting one of his own. He built and ran a web shop with gadgets, but soon found out that wasn’t really his thing either. So, they called for a friends and family meeting and asked them for their help in a brainstorming session about what the company should be about. And of course, the first thing that came up was Canada. Everyone knew how much passion the couple had for the country, so why not do something with that?

Maple and More

It quickly clicked with both Anita and Rob, that bringing a piece of Canada to the Netherlands would be the perfect business for them. After all, they had always taught their children to do what they love and if they were to apply the same rules to themselves, they knew it had to be something with a strong connection to Canada. So, not long after that meeting, they decided to start Maple and More. First they started importing and selling Canadian coffee, before switching to all kinds of maple syrup and maple syrup flavored treats. They became brand ambassadors of Canoe Trading and Rob found himself a place on the board of the Netherland-Canada Chamber of Commerce.

Liquor & Whisky

Skipping to the present, we can conclude that they made the right choice. Their line-up of products has steadily grown, and they even started importing and distributing the Canadian liquor “Sortilège”. To bring the drink to the attention of liquor stores, they started putting up their stand at many different whisky festivals. And where some might have expected a liquor to have a hard time at such a festival, it turned out to be a great success!

Their stand was a hit, and each festival they visited made them fall more in love with whisky as well. So, when they got the opportunity to import The Wild North, they were eager to take the chance. But before they did, they wanted to make sure the product was of the same high-quality standard as the rest of their line-up. They loved the flavor profile of the whisky themselves… but how would the whisky community react?

Whisky festivals

To test this out they brought a bottle of The Wild North to the Whisky & Rum aan Zee festival – in IJmuiden – to share a sample with a select few of whisky afficionados and gather their opinion. And those opinions mirrored their own feeling, that this Canadian whisky would make a fine addition to the whisky selection currently for sale in the Netherlands.

So, they started working round the clock to get everything in order. Because there would be one more festival where they would put up their stand this year, and how cool would it be to launch The Wild North right there, at the International Whisky Festival in The Hague!

The Wild North

At the festival it’s visitors will get to sample this – new to the Dutch market – Canadian Rye for free! And for those on the fence about Canadian whiskies, let me tell you this dram is no slouch. It has an age statement of five years on the bottle, but was actually blended with batches of 7- and 11-year-old whiskies as well. It consists of 89,7% column distilled corn spirit and 10,3% rye.

Both corn and rye are grown locally in Ontario, and in the distilling process they use fresh spring water from northern Quebec. The product is aged in a combination of ex-bourbon barrels and French oak barrels. The spirit is sourced from different distilleries in Canada and partially aged on site by Station 22.

Rye Whisky

The Wild North is a Canadian Rye Whisky. But if you’re thinking rye, you might find yourself thinking of an American rye. This would make a pour comparison though as the latter contains a minimum of 51% rye, and there are no such laws for its Canadian sibling. As stated before, this dram only holds 10,3% rye. The rye spice is definitely present, but it finds its way onto your palate in combination with the softer corn spirit, making for a softer less outspoken dram.

Canadian Whisky

It is a step up from most (bottom shelve) Canadian drams that are usually available here in the Netherlands. Perhaps best compared to a Lot 40. Still very much a Canadian whisky, but with a little extra horsepower under the hood in the form of a higher abv and a bigger influence of rye. The philosophy behind this outspoken character lies in the people behind The Wild North. They are proud of their heritage and want to display it with this dram. Which means this is a whisky with a story to tell, a story worth exploring. In my opinion it’s also a nice whisky to explore just because Canadian whisky is one of the big five whisky industries, and this dram forms an excellent specimen to delve a little deeper into the category.

Canada in a bottle

At the end of the interview with Anita, I asked her why everyone should have a bottle of The Wild North on their shelves, and I found her answer the perfect way to describe this product: “The Wild North is Canada in a bottle”. The combination of the rugged lands and its wild nature, and the gentle spirit of its inhabitants. It’s kind and forgiving like other Canadian whiskies that have become major players in the world of whisky over the years, but it’s not without a hint of adventure either. A harmony of wilderness and kindness. And it makes for quite the dram!

Tasting Notes: The Wild North

Stats:

ABV: 43% (86 proof)

Age: 5 years old

Bottling company: Station 22 (formerly known as Maison des Futailles)

Owned by: The Dandurand Group

Category: Canadian Rye Whisky

Awards: IWSC Bronze (2021), Canadian Whisky Awards Bronze (2021)

Chill-Filtered: Unknown

Natural Colour: Unknown

Setting:

It’s a quiet Saturday afternoon. The sun is shining, and I’ve put my feet up to enjoy this pour of Canadian whisky. I decided to skip the music today, so I can enjoy my dram in peace and quiet. I poured it neat into a Glencairn, and I find myself all set to explore The Wild North. So, without further ado… off we go!

Nose:

Fruit and sweetness are very prominent on the nose. The fruit note is mostly citrus, with lemon coming through in particular. Behind that lemon note I find the sweetness has started to blend with a flourier note, with little hints of vanilla. It suddenly starts to remind me of the maple syrup covered waffles my uncle used to make, with a little lump of butter on top. An image that keeps popping back into my mind every time I go back to nosing the glass. After a few sips the retro nasal influence creates a sprinkling of cinnamon on the nose as well.

Palate:

The palate is very light and delicate at first. The lemon makes its appearance again, but this time around it’s mixed with a tea-like note. There’s some cream in it as well, which brings the image of traditional English tea to mind. With a squeeze of lemon and a luscious amount of milk. And there’s a dash of honey in there as well, to round it all off. On the sides of the tongue there’s some tannin bitterness that comes as fast as it goes. Which feels a little disjointed from the centre of the palate, but not in an unpleasant way at all.

Finish:

The finish has a medium length. The tea note fades fast, leaving the creamy milk notes to take front and centre stage. As the palate fades further, the maple syrup note starts to come back to linger softly in the background for a while. The bitterness that was present on the palate leaves the sides of the tongue slightly numb in the finish. The creamy milk turning into subtle maple syrup was very pleasant, the numbing effect slightly less so.

Verdict:

Canadian whisky is one of the “Big Five” whisky industries. Yet over here in the Netherlands, it can be quite hard to come by the better offerings. To that point this whisky is a major addition to the available line-up. As someone with a lot of Canadian relatives, I have been on the lookout for some of the “better” Canadian whiskies out there. But in the stores, all I saw was the regular Canadian Club, Seagrams VO, and Crown Royal offerings.

Now there’s nothing wrong with the standard Canadian blends, but they just don’t bring that little bit of extra oomph I often find myself searching for. In that regard The Wild North does deliver. And for roughly 40 euro it’s still affordable as well. The only other Canadian whisky that rivals it over here (which is also regularly available) is Lot 40. And if you happen to like that whisky as much as I do, The Wild North is a must try!

Rating:

85/100

Value:

B

Click here to learn more about how I come up with my tasting notes and how I determine rating and value.

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