I’ve always felt that the Gooderham & Worts line was like the overlooked middle child of Corby’s Northern Border Collection.

Lot 40 is bold and assertive, and usually gets all the attention of a typical first-born child. Pike Creek, like a youngest child, gets pampered: it gets rum barrel finishes, Oloroso Sherry finishes, and so on. Gooderham & Worts is a bit more subtle, a bit more complex. You need to take the time to really get to know them, as their better qualities aren’t obvious to everyone right away.

Back in 2017, Corby released their first annual Rare Release Collection. Pike Creek 21 Year Old Speyside Cask had an impressive age statement and an interesting cask finish. Lot No.40 Cask Strength 12 Year Old excited those of us who already loved the standard Lot No.40 with its boisterous “it goes to eleven” nature. The other release from the Northern Border Collection, Gooderham & Worts 17 Year Old Three Grain, didn’t draw as much immediate fanfare.

An aside: I realise reviewing limited releases from a few years ago may seem odd to some, but these whiskies can still pop up unexpectedly in the wild, so I feel as though my effort here is not wasted.

Nevertheless, I’ll start with the standard Gooderham & Worts Four Grain. This one is a permanent member of the Corby family and is available for about $40 CAD in Ontario. Gooderham & Worts Four Grain is a blend of whiskies from corn, rye, wheat, and malted barley, bottled at 44.4% ABV.

Gooderham & Worts Four Grain – Review

Colour: Amber.

On the nose: There’s sweetness at first with brown sugar and caramel, followed by some surprisingly assertive rye spice (cinnamon and cloves mostly). Given a few minutes to breathe, there’s some fruitiness coming through; pears at first followed by peaches and apricots. There’s also a touch of mint hanging around on the outskirts.

In the mouth: While I wouldn’t call it thick and chewy, this whisky is richer than I expected. Let’s call it medium-bodied. The rye bread flavours come through first and quickly turn to cinnamon and cloves, followed by over-steeped black tea. This last flavour note is one I often find in the ryes made at the Hiram Walker distillery and I absolutely adore what it brings to the party. The fruitiness is still present albeit more subdued than on the nose. The finish is medium length with the spicy cinnamon and cloves cutting through the sweetness and the oak tannins contributing a slight drying effect.

Conclusions:

Gooderham & Worts presents excellent value for money. Those outside Canada might not understand that $40 is still very much a great deal on a bottle of whisky in these parts. This particular whisky, while still sweet, presents enough complexity and spice to stand out from the pack.

Would I accept a glass if it were offered? Absolutely.
Would I order this in a bar or pub? Indubitably.
Would I purchase another bottle? I’m sure I will.

Rating: 6/10

The name of the 2017 Gooderham & Worts limited release honours the Little Trinity Church in Toronto, a church founded by William Gooderham in 1842 for his mill and distillery employees who couldn’t afford the high pew fees in the area. Yes, there was a time when parishioners paid “pew fees” for the best spots in church and probably bragged about them while thwirling their waxed mustachios. I’m not sure if there were flippers buying up pews and flipping them on the secondary market back then. I don’t think Instagram and Facebook were all that popular in the 1840s.

Gooderham & Worts Little Trinity 17 Year Old – Review

Colour: Golden amber.

On the nose: Honey, oak, butterscotch, cedar, vanilla bean, golden raisins, some red apples, maple syrup, oak, and a hint of lemon.

In the mouth: A contrast from the bright nose, rich arrival, thick mouthfeel, maple, butterscotch, oranges, sweet and spicy with ginger, hot peppers, more oak with a hint of rye spice, themedium length finish shows a slight nuttiness, and is just a bit drying and tannic, with the sweet and spicy notes lingering alongside the oak. Adding water, even a little bit, really brings some complexity out of this whisky. The vanilla becomes more prominent on the nose, and some thick, very floral honey appears on the palate. I recommend adding just a bit of water, not too much, since this is bottled at 45% ABV. The whisky is already subtle and diluting it too much further might completely mute it.

Conclusions:

Before imbibing this one, I strongly suggest you let it sit in your glass for at least twenty minutes, maybe more. The Little Trinity needs some time to open up. The flavours are subtle at first, but they develop beautifully with time. Gooderham & Worts Little Trinity 17 Year Old Three Grain may not blow your socks off right away. There’s no peat or sherry and it isn’t a rye bomb either (there are some subtle rye notes). Little Trinity is very complex though. It requires punctiliousness, and it is worth the effort. This is a rich whisky. It’s a terrific sipping whisky. Maybe it’s the packaging affecting my perception, but this feels like a whisky from a different time; like something Honoré Mercier would have sipped while penning a denunciation of John A. Macdonald’s policies, especially the hanging of Louis Riel. I don’t know what whisky tasted like in the 1880s, so this is just a feeling, a guess. It’s unlike anything I’ve tasted before.

Would I accept a glass if it were offered? Absolutely.
Would I order this in a bar or pub? Unlikely. It’s too subtle for that environment.
Would I purchase another bottle? Probably. I’d like to re-visit this one if I could find another bottle.

Rating: 6/10

Gooderham & Worts 49 Wellington features whiskies made from corn, rye, red winter wheat, and barley. I say “whiskies” since these grains are all mashed, fermented, distilled, and aged separately, as is standard practice with most Canadian whiskies. Some of the whisky was also aged using seasoned red oak staves in some of the barrels. The whisky is 19 years old and is bottled at 49% ABV. Huzzah!

Gooderham & Worts 49 Wellington 19 Year Old- review

Colour: Tawny

On the nose: Old and slightly weathered barn boards, fresh cut oak, hot peppers, a touch of rye spice, some butterscotch, a little bit of balsamic vinegar, a touch of mint, perhaps some red grapes, freshly varnished wood (in a very pleasant way), this is a very complex and expressive nose.

In the mouth: The arrival is easier than one might expect given the 49% ABV. Mouthfeel is rich with maple, caramel, vanilla fudge, fresh rye bread, a sprinkling of black pepper and paprika. The finish is long and warming with vanilla, rye bread, orange zest, hot peppers, sweet and sour sauce, more oak, and a hint of caraway seeds.

Conclusions:

A single sample of this whisky doesn’t do it justice. I’m glad I purchased a bottle as repeated tastings have revealed more aromas and flavours. It also benefits from a good rest in the glass, say 20 minutes or so. The nose, in particular, is absolutely fantastic. There’s so much depth and nuance to discover.If you have a chance to sample this, please don’t rush it. This is harmony in a glass. It isn’t Pantera’s “Walk”, no, this is akin to a Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto. Oh, and by the way, Sergei Rachmaninoff was a middle child.

Would I accept a glass if it were offered? Absolutely.
Would I order this in a bar or pub? For sure.
Would I purchase another bottle? Without hesitation. This is superb whisky. It’s well-crafted and beautifully blended. Outstanding.

Rating: 7/10

Four Grain photo courtesy of the Northern Border Collection. Little Trinity photo courtesy of Corby. 49 Wellington photo courtesy of Total Wine

CategoriesCanadian
Joel

Joel lives in Ontario, Canada with his family. When he’s not enjoying whisky and rum, he teaches history, civics, and philosophy to high school students. Joel can be found on Twitter and Instagram @odysseusunbound.

  1. zenatello says:

    Since the scoring bands are price sensitive, it would be great to know the approximate prices for the latter two bottles on release.

  2. Andrew Butler says:

    As you have mentioned middle children: have you tried Eleven Souls, the Gooderham & Worts release that came out between Little Trinity and 49 Wellington? If so, what did you think? (By the way: I have a bottle each of Little Trinity, Eleven Souls and the standard Four Grain and Little Trinity is still my favourite…)

    1. Joel says:

      Unfortunately, I was never able to track down a bottle of Eleven Souls. The LCBO in Ontario isn’t always great with distribution and availability. As to Little Trinity, it took me awhile to get to know it. If I had only tasted from a single sample I may not have liked it as much as I did.

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