To celebrate the holidays of 2022, a bunch of my relatives and I decided to visit Vancouver. This would be what I’d consider my first real trip to Canada, as I’ve previously been to Victoria for only a few hours about a decade ago.
I was excited about this trip because I knew the food there was good, largely because it’s a part of North America where the population is mostly Asian. Just look at Tony Bourdain’s obsession with Asia after he got a taste of it. So, I knew we wouldn’t have a hard time looking for good meals there. Eating in Richmond almost felt like being in Hong Kong due to the numerous dim sum restaurants, and being surrounded by folks speaking Cantonese.
There’s also that curious side of me which wanted to see what the bar scene was like there. I won’t make a definitive comment about the cocktail scene there as I only had one free night to explore the bars; the rest of the nights were spent with my relatives.
Also, living in a tropical country, I almost always look forward to going to cold places, because you can always add on more layers to insulate yourself… while you can only take off so much to beat the heat.
One other thing I knew is that it’s the birthplace of one of my favorite cocktails. This drink is called Meat Hook. It’s a peaty twist on a Manhattan created by Shaun Layton when he was still at L’Abattoir (I’m told he now works at Como Taperia in Vancouver). You can check the link above for the exact recipe, but the drink calls for rye whiskey (preferably Sazerac), Sweet Vermouth (preferably Punt E Mes), Islay Scotch (preferably Ardbeg 10), Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, and brandied cherry as garnish.
Meat Hook #2
Sadly, when I went to drink and dine there, the cocktail menu only had their new version of Meat Hook called Meat Hook #2 (see the recipe in the bar section of the menu). I found it to be less punchy and more delicate than the Meat Hooks I’ve had in other bars. It also just occurred to me now that I should have asked if they could make the original recipe. But, having had to deal with jetlag and having spent a huge portion of the day at the Capilano Bridge, I didn’t think to ask.
Despite that slight disappointment, if you happen to be in Vancouver, I still suggest you dine in L’Abattoir. The drinks, food and service are great. I really loved one of their winter cocktail drinks called Chai Hard, which seemed like an Eggnog-inspired-drink, but with mezcal, oat milk, dark chocolate, chai, and Green Chartreuse instead of the usual recipe. Them having an old school French dessert called (chocolate) marjolaine blew my mind. It was delicious.
Because I’m already in the territory of Canada and am on the topic of rye whiskey, I thought it would be a good chance to sneak in a review of a Canadian rye called Lot 40. It also just hit me that this will be my first review of Canadian whiskey for Malt.
Lot 40 is a pot distilled rye whisky made at the Hiram Walker Distillery. The brand was bought by Pernod Ricard back in 2012. I initially thought that this was a new brand until I found out it was being produced until the 1990s. Also, unlike most Canadian whiskeys – aka Canadian “ryes” – Lot 40 is aged in new charred oak casks, while Canadian “rye” are aged in used oak casks.
Going on a tangent, I love the subtle details on the label. It mentions a part of the process via sharing the equipment used. Pot still, worm tubs, doublers and wooden pipes. Yum.
Lot 40 Canadian Rye Whisky
43% abv. $34.99 from K&L Wines.
On the nose: I get medium aromas of rye spice, cinnamon, adzuki beans, sweet vermouth, and oak. Sometimes, these come out as mellow. Other times, it’s hot. Underneath is a tingle of sharpness, which makes me assume it’s from the worm tubs. Along with it, and at the tail end, are lighter aromas of anise, leather, vanilla, and honey.
In the mouth: Not as expressive as on the nose, but also not as hot. I get light and tamed tastes of rye spice, honey, cinnamon, adzuki beans, sakura liqueur, red rice tea, and leather.
Sadly not as expressive and flavorful as I had hoped for, what with it being pot distilled and worm tub-condensed. I guess the big boys really know how to take the fun (flavor) out of their products, even if they’re marketed as a small batch.
On the bright side, it’s different from the typical American rye whiskey that’s usually on the sweeter side and/or heavy on rye flavor. This is just more mellow and balanced.
The present-day version of Lot 40 is perfectly acceptable but a mere shadow of its former self. A decade or so ago it went into more broad distribution across Canada and it was simply excellent in that initial version. Then some years later they changed the formulation (you can tell by the green on the label) and it was nowhere near as good, sadly. I think I still have a bottle of the original version stashed away somewhere – I must try to find it. They also released a cask strength version some years back that I think is no longer offered.
Hi Greg, thanks for the info. I do recall seeing Lot 40 CS online years ago. I think there’s one with an age statement?
The CS version was bottled with a 12 year age statement.
Ah. That’s it. Thanks! I heard it was excellent.
John, welcome to my province! Thanks for the review, it fared not too badly.
Have you gone into any stores to see our fabulous selection of rum? /s.
Surfs, the only good store I was able to go to was Legacy Liquor. I didnt notice the rum selection, but they had a really good selection of wine, agave spirits and whisky because I was in a rush. You can check their website though.
I hope you enjoyed Vancouver John, and I’m glad you got to try Lot 40. While it’s a great cheap 100% rye, and nice to have on hand for cocktails etc., there are a couple deceptions here (as is the norm with Canadian whisky).
Everything at the Hiram Walker distillery goes through a column still for the first distillation. In the case of Lot 40 they do a second distillation in the pot still, so although it’s all pot distilled, it’s not only pot distilled. Also I’m fairly certain the apparatus details on the label have nothing to do with the equipment used to make the current Lot 40. No worm tubs or wooden pipes here sadly.
Greg B mentions the original iteration used to be better. I have not had the opportunity to try it so I can’t comment on the taste, but the original did contain malted rye to supply the enzymes for starch conversion, whereas the present version uses 100% unmalted rye and use commercial enzymes for conversion.
I’m sure you know this already but the term “rye” in Canadian whisky is more of a colloquialism and doesn’t refer to any specific requirements. It comes from the term “rye-flavoured” whisky which is why we Canadians throw the term rye around quite loosely when describing the typical Canadian style of rye-flavoured blended whisky. Another note is that Canadian whiskies including all “ryes” can use any type of barrel and are not limited to used barrels, although the big distillers typically do refill the same barrels over and over again.
Cheers! and thanks for the review.
Aengus, I enjoyed Vancouver. I hope to return some day to explore more of it. It’s one of the few places I can see myself moving to.
Thanks for all the info! Appreciate it.