It started 12 years ago
In the barrel - Year 12
After 12 long years maturing in our choice oak barrels, Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old Canadian Whisky has finally reached its perfect balance of flavours, body, nose and colour. Now it’s ready for your discerning tastes.
It’s true that barrel aging is crucial in the creation of the superior quality of our whisky. However the story of that fine whisky you’re about to savour started 12 years earlier. Every ingredient, every detail we put into our spirits has sublimely defined every drop in every bottle of Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old Canadian Whisky.
And it all began with…
The meticulous selection of the very best that Canada has to offer – top grade rye and barley, the sweetest corn and the purest water.
Separate for now
In the barrel - Year 11
The near-mature whisky is getting very close to the end of the aging process. The oak barrel is finishing its labour of love… transforming what was a harsh, rough-around-the-edges spirit to an exceptionally smooth tasting whisky.
The rye and malted barley are fermented separately from the corn using a technique and precise conditions designed to enhance their rich, complex grain characteristics. The corn is fermented using a particular yeast strain that helps bring out the soft, sweet corn flavours.
Requires a little concentration
In the barrel - Year 10
Even with over two years of subtle refinement still to go, the quality of this 10 year-old whisky is already vastly superior to other whiskies already on the shelf.
The fermented grain mash is distilled to concentrate the alcohol and selectively recover flavour compounds that were produced during fermentation. Care is taken at this crucial stage because it is these compounds that give the spirits flavour and aroma.
It’s all in the barrel
In the barrel - Year 9
At this moment in the aging process, the whisky is becoming even more balanced and mature. A distinct “fruitiness” can definitely be detected on the tongue.
Now the grain and corn spirits are ready to be blended and barrel aged. But what type of barrel to use? Canadian whisky is best aged in previously used bourbon barrels. These barrels are made of oak and the inside has been exposed to fire for a short period. This creates a black charred layer that adds flavour and removes harshness from the young whisky.
There’s plenty left in the wood
In the barrel - Year 8
More and more wood sugars, vanilla and other flavours are being drawn out of the oak and dissolved into the whisky. Sample tastings are revealing a fuller, less aggressive whisky. Some distillers are now satisfied that their own whisky has aged long enough. That’s what separates Gibson’s Finest from the rest.
American law states that bourbon barrels can only be used once for aging Bourbon. This creates an excellent source of “new” barrels for maturing other whisky types, especially Canadian. With bourbon’s bold smoky, sweet, oaky flavours in the wood, we see the first use of the barrel as “conditioning” for aging our Gibson’s Finest whisky.
It’s what’s left that counts
In the barrel - Year 7
It’s now the mid point of the whisky’s life in the barrel. Right now the whisky is full and smooth, but the wood is still working its charms of infusing even more flavour, aromas and colour.
By the time we fill a “new” barrel, most of the bitter tannins, heavy flavour and smoky characteristics have been pulled out of the wood and into the bourbon that had been previously aged in the barrel. What’s left is dominated by sweet vanilla, rich spicy flavour and oak notes like freshly sawn wood. These are oak qualities that help define the distinct taste of Canadian whisky.
Younger ages better
In the barrel - Year 6
The whisky is now becoming more balanced and more confident. The rawness of a young whisky is now giving way to smooth, rich maturity.
Gibson’s takes the time to inspect and hand-select the barrels that will be used to age our premium whisky. We recognize that fresh barrels have higher levels of extractable flavour components. So to maintain a superior tasting whisky, we pride ourselves of maintaining a high ratio of fresh bourbon barrels in our inventory.
The angels love their whisky
In the barrel - Year 5
Now in its 5th year, the interactions created by the presence of oxygen are increasing the depth and layers of flavour. And, of course the angels continue to take their share.
The porous nature of oak enables it to “breathe”. This allows much needed oxygen to enter and react with the whisky. It also means that some water and alcohol will escape due to evaporation. This loss is called “the angel’s share”. Over the 12 years, a barrel can lose up to approximately 40% of the total alcohol content. It’s another reason why older whiskies have a higher value.
It’s in the wood
In the barrel - Year 4
Even though it is now officially Canadian Whisky, the barrel aging process still has many years to go… still more interaction with the wood to draw out its rich flavours and colour before it meets our uncompromising standards.
So why is oak so important? Of course, oak has the physical strength needed for a long-lasting barrel. Once charred, the oak’s unique lignin and hemicellulose (the main components of wood), tannins, and sugars all play an important role in defining the whisky’s body, nose, colour, and flavour during the extensive maturation period.
Canadians like it hot & cold
In the barrel - Year 3
It’s the end of the 3rd year and the whisky has extracted significant colour, flavour and aroma from its barrel. Some of the harshness is gone, leaving a lightly sweet whisky with floral and spicy notes.
It is now officially Canadian Whisky.
The Canadian climate will greatly affect what’s going to happen in the barrel over the next 12 years. The harsh Canadian winters and hot humid summers definitely leave their mark on the impressionable young whisky. The summer heat causes the whisky to expand and forces it deep into the barrel staves. The freezing winter temperatures cools and contracts the whisky and draws it out of the wood. This seasonal pushing and pulling of the whisky in and out of the barrel significantly enhances the reactions between the whisky and the wood.
Keeping the angels happy
In the barrel - Year 2
The 2nd year in the barrel and the still young and harsh whisky continues to extract its full, rounded flavour and golden colour from the oak staves. And, as oxygen passes through the wood, intense and complex aromas are gently infused.
Our warehouses used for aging take full advantage of the change in seasons. In the winter, we maintain a small amount of heat to keep the fire sprinklers from freezing. During the summer months the angels are extremely happy because the temperature is not controlled and whisky evaporates from the warming barrels.
In the barrel - Year 1
This is the 1st year in the barrel and it’s one of the most defining as the whisky starts its 12 year transformation into Gibson’s Finest. The new whisky spirits is slowly starting to be absorbed in and out of the oak. This interaction with the char layer helps the spirits acquire its final rich, toasty flavour characteristics. And, this back and forth movement also gives the young whisky about a third of its final golden colour.
The young whisky is beginning to soften and mellow as harsher elements are removed by the wood. The oak “breathes”, allowing oxygen to pass through the barrel to dissolve and steadily interact with the alcohol. This is how the new whisky starts to develop its distinct and fruity aromas.