Vice Admiral Lord Collingwood (Cuthbert to his family) is a top-ranking hero in my personal Justice League. He was Nelson’s second-in-command, subsequently C-in-C of the Mediterranean station, a career sailor who served the Royal Navy for 50 years, almost all of them at sea, and a wise and well-intentioned man. Collingwood Canadian whisky is not named after him directly (or one would drink it all the time) but there is a connection. The whisky is called after the Ontario town of Collingwood, the place where it’s made, which was named to honour the great naval hero, some 48 years after his death.
To be honest, I never realized there was a distillery in Collingwood but it turns out this is the home of a blended whisky called Canadian Mist. The operation is owned by the firm of Brown-Forman, based in Louisville, Kentucky, which also owns Jack Daniel’s and Woodford bourbon. Collingwood is a new product, proudly bannered as “the first new major Canadian whisky to hit the market in almost a decade.” It’s as smooth as a Perry Como ballad and has a full-bodied weight as if it were designed to be poured over ice – and indeed the press release accompanying its launch makes a specific recommendation that it “can be enjoyed on the rocks or mixed in a cocktail.” In other words, this is not sippin’ whisky.
What makes it so smooth? It’s triple distilled for one thing and it also undergoes a “toasted maplewood” mellowing process. Brown-Forman are shy about giving any more details than that but my guess is Collingwood is filtered through maplewood charcoal – or at least exposed to it – the process the company uses to smooth out Jack Daniel’s. An alternative theory is that the whisky may also go into maplewood barrels, like the Masters Collection of Woodford Reserve bourbon, though that would be a pricey thing to do for a whisky that sells for $29.95. Besides, Collingwood makes a big deal about maturation in white oak barrels.
The press release is also a little vague about the grains used to make the whisky. Ontario corn is mentioned (the town of Collingwood is a centre for the corn-into-ethanol industry) but perhaps there is malted barley too, as there is in Canadian Mist. I don’t taste the tang of rye at all, just the rich, placid sweetness of corn whisky and a pleasant blur of oaky vanilla and caramel. Such is the power of word association that I’m quite sure I can taste maple as well, after reading about the toasted maplewood process.
I don’t usually like to put ice into whisky but in this case it works, leavening the weight of the spirit a little and loosening up the clustered flavours. In those conditions it comes across as a friendly, tasty, not very complicated Canadian whisky at a very reasonable price. And if smoothness is what you seek above all other qualities, this is the baby for you. LCBO #244186, 750 mL, $29.95.