The partnership of The Calgary Stampede and Eau Claire Distillery is a natural. After all, both openly value and preserve the pioneer spirit and history of the area. Eau Claire founder David Farran, whose love of draft horses plays out with the distillery using horses to harvest some of its barley, also sits on the Stampede board.
So it was a fantastic surprise while ordering a whisky and Coke at last year’s chuckwagon races (followed by the thrilling Indigenous relay races, about the only thing that can follow the chucks) to find that a big-name American brand was no longer in place, but Eau Claire Distillery’s Stampede Canadian Rye Whisky was. Well, local supporting local can’t be beat when your local happens to be Alberta.
One factor of ordering one (well, OK, several) at the Stampede is that you don’t get a good look at the beautiful bottle and label or the whisky’s pleasing, light golden colour. The label, featuring a golden bucking horse with Calgary and the Stampede in the background to the left and the Rockies to the right, is a delightful work of art. No wonder Stampede Whisky won a SIP gold medal for Individual Bottle Design, complementing its concurrent SIP gold medal for Canadian Rye Whisky.
The label art makes the whisky even more alluring to give as gifts (booze – always the right size and colour) or for people to keep as a memento of their Stampede or Alberta experience, perhaps opening it up during holiday season and remembering summer moments on those long winter nights.
The whisky itself lives up to the beautiful packaging. Swirling the glass brings aromas of malt and toffee with a hint of nutmeg which perfectly compliment the taste as the beverage passes through your lips and you enjoy notes of vanilla and caramelized sugar (so lovely together) and chocolate. It’s a rather smooth whisky with just a feather touch of bite to it.
Its flavours are fantastic in rye and Coke and also in that Canadian staple, rye and ginger ale, but you might just want to savour it and enjoy this 80-proof beverage on the rocks or neat to let all the notes sing.
Eau Claire prides itself on using local crops (remarkable fact: most of the world’s whiskies use Alberta barley) of barley for a soft sweetness and rye for spiciness, combined with glacier-fed mountain water from the Sheep River basin. The Sheep itself also flows just down the road from the distillery, which has a tasting room and Speakeasy restaurant as well. The whisky has been aged three years plus a day in compliance with Canadian law. All these things have come together to create a tasting experience that won the aforementioned awards as well as gold medals in both the New York International Spirits Competition and San Francisco World Spirits competition.
All it needs now is for Corb Lund to write a song about it.
Stampede Canadian Rye Whisky is available online or in person at Eau Claire Distillery and at fine liquor stores. For more information, go to https://eauclairedistillery.ca/ .