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Keifer Sutherland’s Red Bank Whisky

Celeb spirits often disappoint, but Red Bank bucks the norm.

DO YOU KNOW WHETHER KIEFER SUTHERLAND appreciates or, indeed, even understands anything about Canadian whisky? Moreover, should you care one way or the other?

These are questions raised by the arrival of Red Bank Whisky, the newest in an ever-lengthening line of “celebrity spirits,” this one endorsed, promoted and partially owned by the 24-star. And if that news makes you roll your eyes a bit, don’t worry: Red Bank partner Shawn Hiscott feels your pain.

Way too many celebrity endorsements seeminauthentic,” says Hiscott. “But Kiefer would be the first to tell you that he’s an equal partner in this. We, and I mean all four of us, want this to be Red Bank, not Kiefer’s whisky.

The “we” Hiscott is referring to is the quartet behind the whisky — himself and Sutherland, plus
music industry mogul Gary Briggs and broadcasting executive and entrepreneur Rob Steele. Sutherland
and Briggs, who have been friends since the late 1980s, met Steele after he began spending extended
periods in Austin, Texas, where Briggs was based. Late-night conversations led to thoughts of launching a new brand, which is where Hiscott, a 38-year veteran of the spirits industry and a long-time friend
of Steele, was brought into the fold.

Rounding out the group was Michel Marcil, a 42-year veteran distiller and blender who has had a
hand in the creation of almost innumerable whiskies and other spirits. The taste he was working towards, he says, was dictated by Sutherland.

“Kiefer told me that he couldn’t find anything on the Canadian whisky market he liked,” Marcil recalls, “so we decided to go with rye as a flavouring whisky for the spiciness. Then we wanted to add smoothness, so we added wheat whisky to the blend.” The remainder of Red Bank is corn-based neutral spirit, as is common practice in Canada. Using whiskies sourced from several Canadian distilleries, Marcil developed “eight or nine sample whiskies” to be tasted by the four core partners, says Hiscott, which they narrowed down to three possibilities. From there, the full company team almost unanimously selected a single blend as the best, with only the group’s CFO dissenting.

“Shows that you should never let an accountant make a product decision,” adds Hiscott with a grin. Unlike any number of instantly forgettable celebrity spirits — I’m looking at you, Drake and Elon! — Red Bank is a quality whisky first and a celebrity endorsement only a distant second.

Boasting floral caramel notes on the nose, it has a sweetish palate entry, with soft notes of wildflower honey and fresh peaches leading to a drier, more peppery mid-palate with stone fruit giving way to vanilla and green raisin notes. The finish is off-dry with lingering brown spice accents.

Overall, Red Bank’s style is very much Canadian, but with a spice accent that calls to mind a bourbon with high rye content, and a sippability reminiscent of Speyside single malts. That its bottle bears Kiefer Sutherland’s signature is but a footnote.

— Stephen Beaumont

Photography by Red Bank Whisky

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