What’s Under Your Tree? (A Story of Whiskey Karma)

A month ago when all the Crown Royal Northern Harvest commotion began (or was it more of a frenzy? a furor? all of the above?) there was a spike in demand so large that could have completed many, many railways. And while the availability of Northern Harvest continues to be elusive as the LCBO continues to sell out, sometimes within minutes of opening, of its daily release of 500-1000 bottles, some of us lucky enough to have captured a bottle or two are be content with our good fortune.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote how, out of blind luck, I stumbled across a non-empty shelf of Northern Harvest at my local LCBO. There were precious few bottles remaining on the shelf and while the collector in me wanted to clean out the shelf, my better nature resisted and I bought two bottles. I left the remainder, hoping that some other fortunate souls might share in the joy of finding some Northern Harvest right where they least expect it. So I felt good about finding the whiskey, felt good about sharing the bounty, and happily went about my day.

Four weeks later, the good karma that I had unwittingly set in motion returned.

Under the Tree

My wife and I are spending Christmas at her parent’s place this year, and much, much to my surprise, I found this delightful bottle in a present from my mother and father in-law. They had been reading my blog and knew the value of this whiskey but had, unsurprisingly, had zero luck finding a bottle whenever they checked the LCBO’s around where they live.

My mother in-law, inspired by how I had made a point of leaving something on the shelf for the next guy, became determined to find a bottle for me. Further inspired by how I had found my bottles by simply looking for bottles hiding in plain sight, she had a plan. She began to call each of the local stores to simply ask if they had any available. After a few stores replied with fatigued and understandable “no’s”, one store whose online inventory showed zero, said that yes, they were showing 80 bottles in stock yet the clerk she was speaking to was certain there was none on the shelves. Sensing opportunity, my mother in-law forged ahead, asking the clerk if they could please go back into the store room and physically check if the product was actually there.

A few minutes later she was rewarded with a “yes it’s here, but we can’t hold any for you”. Indeed it was there, hiding in not-quite-so plain sight.

“So if we come down to the store you can pull a bottle for us?”

“Sure, I can do that.”

No concern she thought, there was almost no chance that 80 bottles that weren’t even on the shelf yet would sell during the twenty minutes it would take to drive to the store. Mother and father in-law were off to the store and a few days later, I found something wonderful under the tree for me on Christmas, along with a wonderful story to accompany it.

Thank you, Patricia and Dennis.

So what was under your tree this year?


Happy foraging!



This Christmas, Pennsylvania Islay Lovers Are on Santa’s Nice List

Ardbeg Winter
Islay Christmas – a little snow on the casks.

It’s true! And Santa the PLCB is treating them to some great prices. And for those of us that might be travelling to Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, there are great opportunities for buying whiskies at great prices, or for finding great whiskies unavailable in Ontario, or both!

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has cut prices on a ton of whiskies, and compared to LCBO prices, the Islays in particular are a steal.

PLCB prices shown do not include 6% PA sales tax but savings calculations do. Prices valid until Jan3 2016. Currency conversion uses 1 CAD = 0.74 USD.

Whisky                                 PCLB (USD)           LCBO (CAD)       Savings

Kichoman Machir Bay            59                             104                       $19/18%

Laphroaig 10                              46                              81                        $14/18%

Laphroaig 18                              75                              179                      $71/39%

Ardbeg 10                                    48                             100                      $31/31%

Ardbeg Uigeadail                      75                              171                      $63/37%

Ardbeg Corryvrekan                90                             189                      $59/31%

Looks pretty good! And I should also point out that even though it appears as an active item on the LCBO website, for the last year or more there has been zero inventory of Laphroaig 18 in Ontario.  No supply and a great price make this the clear pick of the litter.

And speaking of no supply, here are a couple additional non-Islay whiskies that are not -and probably never will be- available in Ontario that merit serious consideration as adds to the collection.

Whisky                                 PCLB (USD)           Price (CAD)       LCBO (CAD)

Macallan 12                                58                             78                              n/a

Yamazaki 12                               85                             115                             n/a

There’s very little Yamazaki 12 left in PA so as I’ve written before, I’d consider it a last call of sorts. Regarding Macallan, as they phase out their core age statement expression, just as what happened with the Yamazaki age statements, we should see the prices rise. But for now, $US 58 is a great deal.

Happy foraging!


Can Crown Royal Meet Demand?

It’s been about three weeks now since Jim Murray’s annual proclamation about the ‘Best Whiskies In The World’. Here in Ontario, the LCBO has struggled to meet the truly remarkable demand for Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest created by Mr. Murray. Since the announcement three weeks ago, the LCBO has been restocking between 500 to 1000 bottles per day (usually closer to 1000) and still consistently sells out the entire amount within 24 hours.


This is amazing. Considering that stores in smaller communities that receive a hundred bottles still sell out in a day speaks to the lengths that some people are willing to travel to get their hands on a bottle. The LCBO is following a strict no reserve and no specialty order policy for this item and yet it still doesn’t last a day on the shelves. According to the Toronto Star, people are even purchasing locally to send to friends and family outside of Canada due to the international unavailability and demand. Apparently the world wants this rye as much as we do.

So it begs the question: how long before there’s no more supply? No doubt there will be an additional demand spike over the holidays, both as gifts and for general sharing, exacerbated further with the seasonal price reduction. But by the numbers, LCBO had just over 45,000 bottles on hand in November, and has secured a further 56,000 either being delivered now or over the next couple of weeks so even at the current burn rate, we should be set for a few months.

The take-away here is that if you’re looking for a bottle either to add to the collection or are just curious and want to try it (which at the current price point I strongly recommend), rest easy: there will be bottles. Patience may be called for but the supply will trickle down and make it to you, eventually. The LCBO has “committed” to ensuring supply year-round which I’m not exactly sure is going to be possible, but at least over the next few months Northern Harvest will be on the shelves and will be available. Don’t miss it while it’s here.

Happy foraging!