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Burgundy Lion whiskey aficionado Toby Lyle introduces his own Maker’s Mark bourbon

Maker’s Mark bourbon
Maker’s Mark bourbon

By Mike Cohen

The Burgundy Lion, a traditional British pub with a modern lounge bar that offers a unique twist on British pub cuisine, is located in Little Burgundy. Since its debut 15 years ago, it has developed one of the most complete and enviable whisky programs in the country; perhaps the world.  Along with accumulating the largest collection of whisky in the province and serving more single malt than anyone else in the nation, the locale has gained notice for its public and private tasting program that focuses on introducing whisky to the uninitiated and offers folks an opportunity to sample rare and unique whiskies.

I interviewed owner Toby Lyle recently. Besides the Burgundy Lion, his group of restaurants also includes Pub Wolf & Workman, Brit & Chips in Old Montreal, Bishop and Bagg on St. Viateur,  Cartier Arms at the Hyatt Centric Hotel on Notre Dame Street East as well as RBHC Catering.

Maker’s Mark bourbon
Toby Lyle pours his own Maker’s Mark bourbon

One of Lyle’s bucket list items has been to visit the Makers Mark Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky to create his own bourbon. With the help of Maker’s Mark Brand Diplomat Lindsay Wood, that dream finally came true last May. Starting with a six-year-old barrel, the whiskey was blended and then aged for a further nine weeks in Maker’s Mark’s purpose-built cellar.

“I was originally offered to do this virtually in 2020 during the pandemic,” says Lyle. “I decided to place that offer on hold and I am glad I waited.”

The Maker’s Mark wood-finish series was created to explore new, unique expressions of the already popular signature whisky. Beginning as a fully matured Maker’s Mark at cask strength, Private Selection is created by adding 10 custom wood finishing staves to each barrel. It’s then aged in a limestone cellar to extract a unique, flavorful taste profile. Participants in this special barrel program get their say in the selection of these wooden staves. The finishing staves can be any combination of five flavor profiles chosen especially for this program. With 1,001 possible stave combinations, each expression of Private Selection has a customized finish and taste profile that is unique, yet undeniably Maker’s. 

Maker’s Mark and Burgundy Lion recently invited media to The Cartier Arms Restaurant at the Hyatt Centric for an exclusive tasting of Burgundy Lion’s Maker’s Mark Private Select, Adrianna BL Bourbon.

Maker’s Mark bourbon
Maker’s Mark Brand Diplomat Lindsay Wood.

Adrianna is the middle name of Lyle’s seven-year-old daughter.  He has been able to make 240 bottles of this whiskey available in Quebec, with each bottle numbered. And yes, he made sure to secure number one which now rests at his Westmount home. “It will be opened when my daughter turns 18,” he says.

Some of the bottles are at Burgundy Lion Pub, Pub Wolf & Workman, Bishop and Bagg  and the  Cartier Arms. Quebec does not allow customers to buy actual bottles, so it needs to be ordered by the glass. That being said, Lyle’s asked his mixologists to work their magic and he is very pleased with the cocktail they came up with. It has also been made available in limited quantities through the SAQ.

So, what comes next for Lyle, who already offers 750 different expressions of whiskey at his establishments?

“Toby can refill the same brand and do the same recipe,” offers Wood.

Piped in Lyle: “If I do this again, I think I’d like to blend a different whiskey.”

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