Tag Archives: Canadian whisky

Wiser’s One Fifty Commemorative Series

As a proud Canadian, I was pretty excited to get my hands on a bottle of Wiser’s One Fifty a few weeks ago, ahead of this past July 1st. Had I been better at this blogging hobby of mine, I might have had my review ready to publish on Canada Day… Ah well, better late than never, I suppose!

Wiser’s One Fifty is a special release, 17 year old whisky. (Although I’ve heard that there are some casks in this blend that are older that that.) To mark the 150th birthday of our nation, spirit was laid down in 2000 to form the base of this special commemorative release. A total of 7827 limited edition bottles were created, one for each week of Canada’s existence. My particular bottle is #7628, commemorating the week of Sept 2, 2013. From what I have read, this whisky is a blend of corn and rye whiskies. It is bottled at 43.4% abv and it cost me $60 CDN. 

To the Eye

In the bottle, I’m struck by the deeper reddish hue, which immediately connects me to the Canada Flag. Whether or not this was intentional, I can only hope it’s due to natural colours, imparted through casking. In the glass, however, my dram appears a rich, deep amber, with hints of bright copper, rather than red. A tilt of my Canadian Glencairn creates a crest that reluctantly releases thick stubborn legs. 

In the Nose

My note from my initial tasting session was, “Clean and straightforward”, and I think this sums up the nose rather nicely. Aromas of caramel, toffee, vanilla and dusty rye spice provide a classic and delicious Canadian whisky nosing experience along with a distinct oaky note and subtle, punky corn, as well. 

On the Tongue

Silky mouthfeel, thanks to the corn distillate, I imagine. Dry, spicy rye flavours dominates the palate, however. This is not a dram that follows the current trend of premium Canadian whiskies that showcase the floral side of rye, which I believe comes from the use of malted rye. Instead, Wiser’s One Fifty chooses to highlight a more traditional profile. Cereal graininess and peppery, spicy rye! A subtle minty flavour adds interest, while a fruity, almost berry-like note on the exit further wakes up my tastebuds. The finish is quite dry, medium in length, with caramel and loads of oak, along with pink peppercorns and bitter citrus pith. The finish reminds me somewhat of cough syrup, which is not nearly as bad as it may sound!

Final Thoughts

I love floral, malted-rye character in my Canadian whiskies but Wiser’s One Fifty reminds me how much I also enjoy the dusty, spicy, clean profile of a traditional rye grain whisky. This is a well-composed, well-made Canadian whisky. Smooth and easy drinking, yet surprisingly complex and mature, this is a terrific dram! If you happen to see a bottle kicking around, don’t let it slip away!


Lot No. 40 Rye Whisky

There are many Canadian whiskies that I hold in high regard and, at any time, you’d be likely to find at least 3-4 different bottles in my cupboard. At present, I have the following Canadians available:

  • Wisers Delux – a mixer for any rye-and-coke drinking buddies that might pop over 
  • Forty Creek Barrel Select – a mid-shelf offering that I can unpretentiously share neat alongside highball sippers
  • Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye – a premium bottle that’s for me and anyone else I figure is capable of appreciating its splendour
  • Alberta Premium 30 yr Old – the still unopened pride and joy of my Canadian collection… For now I just use it to show off!

What I have recently realized, however, is that my lineup of Canadian whisky has not seen much turnover for quite some time. It seems that my love of scotch and growing affection for bourbon has been keeping me from branching out and trying different Canadian whiskies. Well, no longer!

Lot No. 40 is a premium Canadian whisky distilled by Corby. It is a 100% rye whisky! distilled from a mixture of rye and malted rye. You can read all kinds of history about the brand, how it was started by Hiram Walker in the 90’s, flopped and was discontinued for many years… But I’ll leave that for you to Google and I’ll just tell you what I think of this dram. 

Lot No. 40 is bottled at 43% abv and cost me a little over $40 CDN. 

To The Eye

Beautiful, deep gold – in some ways, it actually looks more like a scotch than a typical Canadian rye! Thick, stubborn legs cling to my Canadian Glencairn after the usual swirl. 

In the Nose

Wow! This is rye whisky!  There is a beautiful dusty, dry rye sensation that is accompanied by a sourdough rye bread note, but it quickly moves aside for a fruity, floral aroma. There are oak notes, dark syrupy and molasses notes and lots of grainy and herbaceous notes… I get some dill and some caraway seed! But then that floral, perfume-like quality makes a return. There is a lot going on in this glass and I find myself delighted by the bouncing back and forth between the typical rye aromas and those of something entirely more sophisticated and complex!

On the Tongue. 

This dram is thick and rich on the tongue, carrying as many flavours as the nose suggested. Toasty cereals, plums, and a sweet citrus note that reminds me of mandarin oranges. There is a funky, mineal sort of character that adds a lot of interest to this dram, as well as oak tannins, vanilla and a touch of a dry, grassy herbal note. The entire experience is held together by a familiar rye spiciness. 

The finish is extremely long and full of another burst of flavours, including malt, lime zest, tobacco, milk chocolate and that floral, honeyed sweetness. The finish leaves me contemplating whether it’s more mini wheats or wine gums… It’s incredible!

Final Thoughts

How much more would you like me to gush about this whisky? In my opinion, this is the rye against which all other ryes should be measured! At the current price, this dram may be the pound-for-pound champion and another example of the quality to be found in Canadian rye… Go out and buy a bottle right now!

Forty Creek Barrel Select

Do you remember, several years back, when John Hall burst onto the Canadian whisky scene with his Forty Creek products? Obviously, the lengthy aging period required to produce whisky means that brand new distilleries don’t pop up every day, so I remember some anticipation to find out what this new whisky, produced by a former winemaker, would be like. 

Distilled in Grimsby, Ontario, Forty Creek’s “gimmick” is/was the use of a meritage – 3 different grains (rye, corn and barley) are distilled and aged separately and eventually blended  for finishing. I’m not sure if this process remains in use for all of of Forty Creek’s whiskies but it was a technique that set it apart early on. Forty Creek also differs from most other Canadian whisky makers in its use of copper pot stills, rather than stainless steel column stills.

This review is for the flagship Barrel Select, which is bottled at 40% abv and costs about $25 here in Alberta. 

To the Eye

Copper with flashes of bright gold. There is something a rather beguiling about the look of this whisky for me. The clear, bright orangey-copper tones are extremely attractive… It looks a little more like bourbon than the usual Canadian offerings. 

In the Nose

The nose on this one is mild but with healthy doses of vanilla and caramel so, again, something rather bourbon-like about it. With time, biscuits and a malty sweetness emerge, along with a sweet-sour fruity characteristic that reminders me of underripe mango or stone fruits. I get very little rye spiciness on the nose of this whisky. 

On the Tongue

Exceedingly smooth… Dangerously so! Kettle corn at first, which gives way to that classic Canadian rye spiciness and am I ever glad the rye chooses this moment to assert itself. It’s not the usual dustiness I often equate with rye. Instead, it’s all of the earthy, fruity, spicy goodness I want from a rye but somewhat elevated through the sweet corn delivery. There is more body than most high-rye whiskies and I really like the full, rounded mouthfeel. Peppercorns, an almost heather-like perfume quality and a slight nuttiness. In case you can’t tell, I find this whisky to be delicious!

The finish is medium, with caramel making a return, along with oak and a mild walnut-like bitterness. 

Final Thoughts

There is far more going on with this dram than a $25-bottle deserves and more than is usually found on the lowest rung of a core range! This is terrific whisky and a mainstay in my cupboard. It’s interesting and complex enough for serious sippers but also inexpensive enough that there are no hard feelings when one of my buddies inevitably add cola or ginger ale. Forty Creek is a tremendous example of the quality available in the Canadian whisky scene.  

Just a Thought… The Canadian Glencairn

So here’s the deal… I’m Canadian and I drink whisky. Obviously It’s about time that I got myself a Canadian Glencairn glass!

Maybe it’s a little pretentious but I don’t think there are too many people left who consider themselves serious whisky drinkers and just use any old glass. Myself, I’ve been rather partial about the original Glencairn for quite some time now. My first was a gift, brought to me from the Glenfiddich distillery a few years back by a buddy. Shortly after, my lovely wife got me a box of six more as a Christmas present so I wouldn’t have to be “the only nerd at the table” when friends were over for a dram.  Ever since, I have appreciated that the glass allows me to control the temperature of my whisky by either holding the base or the bowl and I do find that he tulip-shape does a great job of concentrating the whisky’s aromas.

I’ve been aware of the Glencairn glass designed specifically for Canadian drammer’s for quite a while but I’ve been content enough with the original that it felt unnecessary to order some online. Last weekend, however, I added two glasses to my cupboard. My wife and I snuck away for a weekend getaway in Jasper National Park and, after spending a good chunk of one day hiking through the beautiful natural scenery, we spent a couple hours in the town of Jasper, perusing the many interesting shops. It was in a store called Bearfoot in the Park (Very punny, I know!), where I came across some Canadian whisky glasses. At about $14 bucks apiece, I had a hard time coming up with good reasons not to add a couple to my repertoire!

Jasper National Park… Yeah, we’re pretty lucky here in Alberta!

So, the Canadian version of the Glencairn looks a little like the love child of the original and a typical rocks glass…Kind of like a small fishbowl. It has a shape that is similar to the regular Glencairn but it has a larger bowl, is significantly wider and is minus the base.


My first Glencairn and one of the new additions.

I do like how it feels in my hand and I did think that the shape helped in nosing my drop of Forty Creek, compared to a rocks glass, and it did actually seem like I could take a sip without tipping my head back quite as far… Not sure if that’s all that advantageous, though! The box states that this glass “delivers whisky to the tip of the tongue for the fullest taste experience” and that the “larger size is versatile whether serving whisky neat or in mixed drinks.” The only advantage in this glass, then, would seem to be that it could accommodate some mix. However, since I rearely mix cocktails, I expect that I will usually stick with the traditional Glencairn, which is a terrific glass!

I should add that although I very  rarely mix cocktails, I did try something new in the bigger glass…

I had a bottle of the recently released Pepsi Ginger soft drink in my fridge and the first sip was interesting and surprisingly gingery. Since I used to enjoy rye and ginger ale, I figured What the hell, let’s give ‘er a go! Mixing my whisky about 1-to-1 with the Pepsi Ginger along with a splash of lime soda and a couple of ice cubes was actually pretty darn tasty!


A Wee Dram…. Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve

By now, most whisky drinkers – especially Canadian ones – know the story of master distiller, John K. Hall and his Forty Creek whiskies. There is usually a bottle of the flagship Barrel Select in my cupboard, since it can do double duty as a suitable sipper for me and as a tip-notch mixer for my buddies. This sample of the Double Barrel Reserve, which is a step or two up in the core range, came with my most recent bottle of the standard offering, so it seems like the perfect opportunity for a quick Wee Dram!

This golden yellow drop has a subtle nose, mostly dominated by vanilla, with a hint of butterscotch and a touch of nuttiness. Wow! On the palate, this is the most toffee-like drop I have ever tasted… it’s unmistakeable and kind of surprising, actually! Toffee eventually gives way to creamy Werther’s Original candies (Which doesn’t sound much different, I know, but the change of flavour is distinct!) with a bit of oakiness and rye spice riding shotgun. The finish is long and delicious, with vanilla, lemon zest and oatmeal cookies.

Delicious whisky, this one! I’ve always thought Forty Creek had a little more of a bourbon-like character than most Canadian whiskies and this Double Barrel Reserve is even more reminiscent of a fine bourbon. I love it… and I should probably go buy a full sized bottle for a proper review!

A Wee Dram… Alberta Premium Dark Horse

A while back, shortly after Alberta Premium Dark Horse was released, I went through a phase of really enjoying this whisky and, probably for a year or so, I usually had a bottle of it around. I guess I found other drams that won the competition for my attention but, on another visit with my Pops, I wasn’t too surprised that he busted out a brand new bottle of Dark Horse… It checks off all of his priorities: Canadian whisky, check! Alberta distillery, even better! High rye profile, perfect!

Needless to say, I was thrilled to share a drop and find out if Dark Horse was still as good as I remembered. 

An extremely rich coloured, deep copper dram, I kept thinking how much bourbon-like character to this whisky. The appearance reminds me of Four Roses Single Barrel. The nose oozes with caramel corn and vanilla and, as far as actually drinking it, it’s the thick, heavy mouthfeel that reminds me of some of the better corn whiskeys I’ve enjoyed. In terms of flavour, there’s quite a lot going on – burnt sugar and toasted oak, a herbal, menthol flavour and some nice rye spicy-sourness near the end. In the finish, I also found a distinct sherry theme. 

By now I think most people who care about whisky have heard that Alberta Distillers went way outside the box to construct their Dark Horse. Yeah, it’s made with an unconventional mixture of approximately 91% rye whisky, 8% corn whisky (bourbon-style, they say) and 1% sherry… But who cares? ABD are completely up front about how they make this whisky, it’s made within the rules that have been set for Canadian whisky and, most importantly it’s a delicious sipper. Grab a bottle… Alberta Premium Dark Horse has interesting flavours and qualities that are rarely found in Canadian drams. 

A Wee Dram… Tangle Ridge Canadian Whisky

Trying something different here.

Grad studies, kids’ activities, everyday responsibilities of teaching and school administration at this time of year – they all seem to be conspiring against my blog. It’s been damned near two months since I did a review and I’ve been trying to figure out a way to do a little better.

Enter A Wee Dram… I’m going to try writing brief entries for some those whiskies I get to try but can’t put through a full review process. After all, it’s not like the only time I enjoy a dram is when I sit down to carefully jot down tasting notes three separate times en route to a new review post. 

There might not be pictures, there won’t be a ton of depth to my comments,  but I hope it’s still worthwhile!

Tangle Ridge Canadian Whisky

Stopped out at my parent’s farm for a visit on World Whisky Day 2016 and, of course, Dad asked if I was up for a drop… Silly question! Ever the champion of Canadian whisky, especially those produced right here in Alberta, so I wasn’t the least bit surprised to see him produce Tangle Ridge from his cupboard. 

Not my pic; borrowed from http://www.thelonebiker.com
It had been a while since I last tasted this whisky. Much deeper copper colour than I expect from Canadian whisky – it says this is a 10 year old dram, but still! A little overly sweet, maybe, with loads of caramel and vanillins in this one… Extremely smooth exit!

Not quite my preferred profile these days, but Tangle Ridge is still a decent enough sipper on a cold, rainy day while shooting the shit with the Old Man! (I did accept a second glass. 😉)