Review: Wiser's Hopped Canadian Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

Whisky has so many ties with brewing,- being, basically, distilled beer – that it’s really surprising that it’s taken so long for a major whisky producer to develop a hopped whisky. A number of small craft operation have added hops to their whisky – but this is the first large producer to put something out there.

Now the question is –  is this whisky? Obviously, on the label, it is described as “Canadian Whisky”.  from the Canadian Food and Drug Act B.02.020 the definition of Canadian Whisky, Canadian Rye Whisky, or Rye Whisky:

“(a) shall

  • (i) be a potable alcoholic distillate, or a mixture of potable alcoholic distillates, obtained from a mash of cereal grain or cereal grain products saccharified by the diastase of malt or by other enzymes and fermented by the action of yeast or a mixture of yeast and other micro-organisms,

  • (ii) be aged in small wood for not less than three years,

  • (iii) possess the aroma, taste and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky,

  • (iv) be manufactured in accordance with the requirements of the Excise Act and the regulations made thereunder,

  • (v) be mashed, distilled and aged in Canada, and

  • (vi) contain not less than 40 per cent alcohol by volume; and

(b) may contain caramel and flavouring.

(2) Subject to subsection (3), no person shall make any claim with respect to the age of Canadian whisky, other than for the period during which the whisky has been held in small wood.

(3) Where Canadian whisky has been aged in small wood for a period of at least three years, any period not exceeding six months during which that whisky was held in other containers may be claimed as age.”

So, yes, this is Canadian whisky – it does contain flavouring, and meets all the other requirements – however, I would contest one point. This is an interesting whisky, for sure, but I don’t think it meets the most ambiguous of criteria – that it possesses the aroma, taste, and character of Canadian whisky – a criteria I never really liked because of its subjectivity. As one who has tried many Canadian whiskies, this one certainly is part Canadian whisky, but also part something else.

Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Nose: This smells as much – perhaps more – like a dark, caramel driven, oak aged beer – than a whisky. However – it is a fascinating interplay. The clear pine notes from the hops play off the lighter and dryer pine notes in the whisky ,and the rich caramel and malt plays off the vanilla in the whisky. Caramel corn. It’s an interesting, and good, nose – but not that deep.

Taste: Quite murky and muddy at first, followed by some chocolate and coffee before the beery oak takes over in the end. Beer like notes seem to come in at the beginning and end of the palate, where the whisky briefly runs the show in the middle with some light rye. It has the complexity of a dark aged beer, with whisky in the mix.

Finish: The whisky takes a firm grip with rye, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The finish is a touch bitter lightly spicy,nutty, with fairly long, light spice…some of the beany notes as seen in Wiser’s small batch is also around strongly. The finish is long – the hops certainly take their part in this whisky. Not a sweet finish; this one is unique.

It’s one you gotta try. It’s very beer driven and feels more beer-like than whisky like – but it is a breed which feels distinctly like both of them. Worth a try, and decent – but not a complex and huge whisky by any means. However, it is clear – this is an offering which is unique; crafted for connoisseurs and explorers of whisky and cocktails- not a sweet and fake flavorless mixer. The hops are an interesting twist…I can only imagine how many dimensions this has potential to add to (or take from!) whisky.