Review: Alberta Premium Canadian Rye Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

This is a rarity – a 100% rye whisky – and it comes from what many experts consider the best rye distillery in the world . This is an unmalted rye whisky, with Alberta using their own specially developed enzymes to break down the starch to sugar in the whisky-making process.

This whisky has always intrigued me because it is so cheap, 100% rye, and is so highly regarded by Jim Murray, one of the foremost whisky writers. In my evaluations again and again, I haven’t found it to be worthy of his rating. Jim Murray’s love for Alberta Premium has probably not been good for Canadian whisky – I have tasted over 5 different batches of Alberta Premium, and been indifferent to it. Many, excited for a whisky rated 96.5/100, flock to the whisky as their defining experience of Canadian whisky – to walk away disappointed. I can say, with many other laymen and experts, that Alberta Premium wouldn’t be in our top list of Canadian whiskies at all. In fact, the other Alberta whiskies - Dark Horse or Alberta Springs - are much better.

Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 1244A20301

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: The grain does come through quite nicely – light rye but it’s not overpowering. There are hints of orange peel and a nuttiness revealing some almond. Some vanilla comes through, alongside some cedar. As it sits I find some dark toffee coming through nicely, and, eventually, after some more time a touch of bitterness. The vanilla grows in weight over time.

Taste: Slightly sweet with a slightly creamy feel and some orange backdrop, vanilla, and what reminds me of some malty beer, and then it has a slightly tart finish with a bit of heat which is quite dense with some cloves, fruit, and vanilla – but it’s still fairly gentle. All of that is quite balanced and relatively complex. As I drink more and get more accustomed to it, I find more sweetness and woody-notes like maple along with toasted oak along with light molasses notes.

Finish: The tart and sour finish slowly starts unfolding leaving behind some oak and graininess reminiscent of malt. There is some vanilla sweetness and light orange which sits in the mouth for a little with some tannins leaving a very slight drying sensation. Reasonably complex, with an off-key bitter note here and there.

This whisky is a decent experience for someone starting out in terms of a reasonably complex whisky at a very affordable price. But, of course, other experienced whisky drinkers will enjoy this too…but batches can vary, from what I’ve heard, and, although I’ve never had any absolutely fantastic batches – I know people who have had some.

Value: Average. Not bad for $26, but not great either.

Review (2015; Blind)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Sweet and confectionary on the nose, with some complexity, banana and some pine-woody notes -  but the rest of the complexity sits silently for a bit. Creamy oak and light wheat-like grain on the palate come through on the palate with light vegetal notes and a bit of musty oak. 

Value: Average. Not bad for $26, but not great either.