Review: Alberta Premium 25 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Alberta Premium 25.jpg
25 years
100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

This whisky, a 25 year old 100% rye whisky, is undoubtedly one of the most unique bottlings in the modern era of whisky. It was bottled in 2006, from distillate at least 25 years old at one of the foremost, if not the foremost, rye distillery in the world, Alberta Distillers. It sold in 2007 for an astounding price of 30 dollars – in hindsight almost a free giveaway, and there are stories of great competition for the bottles that were available in Ontario – preceding what now is all too common of a phenomena. There were between 5000 and 6000 bottles produced, and from time to time rumors circulate of another batch, but still no other batch has been released, nor is there any clear indication of another batch to come at this time.

Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A (the one and only)

  • Bottling Code: L01206263 Q208:30

  • Bottling Date: 2007

Nose: If you know the standard Alberta Premium, this is clearly that – but yet entirely different, and so much better. Much like if you smell a 12 year old and a (good) 18 year old of the same distillate, you are able to sit in wonder at what time in wood can do. Orange peel, caramel, rich wood, leather, vanilla, musty wood, and deep molasses notes as in old rums. There is some dustiness to it as well, and sugars and oak seem to come out as it sits. Yet, despite all the wood, it is surprisingly fresh. The nose grows, too – come back to it after a taste and you sense more of the dryness, more of what those years in oak do. With time, you get sitting grain – as you might find if you were to store rye in a mason jar and as the smell fills the jar pop the lid off and breath in. Oh so rich and dry….it’s one of those noses you remember.

Taste: Mouthcoating, with a wonderful balance of light vanilla, light spices, oak and wood which evolves in the mouth, and the lightest hint of berry fruitiness lifting the entire experience out. Rye is there, distinctively as well, not overcome by oak but leading the way in fact with light spices – clove, cinnamon – coming out in a flurry at the end. It’s long, and you can certainly make little sips go a long way. In little patches, you get little tastes of the arugula seen so clearly in the bold rye they use in their blends (and seen in detail in bottlings like Masterson’s, Whistlepig, of Jefferson’s).)

Finish: Strawberries, oak, vanilla, and leather. It is “smooth” in feel – I’m not talking about the undefined, over-used word to describe spirits as “smooth” but actually in the sense that it coats the mouth and seems to linger there nicely with almost a lubricating texture. The tannins are present ever so lightly to further enhance texture. The length is reasonable, but could have been enhanced had this been bottled above 40% – I can only wonder what 46% would have done to this one!

Complex, rich, and subtle – magnificent. This is a whisky that interacts with you – in almost a teasing fashion as you think the twists and turns are over to only discover more and more… the best Canadian whisky I have ever tasted.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation). This is one of the best Canadian whiskies ever bottled, and is a fascinating study.

Value: Very High. How often do you see a 25 year old 100% rye whisky going for 30$, moreover one that’s widely regarded as one of the best bottlings of Canadian whisky ever? This was the best value buy I’ve ever seen, and likely will ever see.