Review: Lock, Stock, & Barrel 18 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey / by Jason Hambrey

Image copyright, Cooper Spirits Company.

Image copyright, Cooper Spirits Company.

18 Years; Virgin Charred Oak
100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

I love Alberta rye. Pot distilled rye is my favorite style of whisky, I won’t deny it, and it can be an acquired style with all of the sharp spiciness and rich character. Alberta Distillers is widely acknowledged as likely the best rye distillery in the world, and it certainly distills a massive amount of it – perhaps the most in the world, but that is a conjecture without evidence.

Cooper spirits hand selected a number of barrels of 100% unmalted rye matured in new oak from Alberta years ago, releasing first a 13 year old, then a 16, and now this 18 – all favorites of mine, and right up my wheelhouse in terms of style.

Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

These Alberta ryes get a bit more restrained with age, but incredible spirit lies unfolds as you continue to nose. They start off sharp, spicy, and vegetal and soften, growing in fruit and oak integration with age. This has terrific, creamy fruit that sits on top – and underneath – black tea, arugula, iodine, rubber, pear, dense oak, cola, black licorice, ginger, dried peach, dark chocolate.

The palate is huge, with a load of arugula, tannic oak, cedar, and clove. It’s amazing how much the rubbery and medicinal notes carry through. Amazing aged notes – the oak both holds the grip in terms of flavor but also in terms of both maturity and reining in the powerful rye. The tannins are just about to the edge – but they are not quite too much. Huge finish, about as full of big, spicy rye as you can imagine, alongside tea. It has more creaminess and caramel than the 16 year old, but it’s not quite as vibrant, playful, and unique – and doesn’t have the incredible light fruit which makes it not only a good rye, but one of the best and most unique ryes I’ve tasted. Also, this is much oakier. So, now I’ve compared it to perhaps my favorite whisky of all time – this is still an unbelievable rye, indeed, an 18 year old new oak rye from the best rye producer in the world. It is pricy, but it is something....


Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Low. It’s a terrific whisky, but comes at a big price (about 230 USD).