J.P. Wiser's Alumni Series / by Jason Hambrey

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It is remarkable to my mind (and delightful to my heart): the number of special releases that J.P. Wiser’s is releasing. They are all fantastic, and have perhaps done the best of any brand showcasing the diversity of flavour which comes from Canadian whisky production with the diverse mix of grains, stills, and aging techniques. Most big Canadian distilleries make a number of very different whiskies, from different grains and distilled and aged differently to create vastly different flavour profiles. But, we rarely get to see them. J.P. Wiser’s, however, has opened the floodgates! The brand has been very busy:

  • 2016: Lots of releases: J.P. Wiser’s Last Barrels; J.P. Wiser’s Double Still Rye; Pike Creek Rum Finish released to replace the Port Finish (a good move).

  • 2017: Even more releases: J.P. Wiser’s 15 YO; J.P. Wiser’s Dissertation; J.P. Wiser’s Union 52; J.P. Wiser’s Last Barrels; J.P. Wiser’s Canada 150; J.P. Wiser’s Double Still Rye re-branded as Triple Barrel; (sadly, we also lost J.P. Wiser’s Small Batch and the amazing Wiser’s Legacy…); Gooderham & Worts Little Trinity 17 YO; Pike Creek 21 YO Speyside finish; Lot no. 40 Cask Strength 12 YO; and J.P. Wiser’s 35 YO. (That’s a busy year!!)

  • 2018: More special releases: the Alumni series (3 whiskies); J.P. Wiser’s 2018 Commemorative Bottling; Wiser’s Seasoned Oak (awesome); Pike Creek 21 YO Three Oak; Gooderham & Worts Eleven Souls; Lot no. 40 Cask Strength 11 YO; and J.P. Wiser’s 35 YO again. They also released J.P. Wiser’s old fashioned, which is an easy route to a decent old fashioned.

That’s a busy few years - what other major whisky brand is doing anything like it?! Unquestionably, J.P. Wiser’s has jumped to the forefront of the connoisseur market for Canadian whisky. While other major brands are releasing 1-2 special bottlings a year, Wiser’s is flooding the market with multiple special releases, and - what is more - they are all selling out.

Now to the alumni series. This is something different for them: it is a partnership with the NHL almumni association (NHLAA) with some of the profits directed towards the NHLAA. All the whiskies have been selected to reflect a certain player style - J.P. Wiser’s has chosen to tell a story with a unique take on their whiskies, rather than just recycle their current brands. The first set of releases - bottles honouring Wendel Clark, Guy Lafleur, and Lanny McDonald - were based on the playing styles of each player. Wendel Clark’s whisky was chosen to be a big, 100% rye whisky to reflect the intensity of Clark’s playing style. Lafleur’s whisky is an easy corn whisky, finished in three casks, to reflect his smooth style. And Lanny McDonald’s whisky is centred around wheat whisky, reminiscent of the grain-growing-prairies where McDonald grew up.

On another note, whisky brands partnering with other companies or charities hoping to do good is worth championing. We’ve seen it before with Parker’s Heritage collection and even the Town Collection from Collingwood last year. It’s great to see J.P. Wiser’s doing the same.

I love the diversity Canadian whisky brings, and from a personal perspective, I’ll buy as many Wiser special releases as we get. Again, to my palate’s delight, the alumni series isn’t over - with more Wiser’s special releases coming in 2019.

Reviews are coming, of the first wave, in the upcoming days.