Review: Alberta Premium Cask Strength Canadian Rye Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Alberta Premium Cask Strength 1.jpg
100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

Well here is something I didn’t expect - a 100% cask strength rye whisky from Alberta Premium! This is just fantastic. While the normal bottling is rather boring (and not very good) a lot of the more flavourful distillates they actually make at Alberta Distillers is amazing, as seen in the success of brands like Masterson’s, Whistlepig, and Jefferson’s which source a lot, if not all, of their product from Alberta. More than half of Alberta’s product gets sold directly into other brands (it is a big distiller) with a growing use from Jim Beam in some of the new Basil Hayden’s (and also a few appearances in Little Book). But, I love rye, and I love cask strength - so let’s see here:

Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L9212ADB01341225

  • Bottling Date: 2019

What a nose! This is much closer to Canadian Club 100% Rye (which is also made at Alberta Distillers), in terms of profile, than the standard Alberta Premium which is a relatively soft whisky compared to this. This is rich, and loaded up with rye. The nose has tons of complexity – banana, orange, clove, new charred oak, dried cherry,  grapefruit, dried orange, caramel, toffee, clove, nutmeg, black pepper, white pepper, wintergreen, corn on the cob – really, it’s nothing like the nose of the standard Alberta Premium which serves a different audience – a light, slightly sweet, slightly spicy whisky. Some dusty notes, too, which I don’t find too often anymore but which I quite like. The banana notes come out hugely at higher proofs, less so at lower proofs. Slight medicinal notes grow with time. This, is a whisky for rye connoisseurs. At least one time when you taste it, I recommend gradually adding water to the mix. This reveals all the layers of complexity here.

The palate has a nice touch of oak, vanilla, arugula, dried apricot, grapefruit zest, and more orange. There is lots of sugar caramel, too, and tingly spices. The “middle” of the whisky is medium bodied and textured, with dried fruit, orange, and vegetal notes on top with sweetness on the back end and spices around the edges. Hopefully that “visual” helps you understand how I understand this whisky. The arugula, oddly, gets a bit lost at lower strengths but is really good at around 48%. It’s also very good at cask strength.

The finish has lots of orange, rich rye spice (quite vegetal), grapefruit zest, orange, arugula, prunes, hibiscus, and oak. And if you think all rye tastes the same, give this a go beside Lot no. 40 cask strength!

A very nice whisky. It’s a bit too “CC100%” for me, with such intense bubblegum-like fruit that I find it isn’t as great as I’d hoped. I’d have preferred if it went the route of Masterson’s/Whistlepig/Jefferson’s which were all sourced from Alberta. However, it’s still very good and I you try it, if you can find it.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). Nearly into the next category, but not quite.

Value: High. A great price for this quality.

Curious about a second opinion? Check out Mark Bylok’s review here.