Review: Alberta Premium 20 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Alberta Premium 20 1.jpg
20 Years
100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

I’m really thrilled to see this. One of my favourite distilleries in the world (and producer of my favourite rye) is Alberta Premium, but the problem is that most of their good product goes to other brands like Whistlepig, Masterson’s, Jim Beam, and Canadian Club - and all the general consumer is left with is the rather underwhelming, bottom-shelf bottling of Alberta Premium.

However, every now and then we get lucky. In 2007, they stunned the whisky community with the release of a 25 year old twelve years ago - to date, one of the best whiskies I’ve ever tasted. They followed this up with a good 30 year old. And now, they’re back at it - with a 20 year old!

Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L9240ADB01500837

  • Bottling Date: 2019

QUITE the nose. Slightly rubbery and very piney, with vanilla, heavy caramel, white pepper, grapefruit zest, clove, chestnut, brown sugar, and dusty spice. There is a very green woody character to it – like green pine.  It isn’t quite what I expected – I had hoped for more of the waxy vegetal characteristic of the famous 25 year old from some years back – but this is more along the lines of the standard Alberta Premium in profile, but with amped up flavour and lots of that intense orange and bright fruit that we find in Canadian Club 100% rye (also distilled at Alberta). I get a medium level of complexity on the nose.

On the palate, it’s fairly sweet with vanilla, more pine, brown sugar, orange peel, clove, brown sugar, and a sweetness that builds. Tannins build, too, alongside some nuttiness. The finish has a spiciness similar to cinnamon, in feel, not flavour. We also have more pine, clove, white pepper, oak, and a bit of earthiness.

A lot more dynamic than the standard Alberta Premium. Very distinct, but, similar to the cask strength – I find the strong orange found in the Canadian Club 100% Rye to be a bit too much, and it doesn’t hold the complexity or depth of the previous old Alberta releases. But, that said, it’s one of the more interesting whiskies of the year and I quite like the pine notes.

Very different than the 30 year old released a few years back, in a side by side tasting. The 30 year old is much more subtle, elegant, and refined – but not as big. The fruitiness is subtle there, not overt like here.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average at $85, in terms of flavour. For a 20 year old whisky, though, that’s cheap.

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