Hiram Walker

Review: J.P. Wiser's 22 Year Old Cask Strength Blend Port Cask Finish Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

JP Wisers 22 Port 2.jpg
ABV
59.7%
Aging
22 Years; Port Cask Finish
Recipe
Double Distilled Corn and Single Column Distilled Rye Whiskies
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

This whisky is a different take on the 23 year old cask strength blend from last year, which received much acclaim. It is the same recipe, other than a year younger - but it is finished in a port “seasoned” cask. The casks were impregnated with tawny port using a proprietary process (to the barrel supplier) where the pores of the wood were opened in order to saturate the wine in the wood. In this case, the team at Hiram Walker choose French oak to be used. This is the crown jewel of Corby’s releases from 2020 (bleeding into 2021) - but there is more exciting stuff planned for later in the year.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 54SL24 L202… 7:54

  • Bottling Date: 2020

Review (2021)

·         Batch: N/A

·         Bottling Code: N/A

·         Bottling Date: ~2020

The nose is rich with oak and fruit notes – fresh apricots, dried blueberries, tomato skins, white pepper, beeswax, bean sprouts, fresh oak, baking spice, cardamom, raisin, and with a slightly savoury wine characteristic. The palate is intense with dried fruit notes, clove, brown sugar, almond, and touches of rancio at the end. I notice the port character quite strongly about 2/3 of the way in. The finish has a really nice, creamy, vanilla character to it with a lot of fruity notes including red currant preserve. As you continue to drink, the port character builds until the finish becomes very similar to a ruby port. It has the old age whisky notes that you might expect, but with it a rich fruity/winey/oaky character. The savoury notes from the wine are quite interesting.

It is natural to compare this to the JP Wiser’s 23 year old from a year ago (same recipe, no port). There is  no close comparison, really – these are very different profiles. Although the components are the same – one is grain and age forward, the other is pretty focused around the port.

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

Value: Low, at $150.


Review: Lot No. 40 Dark Oak 100% Rye Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Lot 40 Dark Oak.jpg
ABV
48%
Aging
Charred Virgin Oak, twice
Recipe
100% Rye
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

This whisky starts out as a standard lot no. 40 does, with 100% rye which has been distilled in a column still and then a pot still. The rye is then matured in a number 2 char American oak barrel, before being finished in a number 4 char American oak barrel.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L20254EW0751

  • Bottling Date: 2020

The nose is very rich in rye spices, dried fruit, vanilla, and some pretty intense woody spices (clove in particular). It is dense and woody on the nose – in fact, the tannic character on the nose remind me of a red wine, even if the tannic character is different. There remains some of the floral notes like lilac that are on the regular lot no. 40 – but the oak is the main player here, not the rye. That being said, the rye certainly offer intense oak with a sparring partner.

The palate is wood, wood, wood. There is a lot there – oak, caramel, clove, vanilla, butterscotch, mint, and a good kick of dried orange, dried apricot, and dried peach. The finish is loaded with tannins and spicy oak. The spicy buildup to the finish, along with the heavy tannins, is appealing. It does develop interestingly with time - perhaps because of all the tannins - and there is some chamomile that edges itself forward, nicely.

In comparison, the standard lot no. 40 is much more vibrant, with a deeper spice, floral, and herbaceous character. Dark oak is stronger, sweeter, and all about oak with rye around the edges.  I like it with a bit of water, as I find the cask character too strong at 48%. I would have preferred a brand extension with a couple extra years added on lot 40 and at higher proof. There, apparently, is a desire for more and more oak these days, but it’s not generally where I stand.

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

Value: Average against the whisky market at $60.


Review: Wiser's Red Letter Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Wiser's Red Letter 4.jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
10/15 Years; Virgin Oak Finish
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

This whisky, at least in terms of name, is a very old release – Wiser’s “Red Letter Rye” was a highly regarded whisky first produced in 1857 when Canadian whisky was often known for their quality relative to the other whisky or spirit producers at the time. This particular bottling pays tribute to that whisky (and its recipe). A similar Wiser’s Red Letter was released as a 150th anniversary of Wiser’s in 2007 – though I did not try that one, I have heard that this one is similar in profile.

This whisky is aged in American bourbon barrels and is then further “mellowed” in virgin oak casks. I say “mellowed” since virgin oak casks have capacity to impart some pretty strong flavour – but the whisky likely did not spend (relatively) long in those casks. It is bottled at 45% ABV, rather than the typical 40% found in almost all Canadian whisky. Additionally, earlier batches were non-chill filtered – both a process that isn’t often stated on a Canadian label and a practice not that common within Canadian whisky. In fact this is the only non-chill filtered Canadian whisky at the present time as far as I know (I’m not sure what the craft distillers are up to!). This should give better weight and texture to the whisky as the oils and fatty components in the spirit are not filtered out to increase clarity.


Review (2013)

  • Batch: 2013 Release (10 years old)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Nose: At first my nose picks up some fresh/baking rye bread notes, toasted oak, and toffee. Some cedar comes through, along with some wonderful earthiness that reminds me of moist soil with lots of vegetation and roots. Some vanilla and maple comes through as the nose sits some. It’s intriguing, and deep, but a bit quiet. There’s a bit of tawny port-like fruitiness and some interesting earthy vegetal notes of beets and celery root – though these are very slight. I smell a touch of sourness and spiciness, though it is slight. The nose seems fairly closed, and I find I get whispers of what might come rather than clear declarations. In that sense it is intriguing, yet also could be a little more outspoken.

Taste:  This one goes down easy! quite buttery in its feel and slightly sweet, with some spicy rye and a beautiful kick of spice at the end which keeps developing for quite some time. There is some sharp and grassy rye throughout, and with some vanilla and oak backing. The grains seem to shine through in this one as well, and you can taste the rye and the corn involved. Rye bread comes out quite nicely in this one, and the rye in this is just signature Wisers. It goes down quite easily, as I said, and is quite balanced. There are some citrus notes and grape-like fruitiness in the background, and are simply present just enough. You can sense the bourbon backbone of this whisky – it is fairly gripping especially towards the end – but I find I mainly notice this if I’m sipping it slowly, interestingly enough. I find just at the end of the palate the flavour drops off a bit and alcohol primarily comes through, which isn’t quite what I’m looking for. However, overall, this is fantastic stuff. This score would probably be a touch lower if not for the incredible weight and feel of the whisky, which does help it out a lot.

Finish: Dry with the tannins, and a beautiful glimpse of rye and vanilla with just enough acidity to keep you quite interested – the spiced picks up, with some cinnamon and clove, and the movement continues for some time in the finish which is excellent. I find I get some apple peel after some time as well. Quite excellent.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Distillery Release (2020) - 15 Years Old

  • Bottling Code: L20329IW07:21

  • Bottling Date: 2020

These new-oak finished, lighter whiskies are becoming quite a trend, not only in Canada but also around the world. This was released as a distillery exclusive, with the age bumped up from 10 to 15 years. The previous labels embellished the fact that they were non-chill filtered, while this one makes no mention on the label.

The nose is as one might expect - the nose is greeted first with the barrel finish: generous new oak, vanilla, caramel, douglas fir, and woody spices like clove. But, of course there is more behind the oak – light dried flowers, lilac, almond, corn husks, blueberry, green apple, red river cereal, and orange peel. The palate follows suit, but with a rich, caramel-laden texture and a firm handful of tannins to direct traffic across the palate. The finish slowly unfolds, with a tannic texture, bean sprouts, vanilla, and yet fresh with citrus peel.

It’s always quite nice for those new to whisky to contrast this whisky with a bourbon – both corn based and both with new oak as a major flavour driver, and yet, completely different based on how they are made.

How does this compare to the 2013 edition? That one had less new oak (more ex-American oak influence, relatively) and had a more viscous, thicker texture without as much tannin. Although they are similar in flavour, the oak here is much more of a flavour driver and the whisky is a bit less dynamic - but it does have more depth. I preferred the balance with a bit less oak, but that preference will be person-to-person.

Nice whisky!

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: lower end of average at $100.


Review: Canadian Club Chronicles 43 Year Old Canadian Whisky "The Speakeasy" by Jason Hambrey

Canadian Club 43 1.jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
43 Years; Refill American Oak
Recipe
100% Corn
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

For the past number of years, Canadian Club has been releasing among the oldest Canadian whisky every to be bottled, starting in 2017 with the 40 Year Old (one of the best whiskies I’ve ever tasted). Then they followed up with the “Chronicles” series, starting with the “The Water of Windsor” at 41 Years Old, then “The Dock Man” at 42 Years Old and now this, “The Speakeasy” at 43 Years Old. As far as I am aware, this is the oldest age-stated Canadian whisky ever – but my personal knowledge of bottles pre-2000 whiskies are limited and research isn’t easy. I’ve checked with a number of authorities and the oldest age-stated whisky I’ve heard of before these old Canadian Clubs was a 37 year old Seagrams before prohibition. Not to say an older one hasn’t been bottled, but if it has, it’s certainly not well known.

Regardless, it’s certainly the oldest whisky that’s been available in decades.

Canadian whisky ages very well, in part because of the use of less active casks, a spirit whose lightness takes very well to age, and careful blending (as Canadian Club has done with these releases). I really like the character, in part because the nuance created by the aging process doesn’t get masked behind a lot of oak or strong spirit character. Some Scottish grain whiskies have similar age and character, but I find they typically haven’t had the depth or vivacity that I’ve seen in a lot of the old Canadian whiskies.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L20240IW14:08

  • Bottling Date: 2020

The nose is glorious. It’s full of old leather, dried fruit, berries, brown sugar, prune, beeswax, nutmeg, corn oil, vanilla, and weathered oak. It’s a nose, indeed, that could hold me for 43 minutes – most aged whiskies won’t. The palate is glorious – soft, with rich character, light oak, molasses, beeswax, dried blueberry, clove, and white pepper. Very delicate, yet very rich. Dried fruits hold the finish, coupled with lots of old leather and a really nice dusty, dry spiciness on the finish. The whisky in many ways reminds me of many of the scents of the furniture section of antique stores.

It’s much richer than a lot of the lighter aged Canadian whisky – but still at 45% it’s soft enough that I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was 40% - but the extra strength really helps out on the finish.

For me, 2018 only yielded one “exceptional” whisky (a 35 year old Caol Ila). 2019 also only yielded one (Mister Sam). I was wondering if 2020 would pass without one.

I guess not.

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

Value: Low - at $320 you aren’t buying this for value! However, as far as 43 year-olds go, this is extremely reasonable!


Review: Wiser's Seven Rebels Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Corby Wine & Spirits.

Image courtesy of Corby Wine & Spirits.

ABV
42.8%
Aging
Refill casks, Ex-Speyside casks, ex-bourbon casks, Virgin oak casks
Recipe
Corn, Wheat, Rye, and Barley whiskies
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

This whisky is a BC exclusive, and is quite the blend - it is made with a base of double-distilled corn whisky, with column distilled rye, column distilled wheat, pot distilled rye malt, and pot distilled barley malt. The blend used whiskies aged in a number of barrels - refill casks, ex-speyside casks, ex-bourbon casks, new white oak casks, and refill casks with oak inserts - some with inserts which have been charred to give a smoky character, and some which have been charred to give a spicy flavor. So - we can expect of flavor action in this whisky!


Review (2020)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

Really nice work here – lots of complexity. Vanilla, biscuits, dill, light pine, vanilla, toasted oak, cardamom, rose, creaminess, lilac, dense oak, plantain chips, white pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and bean sprouts. The palate shifts between fruitiness, creamy distillate, and tannic oak – with lots of nice floral rye notes in the mix. A really nice blend of flavours come through on the palate – complex oak notes, spice, floral, dried fruit, and icing sugar. The finish has a nice vegetal characteristic, more lilac, charred oak, cacao, and more bean sprouts. And just the right mix of tannins.  Excellent!

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).
Value:
High, at $70. Even at $70, this is quite good value against the market.