Oct 212012
 

Alberta Premium Dark Horse

45% abv

Score:  85.5/100

 

Nothing like being fashionably late to the party, huh?

I should have covered this one a while back now, but alas…circumstances cropped up that prevented that from happening.  Namely, that I’m a dunce and in all that was going on missed the release date on this one.  I had the whisky in hand…I’d tried it…but I knew I had to keep ‘mum’ until release date.  Then…promptly forgot about release date.

Sigh.  Apologies to any interested.

Anyway…this is an exciting whisky for me.  First and foremost, it is a release from a distillery with a stellar track record.  Second, said distillery is based right here in the neighbourhood.  Third, this distillery, Alberta Distillers, does not play with innovation for the broader market.  This whisky is blazing a brand new trail.  My friends at ADL…well done.  Not only recognized, but appreciated.

Dark Horse is said to be a mix of 6 and 12 year old rye (100% rye, I might add).  Added to this, yes…added…is about 8% bourbon and a bit of sherry for good measure.  Now…for our friends not so in the loop with Canadian Whisky regulations who are undoubtedly asking ‘what the fuck?’ right now…well…put simply…Canadian whisky can legally have just over 9% additives to the spirit and still be marketed as Canadian Whisky.  Swallow your incredulity and just enjoy.

On the nose:  Big, big fruits (dark red jam-like fruits) and cracked pepper.  A touch of dill up front that seems a little odd in concept, but actually works quite well (others have said pickles…including a roomful at a recent Canadian Whisky tasting I attended).  Oak.  This really is a mishmash of rye spiciness and bourbon sweetness.  Floral notes collide with vanilla and cinnamon.  Sweet and lovely, but somewhat…contrived.  Not in a bad way, I just mean that it has a sort of odd unprecedented quality to it that makes me think of some crazy fun time in the blending lab.

Dusty corns and faux fruits hit the palate first, overpowering the grains, woods and spice that follow.  Super sweet and kinda waxy.  Very bourbon-ish, to be honest.  Apple peel on finish.  Keeps me reaching for more.

I’m still not 100% (maybe 95%?) won over by this one, as I was with the previous ADL releases, but the odd thing is…the level in my bottle keeps dropping.  Let’s blame it on my desire to share and let others try.  Sure…that’s it.

And yes…I will be buying another bottle.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:48 pm
Oct 212012
 

Alberta Premium

40% abv

 Score:  88.5/100

 

Alberta Distillers.  Calgary’s secret little gem nestled in the gorgeous heart of…Ogden industrial park.  Ummm…yeah.  Ok, so maybe we don’t have quite the austere beauty surrounding our amazing little distillery that many of the big producers in Scotland have, but let’s dismiss the concept of terroir for now, and simply appreciate the contents of the cask.

Award winners, and in recent days finally embracing a little bit of innovation with their exceptional product, Alberta Distillers Limited, or ADL as they are colloquially known, have become sort of ‘darlings’ of late in the whisky world.  Rightly so.  This is damn good stuff, and it warms my heart to know that we’re producing something so exceptional in our own backyard.

The distillery’s true claim to fame is in producing one of the world’s very few 100% pure rye whiskies.  Rye, just so we’re clear, is known as a grain extremely difficult to work with.  The yield is generally not as high as other mashes and it is apparently sticky as hell, gumming up the works and causing no end of headaches.

The distillery’s flagship expression, Alberta Premium, is a young (5 year, give or take) 100% rye, full of character and pristine in its clean lines and sharp profile.  This spirit that works so well at 5 years truly spins itself into liquid gold at later ages, as evinced by limited edition releases of 25 and 30 year olds, already long sold out.

The nose is all rich spice, smooth vanilla and sweet caramel.  Rye, of course, but light and familiar.  Not heavy and brooding like a dark German rye.  Dry dusty popcorn (no butter…no salt).  Lemon Pledge, rock hard crunchy berry.  This whisky is sleek, seductive, sexy and elegant.  It’s like silk pajamas on silk sheets.  If you’re a malter who loves your beefy Scottish fare, be prepared for something entirely new.  Candian whisky is something sweeter…deep in spice…light and confident enough to let the grains really sing.

The delivery is effortlessly smooth.  Creamy and mouth-coating.  Buttermilk silkiness threaded with toffee, vanilla and sweet fruit.  Caramel apple.  Clean spicy rye.  Exceptionally drinkable.  My only real complaint here is a rather short finish.  Otherwise…not a hitch to be found.

If this wasn’t enough to seduce, how does ~$20-25 a bottle sound?

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:23 pm
Jul 252012
 

A Few From Our Friends At Alberta Distillers Limited

Snugged in not far from the heart of Calgary, just miles from the foot of the Rockies, lies one of the whisky world’s most surprising little secrets.  Namely, Alberta Distillers Limited.

This very industrial looking distillery – leagues apart from the polished copper stills and tour-oriented distilleries of Scotland – is a deceptive little giant.  However, much like in Scotland, the people who run Alberta Distillers are the lifeblood of the company.  A while back a few members of the collective were fortunate enough to tour the distillery and were treated to an absolutely exceptional experience.  The ADL family welcomed us like long lost family members.  From initial contact with recently retired quality assurance manager Kathy Pitcho to our behind-the-scenes tour with Distiller Rick Murphy, this was a warm downhome experience.  The tour itself was both enlightening and entertaining, and the overall experience was every bit as memorable as any overseas distillery tour I’ve taken.

While it is easy to hunt and peck the web (or bookshops) for all the ins and outs of Scottish distillation, details regarding Canadian whisky production are a little more obscure.  This opportunity to spend some time with the faces behind the whisky we love was a treat.

After the tour proper, we were taken back to ADL’s tasting lounge for a dram (or four).  The lounge is a site you simply have to see.  Much like the throwback tasting room in a distillery like Lagavulin, this charming little sitting area is straight out of a time long gone.  Loved it.  As we settled in to sip a flight of whiskies, Distillery manager Rob Tuer joined us for a bit of blind tasting.

We were afforded the opportunity to sample a couple of (as yet) unbottled expressions, under the caveat that we not mention what was being experimented with, as well as an offering from the general release spectrum.  After a bit of fun, several laughs and a brilliant little bit of interaction, we were actually thanked for having asked to come (!!) and each sent off with a bottle of Alberta Premium and a nifty little gift.  Truly unbelievable.

It was great to see that the people at Alberta Distillers are as special as the whisky they make.

While this piece has been a long time in the making, I did sincerely want to take the opportunity to share a little bit about our hometown pride.

ADL’s flagship expression is Alberta Premium, a young 100% rye whisky, rich in spice and sweetness.  And while this whisky is a stunner in its own right, the distillery has also managed to awe the legions of Canadian whisky drinkers twice in the past couple of years.  First with a stunning 25 year old limited release, and then again last year with an equally winning 30 year old.

Stay tuned.  I happen to know there is a further surprise in the coming days.

A big ‘cheers’ from ATW to ADL!

 

 

Unaged Rye (aka ‘new make’ or ‘white dog’)

abv unknown

Nose:  Almond paste.  White chocolate.  Cherry.  Saltines.  Caramel corn.

Palate:  Popcorn.  Almond.  ‘Bitey’.  Silky Delivery, then…WHAM!!  Hottest spirit I have ever tried.  Salty and savoury.  Fast fade.

Thoughts & Impressions:  “A glass of Chuck Norris”

 

Alberta Premium

40% abv

Nose:  Mild artificial lemon.  Light cocoa.  Amazingly clean grain.  Vibrant.  Crunchy berry.  Caramel.

Palate:  Apple.  Sheaves of grain, dripping caramel.

Thoughts & Impressions:  One of the best Canadian spirits going.  And undoubtedly the best price point.  There is always a bottle of this at home.

 

Alberta Premium 25 y.o.

40% abv

Nose:  Lumberyard.  Fresh cut pine.  Dust.  Char and wax.  Bit o’ eucalyptus.  White pepper.  Old dunnage warehouse.  Very dry spiced fruit.  Vanilla.

Palate:  Pine and big grains.  A very mature 25.  More fruit than on the nose.

Thoughts & Impressions:  This has seen more wood than Pinnochio’s girlfriend.  Lovely and charming, and deserves undivided attention to discern all of the nuances.

 

 

Alberta Premium 30 y.o.

40% abv

Nose:  Deep char.  Almost a note of ‘burnt’.  Smells younger than the 25 y.o. expression, and the fruits are certainly more prevalent.  Orange and cherry.  Pine.  Creamy caramel

Palate:  Mature…smoky…waxy…oaky.  In essence…old.

Thoughts & Impressions:  I remember initially liking the 25 more than one.  Not so sure anymore.  Truly a fantastic offering from this distillery.  Up until recently was still available.  You’ll be hard pressed to find it now.

 

Alberta Springs 10 y.o.

40% abv

Nose:  Creamy.  Orange zest.  Gorgeous spice balance.  Rich caramel…bordering on over-toasted.  Sweet and ‘produced’.  Entirely pleasant…better yet…comfortable.

Palate:  Super sweet.  Midway carnival caramel apple.  Very sweet.  Clean and pleasantly spicy.

Thoughts & Impressions:  Hmm…tough one.  Something seems…not natural here.  Lovely, but don’t overthink it.

 

– ATW

– Photos:  Bottles & Glasses…Curt, Cask…Pat

 Posted by at 9:56 pm
May 032012
 

Alberta Premium 30 y.o.

40% abv

Score:  93/100

 

I did an about face on this one.  Not that I didn’t initially like it,quite the contrary actually, but I was quite certain that the earlier limited release of the 25 year old was better.  Hmmm…not so sure about that one now.  As brilliant as the 25 was, I think this actually pips it.

Rumour has it that in the days following the release of the 25, the remaining old stock was recasked and left to mellow for a few more seasons.  I questioned the decision to shift mature spirit from its familiar ol’ home into casks that would likely be a lot more active.  Would this lead to too much young oak influence?

Nup.  Not a worry.  The result was quite the opposite really.  It was the fruits that were reinvigorated, like a date with a defibrillator.  What we end up with is a little more bottled magic from Alberta Distillers.

Word of the 30 year old’s pending release came to us early on when a few of The Collective were granted the opportunity to spend a few hours at the distillery.  We were asked to keep hush hush, and of course had to respect that.  Tough one though.  Following on the heels of the stellar 25, expectations were high.  Zipping the lip was a formidable obligation.

The wait was well worth it however.  Here we have the oldest 100% rye whisky I know of, and what a treat it is.

The nose manages to impress as both older and younger than the 25.  How is that possible?  Cherry and orange, maybe a whiff of ruby grapefruit are second only to the pine-fresh woodiness.  Familiar smells of a dunnage warehouse.  There are faint char notes, almost as in a recharred cask.  Pleasant…adding a degree of sophistication and hinting at the depth here.  The characteristic spice notes found in rye are warm and familiar.  Vanilla pod and clove right up front and something quite unique here as well:  there is a pancake syrup (treacle for my friends o’erseas) we buy occasionally that is cinnamon flavored.  The mix of butter, cinnamon and maple syrup is niftily captured here.  Great nose.

The palate…mature, smoky, waxy and oaky.  In essence…tasting of all those charming subtleties that only develop through the patience of letting a cask mellow in the warehouse.  A smidge of tart citrus.  And again…back to the rich cloves.  The fade is oak and grapefruit.

Man, this is a great distillery.  I only wish they had the confidence to try a little experimentation.  With a spirit this good, I can only imagine the possibilities, and dare to dream of the heights they could reach.  Imagine…this in a refill sherry butt?  At cask strength?

 

Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:49 pm
May 032012
 

Alberta Premium 25 y.o.

40% abv

Score:  92.5

 

There’s a hometown pride goin’ on here right now. I’ve been won over and have fallen in love again. Sort of a backdoor romance, you could say. The good news though…is that my wife knows about it.

Alberta Premium is produced right here in Calgary, and is doubtless the finest Canadian Whisky I have ever tried. Their no age statement flagship expression is a mindblowingly sexy dram, showing maturity well beyond its years (the number of which, of course, a gentlemen would never mention). So the question that logically follows is ‘how does this stack up after a few more years in wood’?

Well…through a newly-forged (though hopefully long-enduring) friendship, I was gifted a bottle of this sadly long-gone whisky. I can, without any hesitation, state on record that 25 years in oak takes this from a sterling rye whisky to something utterly beyond compare.

The nose here has all of the same notes that makes the standard bottling exceptional, but…try this…imagine a lone violin playing in a moonlit amphitheater. Now imagine that lone violin is joined by multitudes more playing the same note in ascending octaves of the most heavenly harmony until your eardrums burst in pure ecstasy. That good? Absolutely. Gorgeous sweet rye…creamy vanilla and hazy light fruits…silky smooth chocolate. At 25 years I should be worried about oak influence. Alas…nada. The woods here are absolutely distant and tastefully restrained.

The palate is alive and vibrant with all the afore-mentioned depth and creamy toffee notes to boot. The arrival is delicate and unpretentious, but develops smoothly into an unbelievably elegant and sensual mouthful. There are distant (very distant) echoes of bourbon in there somewhere as well…though they sort of dance around the tongue a little. The finish is much lengthier than the staple expression, and man…are those lingering flavors lovely. I concur with the opinion that leaving the oils in (ie. no chill-filtration) would have allowed these beautiful flavors to soar even higher. As it is though…dear gawd…my wife should be jealous.

Hard to find flaws here.  A well-deserved mark.

One final note…I mentioned in my review of the standard bottle that I was hoping to try this 25 year old. Well…you fine folk made it happen, So I will tempt fate once more by begging that anyone who finds this in the shops either nabs me a bottle (at my expense of course) or tells me where to find it. I’ll be sure to share a dram.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:53 pm