So what’s the deal with Wiser’s?
Well for that, like a lot of things in Canadian history, we have to go to the US.
See after the Civil War (not the movie or the comic book series), the US wanted whisky. And from what I understand from High School US history, the south was pretty beat up and wasn’t spending time making whisky.
So they turned to Canada. And we made them whisky, and everyone was happy… well as happy as one could be after a massive, bloody war that still has ripples affecting the US today.
And one of those things is that Wiser’s still exists. Not only that, but they made their name after the Civil War, and today are still in business.
Way to go Wiser’s!
And to celebrate this, Wiser’s brought out their old recipes and created Wiser’s Red Letter.
But that’s just the simple way of putting it.
The original Wiser’s Red Letter was a late 19th Century whisky created by J.P. Wiser. It was his special stock for guests and close friends. You see they don’t actually have the real recipes. They have a shit ton of notes though, and that’s how they put it together.
Today I’ll be reviewing two of the releases. They change up the recipe slightly each time they make it.
So, let’s see how this special batch of the good hooch tastes, shall we?
Up first we have Wiser’s Red Letter (2013), the release from 2013. From what I’ve read, the Virgin Oak finish was added because Virgin Oak was quite plentiful in the 19th century.
Makes sense to me. And I don’t have a PHD, so I’m going to follow the blender on this one. They can ask me about Dungeons & Dragons.
It’s a fair deal.
None the less, compared to the 125th edition released in 2007, this version is suppose to be stronger and more crisp. So let’s see how it does, shall we?
Price: No longer available at the LCBO
Bond N° 0006075
Cask Finish: Virgin Oak
Colour: 2.5Y 7/8
Nose: Maple, oak, cloves, vanilla, wheat, banana, cream
Somewhat light on the nose. It’s certainly spicier and more complex than traditional whiskies. I’ve heard it’s made up of 7-10 year old whiskies, however it has aspects I’m used to in older Single Malts.
Again, it is light on the nose. Don’t expect to pick this up and be blasted with a Speyside’s normal levels. Instead it’s light. Very light. Note rough, just really, really light.
Taste: Coffee, caramel, wheat, oak, banana, cream, spices
Stronger taste, luckily. Again, you have a very Speyside-esque flavoured
It’s somewhat of a throwaway to just put it at that. The flavours, while present, take some time to take apart. It’s not overly complex, sure, however these are distinct flavours. If I compare it to other Canadian whiskies, there’s no rough parts. It’s nice to sip on, brings new, well balanced flavours.
Finish: Vanilla, oak, wheat, mint, milk, ginger, mango pudding
Finish is where I feel the Virgin Oak really makes it worth it. before there may have been some oak elements that screamed it out, and the finish instead has some growth.
The oak is still there, sure. However the vanilla and creamy aspects work really well here.
Conclusion: Is this a must have to drink forever? No, not close. That said, it’s proof that a blender can make something that is as good, and, in some cases, better than a Single Malt. This whisky does just that.
It’s subtle, light, and nice to drink. Not crazy, not hot, and has some interesting flavours. I think the nose and taste aren’t too complex, and the finish really is the best part. I want more.
Luckily I have some Cask Strength version… to review next.
Thanks to /u/devoz for this sample.
Wiser’s Red Letter Cask Strength is up next, as I hinted. And no, this one isn’t on the market.
You see, in Canada we hate alcohol. I mean, recently we hated it, and we can’t seem to get over that idea. We thought alcohol would tear our country apart.
Because… uh… well… it isn’t? I mean, I can get the idea that we should have some regulation. However the idea that alcohol content is one of those, and anything above shudder 45% is the Devil’s gateway to Hell is silly.
So for those reasons, a lot of Canadian whisky is at a low Abv. And because it’s at a low Abv, you may as well blend it with grain whisky. And because you may as well blend it with grain, you’re flavours are more muted. And because of all of that, fuck it, don’t age it long, because it’s not warm here.
And use the cheapest grain, and don’t do anything new or different, and don’t make extra money, and then we’re all drinking beer and wine because we can actually make good versions of that.
But don’t worry, we’ll keep taxing the ever loving shit out of every hard alcohol that crosses the border, because won’t someone think of the children!
So suffice to say, Wiser’s Red Letter Cask Strength isn’t on the market, because who knows if there is a market. I got my hands on some by doing unsavoury things in a back alley (thanks again /u/devoz!)
Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: Not for resale
Bottled: June 2016
Bond N° 050 2061
Colour: 2.5Y 6/8
Nose: Pear, brown butter, Sprite, honey, vinegar, heat, coconut, rosemary
Oddly enough, others got a lot of maple from this, and I got different blasts of sweetness. Reason: I’m trying to lose weight and haven’t been eating as many pancakes.
It’s sweet, hot, and has this nice herbal aspect to it. Lots of interesting earth notes as well. Good quality nose on this one. Nothing like I’ve had in most Canuck whiskies before. It’s strong.
Taste: Caramel, pear, vanilla, black pepper, taffy, salt, butter
This… holy balls, this takes time to cool the fuck down. I mean, I’m glad it’s at Cask Strength, but did we starve the Angels on this one? Did they get any of their share? Won’t someone think of the poor, sober Angels?
Starts out simple enough. Given some time though, this really comes into it’s own. Everything works here, oddly.
Finish: Caramel, beef, dry, apple, pastry, cinnamon, raisin
Finish is amazing. Look, it’s simple, and I won’t go against that. However combine the above and you know what you get? An amazing Apple Strudel with a side of beef.
And if that doesn’t do this country proud, then Alberta and Ontario have left. Long finish. Goes on for quite awhile.
Conclusion: I think they could calm it down a wee bit. Or maybe age it somewhere a little warmer. Or something. It’s strong as heck.
That said, this is much more complex than the standard. There’s big, big elements here, and a true showcase of what Wisers was accomplishing. Put me in line for a bottle, even though it’ll cost over $10,000 after the taxes are added in.
World Whisky review #163, Canada review #57-58, Whisky Network review #754-755