Alberta Premium aged 25 years (40% alc./vol.)
Sweet vanilla pods and fresh-cut lumber. A complex mosaic of flavours from cedar to tropical fruit set on a creamy base with hot pepper and a delicate underlying citric zest. Rich & Oaky. ★★★★★Alberta Premium gets a lot of mileage from the fact that it is made from a mash of 100% rye grain. And so it should. Rye is not an easy grain to work with. It’s sticky when mashed and tends to gum up the works in a distillery. But it is a key contributor to the flavour of Canadian whisky and when a whisky that is made with 100% rye comes along you can be justified in expecting something out of the ordinary. Alberta Premium is just that. Yes, it has a typical Canadian rye whisky profile—toffee, wood, ripe fruit, citric zest, and loads of pepper—but this 25-year-old version is a multi-layered, robust, yet somehow fragile specimen. It is typical of the big Canadian whiskies and nothing like the in-your-face 51% American straight ryes that people so often compare Canadian rye whisky to.No, with care and skill it is possible to get a typical, albeit hugely spectacular, Canadian rye whisky without using corn in the mash bill. It’s just a really difficult thing to do and perhaps this is why Alberta Distillers is the only distillery in Canada that has chosen to do this.Nose: A powerful whiff of wood then a wealth of sweet rye spices dissolve slowly into dark fruits. The aroma begins to dry out before it suddenly sparkles with bursts of ginger. An appealing fresh-cut lumber, rich in cedar and oak, forms a backbone that supports everything else.Palate: Vanilla toffee, then loads of wood: Canadian wood, not the harsh tannic oak of first-use barrels, but fresh and aromatic like a lumberyard. Some slightly drying tannins do sneak in after a few minutes, though. Fragrant red cedar is underscored by hot pepper and sweet rye spices. A refreshing limey zest develops quickly. The peppery spices are warm, mingling neatly with a touch of ripe fruit. It’s zesty, but it’s also creamy and has decent weight.By the middle, all kinds of rye baking spices have arrived with ginger leading the way. Then this is overtaken by the familiar earthiness of rye, reminiscent of a wet West Coast rainforest. As the palate grows hotter, strong sweet rye spices: cloves-allspice-cinnamon, a rich fruitiness, and an ever-present fresh wood, maintain the balance. It’s very complex and very expressive, yet everything is neatly integrated and contained.Like the wood and the pepper, the fruit lasts throughout but it’s undefined until, suddenly, some berry notes assert themselves only to be pushed aside by tropical fruits, especially pineapple. Notions of exotic woods like sandalwood, some burnt sugar, maybe a flash of chocolate, and a whole range of disparate fruity-woody-spicy flavours knit neatly into one. Believe me, you won’t get all this in just one tasting.Finish: Longish, hot, and ever changing. Fresh-cut wood, then pepper with traces of peppermint and sweet baking spices, are followed by dried rye grain and an earthy sourness. A slight cleansing citric zest grows more evident as the hot pepper begins to fade. Stays woody until it finally disappears.Empty Glass: The morning after offers everything the night before promised: fresh-cut timber still in the forest with sweetish overtones of vanilla toffee, a dash of sour rye, a flash of peppermint, then wafting wood smoke, some sharp fruit, more toffee, more fresh lumber, and way in the background a whiff of a lumberjack’s empty beer bottles.Alberta Premium 25 year old was a single batch released in 2007. Like most ryes released in Canada, the label describes it simply as Canadian Rye Whisky. Nowhere does the word “blend” appear, nor should it. Yes, this is a mixture of rye whiskies, but they are made in the same distillery. So it’s a single-distillery whisky and a mighty fine one at that.Alberta Distillers makes a whole range of top shelf whiskies, and this, the limited edition 25-year-old, is the pinnacle of their achievement. Not that the others are any slouches, but this senior citizen has been left to age gracefully until it exemplifies the very essence of real Canadian rye whisky—sweet and peppery rye spices, fresh wood, fruitiness, and a cleansing citric zest.It’s sold out at LCBO and a bit difficult to find elsewhere these days, but if you see a bottle, do pick it up. At about $30.00 this is very much a bang-for-your-buck whisky. Collectible.Very Highly Recommended★★★★★Alberta Springs 10 year old reviewed here.Alberta Premium 30 year old is reviewed here.Alberta Premium Dark Horse is reviewed here.