Alberta Springs aged 10 years (40% alc./vol.)
Luscious and weighty with beautifully integrated aromatic spices and waves of white pepper. Sweet, like Mackintosh’s® toffee, vanilla, and dried fruit. Citric zest, linen, some dustiness, and hints of oak. Spicy Rye. ★★★★☆There are some things Canadians know almost instinctively: “Double-double” is coffee, usually Tim Horton’s coffee, with two sugars and two creams added, a “two-four” is a 24-bottle case of beer, and “rye” is whisky. In fact we Canadians start calling it rye, long before we ever learn some people refer to it as whisky. We come to know what wheat is, and corn, and most of us also recognize barley. Eventually, some of us, though not most of us, learn there is a grain of some kind that is also called rye, but darned if we could ever tell you what it looks like, what it is used for, or which province produces the most of it.Marketing folks love to extol the virtues of whatever sets their whisky apart. When it is distilled from four different grains, the marketers scream: FOUR GRAIN WHISKY!!! THE HOLY GRAIL!!! Similarly, when it is made from 100% rye grain, they scream: 100% RYE!!! THE HOLY GRAIL!!! So it is refreshing that the only major distillery in North America capable of regularly distilling whisky from 100% rye grain does not believe it necessarily has to scream about it, or even distil from 100% rye grain all the time.Although they claim “100% rye” for their Alberta Premium line only, (and Alberta Premium is always distilled from a 100% rye-grain mash), Alberta Distillers actually makes a number of other whiskies that are also distilled from 100% rye grain. Most of the time that is. They do not claim 100% rye for these whiskies though, because sometimes, when they are blending a new batch, there is other whisky in the warehouse that also fits the rye flavour profile. The whiskies for each batch of Alberta Springs, for example, are selected based on the flavours they will contribute to the final blend, and not on some pre-determined recipe for marketing types to shout about. With Alberta Springs we are drinking a whisky, not a recipe. Yes, some batches may use nothing but rye distillate, but others, as the taste tests direct, may also include whiskies distilled from mashes made with corn, wheat, or even a rye-wheat hybrid called triticale (trit ih CAY lee). These guys are Canadians, eh? They know, first off, that rye is a drink.Nose: Starts out with typical rye notes including baking spices, some dustiness and a suggestion of sour pickles. A rich sweetness quickly follows with vanilla, butterscotch and black licorice. There is sour fruit and sweet fruit, including green apples, apple juice, and Welch’s white grape juice. Very expressive.Palate: Begins sweet like Mackintosh’s® toffee, but with aromatic baking spices added – cloves, ginger, nutmeg – a hit of vanilla, and a vague fruitiness that resolves into red grapes with hints of dried fruit. Waves of hot pepper arrive quickly then linger in the back of the throat. A dry grain presence throughout complements hints of linen. It’s luscious and weighty in the mouth – thick and creamy with a syrupy slipperiness. The gingery heat on the tongue is balanced beautifully by a stimulating citric zestiness that keeps it all together. A surprising pinch of salt rounds it all out. Although the palate starts simple, ten years in barrels have not been wasted on Alberta Springs since it exhibits a developing complexity that is emphasized in the middle with notes of fresh-cut wood. This is a big whisky, and a bold one.Finish: Medium long. Peppery and spicy, with some lemony citric notes and a lingering sweetness. The pepper becomes more intense before fading out to a bitter citric zest.Empty Glass: Not much, but what is there includes sweet dry grain, hints of maple fudge, a dash of vanilla, and a hint of sour rye.Alberta Distillers is probably best known for its Alberta Premium mixing whisky, a well-crafted 5-year old just bursting with caramel and hot pepper, and with a strong underlying citric zestiness. But it is Alberta Springs that lights up the eyes of the folks at the distillery. Why? Alberta Springs is creamier, more flavourful, much more complex, and richer than the young Alberta Premium. Yes, Alberta Springs will mix with the best of them, but its creaminess, broad spice spectrum, hints of wood, and complexity make it one fine sipper as well.$21.99 at BC Liquors.Highly recommended ★★★★☆Alberta Premium Dark Horse is reviewed here.Alberta Premium 25 year old is reviewed here.Alberta Premium 30 year old Limited Edition is reviewed here.