Black Velvet aged 3 years (40% alc./vol. (80 proof))


Candy, sweet, dark fruit, cream sherry, pepper and hot spices, dusty, floral rye, spirit, slight zestiness, and hints of fresh wood. Fruity and Spicy. ★★★ There are three whisky distilleries in Alberta. This may sound like quite a few until you realize that Alberta is more than 8 times the size of Scotland. Scotland, of course, boasts more than 100. The most southerly of these Alberta distilleries, Black Velvet (formerly known as Palliser), is located in Lethbridge, not far from the famed desert-like Alberta Badlands and the Milk River Hoodoos on the Montana border. This is the parched, rugged landscape of western movies and rot-gut-slugging cowboys. Talk about location!Named for the top selling Canadian whisky it produces (the rankings change from year to year), Black Velvet Distillery takes a weekly delivery of between eight and ten rail carloads of corn (maize). And each week, two rail tanker cars of mature Black Velvet Canadian whisky leave the plant for bottling in California and Kentucky.Black Velvet whisky for Canada and the rest of the world sees glass right at the distillery, but transportation is such a large component of the cost of making whisky that a market as huge as America is best served by bulk shipments. American consumers also demand a slightly different flavour profile than whisky-lovers in the rest of the world. Consequently, each year The Black Velvet Distillery blends close to 100 tanker carloads of Black Velvet whisky according to a special recipe, to be shipped to the U.S. Well, with 100 tanker loads a year, it can’t be considered that special, but certainly, the U.S.-version of Black Velvet is unique to the American market.Nose: The dark ripe fruit that greets the nose soon turns to cotton candy, hard candy, and marshmallows. Then the vaguest hint of rubber dissolves back into fruity notes, including sherry, peaches, dried dark fruits, fruit juice, and prune juice. Rye expresses itself loudly and clearly as dry cereal grain, dustiness, and slight floral notes. In addition to its wood- and grain-derived flavours, a good mixing whisky needs to retain a bit of spirit character, and though it does not intrude, this one certainly does. Yes, this is a mixer, not a sipper, but don’t add that ginger ale right away. Waiting just a few minutes will be rewarded with slight sawdust notes and developing woodiness. Although both are three years old, this U.S. version of Black Velvet is somewhat more expressive than the austere, almost elegant Deluxe.Palate: A first impression of sweet caramel becomes a lasting one, while other flavours come and go. But the sweetness also has candy-like, almost sugar-like qualities. A lush mouthfeel, which is surprising in a three-year-old whisky, has both creamy and oily sensations. The rubber from the nose briefly crosses the palate then quickly gives way to increasingly hot and lingering pepper, complemented by hot ginger that heats the sides of your mouth.It’s a fruity whisky whose fruitiness goes in two directions: dark sweet fruits, fruit juice, over-ripe fruit, and cream sherry, then a bitter grapefruit zest and oranges. Overall this whisky is sweeter than Black Velvet Deluxe, and has just a little bit more of everything, but ultimately the candy flavours overshadow, pushing it slightly out of balance. Ahh, a dash of ginger ale will soon fix that!Finish: Medium-short and fading. Peppery with lots of heat. Ripe black fruit, caramel, and burnt sugar. Just a hint of fresh-sawn wood before it fades out with a lime zestiness.Empty Glass: Quite closed, but there are suggestions of stale beer, fruit juice, dust, flowers, wood, and toffee.Not available in Canada, but about $10.00 in the USA.Recommended. ★★★History of Black Velvet and its distilleries (Gilbey, Diageo/Valleyfield, Schenley, Palliser) here.Black Velvet Deluxe reviewed here.Black Velvet Reserve 8 year old reviewed here.