Wiser's Legacy: Canadian Whisky Review

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Wiser's Legacy (45% alc./vol.)Sweet, rich and very spicy with overt rye notes. Cinnamon and cloves, dark fruits, hot peppermint and citric zest. Spectacular. Very highly recommended. ★★★★★On April 30, one hundred years ago, the Canadian whisky legend John Philip Wiser died in Prescott, Ontario, following his long and distinguished career making Canadian whisky.The funeral service was held in Prescott and then Wiser’s cortege crossed the St. Lawrence River to New York State, where he was born, and where his remains were interred in a shady nook on the banks of the gentle Oswegatchie River.Wiser built a thriving distillery in Prescott and earned a stellar reputation for making great whisky but his distillery languished after his death. Six years later, his heirs sold out to Corby’s who maintained his approach and recipes. Soon, however, production of Wiser’s whiskies moved to Corbyville, Ontario. Not even a trace of Wiser’s distillery, nor his equally successful cattle and horse farm, remain today in Prescott.Corby’s distillery eventually closed as well. As for Wiser’s whiskies, they have now found a third home at the Hiram Walker distillery in Walkerville, Ontario. Although the founder has been gone for a full century, several of Wiser’s whiskies still live on, including Legacy, which is faithfully mashed and distilled according to J.P.’s original recipe. Legacy, in fact, was Wiser’s final creation; he was close to bringing it to market when he died.The fittingly named Wiser’s Legacy stands as a testament to the quality of early Canadian whisky, and to the pioneer distiller whose influence was fundamental in establishing the Canadian whisky style. And that style? Well to begin with, much of the whisky in Legacy is distilled in a traditional copper pot still from a mash rich in rye-grain. The white-oak barrels used to mature Legacy are toasted, not charred, creating a most amazing range of typical ‘rye’ spices. Legacy is the clear leader of the Wiser’s range, and despite the fact that it is a relatively recent release it has already begun to garner awards and accolades.Although the physical evidence of his distillery is long gone, one hundred years after his death, J.P. Wiser can rest in peace as his most important legacies remain in caring hands: his approach to making whisky, and this release: Legacy.Nose: Stewed prunes turn instantly into sweet baking spices. Mild sawdust notes, peppermint and dry tobacco leaves speak of toasted oak, while classic rye grain comes through very strongly in aromas of sour rye bread, hot dark rye bread and dusty raw rye grain. Rye spices then take the stage with cinnamon and cloves predominating. Faintly, lilacs begin to blossom then fade in a breeze of pickle notes. This is a complex nose that rewards patience, as more sweet toasted wood, dairy barn, sweet flowers – violets maybe – and hints of menthol waft in and out.Palate: Toffee sweet and fruity with very hot pepper. Just hints of fresh-cut wood, along with rye bread and the hottest peppermint, which slowly becomes more peppery and less minty. Zesty citric notes complement a real gingery zing and hot cinnamon, before the palate returns to fruit, this time apricots, candied dried baking fruit, and bitter lemon. A huge and very complex palate.Finish: Medium-long, fading on rye bread and hot spices with a hint of wood at the end.Empty Glass: Prune juice and generic ripe black fruits. The morning-after glass is very expressive with hints of dry wood, burnt wood, mint and rye spices complementing the fruitiness.$50.00 at LCBO (new price).Very Highly Recommended ★★★★★An introduction to Wiser's Legacy with more tasting notes and comparisons to other whiskies is found here.Wiser's Small Batch is reviewed here.Wiser's 18 year old is reviewed here.Wiser's Red Letter 125th Anniversary Edition is reviewed here.Wiser's Red Letter 2013 Release is reviewed here.