Wiser's Red Letter 2013 Release 45% alc/vol
Classic dusty rye boosted by Christmas spices waves of crispy oak and fresh-cut firewood, and the vanilla caramel sweetness of new oak. Complex flavours superbly balanced dissolve in a long, hot gingery finish. Cleansing citrus pith at the tail. ★★★★★In the years following the American Civil War, one of the most sought-after whiskies in America came from Canada. Wiser’s Distillery in Prescott, Ontario produced a range of top quality Canadian rye whiskies, the most popular of which was called Wiser’s Red Letter.It sometimes surprises people when they learn that Canadian whisky was the best selling whisky in America in 1865, a full three generations before the U.S. introduced Prohibition. Taste this whisky and you will understand why.The grain recipe for Wiser’s Red Letter can be found in Wiser’s old records, and master blender, Dr. Don Livermore has followed that recipe carefully. Still, this Red Letter is just marginally crisper and more full-flavoured that a 125th-anniversary version released a decade or so ago.Yes, it is still recognizably the same whisky, and if anything, it is truer to the original. Livermore, who holds a Ph.D. in the science of whisky-wood interactions, has increased the percentage of brand-new oak barrels used in maturing Red Letter. This would also have been the case when J.P. Wiser was calling the shots. At that time new oak was plentiful and commonly used to mature premium Canadian whiskies.Nose: Robust, with each element mild and tightly integrated into a single aroma. Toffee and slightly tangy dried orange peels precede clean oak and crisp morning air. What begins as wonderfully subtle hints of spirit turns slowly into sweet acetone. The toffee returns, this time tinged with icing sugar and sweet flowers.Palate: Sweet caramel and hot white pepper right off the bat with fleeting bitter tannins that dissolve into orange peels. Lovely citrus notes blend with soft barley sugar and pulling oak tannins. This is very complex whisky both robust and subtle with the typical dustiness of rye grain whisky tempered by the caramels and vanillas of new oak. Flavours evolve and fade slowly into a soft, warm middle. Then it grows brisk and strongly pithy with the bitterness of dark rye bread leading into the finish. In later sips, passing chocolate-licorice (like the candy bar) appears just as you take a sip. The whisky is pleasantly hot with slight gingery tinges and hints of sweet mint leaf candy, Very complex; each sip reveals new flavours. Overall impression: sweet, hot, complex and so, so smooth going down.Finish: Longish citrus pith that fades into crispy oak. Gingery hot.Empty Glass: Clean fresh oak, hints of vanilla, traces of wood smoke.Very Highly Recommended ★★★★★$115 at LCBOWiser’s Red Letter 150th anniversary edition reviewed here.Wiser’s 18 year old reviewed here.Wiser’s Legacy introduced here.A new Wiser’s Legacy whisky review posted here April 30, 2011 to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of J. P. Wiser.Wiser’s Small Batch reviewed here.