Wiser's Small Batch (43.4% alc./vol.)
Big whisky. Cinnamon, cloves, and other rye spices. Dark fruits, vanilla, butterscotch, cedar oil, some earthy tones, and a slight flintiness. Weighty. Spicy Rye. ★★★★☆One hundred years after his death, John Philip Wiser’s recipes are still used to make some of Canada’s most well-established and most sought-after whiskies. What’s odd about this detail is that Wiser’s distillery itself has been out of production for nearly a century as well. In fact, all traces of it have long since been erased from the Prescott, Ontario neighbourhood where it once proudly stood. But the whisky makers at Corby’s who have taken up Wiser’s mantle are not content to rest on their laurels, or should we say J.P.’s laurels.Yes, Wiser’s Legacy, the most recent addition to the Wiser’s line-up, is based on an original, rye-rich J. P. Wiser recipe. But before committing to full production of this super-spicy heritage whisky, Corby’s tested the Canadian appreciation for spicy whisky. They did this by releasing Wiser’s Small Batch, a whisky that has been formulated clearly in the image of Legacy.When it was introduced, Wiser’s Small Batch was something strikingly new for Canadian whisky lovers: a return to J. P. Wiser’ original methods. The result? Flavour and heritage in a glass. Rich in baking spices and with an enhanced candied quality, Small Batch was bigger, much spicier, and a lot sweeter than the whiskies loyal Wiser’s fans have become used to. And with the 43.4% alc./vol. that Wiser is said to have favoured, it was also just a little bit stronger. I can report that J. P. Wiser would be very pleased with what his successors have done in his name.Nose: Dusty rye, redolent with cloves and clove oil, and rich in vanilla, hangs heavy deep in your nostrils, while cinnamon tickles away at the edges. This, one of the spiciest Wiser’s noses ever, is rich in fully developed, integrated spices reminiscent of dark-rum-laden Christmas cake. Notes of fresh-cut wood, cedar oil, and furniture polish accent the spiciness. Heavy black fruits, sweet fresh red fruit, and candied dried fruit meld with the generic fruitiness of rye. The rye returns in the middle with its earthiness and a not-too-common flintiness. Imagine, flinty rye in such a robust nose. Butterscotch and hints of burnt sugar finally succeed in pushing their way through the sweetness of the vanilla. This is a big nose.Palate: What starts a bit creamy with burnt sugar and fresh concentrated vanilla quickly becomes very rich, oily and spicy until it coats your mouth with syrupy spices and fruit. Cloves dominate without overwhelming the heaps of burning hot pepper and hot cinnamon, which, in turn, are complemented by toffee sweetness and balanced against a refreshing bitter zest. The sweet, ever-present baking spices and clove oil really deliver a wallop. But even more complexity comes quickly with a rich oakiness, complete with sawdust, green wood, cedar and fresh cedar leaves, followed by wood smoke. Earthy rye returns along with freshwater plants and really crisp flintiness. Weighty. This is a very complex, highly flavourful, “busy” whisky with all kinds of actions and reactions in the glass and on the palate.Finish: Long, hot, and very spicy, returning always to cloves and hot pepper. A gentle sweetness and slight fruitiness fade into a simple citric zestiness with just a touch of pith.Empty Glass: Barbeque sauce, hot toffee, brown sugar, vanilla, fresh-cut wood, sawdust, wood smoke, burnt wood, cloves, sweet spices.$28.95 at LCBO.Highly Recommended. ★★★★☆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 Legacy introduced here.Wiser's 18 year old reviewed here.Wiser's Red Letter reviewed here.