This whisky is distilled in Alberta, by Alberta distillers, and is a rarity among whiskies – 100% unmalted rye whisky. As a straight rye, it is matured in new charred oak, giving it a big bold profile. 100% rye is unusual as a full component of a released whisky, though some canadian distillers produce and age 100% rye, corn, barley, and wheat whiskies as components of their blends. One reason 100% unmalted rye is unusual is because enzymes have to be added to the whisky to turn starch into sugar before the fermentation – and these microbial enzymes are grown and produced by Alberta Distillers themselves.
There are a few other Canadian 100% rye whiskies, including Alberta Premium (unmalted rye), Lot no. 40 (malted rye), and others, from time to time, such as the limited edition Collingwood 21 Year old (malted rye) – but this is the best of the lot. It is bottled by 35 Maple Street, a Californian company which selects and bottles the casks of Masterson’s. They also have recently released a 100% unmalted barley whisky, and a 100% wheat whisky all produced and aged in Canada.
This bottle is from batch 5, which, at the present time, is dwindling in supply in Ontario. Batch 3 was highly acclaimed, achieving the fourth place in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2013. Go grab a bottle if you can!
Nose: Oak has no problem coming off this nose – it fits in well with the spicy and honeyed notes. Vanilla, and rye that smells almost candied to me with the influence of charred wood. Elements of it are also slightly floral, as if there were a vanilla flower. There are fruity elements to this too, with a touch of apricot and peaches and bananas, and dried apricot emerging after some time. And, with all the above, there’s some pretty wonderful mossiness and earthiness – but it’s still all balanced beautifully. There’s a very slight chemical spirit component, slightly like petroleum, in the nose (which is also slightly present in Alberta Premium) – it fits in really well. It’s rich, and deep. What a nose! 29/30 (97%)
Taste: A nice spicy bite, this one. The oak comes in with some sweet and spicy rye, with an underlying graininess and earthiness. It is certainly mouth-filling. There are layers of vanilla, manuka honey, creamy caramel, oak, brown sugar, apple, and some nuttiness. There are some typical dried apricot notes I usually find in whiskies matured in new charred oak…27/30 (90%)
Finish: This is an enduring, complex, and full-bodied finish, as if the whisky hasn’t left the mouth at all after it has been swallowed. A peppery rye fades to oak, vanilla, dried apricots, apple seeds, brown sugar, a touch of menthol, and a good dose of earthiness. What is more, there is a good underlying sweetness well matched to the very long finish. 19/20 (95%)
Conclusion: This is fabulous. Complex, deep, delicous…it’s quite bold for a Canadian whisky, but, then again, it is bottled by an American company where the taste is for straight American ryes – big, bold, and often oaky whiskies. This one is really, really good. 19/20 (95%)