Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Alberta Distillers. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Founded in in Calgary, Canada, in 1946, Alberta Distillers Limited blends “Rocky mountain water with locally sourced rye grains to create [its] Canadian whisky.” As one of the older distilleries in the Alberta province, it has a long history of winning awards and an even longer history of creating whisky.
Alberta Premium is a blend of only rye barrels, and Alberta Distillers Limited claims to be one of the “first distilleries to create a true 100% rye whisky.” Haley Skuraton with the brand touts Alberta Premium as the “No.1 selling Rye whisky in the world.” The brand is owned by Beam Suntory, which has an arsenal of distilleries across the globe. In 2020, Alberta Premium released its first Limited Edition Alberta Premium Cask, a 66% ABV rye explosion that caught the attention of connoisseurs the world over.
This reviewer has been fortunate enough to try their standard offering, Alberta Premium, earlier this year. My largest criticism of the standard offering was the very subtle nature of the rye notes for a 100% rye. I found the profile to be thin and in need of a boost. A cask strength expression may be exactly what the doctor ordered. Rye is often observed in whiskey as a spicy fruity flavor; it is distinct from the softness of corn, barley, or wheat, commonly used in other whiskies.
Canadian whisky, historically, leverages high rye mashes. In recent years, there has been a reawakening of consumers to rye. Many major labels are introducing a rye bottling to their lineup. In 2009, rye accounted for 88,000 nine-liter cases; by 2020 that number was 1.4 million cases. Rye whiskey grew 16% in 2019 to 2020 alone. Despite this growth, rye still only accounts for less than 7% of the market share.
In other words, the market is open for rye. It is worth noting Alberta Premium did things a little differently when it brought its whisky to the States. Alberta Premium initially launched its Limited Edition Cask Strength Rye in 2020 before introducing a standard bottling earlier this year. For what it’s worth, it appears to have worked; many enthusiasts were taken by the 60+% ABV rye whisky, and the brand accumulated a following.
I found the standard bottling to be underwhelming. A lot of what I thought the whisky needed to be successful is present in the limited offering. A higher proof really allows the rye notes to flourish and express themselves. The standard offering is perfectly fine for cocktails, but I hope this whisky shows me what Alberta Premium has to offer. With that, we turn to the glass.
Tasting Notes: Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye Whisky
Vital Stats: 2022 release. MSRP $79.99. 63.5% ABV, 127 proof.
Appearance: Golden wheat field, even legs.
Nose: I would shy away from sticking your nose straight in the glass, as the high ABV might just fry some of your senses. When I carefully nosed this and pushed past the alcohol, I was greeted with warm cinnamon, nutmeg, green tea, and baking spice. It’s just a great rye whiskey smell. As your hands warm the glass and the alcohol evaporates off, you will fill whatever room you’re in with the smell of this.
Taste: Upon first impression I found a nice punch of whisky. It is nice and dry across the palate, with a texture that clings to the teeth. It gives way to lemon zest and rye berries with honey accompaniment. I found some subtle hints of vanilla and dark sugar. There is some nice complexity with this one, but with patience you can pick the notes apart. The finish was lovely; warm and spicy with deep, dry oak. Despite the high ABV it doesn’t have a harsh warming sensation.
Whisky Review: Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye
I’m not sure how the standard offering Alberta Premium and this bottle are related, but they are. This hits all the notes that were missing in the standard offering. The rye pops, and the high ABV allows you to temper the whisky with a little water. You can really explore this whisky and all it has to offer. I enjoyed how long this lingered on the tongue. You are going to want to be a rye fan, I think, to appreciate what’s happening here.
Some people will adore this whisky straight, others will really love opening it up with a drop or two of water, while many others will probably love this in a nice mixed drink. It has the pop you want, the flavors are there, and it’s just excellent.
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Charles Steele is a Portland area attorney, born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. His legal education affords him an analytical approach to understanding whiskey and other aged spirits. Traditionally a legal writer, freelancing for The Whiskey Wash will prove a unique opportunity to flex his writing skills. Although he...