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Hiram Walker Special Old

Review: Hiram Walker Special Old Canadian Rye Whisky (91/100)
a review By Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted July 4 2010


Hiram Walker Special Old Canadian Rye Whisky, is part of the stable of Canadian whiskies produced and owned by Corby Distilling Ltd. I was presented with a bottle of this whisky about eleven weeks ago by the Brand Ambassador for Corby and Wiser’s, Robert Carson.  This was part of a larger allotment of samples which was provided when they learned I planned to do a series of reviews of their whiskies on my blog. The bottle is labeled as a Canadian Rye Whisky and is bottle at 40 % alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle: 4/5

As you can see from the picture on the right, Hiram Walker Special Old arrives in a rectangular shaped bottle. I like the textured glass and the sleek professional label.  There is an element of class which exudes from the whisky as it sits on my shelf beside my other whiskies.  A black plastic cap crowns the presentation.  This is a relatively inexpensive whisky, and as such I am very satisfied with the presentation.

In the Glass  9/10

The whisky has an immediately apparent rye note as soon as the bottle is opened.  As I pour the whisky I also catch strong fruity accents, a dash of corn, and a mild vanilla arriving off of the pour.  The colour of the whisky is a rich coppery brown reminiscent of old Macintosh toffee. In fact I believe I can smell some of that old toffee in the air as well.  I sense a lot of complexity on the nose.  As I let the whisky sit, the rye aroma subdues and note of citrus fruit, bourbon, and vanilla becomes more apparent as well as a deepening of the toffee. The nose is robust and my appetite for the whisky has been whetted.

In the Mouth  54.5/60

Omigosh! The whisky fairly explodes into the mouth full of dry aggressive flavour and spice.  Rye, toffee, and citrus fruit all seem to jump onto the palate at once and battle for supremacy. A thin layer of honey underneath provides a counterbalance, and a nice wave of oak spice is inter-wound throughout the delivery.  When I took my second mouthful a rich cornfield appeared under the flavour profile which unwound a ribbon of bourbon into the whisky as well. The final result is a very good tasting whisky.   I like the aggressiveness of the spices and the boldness of the taste profile.  I might have scored this higher yet, but in the final analysis I found the fruit rather than the rye tended to dominate.  I prefer rye to be the dominant flavour in a Canadian whisky, but perhaps I am being a little niggly.

In the Throat 13.5/15

The finish for Hiram Walker Special Old is as bold and dry as the delivery which is again full of spices, rye and citrus accents. Yet.. there is such a nice smoothness in the finish as well with no severe burn to spoil the ending.  Again my temptation is to score this perhaps just a touch higher,

The Afterburn 10/10

I think this is a grand Canadian Whisky!  Throughout the review I was tempted to score each area just a tad higher; but, I kept talking myself out of it. Finally here in the ‘Afterburn’, I am going to make amends.  The boldness of the flavour really appeals to me, especially in the  finish which was so nice and smooth in spite of the aggressiveness of the whisky.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipes

Most of my sampling with this whisky was done neat, with the whisky at room temperature, and as such this is my first suggestion for your enjoyment of Hiram Walker Special Old. A bit of ice is also nice but unnecessary. I also want to suggest a cocktail, and a highball drink.   The cocktail is a modification of the Martini, made with Hiram Walker Special Old Rye and Grand Curacao which I called the Hiram Walker Rye-Tini:

Hiram Walker Rye-Tini

1 3/4 oz  Hiram Walker Special Old Canadian Rye Whisky
1 1/2 tsp. Grand Curacao
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 tsp sugar syrup

Shake all of the ingredients in a metal shakes with ice
Strain into a suitable cocktail glass

Garnish with a lemon slice

I’ll go next  with a great highball dink called the Horses Neck. A ‘Horse’s Neck’ may not sound very appetizing,  but trust me  is one of the smoothest and tastiest bar drinks there is.

Horses Neck

2 oz Rye Whisky
4 to 8 oz Ginger Ale
Cracked Ice
peel from one lemon.

Peel a lemon carefully so that it is removed in one continual spiral.
(Hopefully you do a better job than I did!)
Place the spiral in a highball glass
Fill the glass halfway with cracked ice.
Add the rye whisky
Add the ginger ale.
Let the glass sit for several minutes

Serve (preferably with straws)

The name “Horses Neck” apparently stems from the curvature of the lemon peel spiral which is reminiscent of a horses neck, or so I have been told.  The drink should be allowed to sit a few minutes prior to consumption to allow the oils from the lemon peel to be soaked into the ginger ale!

Please enjoy responsibly


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

9 Responses to “Hiram Walker Special Old”

  1. Malti Malt said

    Don’t write so much good things about this Whisky!!
    After Hiram Walker take the price 500% up!!
    But even this price he deserve!!
    One TOP Canadian spirit product!!

    My score: 93/100!!
    One real Canadian whisky bargain!
    One of the best Canadian you can buy!!!

  2. Brian said

    I just found an unopened bottle of Walker’s Special Old from 1969. It still has the old LCBO paper seal on it. It was in the very back of a cupboard all these years, in the dark, and it still looks good to me. Is this anything special to a connoisseur?

    • I do not track the sale prices of old bottles much anymore so I have no idea of its value. If I was you, I would save it for a special occasion and enjoy!

  3. Joyce said

    I have been drinking Canadian special Old Whiskey for sometime now. The price is right and the taste I injoy. I would pickup a bottle at First Canadian Place, Toronto. Here is the bad news the LCBO had decided not to carry this brand of Whiskey in there stores. They told me to go to the airport ( duty free )
    Sorry No Airport for me.

  4. Robert Jordan said

    I love this whisky for it’s price and for it’s taste. Every time i have a drink of Special Old i enjoy every sip, especially since it goes down rather smooth.

  5. Jason said

    just bought a bottle of this at Calgary duty free, fantastic price.
    about to embark on a ‘horses neck’ ride whilst i read some more of your reviews.

    great stuff here my friend, [and in this heavy Hiram bottle] :)



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