Wiser’s Small Batch
Review: Wiser’s Small Batch Canadian Whisky 90.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Revised March 4, 2013
Founder, John Philip (J.P.) Wiser, purchased a distillery in Prescott, Ontario in 1857, and began to produce Wiser’s Whisky. In fact the J.P. Wiser Distillery may have been the first to use the term “Canadian Whiskey’ on their labels, as this is how the whisky was proudly introduced at the 1893 Chicago’s Wold’s Fair. From the beginning, J.P. Wiser established his brand as a quality whisky with high standards of production. As a result the distillery grew, as did the popularity of his style of whisky. By the early 1900′s Wiser’s was the third largest distiller of whisky in Canada.
The company merged with the H. Corby Distillery Company sometime after the death of J.P. Wiser in 1917. Shortly after in 1932, production of the Wiser’s brands moved to the Corby Distillery. A controlling interest in the Corby Distillery was acquired by Hiram Walker several years later, and by 1989, the Corby Distillery was closed, and all production was moved to the Hiram Walker Distillery where all Wiser’s brands are currently produced. Through all of these changes the Wiser’s Brand has been recognized as a vital component of the company’s portfolio of brands, and now, 150 years later after it all started, Wiser’s remains one of Canada’s leading whisky brands. In fact, Wiser’s is one of the top-selling brands of Canadian Whisky worldwide.
Wiser’s Small Batch Canadian Whisky was released in the fall of 2008 replacing the Wiser’s Reserve. There are a few important differences in Wiser’s Small Batch which make it somewhat unique as far Canadian Whisky is concerned. First, it is made in small batches using traditional distilling methods, hence the name Wiser’s Small Batch, and secondly, the bottling strength is 43.4 % rather than the traditional 40 %. This slightly higher strength should allow the whisky to display more texture in the mouth and a more concentrated flavour and aroma.
In the Bottle 4/5
The Wiser’s Small Batch Canadian Whisky arrives in a tall rectangular bottle with professional labels and attractive fonts. As you empty the bottle, a nice portrait of J.P. Wiser which is printed on the inside of the front label becomes visible from the back of the bottle. The right side of the label, wrapped around the corner of the bottle, tells us that the whisky is hand crafted in limited quantities at the original bottling strength of 43.4 %. I like little touches like on the label which entice me to buy the whisky.
The bottle is capped with a plastic screw cap, which would not be my first choice, as I prefer high density synthetic cork; but I am glad that Wiser’s resisted the urge to use a pressed on metal cap. Considering the relative cost of this whisky, I think the presentation is just fine.
In the Glass 9/10
The whisky displays a nice amber brown toffee colour in the glass, with hints of deeper orange. A quick swirl of the liquid lays a nice oily sheen on the sides of the glass which coalesces into long slender legs which flow slowly back into the whisky. Oak and brown sugar rise from the glass which has a nice rum-like accent. As the glass breathes, rye spice, caramel, oak and cedar, corn, tobacco, marmalade and baking spices round out the nose which is remarkably deep and complex. I found nosing the glass to be thoroughly enjoyable.
In the Mouth 55/60
Wiser’s Small Batch is soft and supple on the tongue with hot oak spices which carry a bevy of flavour along for the ride across the palate. I taste some fresh oak and cedar; some sweet caramel, butterscotch and maple; soft corn and spicy rye; some light impressions of honeycomb and tobacco, and some delicious canned fruit (marmalade, apricots and pears). As I let the whisky sit in my mouth a Demerara sweetness forms with brown sugar and spice combining with honey to present a richly flavoured toffee.
The whisky has wonderful complexity and depth. I taste just enough sharp oak tannins to keep the entire trip across my palate fresh and invigorating.
In the Throat 13.5/15
I like the kick that the 43.4 per cent alcohol gives the Wiser’s Small Batch. It shakes up my taste buds, and the rich flavours fill my palate and throat. The whisky has a long mildly hot mildly bitter finish with the oak and toffee leading the way down the throat. Maple and brown sugar provide a wonderful lingering flavour impression at the back of the palate.
The Afterburn 9/10
The Wiser’s Small Batch is a great example of how good inexpensive Canadian Whisky can be. It has a wonderful richness and depth of flavour, and I like the higher bottling strength which helps to concentrate these flavours, making them more assertive. In spite of the higher alcohol percentage, the whisky is smooth like Canadian whisky should be and a real pleasure to sip neat or to mix in cocktails.
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
My impulse here is to recommend that you sip this whisky in a similar manner to the way you would sip a fine Scotch, either neat or on the rocks. I will sometimes chip or crush my ice rather than leave it in cubes and add a fresh orange slice to the glass:
Wiser’s on Ice
2 Oz Wiser’s Small Batch Canadian Whisky
Chipped ice in a rocks glass
Fill a small rocks glass with chipped ice
Squeeze a little orange zest into the glass from the orange slice
Pour the whisky over the ice and stir
Garnish with fresh citrus (lemon or lime)
or place an orange slice in the glass as I have done
The Wiser Mammy
2 Oz Wiser’s Small Batch Whisky
1 Oz Fresh Lime Juice
dash of Sugar Syrup
1/2 cup cracked ice
Remove thin strips of lime peel from a fresh lime
Fill a tall highball glass half full of chipped ice
Add the lime juice and the Wiser’s Small Batch Whisky
Top with ginger ale
Add a few threads of lime peel and stir gently.
As Always I want to remind everyone that my aim is not to help you drink more…it is to help you drink better!
Disclosure Note: The whisky sample for the original review was provided by J.P. Wiser Distillery Limited (Owner Corby Distilleries Limited).
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)