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Wiser’s Special Blend

Review: Wiser’s Special Blend Canadian  Whisky 82.5/100
a review By Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on May 22, 2010

I noticed a change on the new bottles of Wiser’s Special Blend about two years ago.  The older bottles proudly proclaimed, ‘Wiser’s Special Blend Canadian Rye Whisky‘, whereas  the newer labels say ‘Wiser’s Special Blend Canadian Whisky‘.  The difference of course is the word “rye” which has been taken off the label. It is small changes like that which give me cause for apprehension.  I like rye whisky, and as the number of Canadian rye blends is diminishing, I am growing concerned that my favourite whisky will one day be only a memory.  Fortunately for me, I was recently given a bottle with the new label by the folks at Wiser’s.  They also gave me a sharp-looking Wiser’s glass in the hopes that I would provide an honest review of the Special Blend.  It so happens that I already owned a bottle carrying the previous label so I intend to compare the two bottles to see if the blend as well as the label has changed.

In the Bottle: 4.5/5

Pictured to the right is the new bottle of Wiser’s Special Blend.  It is a tall flagon style bottle with a square shape.  (One thing I love about the square-shaped bottles is how easily they stack on my whisky shelf. )  The label design is assertive and bold and I have no real quibbles with the presentation.

In the Glass  8.5/10

In the glass, the Wiser’s Special Blend shows itself as a rich copper coloured whisky with lighter shades of amber.   The vapour from the glass is  mildly spicy,  and seems to be  sweetened with an aroma of  ripe fruit.   Light hints of caramel lie in the breezes as well.

As I mentioned, I still had a bottle of the older label whisky so I thought I would pour a glass and compare the two side by side.  I saw no difference in colour between the two but my nostrils did seem to detect a difference in aroma. The older blend was slightly spicier and had a more pronounced rye scent carrying from the glass.

In the Mouth  48.5/60

Bringing the Special Blend to my mouth, I taste caramel, light oak spices, and a mild rye flavour carried by sweet fruit (pears and apples).  It tastes good, but lacks the typical thrust of flavour I expect from a Canadian whisky.  It is also not how I remember the older blend of Wiser’s Special Blend Canadian Rye Whisky to taste.   To be sure I conducted four blind trials and was able each time to identify the older blend easily.  The older blend has a pronounced rye flavour and delightful dryness.  The newer blend is sweeter, and depends upon the light caramel and flavours of ripened fruit to carry its flavour profile rather than rye.

It is a difference in style; the newer blend is softer in the mouth, and  perhaps has a touch of maple and cinnamon riding in the very background.  This new style is very easy going with a flavour profile that is light and inoffensive with a very mild Canadian character.

In the Throat 12.5/15

Wiser’s Special blend is very smooth.  The finish is light caramel with a touch of sweetness.  A dash of rye-like burn brightens the finish at the end.  The smoothness bodes very well for mixing cocktails and party drinks.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

What we have with the new Wiser’s Special blend is a prototypical cocktail whisky.  It can be served with coke, or ginger ale and I doubt anyone will complain.  It has such an easygoing style that it will go down smooth without any rough spots. Finally, the whisky has light flavours and  an entirely inoffensive nature.  I think this would be the perfect whisky to serve at large gatherings where you are unsure of the range of palates.

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

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Suggested Recipes

As I said before, Wiser’s Special Blend is a perfect whisky for cocktails.  Its light whisky flavour and superb smoothness just about beg to be allowed to mix with other flavours. Here are a couple of original cocktails I constructed to take advantage of the smooth whisky taste.

The Explorer

1 1/2 oz Wiser’s Special Blend
1/2 Oz Cherry Whisky
1/4 to 1/2 Oz Lemon Juice
1 – 2 Tsp Simple syrup
3 Large Ice Cubes

Place all ingredients including the ice into a blender.
Blend until smooth(ish).
Serve in a suitable  cocktail glass.  (I could not resist using my Wiser’s Rocks Glass)
Garnish with three frozen Raspberries

This is so good!  It might just be the tastiest cocktail I have come up with yet (and don’t knock the garnish, the raspberries soak up the goodness of the cocktail as they thaw and are a delicious treat at the end.)!

A longer and taller cocktail I constructed uses Grand Marnier and Ginger ale in conjunction with Wiser’s Special Blend to make a thirst quenching drink for a long hot day.

The Hippodrome

2 Oz Wiser’s Special blend
1 Oz Grand Marnier
1/2 oz lemon Juice
1/2 Oz Lime Juice
Ice
Ginger Ale

Mix all ingredients over ice
Dress with a slice of Lemon

The slice of lemon adds tartness to the cocktail which I really enjoy on a hot day!

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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)

4 Responses to “Wiser’s Special Blend”

  1. James from Canada said

    Great reveiw , yeah I really enjoy this whisky too , it is great for mixing with pop espically with coke I do agree that it has a nice sweetness and little maple flavor , but overall a well rounded great whisky no doubt it’s around $23.90 a 26er (750 ml) a bottle in Canada which is a bit cheaper to the other canadian whiskys for example crown royal probally one of the best known canadian whisky to Americans is around $27-28 a 26er. If you drink vocka here’s a great mix recipe . For a lime and coke all you need is a lime , coca cola , your choice of vocka I would recommend Smirnoff because to that is of the best mixing vocka for cocktails ,,,, and a small whisky glass , Take 3 ounces of vocka and cut the limes up into slices squeeze half ounce or full ounce of lime juice or lemon juice , when your done squeezing put the left over slices in the cup and top of the glass with coke add four ice cubes stir it up , put a lime on the edge of the glass for garnish and appearance and serve . Great for partying very easy to make very simple aha thanks

  2. Mike said

    Hey Chip, love the reviews. There is something I would like to mention for consideration. I am by no means an expert but it strikes me that one should be cynical regarding the colour of most whiskies. As I’m sure you’re aware it is a common practice among blenders and distillers to add caramel colouring to their whiskies (straight bourbons excepted). Thus I think it is meaningless to try to ascertain anything at all from a whisky’s colour, with two exceptions: when the colour is light and you can infer that no colouring was added, or when the distiller/blender specifically states a lack of added colour. For an example I look to Alberta Premium, whose 5-year-old and 25-year-old whiskies seem to be nearly or exactly the same colour. Meanwhile Century Reserve 21 is considerably lighter than them both.

    I don’t mean to sound critical or to diminish your reviews at all; I just thought you might give that some consideration when discussing “in the glass”, that colour is often altered to suit the desired presentation and in that way is only about as telling as the shape of the bottle and design of the label. What are your thoughts on this?

    • Thanks Mike

      I agree that many parts of my reviews (and everyone elses) should be treated with skepticism. Colour, can be altered, flavour can be changed with adulterants, age statements can be misleading, et cetera. I try to avoid these pitfalls by speaking primarily about my enjoyment of each part of the experience. I believe that in the long run quality will be enjoyed, and deception will not. But it is not a perfect world and I, like anyone else, can be fooled.
      Having said that I do enjoy a richly coloured whisky that displays that nice copper colouration. So although the reason for the colour I see may not necessarily indicate quality, it does indicate enjoyment and should therefor be talked about. I am careful to weight such factors appropriately, which is why such things as presentation (label and bottle design) only merit 5 % of the total score. When I am talking about the experience in the glass, the nose probably accounts for 90 % of the score, my description of the legs, and the colour are really very minor considerations, but they are easy to distinguish and to be honest do give me enjoyment when I observe them so I talk about them. What is really the most important for me, and I believe the vast majority of my audience is the taste, and my reviews are skewed very heavily towards this aspect.

      • Mike said

        Very good point. I’m a sucker for fancy bottles as long as they’re not over-the-top, and of course the packaging has no bearing on the quality of the product. I suppose it is much the same with a whisky’s colour; it enhances the visual enjoyment of it, which is part of the experience. Great reply.

        Something funny I just remembered: on the Highland Park website their master distiller gave some whisky tasting tips. He said one should pay little mind to the whisky’s colour, “unless it is cloudy, in which case it should not be drank but poured away.” I thought, Wow, never heard of non-chillfiltered whisky? I feel sorry for anyone following that advice.

        Anyway thanks for the reply. I look forward to more of your reviews. I’d like to read about the Murray McDavid Arran Malt that recently became available here.

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