Alberta Premium 30 Year Old Limited Edition
Review: Alberta Premium 30 Year Old Limited Edition Rye Whisky 94.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on June 12, 2011
I began to hear the whispers of a rumour about six months ago. Persons close to Alberta Distillers would casually mention, ” Alberta Premium 30 Year Old”, and then they would clam up and tell me they were speaking off the record.
Well, it’s not a rumour anymore, the Alberta Premium 30 Year Old Limited Edition Rye Whisky has been released in Alberta, and it is literally flying off the shelves. (I know because I had to scramble to find a couple of bottles.) The rye whisky was produced in Calgary, Alberta by Alberta Distillers Limited (ADL) who is one of the few remaining producers of 100 % rye grain whisky in North America (if not the world). Distilled from carefully selected Canadian rye grain over thirty years ago, and then aged in charred white oak barrels this whisky is possibly the oldest production 100 % rye grain whisky ever produced in Canada.
If you have read my past reviews of Canadian Whisky, you know that Alberta Premium 25 Year Old Limited Edition Rye Whisky, is one of the best whiskies I have ever tasted. In fact I believe that the Alberta Premium 25-year-old is one of the purest expressions of Canadian Rye Whisky ever produced. Sadly that 25-year-old expression is long gone from the store shelves….
But happily, it’s older brother has arrived!
In the Bottle 4/5
Western Canadians are a conservative group of people, and us Albertans may be the most conservative of the entire bunch. We like our traditional ways, and as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke….”
And so we have the bottle presentation for perhaps the oldest Rye Whisky ever produced for retail in Canada where the bottle is exactly the same as the one used for the regular Alberta Premium, (a five-year old rye whisky) and exactly the same one as was previously used for the 25 Year Old Alberta Premium which was bottled 5 years ago. I have been told by my contacts at the distillery that the bottle is so iconic that to use any other bottle just wouldn’t be right.
Balderdash! The reason the bottle didn’t change is that we Albertans, along with being conservative and traditional, are cheap! We don’t spend money when we don’t have to. That old bottle is bought and paid for. It might look like a relic from the 70’s but if we use it, we don’t need to pay a dime to design a new one!
Of course, for a guy like me who loves a great bottle presentation, this decision seems very disappointing. But then again, for the whisky lover who wants to spend less than fifty bucks on a thirty year old whisky, the decision not to spend money on extra frills must seem like a Godsend!
In the Glass 9.5/10
In the glass the 30-year-old rye whisky is a light golden colour which belies its age. I gave the glass the customary tilt and slow swirl taking time to examine the oily sheen which imparted slow-moving stubborn legs.
The aroma from the glass was wonderful. Old Macintosh caramel toffee, spicy rye, and a subtle but firm scent of corn. (Okay I know you are thinking, I get the caramel toffee, that’s oak spices and vanilla accented by the sugars from the charred oak cask. Rye, now that’s so obvious that it’s hardly worth mentioning. But corn? The Arctic Wolf is off his rocker, this is a 100 % rye whisky. There is no corn in the blend!)
But it is undeniable once you notice it… corn oozing out if the glass beside the rye. It must be the influence of the American oak barrels which aged the spirit and previously held a corn-based whisky. After 30 years that corn has come out of the barrel to accent the rye grain. Irregardless of where it is coming from, that corn accent is lovely bringing the oak and the rye together in a wonderful bouquet for the nose.
Because this is a 30-year-old spirit, I allowed the glass to decant for a full ten minutes, and then I nosed it again. That Macintosh toffee has deepened into rich brown sugar with baking spices and accents of cinnamon; and the rye has turned dusty and dry like a well-ripened field of grain in the autumn. If you are a fan of rye whisky then this nose will have you reeling.
In the Mouth 57.5/60
When I took my first sip my initial reaction was … wow! I was greeted with a wonderful mellow rye accented by caramel oak syrup! I have tasted so many aged spirits where the oak turns to bitter sap and smothers the other flavours, but not here. Instead the oak has melted into the rye creating a subdued, sweet and spicy elixir that has my mouth begging for another sip. And under it all is that accent of corn holding the oak and rye together.
But there is much more; I taste butterscotch and honey, more rye which seems to build over time, a lovely caramel oak syrup, light baking spices, cinnamon, gingerbread, and ripened grain which all make the whisky lively and flavourful in the mouth but not ever sharp and uncomfortable. Vanilla arrives on cue, and I cannot help but feel I am tasting something very special indeed!
I should point out that the longer you allow the glass to decant, the more complex and rich the flavours grow. This is a rye whisky that grows in the glass.
In the Throat 14/15
The exit is long. My tonsils are bathed in rye and oak, and my throat is greeted by wide swath of grain, sweet honey, vanilla and even cocoa. A rush of spice trails down afterwards leaving a nice satisfying burn in the back of my mouth but no uncomfortable burn in my throat. Finally, at the very end is a nice dusty dryness which seems to make my mouth beg for another sip.
The Afterburn 9.5/10
The Alberta Premium 30 Year Old Limited Edition is an impressive whisky which has tasted better each time I have sampled it. The oak and the rye are firm and unrelenting, but undercurrents of corn and caramel give the whisky a subtle complexity that allows it to grow in the glass as you drink it. But here is the best part…..
The suggested retail price has been quoted to me at $49.95. For a fully aged 30-year-old whisky, That is spectacular!
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
Now 30-year-old spirits are special. To that end, Davin de Kergommeaux, (certified malt maniac, whisky writer, and founder of Canadian Whisky), and I, agreed to publish our reviews of the Alberta Premium 30 Year Old Limited Edition on the same day and link to each others reviews to give you, our readers, two perspectives of this spirit rather than one. To make a long story short… politics intervened, and we were unable to meet our mutual obligation to publish simultaneously. However, as Davin’s Review was posted a few weeks ago I am still able to provide you a link to his review so that you may have a second opinion. You may read Davin’s review here:
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)