If it’s only going to do a few things, it needs to do them well. That’s what J.P. Wiser’s 23 Year Old brings to the table. This is a clean beautiful whisky with a ton of intense flavours, and I think it’s going to be a favorite of many.
Labelled as a Cask Strength Blend, it’s also a one-of-a-kind whisky. The word “blend” means different things for different parts of the world. In Scotland it’s (wrongfully) associated with poorly produced whiskey. In Canada, we celebrate our blends and our blenders. What makes Cask Strength Blend specifically unique is that it’s a blend of different grains (corn, rye,) from different barrels, matured at 23 years, and blended together at cask strength.
When I did my annual pilgrimage to Hiram-Walker Distillery, I tasted a pre-release version of this product at 71.5% ABV. It was a little too much, and a little too simple. I’ve tasted a release that came in at 68.6% that was close to perfect. The final release comes in at 64.3% ABV, and it’s absolutely “just right.” This is the whisky being reviewed here.
This is one of the cleaner more intense whiskies I’ve tasted. By clean, I mean that there’s not a lot of complexity in flavours. By intense, I mean the tasting notes come through wonderfully. It’s the ideal flavor monster you’d expect from a cask strength pour. Compared to American Cask Strength bourbons and ryes, it lacks those big oaky notes from new oak some might be craving. From that standpoint, it’s terrifically refreshing if your’e not looking for a cask strength “oak bomb.”
It also makes J.P. Wiser’s 23 Year Old one of the more unique products out there. It comes in at $149 Canadian when it’s released later in October (Ontario).
J.P. Wiser’s 23 Year Old Cask Strength Blend 64.3%
Category: Canadian whisky, Cask Strength, Cask Strength Blend
Nose: The nose is absolutely perfectly clean with the notes of crushed freshly ripped blood orange citrus, distant char, and some faint freshly cut oak notes.
Palate: Peppery notes that verge on sriracha hot spice, intense boozy flowing caramel, and lots of great orange zest that rides the wave.
Conclusion: In all the right was, J.P. Wiser’s 23 Year Old takes a few simple Canadian flavours and presents them with such intensity that make it this the perfect Canadian whisky. Sure, I’m not getting a lot of complex notes on the nose and palate, and it’s not a hard 100% rye, but the flavours that come through are done perfectly. This is an intense expression of a traditional Canadian whisky. It’s also the absolute star of the 2019 Northern Border Collection. When compared to American cask strength whiskies (and Canadian releases like Lot No 40), this is not an new oak cask strength bomb and so it presents a cleaner profile.
Disclaimer: Thank you to Corby’s for providing me a sample of this whisky, and hosting me at Windsor for my tasting.