J.P. Wiser’s Dissertation - Dr. Don Approved


The term “rare cask” gets tossed around in Scotland. It’s code for expensive, not necessarily rare, but J.P. Wiser’s has made true on their promise to produce rare whiskies that are also quite affordable (often around $60 Canadian). The first in the series, Last Barrels, sold exclusively in Ontario through the LCBO. Not long after, the BC Liquor Board wanted their own special release. They received Union 52. That was 2016. With the success of those two releases, J.P. Wiser’s has gone all in with the Rare Cask series. Dissertation is a continuation of this whisky conversation of new types of Canadian whisky releases.

Dr. Don Livermore is the face behind the Rare Cask series. Often referred to as simply Dr. Don, he’s the Master Blender for J.P. Wiser’s (and all of Corby’s other brands, including Lot No 40). He took over the role of Master Blender in 2012, and while the first few years his start was conservative, the company has unleashed Dr. Don’s talents with great success. I’m told the Rare Cask series has been a huge success for J.P. Wiser’s.

Dr. Don Livermore is one of a few Master Blenders with a Ph.D in brewing and distillation, a degree he received from Heriot-Watt University. In his thesis paper, “Quantification of oak wood extractives via gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and subsequent calibration of near infrared reflectance to predict the Canadian whisky aging process”, Dr. Don Livermore used over 100 barrels of whisky from various grains and at various char levels to demonstrate the affects of oak barrels on whisky maturation.

I can do Dr. Don Livermore no justice in summarizing his dissertation, but some of his findings include: noting that the majority of oak extraction happens in the first two-hundred days of maturation while oxidation has a greater affect for the remainder of the time whisky matures. He found that char number two offers more oak extraction over char number four (in the case of Canadian whisky). He also proved that distillation and flavour isolation have a greater than expected affect on the flavours three years later.

In part of his dissertation, Dr. Don Livermore had various types of barrels maturing the same whisky. When his dissertation was complete, Dr. Don Livermore created a blend of whisky from a subset of these barrels. Hence, we have J.P. Wiser’s Dissertation from the Rare Cask series, and another example of terrific whisky from a master blender moving Canadian whisky forward.

Dissertation, like the others in the Rare Cask series, is indeed a one-of. The whisky has been aged for over ten years, contains various grains, char levels, and it’s not likely to be reproduced again. The flavour profile is the best of Corby’s products, a mixture of Lot No 40, Red Letter, and a few other new products recently released.

Sidenote: The proof level of 46.1% is inspired by the molecular weight of ethanol

J.P. Wiser's Dissertation
Hiram-Walker Distillery
Category: Canadian Whisky, No-Age Statement
Score: 94

Nose: Candied maple syrup nicely wrapped in cinnamon spice, pepper, fresh blood orange, sliced green apple, and those familiar beautiful floral rye notes. Not one particular note is overpowering, though over time the rye comes through really beautifully.

Palate: Those beautiful maple syrup and cinnamon spice flavours are predominant, but there's a richness with anise, brown sugar, and black tea. A buttery layer from front to back of the palate is mouth-watering. The orange zest is on the sweeter side; fresh, rich, zesty. It's a great whisky to chew. The finish is steady with cinnamon spice, butter, and caramel sweetness. Beautiful light char notes come through, the the zesty nature of the whisky picks-up as it remains in the glass.

★ ★ ★ ★ Extraordinary, memorable, and original in any category
Dissertation is the best Canadian Whisky released this year that I’ve tasted. It gets high scores for several layers of complex flavours. Dissertation comes through with a richness and flair that'll be difficult to top. It's the leading example of what makes Canadian whisky an innovative category, with the richness of flavours sourced from the inventory of many barrel types. If Canadian whisky had a song, Dissertation is the catchy chorus. This whisky falls into the category of “once it’s gone, it’s gone.” While Dr. Don has made many great whiskies, it’s clear to me that this is his favourite, and thus the best expression of where Dr. Don’s future releases will be going.