J.P. Wiser’s (or more generally, Corby’s) is the only big Canadian whisky company truly embracing today’s whisky drinker. Other whisky brands will argue the point, certainly, but J.P. Wiser’s deserves the credit. A decade ago, we had Forty Creek leading the Canadian whisky category. Five or so years ago, this category has grown with Canadian Club 100% Rye, Dark Horse, and Corby’s own Lot No 40. Barrels of whisky purchased from Alberta Distillers made big inroads, but were all sold under the US flag (Masterson’s & WhistlePig as an example). Last year we were left asking the question, who would take the next big leap?
Between Gimle Distillery, where Crown Royal is made, and Beam Suntory owned Alberta Distillers, there’s a lot of great whisky (not just good whisky) that’s being made. The issue is it’s barely visible to the outside world. Crown Royal has made big waves in Canadian whisky, but I wish they’d do more. That’s not to take away from the success of Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, which won acclaim for being the best Canadian whisky, but it was hit-or-miss with whisky enthusiasts (which didn’t hurt sales, I’m sure). Crown Royal’s Single Barrel program is incredibly good, though suffers from a limited distribution. Meanwhile, Beam Suntory is teasing out the release of an incredibly rare and old rye from Alberta Distillers. It’s planned as an exclusive release.
And then there’s Corby-owned Hiram-Walker, the home of Corby’s brands (primarily J.P. Wiser’s) and also the home of Canada’s number one selling whisky (Canadian Club, though that’s owned by Beam Suntory). This is a huge distillery that makes much of the “cheap stuff.” It’s also the home for some of the best high-end whisky Canadians can actually purchase (and in some cases, Americans).
While every Canadian producer has made their own whisky for the 150th birthday of Canada, the majority of the releases have simply placed a Canadian flag on a label of the same whisky they’re already selling. J.P. Wiser’s One Fifty has embraced the challenge of making a unique offering for the 150 plus year of Canada’s official existence. It’s roughly seventeen year old whisky, with the intensity one can expect from an older whisky
There’s even a marketing angle to One Fifty that’s unique to J.P. Wiser’s–each bottle is individually numbered, and that number commemorates a week of Canada’s existence. Logistically, it sounds like a nightmare, and yet Corby’s went for it. This combination of great marketing, building a sense of collector’s curiosity, and producing a great whisky is rare.
Canadian One Fifty is the best commemorative whisky available for Canada’s 150 birthday. It sold out quick, and it’s another well deserved hit in the Rare Cask series from J.P. Wiser’s.
J.P. Wiser's One Fifty
Category: Canadian Whisky, No-Age Statement
Nose: At first pour it's pure maple syrup, butterscotch, freshly chopped oak, and char. It has a sweetness to it that curls my toes. When left in the glass for a minute, this beautiful char comes through. It's not smoked, but rather those notes come from the char of the barrel that's settled in and wafts on the senses. It's unmistakably Canadian whisky, but with an intensity that’s rare. It’s near perfect.
Palate: Compared to the rich nose, the palate has surprising restraint. There's some ginger, nice caramel, light zest, heavy peppery notes, and a jumping acidity that comes through toward the middle and heightens in the finish. There’s the barest hint of oak-based harshness in the middle, but it comes off more dry than bitter. Beautiful light char notes come through from start to finish, but they're delicate by comparison to the predominant flavours. Compared to the butterscotch sweet nose, the palate is surprisingly balanced in all flavours.
★ ★ ★ ★ Extraordinary, memorable, and original in any category
J.P. Wiser's is releasing plenty of new takes on Canadian whisky, but One Fifty is not that. One Fifty is made in the spirit of Canadian whisky, with familiar notes, intensely perfect in richness and depth. While the other whiskies in The Rare Cask series flirt with a different definition of Canadian Whisky in terms of flavour, One Fifty is all Canadian, with the intensity commemorating Canada’s 150th birthday.
Disclaimer: J.P. Wiser's provided me with a bottle of One Fifty. However, the bottle reviewed here is one that I purchased.
*Whisky Cabinet Rating Explained:
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ Not recommended
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ Good whisky, but not a ‘must-have’
★ ★ ☆ ☆ Your great regular rotation whisky that'll come and go
★ ★ ★ ☆ Excellent, a near must-have
★ ★ ★ ★ Extraordinary, memorable, and original