Canadian Whisky has long held a reputation as a “starter” spirit for new drinkers stateside (of age or otherwise) for a variety reasons. The category is known for being sweet and smooth to unseasoned palettes, making it easy to drink. Regulations looser than Miley Cyrus’s…lips…are largely the answer to why.
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Technically speaking, regulations only dictate that the spirit must be mashed, distilled and aged in Canada in wooden barrels for a minimum of three years. The final product must also contain at least 40 percent ABV. Most generic offerings contain high percentages of corn-based distillates, as well as up to approximately 9 percent of additional flavors such as caramel (cringe) for added sweetness and color.
Wiser’s is one of the oldest brands in the Great White North, having started life in 1857. While its ownership has changed hands several times, its reputation for quality among the locals has typically remained strong. Thanks to increased demand stateside, various expressions have been making their way to liquor stores around the country with greater regularity.
Wiser’s 18 ($36), also sold as Wiser’s Very Old, is a premium offering worth a try for any drinker interested in tasting some of the best Canada has to offer at a reasonable price. The relatively new square bottle, complete with cask number label, certainly looks the part of an upscale spirit on the shelf. The nose is equally inviting, commencing with strong fruit overtones that transition to toffee and the trademark fire of rye. True to the genre, the taste is buttery smooth, blanketed with green apples that last past the swallow and are eventually fortified by fresh cut oak. It’s this critical close that brings balance to the sappy or even rum-like sweetened characteristics that typically drown imbibers of other Canadian whiskies and have turned off so many in the past.
For the record, diehard fans of oak and peat monsters may still find even this fine example of the maple leaf’s contributions disappointing. Such is the nature of Canadian blends not dominated by rye; they’ll always hit with pillows rather than fists. But for those in need of a mellow yet complex partner in the glass after a long day of work, Wiser’s 18 is worthy of consideration.