Last night I attended a special charity edition of London-based Whisky Squad. Squad co-organiser Elise Craft is fundraising for a charity trek to Everest Base Camp in November to help raise awareness and money to support people impacted by Motor Neuron Disease. She’ll be joining 41 others on an 11 day trek from Lukla in NE Nepal to Everest Base Camp (and back of course) covering a total of 112kms. To kickstart her fundraising efforts, Elise’s charity tasting night focussed on bottles from her home country – Canada.
I’d heartily encourage you to consider supporting fellow whisky enthusiast Elise on her Everest endeavours – the ‘MND and Me Everest Basecamp’ webpage can be found here: https://everest-base-camp.everydayhero.do/ - and if you’re located in/near London, or just visiting the city, do keep an eye out on the Squad’s website for upcoming charity tasting events. They’re diverse, insightful and most importantly friendly and fun.
First up at our Canadian tasting evening was Wiser’s 18 year old. Produced by Hiram Walker (based out of Windsor, Ontario) Wiser’s 18 year old previously went under the moniker of ‘Very Old’ – it’s now available with an age statement, and presently is one of very few Wiser’s expressions which is commonly available here in the UK – though I hear that other bottlings from the range should be making their way across the Atlantic soon.
The 18 year old is a blended Canadian whisky. Unlike most distilleries the world over, in Canada they like to do things a little differently – the individual grain components are mashed, distilled and aged separately, and then blended together at the point of being ready for bottling. This one is delivered at 40% ABV and can be found in the UK for around £40.
Nose: Fruity and woody. Starting with soured cherries, toffee covered apples and a hint of lime zest, this swiftly becomes more oaky – an interesting mix of older damp wood and freshly cut logs gives both a punch of vanilla as well as some creamy earthy notes. Spicing is already perceptible and comes across very akin to rye bread, or cinnamon dusted sour dough. In the background there’s some light solvent notes – polystyrene cement. A few drops of water unlocks brighter fruity elements – fresh green apples and some light tropicalness – bananas and guavas.
Taste: A touch underpowered at 40%, but again, fruits take the first watch – cherries, tart apples and some delicate citrus peels – then, sweetness from burnt honeycomb, toffee and butterscotch. Sweetness is quickly tempered by some biting and crisp spice – peppery rye and cinnamon – both of which have an underlying earthiness to them. Wood influence is again high – vanillins adding sweetness, but tannins adding bitterness and some grip around the teeth. Despite being bottled at 40% ABV, this whisky takes water well. It reduced some of the more bolder spice and tannic notes, adding a more creamy mouthfeel and some deeper flavours of golden tobacco leaf and barley water.
Finish: Medium in length with initial pepperiness gradually fading towards more creamy oaky-led flavours
Wiser’s 18 year old is an evocative Canadian whisky – it has all the elements you’d expect from this style – high ester fruitiness, bold spicing and discernible wood influence. That said, despite being quite oaky, tasted blind (which I did) I’d peg this closer to 7-8 years of age. Whilst there’s a good balance of flavours here, not everything feels as mellowed as cohesive as it could do and at times, the 40% ABV comes across as a touch anaemic. Nevertheless, this is straightforward honest whisky at a not unreasonable price-point.