(WINDSOR, ON) – Once the barrels of aged whisky leave JP Wiser’s warehouses in Pike Creek, the real magic starts. Back at the distillery, Master Blender Don Livermore blends the whisky into the company’s many brands. To do this Livermore, a microbiologist, expanded his education by earning a Doctorate in Brewing and Distilling from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland.
He told a group of journalists touring Wiser’s Windsor facilities, part of the former Hiram Walker campus on Riverside Drive, that the three most important variables in the whisky-making process are grains, wood, and yeast.
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Innovation is also a factor, something he prizes because it is a hallmark of the Canadian whisky industry. Canadian brands, he explained, are not tied to historic recipes that never change. However, Livermore does follow the recipes which made Wiser’s a market leader; some dating back to when JP himself ran the business. During the meeting, the media types were treated to a sample of Wiser’s Red Letter, first trademarked in 1927.
Under Livermore’s supervision, the brand was brought back to market in 2007 to mark the 150th Anniversary of Wiser’s purchase of a distillery in Prescott.
Davin de Kergommeaux, a canadianwhisky.org journalist, in a 2011 review, reported that the, “… super-premium Canadian rye whisky takes your palate on a wild joy ride through grain fields, gentlemen’s clubs, and Christmas puddings by the fire.”
The word premium is no exaggeration.
Kergommeaux highly recommended the limited edition nostalgia product, but then asked if, “… $150, is it worth the price? Well I certainly think so. After my first few sips led to a surprisingly empty bottle, I went back for a second.”
His thoughts were echoed by the reporters on the tour, who then went on to partake in a whisky blending session with Livermore, in Building 20. A similar session will be one of the features of Wiser’s public distillery tours, which will begin on November 10 and continue on successive Fridays.
While Livermore succeeded in bringing back one of Wiser’s older brands, the Red Letter, he also has his eye on the future. He told the assembled journalists that Canadian tastes are changing, and are starting to favour a, “… more spicier drink with a bigger bouquet.”
Next: The final segment will look deeper into why JP Wiser entered the distillery industry and founded a practice that continues to this day.