The Resurgence Of North American Spirits

(TORONTO, ON) – It is an interesting development that spirits have been gaining some momentum in the past decade. Tequila in the United States has in the past few years shot up in popularity. Micro distilleries are popping up like craft breweries. I query if it all rather started with single malt Scotch whisky some two decades ago then moved in the direction of craft bourbons then to its cousin rye whisky?

Canadian rye whisky has a bit of a checkered past. Smuggled to the USA during prohibition then being used for decades as a mixer for countless sodas like ginger ale or 7 Up. In the past few years rye whisky is making comeback both in the United States and Canada.

There are even advertisements in Canadian media channels for it! Seems sophisticated Millennials like the stuff! Or this is what the advertisements would have us believe. Since several Square journalists have been poking about at JP Wiser’s lately perhaps a quick review of some of their products might be opportune?

JP Wiser’s Deluxe Canadian rye whisky is amber coloured. Aromas of date, apricot and tangerine catch my attention particularly the dates! No taste initially then POW. Vanilla, custard, hot spice then a nice Apollo afterburn obviously killing any bacteria in the mouth.

A sampling of Wiser's products at the new JP Wiser's Bran Experience Centre in Building 20 in Walkerville.Photo by Ian Shalapata.

A sampling of Wiser’s products at the new JP Wiser’s Brand Experience Centre in Building 20 in Walkerville.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

Essentially an uncomplicated and straightforward rye. Very hot but with few nuances that might launch this into a heralded and anticipated after dinner drink that would compete with bourbon or single malt scotch. By all means be patriotic and enjoy this Canadian product. I’d suggest this might be a good primer for the younger generation who are moving into an appreciation into what sophistication a good spirit can do to as an after-dinner libation.

In my opinion this after dinner niche is where bourbon, rye whisky and scotch single malt really belong. They deserve consumption in a happy great after dinner atmosphere. However, that may just be an old fogey speaking that was guilty of drinking rye and ginger ale in his earlier days. Of course, it could be the quality of rye in that point of time was deservedly paired with ginger ale.

(JP Wiser’s Deluxe Canadian Rye Whisky, JP Wiser Distillery Limited, 750mL, $26.25, 40%, LCBO #893, Square Media Group Rating 88/100)

The JP Wiser’s Triple Barrel Rye is amber coloured with a slightly tinged sweet apricot, mango, marmalade nosed whisky with a tinge of that classic rye spiciness.

On the palate the spiciness bursts out and with a gentle burn. Very well controlled afterburners on this one. There is almost some creaminess to this. Some good tastes in this one of ginger cake, Christmas spices, butter scotch and dried apricots. Almost a rye worthy of a “Mellow” title.

Blended from three different barrels. Not that I believe in medals and awards as they are a for profit business and only judge what was presented to them at a cost to the distillery providing the samples. This won best Canadian rye at the 2017 Whisky Awards.

(JP Wiser’s Triple Barrel Rye, JP Wiser’s Distillery Limited, 750mL, $31.95, 43.4%, LCBO #536870, Square Media Group Rating 89/100)

We can up the ante with a JP Wiser’s Dissertation Rare Cask Series Canadian Whisky. Apricot coloured. Strong aromatic notes of orange marmalade, butterscotch, ginger, honey and pepper. On the palate a highly controlled and mellow burn. A long gum numbing finish but this is no firewater, but a more sophisticated spirit hitting the upper gums. Toffee, honey, brown sugar, apricot and coffee cake coat the tastebuds.

Fermenters at JP Wiser's in Windsor, as far as the eye can see.Photo by Ian Shalapata.

Fermenters at JP Wiser’s in Windsor, as far as the eye can see.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

Funny how Canadian whisky is so firm and stern and a bit spicy whereas American bourbon has a rather sweet and mellow taste. Canadian whisky is in your face. Hard hitting like Canadian hockey. Ice may cool this down. A wonderful après dinner drink in the midst of winter. Spunkiness and power! Canadian rye whisky is not for the faint at heart.

This is a premium price but competitive with those snobs that insist upon single malt Scotch

(JP Wiser’s Dissertation Rare Cask Series, $64.95, 46.1%, JP Wiser’s, 750mL, LCBO #513523, Square Media Group Rating 92/100)

We conclude with a JP Wiser’s 15-Year-old Canadian whisky. Aromatics of honey, ginger and apricots. Delightfully smooth on the palate. In fact, gentle and very sophisticated. No firewater and gum numbing on this one … well not really as the gums are burning but not on fire. Marmalade, apricot and spice kicks in on the finish. Without the sweetness of bourbon this is an in your face Canadian rye whisky. Not a bourbon and not a scotch but a truly Canadian product that deservers some pours in your glass straight or on the rocks. I prefer it neat.

In a perfect world and with designated drivers or walk to home a pre-Grey Cup a JP Wiser’s rye whisky tasting would be fun event. We Canadians have been hiding under a rye whisky inferiority complex for too long. And thanks to JP Wiser’s for saying we have a big something to say about rye whisky.

(JP Wiser’s 15 Year Old Canadian Whisky, 40%, JP Wiser’s Distillery Ltd, LCBO #536946, $46.95, Square Media Group Rating 91/100)

Click for the latest news

About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC.

Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden.

Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he loves The Square. His motto is, “Have Story, Will Write.”

Email Robert Stephen