J.P. Wiser’s Hopped Whisky
Review: J.P. Wiser’s Hopped Whisky 88.5/100
Reviewed by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted December 02, 2015
The spiced and flavoured whisky category just keeps on growing, and J.P. Wiser’s has been at the forefront of the pack bringing their No. 5 (Vanilla) and No. 9 Torched Toffee whiskies to market in the last two consecutive years. When I talked to Hiram Walker Distillery Master Blender, Dr. Don Livermore in the fall of 2012 (just after the consecutive releases of Lot No. 40 Single Copper Pot Still Canadian Whisky and their new Wiser’s Spiced Whisky (Vanilla) I lamented that everyone who was making flavoured and spiced whisky seemed to be playing at the bottom of the rungs using young whisky and just dressing it up with flavours or spices. I felt (based upon my experiences with flavoured rums) that a more premium flavoured spirit could be targeted if the base spirit were already a well aged complex whisky.
Three years later it appears Dr. Livermore may have been listening. J.P. Wiser’s Hopped Whisky was released this past summer. This new whisky from Wiser’s was apparently created from a blend of 5 to 9-year-old whiskies which were aged in three types of barrels: previous Canadian whisky fills, once used American bourbon casks, and brand new virgin oak casks. At the very end of the blending process the well aged blended whisky was dry hopped in the same fashion as India Pale Ale beers. The result is a flavoured whisky which features both the complexity and balance of a well crafted aged whisky and the robust flavours introduced by the dry hops.
In the Bottle 4/5
I have mixed feelings regarding the presentation. The “Beer in Spirit” booklet around the neck of the bottle caught my attention; but when I did a little research, I found no information which led me to believe that there was actually beer inside the bottle with the whisky. Rather we have the hops which perhaps gives the whisky some overt beer-like flavours. Of course, whisky literally is distilled beer, so maybe I am splitting hairs here.
As far as the rest of the presentation goes, it is pretty standard stuff for Wiser’s. The square bottle is attractive and ergonomic, and I have my usual reservations regarding the metallic pressed on screw cap.
In the Glass 8.5/10
The whisky is quite dark in the glass, more bronze-like than coppery. I am not sure if the hopping process darkens the whisky or whether Wiser’s felt that it would be nice to add of a bit of caramel to give the whisky the appearance of dark ale (I suspect the latter). When I tilted the glass and give it a slow twirl, I found the crest was stubborn which indicated to me that perhaps a bit of sugar had been added as well. Again, the whisky is flavoured with hops, and therefore the addition of a touch of sweetness is perhaps necessary to blunt the bitter force of the hoppy flavours.
Upon nosing the whisky, I found the breezes above the glass were very inviting with burnt caramel playing nicely with strong rye and wood spices. There is an earthiness which appeals to me reminiscent of rich black soil tinged with bits of peat. I suspect it is the impact of the hops which brings forward the earthiness, and for me this certainly is a complimentary olfactory sensation. I also notice dusty grain smells welling out of the glass along with a nice hit of dry grassy tobacco. Weaving through all of this is a nice light chocolate sweetness which causes me to bring my glencairn to my mouth to steal a quick sip.
In the Mouth 54/60
There is an overt bitterness that winds through the whisky which is subtly kept in check by a brown sugary sweetness which seems to trail the bitterness by just a few instants. Light baking spices (brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla) are hinted at amid a stronger push of oak and rye. Some orange peel mixes in adding to the spiciness, but tempering this effect are light impressions of dark chocolate, leather and an echo of Pilsner beer. Adding to the complexity is a sliver of organic black soil which carries a very light impression of boggy peat.
The Hopped Whisky tastes just fine served neat at room temperature, and promises to deliver a very interesting compliment to my favourite whisky cocktails. I experimented just a little and found that the addition of ice brings forward more bittersweet chocolate flavours, while a splash of ginger-ale seems to give the whisky a stronger push of Canadian rye.
In the Throat 13/15
The Hopped Whisky has a relatively smooth finish full of coffee and chocolate. A delightful spiciness settles in after the swallow and some of that chocolate seems to be permeated with a light smattering of oak spice and chili pepper. All in all, this is quite yummy!
The Afterburn 9/10
I have no idea if Dr. Don Livermore ever remembered our conversation when I insisted that the flavoured and spiced categories could be vastly improved if the base whisky was aged for longer than 3 years (probably not). It is more likely that this idea had already taken root and the plans for J.P. Wiser’s Hopped Whisky was already well underway. What I do hope for is that this flavoured whisky inspires other producers to follow a similar path.
You may read some of my other reviews of Spiced and Flavoured Spirits (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)