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Alberta Premium 20 Year Old Canadian Whisky

Review: Alberta Premium 20 Year Old Canadian Whisky  (89.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published April 4,  2020

Alberta Premium is a brand of Canadian Whisky made in Calgary, by Alberta Distillers Ltd. (owned by Beam-Suntory). The Whisky was released in the fall of 2019 along with a companion release Alberta Premium Cask Strength (reviewed here). Alberta Distillers own the oldest distillery in Western Canada. The distillery is famous for its rich 100 % rye grain whiskies which are bottled under the Alberta Premium label. They also sell bulk 100 % rye whisky to other brand owners.

As indicated Alberta Premium is famous for its 100% rye grain whisky, although it should be pointed out that the brand has also featured releases such as Dark Horse which were not made from 100% rye grain. In the case of the Alberta Premium 20 Year Old, the grain blend is not disclosed on the label. Rather than stating unequivocally that the whisky is a 100 % rye grain whisky, the label instead makes the statement that the whisky is Canadian Rye Whisky, and the display box the whisky arrives in states that it is 100 % Canadian Rye Whisky. I might be splitting hairs here, but terminology is important. All Canadian whisky which features a rye forward flavour profile can properly be called Canadian Rye Whisky whether or not rye grain is the dominant grain, and stating that a whisky is 100 % Canadian Rye Whisky is not the same thing as stating that the whisky is 100% Rye Grain Canadian Whisky.

Unless it is specifically indicated in an unequivocal manner, I think it is best to assume that Alberta Premium 20 Year Old is a blended grain whisky. The spirit is bottled at 42 % Alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle 4/5

Western Canadians are a conservative group of people, and Albertans may be the most conservative of the entire bunch. We like our traditional ways, and as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke….”

And so we have the bottle presentation for the Alberta Premium 20 Year Old Whisky, and it is exactly the same as the one used for the regular Alberta Premium, (a five-year old rye whisky). I have been told by my contacts at the distillery that the bottle is so iconic that to use any other bottle just wouldn’t be right.

The real reason the bottle didn’t change is that Albertans, along with being conservative and traditional, are cheap! We don’t spend money when we don’t have to. That old bottle is bought and paid for. It might look like a relic from the 70’s but if Alberta Distiller’s use it, they don’t need to pay a dime to design a new one! This keeps the price of the whisky, somewhat in check.

In the Glass 9/10

The Alberta Premium 20 Year Old spirit shows us a nice copper colour in the glass and when I tilt that glencain and give it a slow twirl I see mid-sized droplets form at the crest which fall down leaving slender legs. The initial nose is somewhat restrained with rye grain and fine oak spice with hints of sour fruit, caramel toffee and almond.

But this is a whisky which need to breathe. As I waited for things to open up I began to notice the rye and fine oak spice building now accompanied by lots of dusty grain and straw. Sour fruit and canned apricots begin to unravel from the rye and I also notice a lightly floral or perhaps herbal flair with hints of mint, licorice, and citrus followed by punky caramel corn, leather and pungent baking spices.

In the Mouth 54/60

As I indicated it is important to let the spirit grow in the glass. The first sip reveals a smooth whisky with light push of wood spices followed by leather and bits of ginger. As we slowly sip the oak and rye begin to shape the whisky bringing sour fruit and growing wood spices. The whisky evolves turning leathery and then somewhat herbal with licorice tinged tobacco and a light flavour of angelica. There is a nice maple like sweetness in the background combining with light almond flavours which brings an impression of marzipan.

Again the whisky need time to reveal all of its goodness and allowing the spirit to breathe even longer brings more as the spirit turns dry and even more leathery with grassy tobacco oak spice growing as I sip. Baking spices begin to appear with apricots and raisins now joining in as does a light smokiness.

I realize that all those taste descriptors might be a bit confusing, the main takeaway though is that the whisky is much more than it first appears. It grows in the glass giving you more flavour each time you sip.

In The Throat:   13.5/15

Although the whisky is 20 years old, it nevertheless is medium rather than full bodied bodied, but it does have a very smooth albeit heated finish. We taste leather and tobacco during the swallow with oak spice settling on the palate  with ginger and grain spices.

The Afterburn 9/10

Alberta Premium 20 Year Old is a very interesting spirit. At times during the tasting it seemed almost floral before settling down to be a leathery tobacco filled whisky. I suspect that we have more than just rye grain in the mix as impressions of punky corn and leathery barley seemed to appear in my tasting notes. Irregardless, the whisky tastes extremely good. You just have to be patient and wait for the dram to grow in the glass.


You may (loosely) interpret the scores 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 Tequila.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, (we are probably still cocktail in 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 delicious cocktails!
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 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)

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