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Alberta Premium 100 % Rye Whisky

Review: Alberta Premium 100 % Rye Whisky (85.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
(New review posted September 07,  2016)

Alberta Distillers Limited (ADL) own the oldest distillery in Western Canada. It is situated in Calgary Alberta and has been producing spirits in the same location for well over 60 years. The distillery is part of the Beam/Suntory portfolio. Alberta Premium is the flagship whisky of Alberta Distillers Limited (ADL), and according to the Beam/Suntory Brands website:

This whiskey is made by Alberta Distillers in the heart of Canada’s rye-growing country where cold barren winters give way to an abundant crop of the finest rye. Made by blending two aged whiskies, one of which is aged for flavor in used bourbon casks. Then, after blending, it is aged some more. Alberta Premium is aged for 5 years. The slow aging in cold temperatures preserves the natural rye spice.

I was recently given a bottle of Alberta Premium by a guest at one of my tasting events and I thought I would revisit my review of this 100 % Canadian Rye Whisky.

Albeta Premium SAM_2482In the Bottle 3.5/5

In my previous reviews for the Alberta Premium Brand, I expressed disappointment in the standard bottle that ADL uses for the whisky, In fact, in one of those reviews I referred to the bottle as a relic from the 70s. I would be remiss to also not point out that one advantage to ADL’s reluctance to change the bottle design is that no money is being spent in that direction. Using the old ‘relic from the 70’s’ allows the brand to keep the price of the Alberta Premium Canadian Whisky in check. And to be honest that ‘relic from the 70s’ bottle is growing on me.

One thing I have been noticing lately though, is the number of bottles I am seeing on store shelves where the labels are prematurely peeling off. I am quite surprised by this, as when I visited ADL a few years ago and witnessed the bottling line first hand, I was told that every bottle is inspected to ensure the labels are properly applied, and if a problem is noted the bottle is pulled and the label is fixed. Perhaps someone had a few bad days on the bottling line. (The bottle provided to me by a guest at one of my recent tastings suffered from the same embarrassing label malfunction as you can see from the photo.)

In the Glass 8.5/10

I poured out a small sample of the Alberta Premium into my glass and began with a look at the whisky before I began to nose it. It is a golden amber spirit which has just began that transition in colour from amber to copper. I gave my glass a tilt and a slow swirl and discovered an oily sheen on the inside of my glass which gave up long slender legs which moved rather slowly back down into the whisky.

The breezes above the glass bring me the scents and smells of a fruit-filled rye with additional notes of vanilla. Fine oak spices and a touch of citrus zest mingle within the fruity rye smells. As I allow the whisky to breathe, some nice smells of butterscotch and maple come forward and the overt fruitiness gains momentum. I receive impressions of canned apricots and pears from the glass, and  I also sense a light touch of almond in the breezes.

If I allow the glass to continue to breathe, the sweet fruitiness dissipates and a dusty dry grain field evolves from the rye and wood spice. This is very nice.

In the Mouth 52/60

The first sip brings a bevy of fine wood spices and both fruity rye and dusty dry grain. I notice a light butterscotch sweetness, as well as some spicy heat which reminds me of orange peel. There is also a winding dry bitterness within the whisky which seems to pucker the mouth and causes me to steal another sip to wet the palate once more. A mild undercurrent of almond and a few touches of light tobacco flavour round out the whisky which is just a little better (and perhaps a touch smoother) than I remember from my previous visits.

The whisky is a natural to mix with ginger-ale, but I also believe it can find a home in a few more refined cocktails as well. An obvious choice is an Old fashioned, but this time for my suggested recipe I went in a completely new direction and mixed a cocktail I have recently become familiar with which mixes Rye whisky with Jamaican rum and grapefruit and lemon juice. The libation tastes absolutely wonderful with the Alberta Premium Rye, and I have shared the recipe down below.

In the Throat 13/15

The crisp exit is full of spicy, fruity rye grain. The palate is left puckered with a dry glowing spiciness of rye and wood spice, however there is just enough sweetness to balance the spice. A light bitterness of rye and citrus pith follows.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

I have acted as one of the judges for Davin de Kergommeaux‘s Canadian Whisky Awards several times over the past six years, and as part of those duties I will taste up to 40 different Canadian whiskies in a blind format. When I review my scores each year I have noticed that my scores for Alberta Premium are very consistent from year to year. The quality remains high from year to year and my scores over those six years reflect that. This consistency makes the spirit a favourite of mine to recommend to friends and family especially as this is also one of the lowest priced Canadian Whiskies in my marketplace.

If you are a bargain hunter, then this 100 % rye grain whisky is well worth seeking out.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe

The origin of this bar drink is attributed to Lally Brennan and Ti Adelaide Martin (In the Land of Cocktails) with the assistance of Ted Haigh (Dr. Cocktail). The name Whoa Nellie! is an homage to Lally’s and Ti Adelaide’s grandmother, Nellie Valentine. I recently tweaked the libation replacing the more usual American Rye Whisky in the serving with Alberta Premium Canadian Rye Whisky. This tweak was in response to my buddy Dennis’ wedding as I was in charge of arranging the signature cocktails. For that occasion, I allowed Dennis’ bride Ally, to rename the cocktail, Whoa Dennis!

Whoa Nellie SAM_2398Whoa Dennis!

1 1/2 oz Rye Whiskey (Alberta Premium 100% Rye)
1/2 oz Dark Rum (Coruba Dark Jamaican Rum)
1/2 oz Orange Liqueur (Cointreau)
1/3 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/3 oz Lemon Juice
a few dashes of Bitters (Fees Cocktail Bitters)
1/3 oz Sugar Syrup
Grapefruit Twist

Add the ingredients into a metal shaker with plenty of ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish with a twist of Grapefruit

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

And if  you are interested in more recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for my mixed drink recipes!


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)


5 Responses to “Alberta Premium 100 % Rye Whisky”

  1. Kevin said

    At first I liked the Alberta Premium almost as much as the Alberta Springs 10 years. However the more I compared the two I realized it simply did not have nearly have the same complexity. In Ontario the Premium and !0 years are the same price so it is a no brainer as to which one to buy. It is certainly nice to try a 100% rye whiskey as the flavor profile is quite different and it is very smooth and the Premium one is very tasty. I will give it an 8.6/10 and it is certainly worth a try. Does anyone know if Alberta Distillery plans on selling an older expression of the Premium like the 25 year old from a while back?

  2. Laurence said

    Hi Chip,
    I appreciate your candid review of the Alberta Premium 5 yr old. I agree that it’s not the best for sipping but then, what could compare to their 30 yr old. The 5 yr old is one of my favorites but what I really like to do is mix it with their 10 yr old Alberta Springs in a 50/50 mix. The result is a flavour that their extinct 7 Canadian Whiskies used to have – great caramel flavour and a delight with cola. Personally, I do like their standard bottle. It takes me back to the 60s in fact when I would watch my uncle pull a bottle of his favorite rye out of the bag right after getting to the cabin. There’s just something wonderfully simple and reminiscent about it for me. Please keep up the great reviews – they’re a weekly staple for me, as are many of the products you review. Cheers.

    • Thanks Laurence

      Funny you should mention the 10 year old Alberta Springs as that one will be reviewed very soon. I like to mix whiskies together too, A favourite combination of mine is to mix Cragganmore 12 year with The Macallan 18 Year. A wonderful sipping combination.

      I like your comment on the bottle, as I say in the review it is really beginning to grow on me.

      Have a very prosperous new year!

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