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Alberta Premium Canadian Whisky

Review: Alberta Premium Canadian Whisky (84/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on January 05, 2012

Alberta Premium is the flagship whisky of Alberta Distillers Limited (ADL). The whisky is one of the few 100 % rye grain whiskies in the world. In fact, according to Davin de Kergommeaux, of  Canadian Whisky, ADL produces more 100% rye whisky than every other distillery in North America combined! This makes the people at ADL, perhaps the world’s most renowned experts on rye whisky.

This also means that Alberta Premium, the flagship whisky  from the distillery renowned for its rye whisky, must be pretty good. And in fact, Jim Murray, one of the world’s most renowned whisky critics, not only thinks this whisky is good, he thinks it is great! For years he has extolled the virtues of the Alberta Premium in his Whisky Bible even naming it the best Canadian Whisky in 2006, 2007, and 2009. (The year that is missing, 2008 was the year that Alberta Premium 25 Year Old won the award.)

In the Bottle 4/5

In my previous reviews for the Alberta Premium 25 Year Old Whisky, and the Alberta Premium 30 Year Old Whisky, I expressed disappointment in the standard bottle that ADL uses for its Alberta Premium brand. In fact, in one of those reviews I referred to the bottle as a relic from the 70s. I am a little more forgiving when this bottle is used for a 5 to 7-year-old whisky. I do not expect to be wowed as I would for a premium 25 or 30-year-old whisky. And to be honest that ‘relic from the 70s’ bottle is growing on me. I just wish the label had a little more pizazz. But then, that just seems to go against the conventions of ADL. They expect the consumer will judge the whisky inside the bottle, not the label on the outside.

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 nice golden amber spirit which is just beginning 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 initial nose from the glass is of a fruit-filled rye with very obvious notes of vanilla. There is a presence of oak and a touch of citrus zest in the background. As the whisky decants, the fruit gains momentum, and I also begin to sense a light touch of almond in the breezes. Surprisingly (to me at least) when the glass is fully decanted the whisky has mellowed as the fruit has lost its momentum. After about ten minutes of breathing, I can sense a dusty dry grain field wafting from the glass.

In the Mouth 50/60

Taking my first sip I notice the initial flavour of the whisky is full of fruit and spice, and the dustiness of the rye (which I happen to love) is seemingly swamped out of existence. A light bitterness similar to citrus pith appears and as I sip a few more times that sense of fruitiness continues to grow. At this point I have found myself wishing for more complexity and for other flavour sensations to appear.

Of course, patience is a virtue that is well recommended, and for this whisky I was rewarded as I waited and allowed the glass to breathe. First some orange peel and some light almond flavours began to appear. Then a light sweetness began to separate from the fruity rye. After a full ten minutes of sitting the rye finally began to turn dusty. The progression of the whisky in my mouth followed a similar pattern to what I had previously noticed on the nose.

Although I did finally taste the dusty style of rye which I love , it was not a complete reward. A light bitterness accompanied the flavour and I did find the fruitiness of the whisky still wanted to dominate. I did catch glimmers of the excellence which Jim Murray wrote of when he described this whisky. Alas, they were only glimmers, and I found myself reaching for some ice and ginger-ale rather than preferring to sip the whisky straight.

In the Throat 13/15

The exit is full of spicy rye and citrus fruit. I catch light trails of corn in the exit and to my relief the light bitterness I noted earlier did not linger but quickly vanished. I suspect many will like this spicy fruit filled finish much more that I, but I am a dusty dry rye sort of fellow, and when I encounter this much  spice, I believe it should be offset by a touch more sweetness to bring forward the balance I prefer.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

This whisky is very good, it can be sipped and enjoyed if it is given proper time in the glass to breathe, and with an ice-cube or an equal share of ginger-ale it is even better. Amazingly this is one of the lowest priced whiskies in my marketplace, and if you are a bit of 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.


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 Canadian 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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