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Alberta Premium Dark Horse (2017)

Review: Alberta Premium Dark Horse Canadian Whisky (76.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted  September 17, 2017

Alberta Premium® Dark Horse Whisky was inspired by the race horse, Majestic Prince, and by the continued pursuit of excellence of the horse’s owner and distillery’s founder, Frank McMahon.

According to my contacts at BeamSuntory, Alberta Distillers Limited this deluxe Canadian whisky builds upon a rye base whisky with an added touch of sherry and bourbon flavour. The whisky is aged in heavily charred American white oak barrels, and represents a blend of 12-year-old rye, and 6-year-old small pot rye. It is bottled at a higher than normal 45 % alcohol by volume.

(Note: As more information has come to light, I have learned that the “added touch” of bourbon flavour is a whopping 8 to 8.5 % by volume addition of corn whiskey to the blend, and the “added touch” of sherry flavour is about 0.5 % by volume addition of sherry. These percentages stretch the definition of “added touch” and this knowledge which came to me after the review was written serves to illuminate some of my comments in the review especially with respect to balance.)

In the Bottle 4.5/5

Pictured to the left is a nice bottle shot of the Alberta Premium® Dark Horse. It is a short squat bottle that reminds me of the old style root beer bottles I used to see when I was a kid. According to the media materials I was sent, the bottle is supposed to be reminiscent of the bottles which contain small batch bourbon (in my opinion they missed that mark just a little).

I should point out that the whisky is not labeled as a 100 % rye whisky blend like other Alberta Premium® products are. Although the whisky is presented as a blend of 6-year-old rye, and 12-year-old small pot rye, there may be other constituents in the blend.

In the Glass 7.5/10

The whisky in the glass presents a very dark mahogany colour in the glass with obvious tinctures of red.When I tilt and twirl the glass, I see the whisky has a slightly thickened appearance with the crest of the film releasing a multitude somewhat fattened legs.

The breezes above the glass bring me dusty woodspice and oak with tinges of sour fruit and a hint of mold. The hint of mold is disconcerting as it seems to be growing as the whisky breathes. I can get past it and note the underlying complexity, but I am reluctant to begin tasting.

In The Mouth 46/60

I am going to have to state right up front that the whisky is tinged with mold. It  is not as severe as some I have tasted, and many people probably will not even notice it. But for myself, the dram is unmistakably tainted. There is a lot of complexity with butterscotch sweetness, Turkish Delight, sour fruit and oak spice. However, it is tough to get past the mold.

In The Throat 11/15

It’s a real pity; right at the end, the moldy taste taints the finish.

The Afterburn 7.5/10

This is not the first time I have tasted a moldy whisky. It seems that every year I run across a few. When I speak to the other persons about the phenomena and let them try the whisky in question, only a few of them agree with me. It seems that this moldy taste is obvious to a few of us, and completely absent from the palate of the rest. For those of us who taste it, the whisky is a challenge to consume. (I have tried to get to the source of the moldy taste but have only vague suspicions at this time.)

I should point out that I have sampled this particular whisky (Alberta Premium Dark Horse) on several occasions in the past, and this is the only time that it has had the flavour of mold in its profile. Its a pity because this is the sample I am scoring for my Top 100 Whiskies of 2017.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews. (This list includes my previous ‘non moldy’ review for this whisky where the dram scores much better))


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.)

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