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Alberta Springs Canadian Whisky

Review: Alberta Springs Canadian Whisky (88/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on December 12, 2012 (Revised and re-scored in September, 2016)

I tasted my first bottle of Alberta Springs in the fall of 1988 when I was gifted a bottle on my birthday. It came in a cool wooden box, and it proudly proclaimed its ‘Alberta’ heritage. It was also I believe, back in those days, a pure 100 % rye whisky. My love for rye whisky was cemented, and for years the Alberta Springs was my favourite whisky. Of course things may change over time, and in the early to mid 90s Alberta Distillers Limited (ADL) began to distill some corn as well as rye in the blend. They still blended to the same taste profile; but, when I look back at my whisky preferences, it was a remarkable coincidence that during this period of the brand’s development I fell out of love with the whisky. Whether it was my preferences which had changed, or whether it was the blending change, to me the whisky just wasn’t the same. Of course, when you are in love and then fall out of love the crash is hard to take. I began to avoid my beloved Alberta Springs and found other whiskies to take its place.

When I began to write about whisky, one of the perks I received was a private tour of the ADL Distillery where I met Rick Murphy, the Production Superintendent. He explained the heritage of Alberta Springs to me, how it started as a pure rye whisky, and how economics dictated a move to rye and corn in the 90s. He then explained how his computerized dials and gauges in the distillery, and his quality assurance tasting panel, ensure that the flavour does not change as the mash bill may change slightly over time. He even made it clear to me that the Alberta Springs is one of his most favourite whiskies.

This year, I noticed that the flavour seems to moving back towards the corn grain again. It’s hard to be sure, but when I tasted anew bottle earlier this year it seemed to have just a touch more sweetness than before. I decided that I should perhaps take the time to revisit the Alberta Springs once again and pen an entirely new review.

Alberta Springs SAM_2641In the Bottle 4.5/5

The bottle presentation for the Alberta Springs Whisky has not changed over the past several years. Although the cool wooden box from the 80s is gone (a victim of economics), the look and feel of the whisky bottle is still solid. The bottle is rectangular, providing an ergonomic shape which is designed to allow more bottles to be packed into a shipping case with less breakage than round bottles. The labeling looks nice and professional, and ADL smartly wraps this label around the side of the bottle to impart a little information about the aging of the whisky on the extra surface area of the sides of the bottle. A round plastic decal is placed above the label depicting a vignette of an old mill with a water wheel and the Rocky Mountains in the distance. If the bottle were corked, I would have given it a perfect score.

In the Glass 9/10

I poured out a small sample of Alberta Springs Whisky into my glass and began with a look at the whisky before I began to nose it. It is a golden amber coloured spirit with light coppery highlights in the glass. 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 droopy legs which formed slender legs and moved back down into the whisky. The visual appearance of the spirit appears be consistent with my earlier observations.

The initial breezes from the glass represent a dusty spice filled Canadian whisky with firm almond scents tagging along with the spicy grain. Fine oak spices drift upwards, and the spiciness in the air reminds me of ginger and cardamon with perhaps a few hints of cinnamon drifting in between. There is also a firmer corn-like sweetness than I remember from previous visits and a light touch of vanilla is apparent as well.

As the glass breathes the rye becomes more apparent. It is a fruity sweet and sour rye which also carries that familiar tell-tale undercurrent of bitter citrus pith. As more time goes by the rye continues to build drowning out my earlier impression of corn. When I return to the empty glass after my sampling session the breezes bring me ripe grain and chaff with just a hint of sweetness.

In the Mouth 53/60

I stated in the introduction that I felt the whisky may have changed recently, and this feeling persists when I taste it. Although the whisky has a firm rye presence, I also taste a light but firm influence of corn as well. This has the effect of sweetening the whisky and muting to a small extent the dry edge of the rye and fine wood spice. Light flavours of butterscotch, vanilla and almond flavours reveal themselves as I sip as do additional flavours of orange peel, dry cigarette tobacco and a few hints of cinnamon.

The whisky is very good. I prefer to sip with a little ice, although adding a small dollop of ginger-ale taste extremely nice as well.

In the Throat 13/15

The finish is short and crisp and features dry wood spice and fruity rye flavours in the exit. Some grassy tobacco flavours compliment the rye, and a touch of sweet corn falls alongside.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

Alberta Springs Whisky seems just a touch sweeter than before. Whether what I am noticing is just a small amount of batch variation or whether the blend has once again changed due to the dictates of economics is uncertain. Perhaps another visit to a new bottle next year will provide more clarity. However, the rye whisky is still extremely good suitable for sipping over ice or for mixed cocktails. It remains one of the great Canadian Whisky bargains in my marketplace.

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

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Suggested Recipes

The Alberta Splash

I am going to suggest two ways to enjoy this whisky, neither of which is very original; but both of which are very delicious!

Alberta Springs on Ice

2 oz Alberta Springs Canadian Whisky
Large Ice-cubes

Add the Ice-cubes to a rocks glass
Pour the Alberta Springs over the ice
Enjoy!

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Canadian Whisky Splash

2 oz Alberta Springs Canadian Whisky
Large Ice-cubes
Splash of Ginger-ale
Slice of Lime

Add the Ice-cubes to a rocks glass
Pour the Alberta Springs over the ice
Add a splash of Ginger Ale
Garnish with a lime slice
Enjoy!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!

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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)

10 Responses to “Alberta Springs Canadian Whisky”

  1. Catherine Temoin said

    I was wondering how a corked bottled with the original seal still in place would taste 44 yrs later? My husband purchased a 26 ounce bottle of Alberta Springs Sipping Whiskey complete with the wooden box in excellent condition. Is there anything you could tell me about the price of this whiskey or if it would now be considered a collectors item?

    • I have no comment on the relative value of the spirit which you possess, but I can tell you that as long as the cork has remained in good condition the whisky should taste pretty much the same as when you bought it 44 years ago.

      Cheers

  2. CBrown said

    Wow, great choice. Definitely one of my preferred everyday whiskys. Classy, elegant and great bang for the buck. I was curious when you reviewed the Centennial as to whether it might be a worthy contender for the Alberta Springs.

    Really nice to see you mixing this up with the heavy hitters and the everyday joes duking it out for top spot!

    Chris

    • The great thing about doing my tastings for my Advent Countdown in a blind format was that my group had no preconceptions about any of the whiskies. As indicated in my review, I have for a long time loved this whisky, and I was very pleased when my Rum Chums came to the same conclusion that I did.

      Cheers!

  3. Keith said

    Did you ever get a chance to try the 2005 Alberta Springs 25 year release, celebrating Alberta’s Centennial birthday?

  4. otto said

    Mmm! We used to call it sipping whisky back in the late 70’s and early 80’s when it still came in wooden box. Turned my dad onto it from Gibson 12 Year old. Didn’t they make a 20 year old back then usually around Christmas? I am sure that I used to buy one for my dad who died in 84.
    Good reviews! I am looking forward to trying the new Alberta Premium Dark horse?? or Black horse??. Have you tried it yet.

  5. Bill Smith said

    I have a bottle of Alberta Springs old time Canadian whisky that was sold in 1967. The bottle is stilled sealed and not been opened. I am wondering if it has collector value and / or whether it would still be drinkable after aging for 44 years?

    Can anyone help here?

  6. Kevin said

    I am in agreement with Chip here.This is my favorite Canadian whiskey so far. Incredibly smooth, rich and complex. Would pair nicely with a cigar. I am giving it 9.5/10. At $23.50 at the LCBO in Ontario, it’s a steal!

 
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