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Wiser’s Legacy Canadian Whisky

Review: Wiser’s Legacy Canadian Whisky  90/100
a review By Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Original Review December, 2009.
Revised and Re-scored based upon a current sample, December,  2014

Wiser’s Legacy Canadian Whisky (a Corby Brand) was released in early 2010 as a new entry into the fledgling “Super Premium” category of Canadian Whisky. At the time, a few other Super Premium Whiskies already existed in the market-place (Wiser’s own Red Letter, and Crown Royal’s, Cask No. 16 and Crown Royal  XR); but the category hadn’t really caught the buying public’s imagination. In fact the Super Premium category had seen more failures than successes to that point (at least as far as Canadian Whisky was concerned). However the tipping point for the category seems to have been the year 2010, and the brand which (in my opinion) which helped the most to bring about a this change was Wiser’s Legacy.

It was just a few years earlier that retailers began to notice an increasing number of Whisky collectors and connoisseurs frequenting their shops (I know because I was one of them). Armed with our Whisky Bibles (Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible to be exact), we began to hunt through the aisles of the local liquor stores for that gem of a whisky to add to our burgeoning collection. We wanted to know what the experts (Jim Murray and Michael Jackson) thought of this particular whisky which we were about to purchase. So when Wiser’s Legacy was released in 2010, it was to a waiting public that was ready for new (and to us) exciting Whiskies. It probably didn’t hurt that two new Canadian Whisky writers, Davin de Kergommeaux (Canadian Whisky) and to a lessor degree, myself had just begun to shout from the rooftops that Canadian Whisky could be every bit as good as any whisky from anywhere else in the world).

Of course, just because the timing is right, doesn’t mean that a brand will succeed. In this case the Super Premium category needed a Canadian Whisky that would be worth the hype. And in a nutshell, Wiser’s Legacy was. This whisky is produced from a rye forward mash bill (Canadian rye, rye malt and barley malt) using a slow copper pot distillation technique which was ‘fine-tuned’ to capture the very specific flavours and aromas during distillation. The new oak barrels used to age the resulting distillate were lightly toasted rather than heavily charred to help bring more of these specific flavours forward.

According to David Doyle, Master Blender for Wiser’s“:

“I have selected only the finest new, white oak casks, which are essential to the aging process and help mellow the perfect distillate under tightly controlled conditions. It is this careful and deliberate craftsmanship that makes Wiser’s Legacy the ultimate achievement in traditional Canadian whisky distilling.”

I reviewed the Wiser’s legacy four years ago (December, 2009) prior to the spirit’s release in 2010 based upon a pre-release sample given to me by Corby Distillers. I ventured back to the spirit as part of my Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown and decided that I should freshen up the review.

wisers-legacy-sam_2656In the Bottle  5/5

Pictured to the left is the new bottle I recently received for Wiser’s Legacy Whisky. I like the look of these masculine square whisky bottles. They look more like decanters than whisky bottles, and this serves to lift the consumer’s perception of the spirit inside. This bottle says, “This ain’t your average whisky inside this container.” The solid cork topper and professional label serve to reinforce that notion.

In the Glass  9/10

When I  poured the Legacy sample into my glencairn glass, I noticed that the whisky left a thick oily sheen on the glass, thicker than I have noticed with most other Canadian whiskies. This oily liquid slowly coalesced into big fat legs which very slowly crawled back down into the bottom of the glass. The fat legs are a reflection of the higher than normal alcohol content, and the rather large aging regimen used for this whisky brand.

The aroma from the glass is rich in rye spice and caramel toffee, with a subtle corn and bourbon influence. Oak is apparent as well with sappy as well as damp tobacco. There are some nice indications of baking spices (vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon) as well as vague impressions of baked muffins full of banana, walnuts and chocolate chips. The aroma certainly lives up to the impressive bottle.

In the Mouth  53.5/60

The legacy seems like an attempt to inject a fuller oak presence into the Canadian Whisky profile. Fresh oak tannin is at the forefront of the flavour which is thick with corn and bourbon tones swimming in a pool of rye. A kind of punky dankness lingers under these flavours, and I catch hints of maple, and perhaps a touch of anise buried in that dankness. Weaving through the profile of tastes are the definite fingerprints of typical Canadian rye spice and an appealing citrus undercurrent. Finally, underpinning the entire presentation is a mild smokey cigar like quality with  dry wisps of  woody tobacco. This is very complex; but the cost of the added complexity is a small loss of balance and smoothness which is typical of Canadian whisky. It is an interesting trade-off. In fact, I believe this may be an intended result. The whisky seems to burst with an appealing brashness which would be lost in the typically smooth and balanced Canadian whisky taste profile.

In the Throat  13.5/15

Thick oil coats the throat with an oak and spice explosion. The exit leaves the mouth puckered somewhat from the dry woodiness, and the throat is assaulted by spices which grow hotter in the throat than they were in the mouth. At the end of the finish, typical Canadian rye flavours  finally appear en masse to battle the youthful oak down the throat.

The overall impression is that something awesome just might have happened in my throat, but it is hard to describe fully what it was.

Afterburn  9/10

The Legacy is extremely interesting because it is such a departure from a regular Canadian whisky. There is a great deal of complexity introduced by the young oak and this is definitely a giant step towards a more defined bourbon taste profile. What is missing, is the typical smoothness that Canadian Whisky is famous for. What is extra, is a rough and ready whisky which has one of the most complex flavour profiles I have experienced in Canadian Whisky.

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)


9 Responses to “Wiser’s Legacy Canadian Whisky”

  1. CBrown said

    I really enjoy the Legacy although I still question what puts it in the $50 category other than PR hype. (Still better than it’s original $65 or so when first introduced.) Like most of my whiskies I wouldn’t want to drink it every day but I sure would be happy to drink it every week and would proudly give it as a gift to a non-Canadian whisky lover to showcase what we are doing these days!


    • Hi Chris

      I ask myself a similar question whenever I look at a Single Malt Whisky in a retail store. Truth is that if you compare against other Canadian Whiskies, the Wiser’s Legacy is priced near the top of the range; however, when you compare against Single Malts and the premium Bourbons, The Legacy is a relative bargain.

  2. Kevin said

    Well, unfortunately I really disliked the Legacy. Initially it was rich, spicy and smooth, however it had an overpowering oak flavor on the finish. If you like the taste of oak then perhaps give it a try, but this is not something I would care to drink on its own. It would be interesting to try with a dessert like sticky toffee pudding or a cigar.

    • Yup the Legacy has a lot of Oak in the profile, and I like your idea of sticky toffee pudding! I obviously liked the Legacy, and I have grown to like it more since my review, but there are many nights when I do not want that much oak riding down my throat. On those nights, Wiser’s 18 Year Old is a much better choice.

  3. Drew said

    I received a bottle for being my friends best man at his wedding and I’m enjoying my first glass tonight to celebrate the birth of my son. Two great occations and one great Whisky. I typically like my rye on the rocks but I think this one is best served as is. Hope everyone else like it too.

  4. jimi said

    “The overall impression is that something awesome just might have happened in my throat, but it is hard to describe exactly what it was.”
    Love that quote

  5. Mike said

    Chip, could you give me an honest opinion on something? If you had to decide between them, which would you choose and why: Wiser’s Legacy, or Crown Royal Cask No. 16?

    • Geez, that’s a tough one Mike.

      I think this goes to how much you like a nice walk towards a more bourbon centered profile. In general Crown Royal Whiskies have more of a dank corn/bourbon flavor profile, but the Cask 16 is the exception. It is much more polished than other Crown whiskies; it is missing that dankness associated with Crown almost completely: and it has a certain elegance that I love. Wiser’s Whiskies on the other hand are generally much more ryelike in taste profile than the Crown Whiskies and I personally prefer that rye-like profile. But… The Legacy is different, It is unabashed walking towards that corn/ bourbon flavour profile and it does so much better than Crown does. But it is a little rougher and less polished than the cask 16.

      In the end, if you want a little bourbon in your whisky, (the way bourbon is meant to be with a nice woodsy vanilla tannin) then I would go with the Legacy. if you want polish, I would go the way of the Cask 16.

      It comes down to a preference of style; smooth, silky, and elegant (Cask 16) vs rough and ready, but full of flavour (Legacy).

      • Mike said

        Thanks for the reply. I generally prefer Crown to Wisers (I would take Special Reserve over Very Old, for instance), but Legacy does indeed seem tempting.

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