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Hiram Walker Special Old

Review: Hiram Walker Special Old Canadian Rye Whisky (86/100)
a review By Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on July 3, 2010 (Revised and re-scored September 2016)

Henry Corby began his  involvement in the distilling industry in approximately 1841, buying and selling grain at a grist-mill on the banks of the Moira River. By 1859, his distillery had become as important as his milling operation and so it (the distillery) was incorporated as a separate company.

In 1881, Henry’s son, also Henry (aka Harry), took over, and through the next ten years the Company began to bottle their own brand of whisky and sold it under the name of Corby. From 1905 to 1935 the company experienced a series of mergers and acquisitions which first resulted in the assets of Corby, and  Wiser’s being consolidated; and then in 1935,  Hiram Walker – Gooderham & Worts Ltd. became the majority shareholder in the H. Corby Distillery Limited, by acquiring 51% of the company’s equity.

Throughout the period of the 1960’s to the present, Corby established itself as a leading spirits company, expanding the distribution of its domestic portfolio and increasing its representation of internationally renowned spirits. Acquisitions of leading worldwide brands and trademarks, and an expansion of the portfolio to include rum, gin, Vodka, as well as other spirits has allowed the company to enter the global stage with its portfolio of products. Currently Corby Royal Reserve, Hiram Walker Special Old Rye Whisky, and the Wiser’s family of whiskies are all produced by Corby Distilleries Ltd..

The Hiram Walker Special Old is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

hiram-walker-s-o-sam_2645In the Bottle: 4/5

As you can see from the picture on the right, Hiram Walker Special Old arrives in a rectangular shaped bottle. I like the textured glass and the sleek professional label. There is an element of masculine class which exudes from this old style whisky bottle as it sits on my whisky shelf. A black plastic cap crowns the presentation.

As this is a relatively inexpensive whisky, and as such I am very satisfied with the overall presentation.

In the Glass  8.5/10

The whisky has an immediately apparent rye note as soon as the bottle is opened, and as I pour the whisky I also catch strong fruity accents, a dash of corn, and a mild vanilla arriving off of the pour. The colour of the whisky is a rich coppery brown reminiscent of old Macintosh toffee. In fact I believe I can smell some of that old toffee in the air as well. I sense a fair amount of complexity on the nose which is quite surprising, as I believe the spirit is at most 5 years old.

As I let the whisky sit, the rye aroma subdues and note of citrus fruit, bourbon, and vanilla becomes more apparent as well as a deepening of the toffee. The nose is robust and my appetite for the whisky has been whetted.

In the Mouth  52/60

The whisky fairly enters the mouth full of dry aggressive rye flavour and spice.  Rye, toffee, and citrus fruit all seem to jump onto the palate at once and battle for supremacy. A thin layer of honey underneath provides a counterbalance, and a nice wave of oak spice is inter-wound throughout the delivery.  When I took my second mouthful a rich cornfield appeared under the flavour profile which unwound a ribbon of bourbon into the whisky as well.  I like the aggressiveness of the rye and wood spice and the boldness of the taste profile, and I might have scored the whisky higher; however, I found the fruit rather than the rye tended to dominate. I prefer rye to be the dominant flavour in a Canadian whisky (perhaps I am being a little niggly).

The whisky tastes very nice on its own although I prefer a dollop of ice in my glass instead. Even better, a nice long draw of ginger ale especially on a hot afternoon (see recipe down below).

In the Throat 13/15

The finish for Hiram Walker Special Old is as bold and dry as the delivery which is again full of spices, rye and citrus accents. Yet.. there is such a nice smoothness in the finish as well with no severe burn to spoil the ending.  Again my temptation is to score this perhaps just a touch higher.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

I think this is a very nice Canadian Whisky full of rich rye flavour and spicy oak!  The boldness of the flavour really appeals to me, especially in the  finish which was so nice and smooth in spite of the aggressiveness of the whisky.

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


Suggested Recipes

SAM_0493 Horses NeckHorses Neck

2 oz Hiram Walker Special Old Rye Whisky
4 to 8 oz Ginger Ale
Cracked Ice
peel from one lemon.

Peel a lemon carefully so that it is removed in one continual spiral.
(Hopefully you do a better job than I did!)
Place the spiral in a highball glass
Fill the glass halfway with cracked ice.
Add the rye whisky
Add the ginger ale.
Let the glass sit for several minutes

Serve (preferably with straws)

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

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!


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 “Hiram Walker Special Old”

  1. Malti Malt said

    Don’t write so much good things about this Whisky!!
    After Hiram Walker take the price 500% up!!
    But even this price he deserve!!
    One TOP Canadian spirit product!!

    My score: 93/100!!
    One real Canadian whisky bargain!
    One of the best Canadian you can buy!!!

  2. Brian said

    I just found an unopened bottle of Walker’s Special Old from 1969. It still has the old LCBO paper seal on it. It was in the very back of a cupboard all these years, in the dark, and it still looks good to me. Is this anything special to a connoisseur?

    • I do not track the sale prices of old bottles much anymore so I have no idea of its value. If I was you, I would save it for a special occasion and enjoy!

  3. Joyce said

    I have been drinking Canadian special Old Whiskey for sometime now. The price is right and the taste I injoy. I would pickup a bottle at First Canadian Place, Toronto. Here is the bad news the LCBO had decided not to carry this brand of Whiskey in there stores. They told me to go to the airport ( duty free )
    Sorry No Airport for me.

  4. Robert Jordan said

    I love this whisky for it’s price and for it’s taste. Every time i have a drink of Special Old i enjoy every sip, especially since it goes down rather smooth.

  5. Jason said

    just bought a bottle of this at Calgary duty free, fantastic price.
    about to embark on a ‘horses neck’ ride whilst i read some more of your reviews.

    great stuff here my friend, [and in this heavy Hiram bottle] 🙂


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