J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter Whisky
Review: J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter (2015 Release) 94.5/100
A Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted December 2016
Wiser’s Red Letter was re-introduced to Canadians in 2007 to pay homage to the 150th anniversary of John Philip Wiser’s distillery in Prescott, Ontario 1857 – 2007), as well as to the original Red Letter Whisky which Wiser’s produced in the late 1800s. In 2009, when I reviewed the inaugural 150th Adversary Edition (see review here), I was told by my contacts within Corby, that the spirit contained various blends of whisky which (although they ranged in age) were all ten years old or more. After these mature whiskies were blended they were then finished in virgin white oak barrels for 150 days. Once the final characteristic of flavour had been achieved, the Red Letter was bottled at 45 % alcohol by volume (non chill filtered). In developing the spirit, the folks at Wiser’s apparently researched the original J.P Wiser’s Red Letter 19th century recipe using it as a guideline to construct their celebratory whisky.
In 2013 Corby, once again in a tribute to their founder J.P Wiser released Wiser’s Red Letter Whisky 2013 Release. As with the 150th Anniversary Edition the whisky was finished in virgin white oak casks and then bottled without chill filtering at 45 % alcohol by volume. In 2015 Corby began a re-branding of the entire Wiser’s lineup adding the initials of John Philip Wiser to the brand name across the portfolio.
J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter Whisky (2015 Release) is, just like the previous editions of the brand, aged for at least 10 years in American bourbon barrels and then further mellowed by finishing in virgin white oak casks. And of course it is still bottle at 45 % alcohol by volume.
In the Bottle 5/5
J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter Whisky arrives in the same masculine decanter which housed both the 150th Anniversary Edition and the 2013 edition. The whisky is housed in a faux oak box with an open front to showcase the whisky and its fine decanter. I like the new presentation which is not so cumbersome as the original boxy presentation which makes the whisky more accessible when I wish to have a small dram. As before these bottles are individually numbered, my sample bottle is number 2232 from Bond No. 0006075.
In the Glass 9.5/10
When I pour the whisky into my glencairn glass I notice it has a rich amber colour, and when I tilt that glass and twirl it, I see a thickened sheen of whisky on the inside, the crest of which only very slowly drops medium-sized leglets.
The immediate nose is full of both dusty rye and lush corn with yummy vanilla, maple, toffee and baking spices revealing themselves alongside. Corby’s Canadian Whisky Ambassador shared with me that the spirit is predominantly a corn whisky, and the corn smells continue to grow verifying his claim. As the glass sits the tobacco and oak seem to both well from the glass dusty grain spices, zesty orange peel, and layers of both dark bitter-sweet chocolate and sweeter milk chocolate. Not to be outdone by the corn, the rye makes a comeback several moments later.
Everything I sense in the glass promises me a great whisky experience.
In the Mouth 56.5/60
The 2015 version of the Red Letter Whisky seems to hearken back to the original 2007 version as the whisky pushes a bevy of spicy goodness across the palate giving the taste buds a treat and the tonsils a wallop as it goes down. Lush corn and bittersweet rye meld with the oak spices allowing flavours of rich chocolate, maple and vanilla to ride along with the oak spice and alcohol heat. This is lovely stuff.
I sip slowly so as not to assault my tonsils too badly, and the rich lush flavour continues to impress me. I taste whispers of apricot brandy and orange Curacao meandering into the flavour profile with hints of marzipan not far behind. It is as if a new layer of flavour is revealed with each sip.
In the Throat 14/15
As I indicated, the J.P. Wiser’s Red Letter Whisky smacks at the tonsils and heat the palate with wood spice, alcohol heat (as well as a firm bite of orange peel zest). However, the exit also features wonderful flavours of maple and vanilla with a nice accent of cinnamon and tobacco. Lush flavours of sweet corn provide a fitting finale with all that lovely sweetness serving as a perfect foil for the heat and spice.
The Afterburn 9.5/10
There really is only one word that can sum up a whisky this good.
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)