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Potters Special Old Rye Whisky

Potters Special Old Rye Whisky    (85/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on December 28, 2010 (Re-scored September 2016)

Potter’s Special Old Rye Whisky was originally produced by Potter’s Distilleries (founded by Ernie Potter in 1958). When Highwood Distillers finalized the purchase of Potter’s Distilleries in 2005, they brought all of the aging whisky stocks from the Potter’s warehouse facilities in Kelowna, British Colombia to their new warehouse facility in High River, Alberta and continued to let them age at their site in the foothills just east of the Rocky Mountains. From these aging whisky stocks Highwood has kept the Potter’s Whisky brands alive, incorporating them into their portfolio of whisky products.

Potter’s Special Old Rye Whisky is primarily a corn-based whisky which has been aged in charred American White Oak barrels for 4 – 5 years.  As per Canadian tradition, the whisky is labeled as a “Rye Whisky” because of the rye flavour profile which has been imparted by adding a percentage of aged rye grain whisky to the blend.  The bottle I am reviewing was given to me by Allan Owen, the Highwood Distillers Sales Rep in my area.

potters-sam_2812In the Bottle 3.5/5

Nowadays it seems like I only can find Potters Special Old Rye Whisky sold in plastic PET bottles. (I like the older glass bottle shown with my cocktail below a lot better). The plastic bottle is rectangular in shape and it sits easily on my shelf with the other whisky bottles. For bartenders, the bottle is easy to store, easy to hold and easy to pour. The labeling is simple but not unattractive.

My first quibble is with the word ‘old’ in the name of the whisky. Potter’s Whisky is aged for only 4 to 5 years, and yet it carries the moniker of ‘special old’.  In Canadian whisky terms 4 to five years of aging is not particularly long and I feel this whisky cannot convincingly be termed as an  ‘Old’ Canadian Whisky. A ‘Special’ whisky perhaps, but not ‘Old’. Although it is technically legal for a Canadian Whisky to carry the word ‘old’ as part of its name when aged for this length of time, I believe, that the term is perhaps a little misleading.

My other quibble is th eplastic PEt bottle which i feel cheapens the overall look of the brand.

In the Glass  8.5/10

The whisky displays a nice light copper and mahogany colouration and imparts a little oil onto the sides of my glass when swirled. The rye is front and center on the nose with light vanilla following and hints of corn fields waving in the background. Fine wood spices and orange peel build in the air as the glass breathes and some light grassy tobacco scents gather as well.

This smells like a good old-fashioned Canadian Whisky and in fact it reminds me of the style whisky I drank 25 years ago. There is perhaps a light astringency in the air, but this is easily forgiven.

In the Mouth  51.5/60

The initial delivery of the Potter’s Whisky belies its young age. I could easily believe that this is an 8 or a 10-year-old whisky, as it has none of the harshness which I associate with young whisky. A clean spicy rye is out in front carried by light oak and the combination delivers a wonderful mouth-feel full of what I can only term as old-time traditional Canadian Whisky flavour. In fact this might just be the closest that I have come to recapturing the Canadian Whisky flavour that I remember from my younger days. The rye livens the mouth with a light spice, and a nice soft punch of vanilla with a light accent of corn completes this nicely.

I should perhaps make the point as well that this is a stellar mixing whisky  especially when mixed with that Canadian favourite, ginger ale!

In the Throat 13/15

This old-fashioned whisky kicks lightly at the tonsils with a finish that is all rye spice with ghostly trails of vanilla. A touch of caramel arrives at the end, and I have the impulse to sip again.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

Potter’s Special Old is a really nice traditional Canadian Rye Whisky. Whether you want to enjoy it in a traditional rye cocktail, or if you want to slowly sip on a nice tonsil licking whisky, this one fits the bill. I have been impressed and delighted by what I have found.

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


Suggested Recipes:

I have always believed that Rye Whisky and Ginger-ale are a perfect match. So when I began to think about a cocktail for the Potter’s Special old Rye Whisky that is naturally where I started. What I came up with was a recipe I decide to call the Riverside Cooler. Try it, I think you will be surprised by how nice it is.

Riverside Cooler
(an Arctic Wolf Recipe)

1 1/2 oz Potter’s Special Old Rye
1/2 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp simple syrup

Pour the whisky, the lemon juice, and the simple syrup into a metal shaker
Shake until the sides frost.
Strain into an ice-filled glass.
Top with Ginger-ale
Garnish with a slice of lemon

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 usual, 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)


6 Responses to “Potters Special Old Rye Whisky”

  1. Blair Henry said

    I have found a bottle of Potter’s Special Old 1.14L from 1985 Un opened . Debating weather open or would it be worth something ?

  2. Alex said

    I tried a bottle of this after this review and I must say, I thought it was pretty awful. I’m not a whisky connoisseur but I found it to have a simplistic, overly sweet taste with a sharp, nasty burn. Could barely drink it neat. I was tasting it alongside Wiser’s Deluxe and I hugely preferred the latter. The Wiser’s smelled much more interesting and pleasant too. This one barely smells like anything. However I did enjoy your Riverside Cooler cocktail.

    • Hi Alex. I am glad you enjoyed my cooler recipe.

      I am planning to revisit this whisky this fall with a newer bottle, and you have made me curious as to whether I will taste that same nice old-fashioned whisky which I remember from two years ago. Stay tuned…

  3. Laurie Savoie said

    I came across a Potters Distillery special bottle, (for the want of a better word), presentation piece, I’d guess. Would you have any idea about this sort of thing…in any liquor?

    I’ve never seen this…with Potters, although I have 1950’s White Horse Whiskey advertising piece. Didn’t hold whiskey though, as this one did.

    Thank you.

    Laurie Savoie

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