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Windsor Canadian Whisky

Review: Windsor Canadian Whisky   (85.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted on July 25, 2011 (Re-scored December 2015)

Windsor Canadian is currently produced by Beam Suntory at the Alberta Distillers Limited (ADL) facility in Calgary Alberta. Beam Suntory gives the following description on their website information regarding this whisky,

“A light, delicately flavored whisky, Windsor® Canadian is Canada’s smoothest. Windsor is made from cereal grains grown near Calgary, Alberta, combined with the pure, clear glacial stream water of Western Canada and aged in the dry, mile-high Canadian Rocky Mountains. “

I suppose we should allow the marketing gurus at Beam Suntory a little poetic license when they make the claim that Windsor Canadian is Canada’s smoothest Whisky, as this is purely a judgement call and would be ‘in the eye of the beholder’ so to speak. However, I find the statement that the Whisky is aged in the ‘dry, mile high Rocky Mountains’ a little hard to swallow. As far as I know, the producers of Windsor Canadian, Alberta Distillers, age all of their whisky on site in Calgary, which is located about 70 miles east of those Rocky Mountains, on the western edge of the Canadian Prairies. And Calgary’s elevation at 1083m above sea levels is much closer to a kilometer than it is to mile. Of course, I could be wrong, Maybe ADL has a secret aging warehouse in the Rockies, (but I doubt it).

An interesting bit of history regarding Windsor Canadian is that the whisky was originally launched as Windsor Supreme in 1963 by the American firm, National Distillers. The brand quickly became so popular that this American firm purchased the ADL Distillery in order to secure a plentiful source of high quality 100 % rye grain whisky for bottling and blending. In 1987, Fortune Brands (Beam Global) also had an eye for quality 100 % rye grain whisky, and they in turn purchased both the Windsor brand and the ADL Distillery from National (source: Canadian Whisky the Portable Expert, Copyright 2012 – Davin De Kergoumeaux, McClelland & Stewart publishers). Of course, if you follow the whisky news you will know that the Japanese spirits giant, Suntory, recently acquired Beam Global. I do not think that it is stretch to suggest that Calgary’s own, Alberta Distillers Limited was the diamond in the rough which Suntory was seeking to secure for themselves as ADL is currently the largest producer of 100 % rye grain whisky in the entire world, and in fact, one of the few remaining producers of high quality 100 % rye grain whisky.

Windsor CanadianIn the Bottle  3.5/5

To the left is a photo of my 1 liter plastic (PET) sample bottle of Windsor Canadian Whisky. I also have a 375 ml flask style sample bottle which displays essentially the same basic label. What I have not seen for a long time is a glass bottle configuration, and indeed when I checked with Connect Logistics, I discovered that the only SKUs available in Alberta are of the Plastic bottle variety.

I guess you could say that I am underwhelmed by the bottle presentation. The label looks like it has not been updated for many years, and the bottle itself rather than being updated has instead been downgraded from glass to plastic. Nothing says bottom shelf louder than a product which is only sold in plastic. Hopefully the next evolution of the packaging does not include a square box with a plastic bladder inside. (If you have ever bought really cheap wine you know the box I am talking about.)

In the Glass 8.5/10

I poured a small sample of the whisky into my glencairn glass and noticed that the spirit was perhaps a little darker than I anticipated as it displays as a medium amber coloured liquid which is just beginning the journey from golden to copper. When I tilt and twirl the whisky in the glass I see that the crest which forms inside releases slender legs which run quickly back down into the spirit. The initial nose is very typically ‘Canadian’ with firm butterscotch scents lying alongside a fruit-filled spicy rye. As I let the glass sit, some dusty ripened grain notes develop along with accompanying scents of straw and the chaff. There is a bit of dry grassiness reminiscent of timothy and foxtail and some zesty notes of orange and lemon peel. Rounding out the nose are a few bits of cinnamon and dark brown sugar.

I like what I am sensing within the glass; however, I must admit that a light winding astringency is apparent as well hinting to me that this is probably a youthful blend of Canadian Whisky.

In the Mouth 52/60

As I sip the whisky, I taste a nice firm butterscotch and maple flavour complimented by fruit-filled rye and fine wood spices. There are also hints of lemon peel and a touch of grassy tobacco. As the glass sits I notice baking spices (vanilla, brown sugar and cinnamon) playing coy in the background and the sweetness of the whisky seems to increase as I continue to sip. The Windsor Canadian has a youthful exuberance which is coupled with a lightly complex character. Although it is easy to sip, I feel that the light spirit is much more suited to mixing.

To that end I mix a few Canadian Whisky Splash cocktails, and confirm that this is a great way to enjoy Windsor Canadian Whisky.

In the Throat 13/15

Although I poked a little fun at the marketing claim that the Windsor Whisky is the smoothest in Canada, I am going to give the blenders of the spirit a little credit here. I popped a full swallow into my mouth, swooshed it around a little, and then let it pour down my throat in one gulp. The claim of smoothness is not an empty one. Given that the aroma and the taste of the whisky indicates to me that we have a youthful blend, the smoothness of the whisky is remarkable. The palate is left heated with little pockets of spice and the finish is short and crisp. However I detect no burn in the throat, nor do I feel any need to stop myself from pouring another mouthful and repeating the exercise.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

Windsor Canadian is a very nice indulgence. Although it is probably not the smoothest whisky in Canada, it is nevertheless remarkable easy to sip, and is in fact quite enjoyable in that format. However, it is in the realm of the mixed drink that this Canadian whisky finds itself most comfortable, and in my way of thinking, that is not a bad thing at all.

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


Suggested Recipes

Those who have been reading my recent reviews know that I have been having a lot of fun this year working with a classic cocktail called the Brandy Crusta. The old cocktail books I have read seem to hint that Brandy was originally the choice spirit for mixing cocktails, and many of the old Brandy recipes were later altered to suit other spirits. Hence the Brandy Crusta spawned the Rum Crusta, and the Whiskey Crusta.

This is my take on the Crusta with respect to how it should be constructed with Canadian Whisky. I call my recipe, the Canadian Crusta.

Canadian Crusta

 Canadian Crusta2 oz Windsor Canadian Whisky
1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
3/8 oz Sugar Syrup
1/4 oz Yukon Jack
dash Angostura Bitters
Fine sugar
Spiral Lemon Peel
splash of Ginger Ale

Rim a cocktail glass with a wedge of Lime
Powder the rim of the glass with fine sugar
Place a Spiral lime Peel in the bottom of the glass
Place the first 5 ingredients in a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the sides of the shaker frost
Strain onto the spiral lemon peel in the cocktail glass
Complete with a splash of Ginger-Ale
Add a lump of ice in the center of the lemon spiral


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)

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