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Wiser’s Red Letter 2013 Release

Review: Wiser’s Red Letter (2013 Release) 95/100
A Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 24, 2014

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.

Last year 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 % abv..


Red Letter SAM_1386In the Bottle 5/5

The 2013 Red Letter Whisky arrives in the same masculine decanter which housed the 150th Anniversary Edition. However this time Wiser’s did away with the expensive oak box and leather straps which held the previous version. It was a good decision, as this clearly differentiates the two versions for collectors (like myself) and allows the new whisky to be more accessible to me when I wish to have another small glass. As before these bottles are individually numbered, my sample bottle is number 0693 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 golden colour, and when I tilt that glass and twirl it, I see a thickened sheen of whisky on the inside, the crest of which slowly drops medium-sized leglets which form slightly thickened legs as the droplets amble back down.

The immediate nose is full of corn and bourbon-like smells rich in vanilla, maple, toffee and honeycomb. Corby’s Canadian Whisky Ambassador shared with me that the spirit is predominantly a corn whisky, and the nose certainly verifies this claim. As the glass sits the oak begins to make a larger presence with fine wood spices rising with zesty orange peel, and some lovely layers of both dark bitter-sweet chocolate and sweeter milk chocolate.  I really enjoy the aroma, especially the chocolate filled oak notes which have arrived after ten minutes of sniffing.

In the Mouth 57/60

I was very curious to see if I would like this version of the Red Letter as much as I enjoyed its predecessor. As you can see from the score, I enjoyed it even more than before. The 2013 version has all the wonderful flavour and zest of the 2007, but (to me anyways) there seems to be an added layer of silky elegance this time around. I taste a firm presence of sharp wood spices and orange peel, however, this sharpness ( which I am sure is also due to the 90 bottling proof) is contrasted by the silky mouth feel of a luscious corn whisky. Honeycomb and maple flavours slide through the hot spiciness of the whisky, and soon the orange peel tastes more like marmalade, and the fine wood spices more like a nice spicy maple toffee. Underpinning everything is an impression of lovely chocolate flavours which seem to ooze from the whisky as it is swallowed.

In the Throat 14/15

The whisky smacks at the tonsils and heat the throat with wood spice and orange peel, but also exits with tremendous flavours of corn syrup and maple toffee. Lasting the longest is that persistent impression of chocolate which I do not remember from the Anniversary edition.

The Afterburn 9.5/10

Every year I seem to encounter a whisky gem which knocks me for a loop. The Red Letter Whisky is full of spice and attitude, yet it has its silky softer side which makes it all the more engaging. A wonderful whisky, one of Canada’s very best!

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)

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