Alberta Premium 25 year old Canadian whisky

Alberta Premium aged 25 years (40% alc./vol.)

March 26, 2011

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Sweet vanilla pods and fresh-cut lumber. A complex mosaic of flavours from cedar to tropical fruit set on a creamy base with hot pepper and a delicate underlying citric zest. Rich & Oaky. ★★★★★

Alberta Premium gets a lot of mileage from the fact that it is made from a mash of 100% rye grain. And so it should. Rye is not an easy grain to work with. It’s sticky when mashed and tends to gum up the works in a distillery. But it is a key contributor to the flavour of Canadian whisky and when a whisky that is made with 100% rye comes along you can be justified in expecting something out of the ordinary. Alberta Premium is just that. Yes, it has a typical Canadian rye whisky profile—toffee, wood, ripe fruit, citric zest, and loads of pepper—but this 25-year-old version is a multi-layered, robust, yet somehow fragile specimen. It is typical of the big Canadian whiskies and nothing like the in-your-face 51% American straight ryes that people so often compare Canadian rye whisky to.

No, with care and skill it is possible to get a typical, albeit hugely spectacular, Canadian rye whisky without using corn in the mash bill. It’s just a really difficult thing to do and perhaps this is why Alberta Distillers is the only distillery in Canada that has chosen to do this.

Nose: A powerful whiff of wood then a wealth of sweet rye spices dissolve slowly into dark fruits. The aroma begins to dry out before it suddenly sparkles with bursts of ginger. An appealing fresh-cut lumber, rich in cedar and oak, forms a backbone that supports everything else.

Palate: Vanilla toffee, then loads of wood: Canadian wood, not the harsh tannic oak of first-use barrels, but fresh and aromatic like a lumberyard. Some slightly drying tannins do sneak in after a few minutes, though. Fragrant red cedar is underscored by hot pepper and sweet rye spices. A refreshing limey zest develops quickly. The peppery spices are warm, mingling neatly with a touch of ripe fruit. It’s zesty, but it’s also creamy and has decent weight.

By the middle, all kinds of rye baking spices have arrived with ginger leading the way. Then this is overtaken by the familiar earthiness of rye, reminiscent of a wet West Coast rainforest. As the palate grows hotter, strong sweet rye spices: cloves-allspice-cinnamon, a rich fruitiness, and an ever-present fresh wood, maintain the balance. It’s very complex and very expressive, yet everything is neatly integrated and contained.

Like the wood and the pepper, the fruit lasts throughout but it’s undefined until, suddenly, some berry notes assert themselves only to be pushed aside by tropical fruits, especially pineapple. Notions of exotic woods like sandalwood, some burnt sugar, maybe a flash of chocolate, and a whole range of disparate fruity-woody-spicy flavours knit neatly into one. Believe me, you won’t get all this in just one tasting.

Finish: Longish, hot, and ever changing. Fresh-cut wood, then pepper with traces of peppermint and sweet baking spices, are followed by dried rye grain and an earthy sourness. A slight cleansing citric zest grows more evident as the hot pepper begins to fade. Stays woody until it finally disappears.

Empty Glass: The morning after offers everything the night before promised: fresh-cut timber still in the forest with sweetish overtones of vanilla toffee, a dash of sour rye, a flash of peppermint, then wafting wood smoke, some sharp fruit, more toffee, more fresh lumber, and way in the background a whiff of a lumberjack’s empty beer bottles.

Alberta Premium 25 year old was a single batch released in 2007. Like most ryes released in Canada, the label describes it simply as Canadian Rye Whisky. Nowhere does the word “blend” appear, nor should it. Yes, this is a mixture of rye whiskies, but they are made in the same distillery. So it’s a single-distillery whisky and a mighty fine one at that.

Alberta Distillers makes a whole range of top shelf whiskies, and this, the limited edition 25-year-old, is the pinnacle of their achievement. Not that the others are any slouches, but this senior citizen has been left to age gracefully until it exemplifies the very essence of real Canadian rye whisky—sweet and peppery rye spices, fresh wood, fruitiness, and a cleansing citric zest.

It’s sold out at LCBO and a bit difficult to find elsewhere these days, but if you see a bottle, do pick it up. At about $30.00 this is very much a bang-for-your-buck whisky. Collectible.

Very Highly Recommended

★★★★★

Alberta Springs 10 year old reviewed here.

Alberta Premium 30 year old is reviewed here.

Alberta Premium Dark Horse is reviewed here.


Comments

43 Responses to “Alberta Premium aged 25 years (40% alc./vol.)”

  1. 25$ for a 25yo… wow ! Still have one in my shelf. But if i have to chosse between the no age statement and the 25 (no matter the price) my heart still goes on the NAS.

  2. Davin:

    I agree André, the NAS is pretty good stuff, but the 25yo really is very, very special.
    Davin

  3. Mike:

    One of my favourite whiskies. A pity it can’t be found in Ontario anymore. I love its huge, creamy body and flavours of vanilla, butterscotch and chocolate.

  4. Davin:

    You hit the nail on the head, Mike.

  5. Mike:

    One thing that mystifies me: how does this stuff sell so cheaply? Did Alberta Distillers actually set aside barrels for a quarter-century with the intention of selling the whisky at Crown Royal prices? Not that I’m complaining…

    • Davin:

      I have to agree with you. This whisky was seriously under-priced.

  6. tim:

    I found a liqour store in Edmonton that still has over a case – the price is now around $55. Do you think this would be a good whisky to put on the back shelf for 10 years and see what it is worth at that time?

  7. Davin:

    I’m not sure about investing in bottles for profit. When Alberta Premium 25 started getting scarce I bought 4 bottles to save for drinking. Canadian whisky doesn’t appreciate in value that quickly. Although if it’s $55 now, that means it has already doubled.

  8. tim:

    I’m playing a bit of catch up now, as I only started my whisky collection about one year ago. Think I’ll grab one bottle now and ponder on a second.
    Thanks.

    • Davin:

      Well there’s always new stuff coming along, but the Alberta Premium 25 year old is worth having if you are “collecting”.

  9. Shell Freilich:

    Thank you for a quite informative review of the Alberta Premium 25 year. How does it compare to the Alberta Premium 5 year? And, is Alberta Premium the only 100% Rye currently bottled in Canada, or are there others?

    I am a Rye Whiskey aficionado, and am looking forward to a trip across the border for a tasting. (I am on the Michigan side of the border, across from Windsor, Ont.)

    Best regards,

    Shell

    • Davin:

      Hi Shell,

      Alberta Premium 5 year old is a top-end, economy, mixing whisky. It is very good. Alberta Premium 25 year old is a top-end sipping whisky. It is GREAT! While the 5 year old still shows youthful exuberance, and has some spirity notes (people like that in a mixer), the 25 year old is refined, complex and almost fragile. I’ll take the 25 year old over the other any day.

      And it is not a matter of batches either, because the newer batches of the 5 year old are indistinguishable from the older ones I have tasted.

      Alberta Springs is sometimes 100% rye and Tangle Ridge is always 100% rye. There are also a number of economy brands made by Alberta Distillers that can be 100% rye.

      Personally, I am not sold on the idea that 100% rye is always best. Sometimes the most complex rye whiskies come from mixed mash bill.

  10. Shell Freilich:

    Thanks very much for the information and insights, Davin.

    Regrettably, the Alberta Premium 25 year appears to be pretty scarce. I am unable to find it in Ontario and the LCBO indicates that it was a special release only and no longer carry it.

    I have been seen comments that Tangle Ridge has a hint of sherry and touch of vanilla (and natural flavors) added before it is double casked.

    My understanding is that Alberta Premium (as well as Crown Royal and Crown Royal Special Reserve) do not use additives in the mash bill or in final whisky.

    Is the use of additives common in other Canadian whiskies?

    Thanks and regards,

    Shell

    • Davin:

      Hi Shell,

      Every now and then I pull up the inventory of whiskies available at LCBO and when I see some are running out, I buy a few bottles. It’s easy to do on the product search page. Alberta Premium 25 has been gone for about a year, if I remember, and I got the last four in Ottawa. I did see it in several stores in Alberta recently, and in the comments above Tim said it is still available at a store in Edmonton but for $55.00 (worth it in my opinion).

      There is much speculation about so-called “blenders” added to whisky either to alter the flavour, or just to get the US tax break. Yes, sometimes whisky makers do add small amounts to achieve a flavour profile, but very often they don’t. Tax regulations allow up to one part in eleven of blenders although. By and large blenders are used less for whiskies sold in Canada than they are for those exported.

  11. Shell Freilich:

    I have been unsuccessful in locating any Alberta Premium 25 year for purchase. (I even tried to detect the Edmonton liquor store that Tim mentioned which still has over a case left, but had no success.)

    I also contacted Beam Global Canada. They indicated that the 25 year was a limited edition and “we ran out”. They did say that they have a 30 year old that is in production now and will be available sometime in the autumn.

    Shell

    • Davin:

      Hi Shell,
      Well that certainly is good news! I only hope they are ready for the demand created by the spectacular 25 year old.
      Davin

  12. tim:

    The liqour store in Edmonton is called the Liqour Gallery – but you’ll see that the price has gone up again.

    I lucked out at a small liqour store a few days ago and found two bottles of AB Prem 25 for only $26 each!!

    • Davin:

      And I assume you bought both of them! Yes there still is some out there, but it’s going quickly.

  13. Shell Freilich:

    Thank you Tim. I very much appreciate the kind information.

    Shell (shell@freilich.com)

  14. tim:

    Shell, you are most welcome.

  15. Shell Freilich:

    Tim, Could you send me your e-mail address? I have a question I’d like to ask. Thanks, Shell (e-mail: shell@freilich.com)

  16. Simon:

    For those seeking Alberta Premium 25yr old in Edmonton, there are currently 8 bottles left at the Ramada Inn Liquor Store, 5359 Gateway Blvd and a few bottles at Whitemud Crossing Liquor Store, 4211 106 st. (just beside the Red Robin). Good luck in your searches.

    • Davin:

      Thank you very much Simon. This is a very sought-after bottling and rightly so.

  17. John:

    I have one of these AS 25yo in my collection. I have been meaning to buy another one to drink, but I guess not. :(

  18. Daniel:

    Hi All, I spoke to an insider at the distillery and got this info on the 30 year old:

    It is true and it will be released in the new year (2011). Its pricing will be higher than the 25 year old by a lot. The 25 year old’s pricing was a “gift” from Beam Global to it’s customers. The 30 yo will have a price to reflect it’s age & it will be very good.

    DR

    • Davin:

      Hi Daniel,

      This is very, very good news indeed. Thank you so much for the update.
      Yes, the pricing of the 25 year old was so low it was just ridiculous. Multiply by 3 and we start getting into more realistic territory given the quality. Thank you Beam Global for the gift; I’m afraid I got a bit greedy and bought several. If the 30 is as good as rumours have it, I may just be able to end my search for the perfect dram.

      Davin

  19. Karl:

    Hi all, started reading this blog a couple weeks back. I have recently started collecting high end rare Canadian whisky’s and thought I may never find the AP 25yr, but I lucked out and stumbled upon a store that still had ten bottles!! Needless to say I bought all but two. My father in law and I cracked one and sampled it….WOW this is by far the best rye that I have ever tasted. Worth every penny even though the price has shot up. My hope is that the rumoured 30 year is just as good as I’ll be adding it to my collection as well. Thanks for the post, without it I may never have tried this whiskey…I’m in love! lol

    • Davin:

      Thanks for your kind comments, Karl. Yes, Alberta Premium 25 year old is a real winner.
      Davin

  20. Tom:

    Karl you are so lucky, I couldn’t find one in B.C. Good thing I saved a few bottles, I think when the whisky is no longer available. It is priceless!

  21. chrism76:

    I don’t understand..

    I’ve read somewhere that whisky doesn’t age once it’s in a glass bottle.

    Why would it gain value if kept for 10 years unopened if it doesn’t age.

    I understand if they’re no longer making them but otherwise would it gain value?

    • Davin:

      Hi,
      Alberta Premium 25 year old is no longer in production so it’s case of supply and demand.
      Davin

  22. Belinda:

    Hi,
    Any idea on where to start searching for a bottle of the 25year old Alberta? I called Toronto LCBO and there isn’t any in Toronto stores?
    Thanks

    • Davin:

      Hi Belinda,
      It is very unlikely you will find this anywhere as it has been sold out for quite some time. There were a few in Alberta 6 or 8 months ago, but as far as I know they are gone also. The 30 year old is just as good, if not better, though.

      • Belinda:

        Hi Davin,
        Thanks very much for your help

  23. Dan:

    25-year-old Alberta Premium was a gift for sure, and what a gift it was, bursting with juicy rye flavour. I bought a case in Ontario at $30 a bottle. I kept an eye on supply and picked up 6 more at $24 a bottle. That’s just insane! What’s the average price of a single malt scotch, $250?

    If I had to stay with one whisky for the rest of my days, it would have to be rye. If I was raised in the US, it would probably be rye, if I were Scottish it would probably be single malt scotch. My point is, Rye is as valid as the other choices, and Alberta Premium is as good as it gets.

    I have two bottles left, one I’ve already started, the last I’m saving for the right time. Fortunately 30YO Alberta Premium came along just in time to assuage my grief. MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

  24. Robert Jordan:

    I found a few bottle of the 25 year old in my hometown Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. Sound slike these may be close to the very last ones. In case any one was still searching.

    • paddockjudge:

      Hello RJ,
      what an incredible find!
      I’d be up for a trade. Perhaps a one-for-one trade of Alberta 30 year old for the 25 or maybe one of the Forty Creek offerings from Ontario, such as the newly released Port Wood?
      Fun to think about – the exchange would take some planning.

      Cheers, pj

  25. Andrew:

    I was recently at a tasting at the house of a friend of mine who managed to store a few bottles of this and the 30yo away for years to come. While I was blown away by the depth and conplexity of these two well aged ryes, I just felt that they could have been thicker and richer. ADL spends 25-30 aging the best 100% rye whisky in the world and then they bottle it at 40% and chill filter it? Sure you Davin, as a Malt Maniac, have to be a little disappointed that they weren’t at minimum 46% and ncf.

  26. Laurie:

    Hi, I have a bottle of Alberta Springs whiskey made in 1975, glass bottle and in a wooden box…anyone have an idea what it’s worth??? Thanks

    • Davin:

      In the $40 to $60 range.

  27. [...] Davin de Kergommeaux has compiled both excellent tasting notes and everything you could possibly want to know about Alberta Premium 25 years old 100% Rye whisky, see his fantastic and detailed review and tasting notes at Canadian Whisky.org [...]


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