Wiser’s Legacy: Canadian Whisky Review

October 11, 2011


Wiser’s Legacy (45% alc./vol.)

Sweet, rich and very spicy with overt rye notes. Cinnamon and cloves, dark fruits, hot peppermint and citric zest. Spectacular. Very highly recommended. ★★★★★

On April 30, one hundred years ago, the Canadian whisky legend John Philip Wiser died in Prescott, Ontario, following his long and distinguished career making Canadian whisky.

The funeral service was held in Prescott and then Wiser’s cortege crossed the St. Lawrence River to New York State, where he was born, and where his remains were interred in a shady nook on the banks of the gentle Oswegatchie River.

Wiser built a thriving distillery in Prescott and earned a stellar reputation for making great whisky but his distillery languished after his death. Six years later, his heirs sold out to Corby’s who maintained his approach and recipes. Soon, however, production of Wiser’s whiskies moved to Corbyville, Ontario. Not even a trace of Wiser’s distillery, nor his equally successful cattle and horse farm, remain today in Prescott.

Corby’s distillery eventually closed as well. As for Wiser’s whiskies, they have now found a third home at the Hiram Walker distillery in Walkerville, Ontario. Although the founder has been gone for a full century, several of Wiser’s whiskies still live on, including Legacy, which is faithfully mashed and distilled according to J.P.’s original recipe. Legacy, in fact, was Wiser’s final creation; he was close to bringing it to market when he died.

The fittingly named Wiser’s Legacy stands as a testament to the quality of early Canadian whisky, and to the pioneer distiller whose influence was fundamental in establishing the Canadian whisky style. And that style? Well to begin with, much of the whisky in Legacy is distilled in a traditional copper pot still from a mash rich in rye-grain. The white-oak barrels used to mature Legacy are toasted, not charred, creating a most amazing range of typical ‘rye’ spices. Legacy is the clear leader of the Wiser’s range, and despite the fact that it is a relatively recent release it has already begun to garner awards and accolades.

Although the physical evidence of his distillery is long gone, one hundred years after his death, J.P. Wiser can rest in peace as his most important legacies remain in caring hands: his approach to making whisky, and this release: Legacy.

Nose: Stewed prunes turn instantly into sweet baking spices. Mild sawdust notes, peppermint and dry tobacco leaves speak of toasted oak, while classic rye grain comes through very strongly in aromas of sour rye bread, hot dark rye bread and dusty raw rye grain. Rye spices then take the stage with cinnamon and cloves predominating. Faintly, lilacs begin to blossom then fade in a breeze of pickle notes. This is a complex nose that rewards patience, as more sweet toasted wood, dairy barn, sweet flowers – violets maybe – and hints of menthol waft in and out.

Palate: Toffee sweet and fruity with very hot pepper. Just hints of fresh-cut wood, along with rye bread and the hottest peppermint, which slowly becomes more peppery and less minty. Zesty citric notes complement a real gingery zing and hot cinnamon, before the palate returns to fruit, this time apricots, candied dried baking fruit, and bitter lemon. A huge and very complex palate.

Finish: Medium-long, fading on rye bread and hot spices with a hint of wood at the end.

Empty Glass: Prune juice and generic ripe black fruits. The morning-after glass is very expressive with hints of dry wood, burnt wood, mint and rye spices complementing the fruitiness.

$50.00 at LCBO (new price).
Very Highly Recommended ★★★★★

An introduction to Wiser’s Legacy with more tasting notes and comparisons to other whiskies is found here.

Wiser’s Small Batch is reviewed here.

Wiser’s 18 year old is reviewed here.

Wiser’s Red Letter 125th Anniversary Edition is reviewed here.

Wiser’s Red Letter 2013 Release is reviewed here.


33 Responses to “Wiser’s Legacy: Canadian Whisky Review”

  1. Mike:

    I remember Sherry Cask used to sell for $50 in Ontario so I was pleasantly surprised when it came back at $34.95. I’m just glad I held off on Legacy until the price dropped!

  2. Yello to Mello:

    I always wondered why you held off posting your review for this…hahaha…and just in time for a reduced cost. I still don’t regret paying the 85 for it. I think it is worth that price and I will of course get some at the current price.

  3. [...] anniversary of the death of Canadian whisky magnate John Philip Wiser, and to honour the occasion, a review of the aptly named whisky Wiser’s Legacy. [Canadian [...]

  4. Nabil:

    Just tasted the Legacy…I did taste it at SofT but my palate was burned out at that point. Wow! What a beautiful, gentle, yet dynamic whisky. A real Canadian coup. Nice balance between fruit, vanilla, wood, and bubblegummy notes. Loved it.

    • Davin:

      Hi Nabil,
      Glad to see you here on canadianwhisky.org. Yeah, I think Legacy is quite special. I love the spiciness and the wood is almost exotic.

  5. John:

    I just opened this bottle last night. its amazing. the best canadian whisky i’ve had so far.

    • John Velocci:

      About 30 minutes after I finished it, I smelled my glass and it smells as if I drank a glass of Jack Daniels instead. interesting. Anyone else find this?

      • Davin:

        If you haven’t washed it yet, leave it out overnight and check it in the morning.

        • John Velocci:

          I’ll try that next time.

  6. Brian:

    There is no more fabulous a whisky out there on the market right now than Wiser’s Legacy. Seriously they pulled out all the stops for this bottle.

  7. Chris Brown:

    Not sure how widespread the availability is in Canada (or perhaps just Alberta) but Wiser’s has put out a 1 liter bottle of Legacy and is charging the same price as the 750! And yes, it’s a glass bottle.

    I picked mine up at a place called Tops Liquor in Edmonton for $49. (Also available at the liquor store at the airport for a couple of bucks more.)

  8. Andy:

    I would like to see a 1L Legacy for $50, as it is already a steal for $50 for the 750ml. If I only had $100 in my whiskey budget and was in lcbo…i would get 1 legacy and 1 Canadian Club 20.

  9. Zen:

    Anyone else seen the 1L (or is it 1140ml?) for $50. If someone in Calgary knows where to get one, i can ask a friend to buy it and ship it to me. Thanks.

  10. Dave:

    Getting a bottle to bring on a visit to a scotch-drinking Scot–Davin do you, or anyone, have thoughts on this compared to the 18yo? Wondering if you have a preference, and if one might appeal better to a palate used to (non-peaty) scotch whisky. Thanks for all your expertise and advice Davin. Really looking forward to reading your book!

    • Davin:

      Hi Dave,

      It is quite hard to say as these whiskies are very different from each other. Wiser’s 18 is a crispy clean elegant and ever so complex whisky with many subtleties. Legacy also is complex and is much more robust than the 18. If your friend likes elegant non-sherried non-peated malts then the 18 would probably fit the bill. If he is used to big robust in-your-face single malts then I’d try the Legacy.


  11. Rady Radhakrishnan:

    Wisers Whisky is one of the best whiskies I have ever enjoyed, objectively (and unbiasedly) speaking. It doesn’t mean that all other Canadian whiskies are not up to the mark. There are lots of good spirits elsewhere in the world but Wisers is an excellent whisky.

  12. Normand:

    Je possede une bouteille de canadian whisky Wiser vieux de 10 ans. Le sceau – scelle est date de 1950.
    Cette bouteille est a vendre, a qui la chance…

    Normand has a bottle of Wiser’s 10 year old from 1950 for sale.

  13. David:

    Hello Davin,
    Would you happen to know the % breakdown of rye vs other grains in the Legacy ?

    • Davin:

      That probably varies among batches. It would depend on how spicy the rye grain is and that varies a lot from one year to the next.

  14. Shanya:

    As a gift, would you suggest Wiser’s Legacy, Wiser’s 18 Years, or Gibson’s Finest 18 Years? I’m taking it overseas to a friend who has only tried Crown Royal and Canadian Club for Canadian Whiskies.

    • Davin:

      They are al great. You can’t go wrong with any one of them.

  15. Terry:

    Sorry to report that I was very disappointed. There is a bourbon taste that I am not fond of.

  16. Richard Yaremko:


    Wisers Legacy has been dropped from the new 2014 BC Liquor Board catalog. Could this be an indication that Legacy will no longer be released and available from Wisers?

  17. Bob Caron:

    I stopped at the Duty-Free shop in Stanstead Quebec on the way home to the US. They had 1 liter bottles of Legacy for $29.95 CND. I just might be visiting my cousins more often. I brought back 2 bottles of it and a 1 liter bottle of 40 Creek Barrel Select. Glad I had two other adults with me.

  18. [...] So Passover is over, and whisky season is back on. This holiday was a bit different than previous years – not much rest, as we moved house in the middle of the holiday (not that a holiday with small kids is any rest either, but this was more physical with moving, carrying stuff and of course, relocating all the whisky bottles samples etc. to their new dedicated room [yay]). So today’s whisky post is a Canadian whiskey. I am not going to bore you with a lot of details, if you’re interested you can check out Davin’s post on his Excellent blog. [...]

  19. Kyle:

    That is wild I just read this and realized I live in the small town of ogdensburg where he is buried. I live directly across from Prescott. Small world!!

    • Davin:

      It’s a nice peaceful plot at the back of the cemetery.

  20. Tudval:

    I drink most;y scotch malts, but after tasting the wonderfully subtle Masterson’s I thought I’d explore some Canadian rye. Lot 40 was also very good, a bit over the top, but still all good. However, the much praised Legacy gave me pause for thought. I don’t get what the fuss is all about. I think it makes a good Manhattan, but I would not have it neat. But when I see reviewers giving this whisky 94+ scores, I start to wonder what they’ve been smoking..err.. drinking.

  21. Craig:

    Hi Davin, could you clarify for the difference between toasted oak vs. charred oak? Does “toasted” just refer to the lighter end of the charring spectrum?

  22. Grant:

    I bought a bottle last night. Paid $19 (I am in Indiana). I noticed that after I finished that the empty glass held a beautiful, buttery aroma for hours afterward. I haven’t had many whiskeys, mostly bourbons. I like this better.

  23. [...] Jason of In Search of Elegance, Andre and Martin of Quebec Whisky, Chip the RumHowler, Davin of Canadian Whisky, Serge of Whisky Fun, and Jim Murray. More moderate scores are from the rest of the boys at Quebec [...]

  24. Mike:

    I guess this means Gibson’s 18 will eventually also climb to $85 if that is the case, since the prices of these whiskies have been mimicking each other for quite a while. Kind of funny considering that both sold for $39.95 not so many years ago. Talk about inflation!

  25. Davin:

    Hi Mike,

    There are always two sides to every story so I am not going to jump to any conclusions. Legacy is still $85.00 in BC and $86.50 in Quebec. Also, CC Sherry is $30.00 less expensive at LCBO than it is at SAQ in Quebec. Since taxes form the largest part of the price of whisky you would expect prices to vary a bit from province to province. I sent a message off to LCBO management, and also contacted the producer of Wiser’s and I’ll wait until both have responded and see what they have to say. I’d rather not feed the rumour mill so I’ll wait until I have all the facts from both sides before commenting. Meantime, no harm taking advantage of the new price!

    As for Gibson’s, I think their next big plan is expansion into the U.S.


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