Wiser's 18 year old Canadian whisky

Wiser’s 18 years old, aka Wiser’s Very Old (40% alc./vol.)

January 9, 2013

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Wood, wood, wood, but ever so complex with hot pepper, baking spices, butterscotch, vanilla, rye grain, tobacco, cigar box, sour-dough, and dried baking fruits ending in a citric zestiness. Rich & Oaky. ★★★★★

Wiser’s are without doubt some of the finest whiskies made, anywhere. Does it matter that Wiser’s is now on its third distillery? Not at all. This is Canada and as long as the distillers remain true to their recipes and distilling practices great whisky can be made in any number of distilleries. That’s one of the benefits of dividing the spirit into its components, leaving them to draw flavours in from the wood, and then re-blending them to an exact formula. Not that this is a science. No, blending whisky is an art and nowhere is this art more evident than at Wiser’s.

In any case, Wiser’s original distillery in Prescott, Ontario, is gone without a trace. The Wiser family home, later converted to a retirement lodge, also is no more. The radiant stained glass windows that renowned Prescott glass artist, Harry Horwood, made for J. P. Wiser’s home are now on display at Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg, Ontario. Operations in Corbyville, Ontario, at first rejuvenated with the arrival of the Wiser’s brands, have now been consolidated at the Hiram Walker distillery in Windsor. No matter. Indeed, Wiser’s is one of just a handful of brands at the zenith of Canadian whiskydom; fitting it should now be made in Canada’s oldest operating distillery.

Nose: A complex nose in which many nuances peek out from under a veil of woody cigar box, pencil shavings, and fresh-sawn lumber. Abundant rye grain and rye spices are nuanced by hints of toffee, lime peel, and some sour-dough rye notes. This is the traditional, hard, crisp, peppery rye that Canadian whisky is famous for. As your nose becomes accustomed to the rich oakiness, new complexities make their presence known, among them suggestions of vanilla and both sharp and soft fruits: kiwis and prunes.

This whisky takes you to two very different places at once. Its dry grass, fresh water, and vague hints of pine recall a fall day on the Canadian Shield. But then its leathery redolence of burley tobacco leaves brings to mind the late-August aromas of the kilns in Tilsonburg, Ontario. A sharp, dry pungency—glue stick—predicts tannins on the palate, and from start to finish it’s oak, oak, oak.

Palate: Initial notes of burnt toffee, butterscotch, pepper, and hot spices are quickly overtaken by fresh-cut lumber and pulling oak tannins. The whisky warms your throat while a sweet, teasing fruitiness introduces hot, spicy, rye grain notes and an underlying citric bitterness. Very tasty indeed.

From start to finish, fragrant wood really dominates but is balanced by an ever-present white pepper with all kinds of flavour combinations coming and going. It’s a very complex whisky and very active. Sweet vanilla, barley sugar, a hint of salt, pepper, and hot zesty spices engage the palate in the middle. A rye fruitiness with sweet dried baking fruits is eventually overtaken by torrents of hot ginger, peppery heat, and that typical Canadian cleansing bitter zest. As the tannins settle down they provide counterpoint to a rich and creamy mouthfeel. Simply spectacular.

Finish: This is a whisky that starts full speed ahead but after the last swallow, it’s in no hurry to depart. Hot, peppery notes with some early citric zest give way to oaky tannins which then fade into a restrained sweetness. The rye grain barely whispers its generic fruitiness and there is a cinnamon-like feel but without the cinnamon flavour. The rich oakiness remains right to the end with a warming spiciness before a final return to a citric bittersweetness that is utterly ambrosial.

Empty Glass: Fresh-cut wood with slight butterscotch toffee notes, somewhat sour, and vaguely fruity.

It’s a complete puzzle that more Wiser’s whiskies are not exported abroad. Sukhinder Singh at London’s The Whisky Exchange, named Whisky Magazine’s Online Retailer of the Year at the 2010 Icons of Whisky dinner in February, has no Wiser’s whiskies on his shelves. Singh told me recently that he could sell as much Wiser’s whisky as he could lay his hands on, but he just can’t get it in England. And that’s good news for us whisky lovers here in Canada where there’s more than enough to go round. That is, as long as the folks in Wiser’s head office don’t catch on.

$50.00 at LCBO.

Very highly recommended

★★★★★

A new Wiser’s Legacy whisky review posted here April 30, 2011 to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of J. P. Wiser.

Wiser’s Red Letter 150th Anniversary Edition is reviewed here.

Wiser’s Red Letter 2013 Release is reviewed here.

Wiser’s Legacy is introduced here.

Wiser’s Small Batch is reviewed here.


Comments

69 Responses to “Wiser’s 18 years old, aka Wiser’s Very Old (40% alc./vol.)”

  1. For the same price than the Gibson’s 21yo, this Wiser’s is a very good deal. This would be a great introduction to Canadian whiskies.

  2. I tried this whisky in Toronto and loved it. Was wondering if you know if this is exported to the UK?

    • Davin:

      Hi Pete,
      As far as I know it is not available in the UK. I know the folks at the Whisky Exchange told me they would like to be able to sell it. And you are right, this is really very good whisky.

  3. Bill:

    A wonderful whisky with one of my favourite bottles/presentations.

  4. Harry:

    A friend from Canada had a bottle and I’m hooked! I wonder if you can purchase it in Florida.

    • Doug:

      Harry, I used to be able to get Wiser’s Oldest, or 18 year old in the ABC Liquor stores in Florida a number of years ago. Hopefully you can still find it there.

  5. Ali:

    This tastes great when you add lemon juice to it. Yummmmmmmm!

  6. Piers:

    Quick question,

    I’ve been planning on getting a bottle of the Wiser’s 18 and have seen it in several places so haven’t hurried, despite the numbered bottle (which seems to me to indicate that it’s not going to be around for long)

    Yesterday in my travels I found some Wiser’s Very Old, which I don’t recall seeing before (despite the Alberta Liquor guide website showing it in several places I’ve been). It was about the same price, and funnily labelled on the store’s price tag as Wiser’s Oldest.

    I guess my question is, is there much difference between Wiser’s 18, Wiser’s Very Old (and Wiser’s Oldest, if three is a seperate expression), AND which one would you recommend? Is the Very Old just the standard 18 yr old that preceded the current square green labelled & numbered 18?

    That was wordy, apologies :D

    Piers

    • Davin:

      Hi Piers,
      To my knowledge Wiser’s Very Old and Wiser’s 18 are one and the same. Are they both in the square bottle? There was an 18 year old out some years back that came in a dumpy round bottle and was also 18 years old. If you see one, buy it. There was also an older version of the 18 year old in the square bottle with a dark green label that had a coin on the front of the bottle. If you can get a picture that would help.
      Davin

  7. Piers:

    The Very Old is square but not as squared off on the corners as the 18, and the label does indicate Very Old 18

    this is it here, yes, with the coin
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:P1010534.JPG

    • Davin:

      Hi Piers,
      I just did a quick head to head. Perhaps there is some minor batch variation, but they are essentially the same whisky.
      Davin

  8. Piers:

    Thanks very much Davin.. maybe I’ll get both, just to show off two different bottles of great whisky :D

  9. mark:

    hi i was recently going through some coins i had and came across an odd one. its from 1980 and its made by wisers, if anybody has any info on how much its worth and also why did wisers make coins??

    • Davin:

      Hi Mark,
      The coin was stuck onto the label of their 18 year old whisky – just part of the packaging. It never occurred to me that it might be worth anything. Probably best to ask a coin dealer.
      Davin

  10. Tim N.:

    What a remarkable whisky – particularly the nose. After one tasting I place this bottle on my shelf inbetween AB Prem 25 and Danfield’s 21. Sharp and distingued looking bottle as well.

    -Tim

  11. David Parke:

    The only whisky I buy.

  12. Ruth Telford:

    I had never been a whiskey drinker as I always thought it would be too strong…but the 18 year old Wisers is so smooth that I can actually enjoy it on the rocks…my favourite way is with ginger-ale…but as a woman that doesn’t drink that much this is may very favourite.It is so worth it!

  13. John Velocci:

    its now $55 at the LCBO. :)

  14. Shawn Pearson:

    I grabbed a bottle of what was labeled “Wiser’s Oldest” during a venture across the border from the U.S. in 2001. It was unquestionably the most drinkable whiskey I had ever tried. Having traveled the world, and drunk many whiskeys, this was a big surprise. Trying not to lead her on, I gave a small glass to my wife who does not drink her spirits without a mixer, and waited for a response. To my surprise, she liked it a great deal. It is very smooth drink, and ultimately drinkable by even a novice.

    • Davin:

      Hi Shawn, Yeah, Wiser’s 18 “Oldest” really is a tasty treat. Davin

  15. Deanne:

    does anyone know if I can buy Wiser’s 18 year old at Toronto Airport duty free

    • Glenn:

      Yes you can. My friend just got me a bottle from there while coming back to the US this past weekend.

  16. Marc:

    People claim only 3500 bottles produced. Bottle says 3500 cases. Jim Murray’s 2011 Whisky Bible claims only 3500 bottles made. Which is true?

    • Davin:

      Hi Marc,
      Must be a different whisky. Murray’s book doesn’t mention Alberta Premium 30 year old at all, and my bottle says 700 cases.

  17. Marc:

    Hi Davin,
    Sorry, you misunderstood. I’m asking about the production amount of the Wiser’s 18 year old.

    • Davin:

      Oh, my mistake, sorry. Off hand, I can’t remember, but 3,500 cases sounds about right. 3500 bottles is less than 300 cases and it would be very expensive to set up the bottling line for that, never mind all the other processes along the way.

  18. Therese:

    Hi Davin:

    I have a bottle of 1957 Wiser’s Oldest – 18 year old whiskey and a 1961 Order of Merit from Schenley. Both have never been opened. Just wondering how to go about appraising them?

    • Davin:

      Hi Therese,

      Those old Wiser’s bottles don’t come up too frequently in Canada but I can tell you the whisky in them is quite delicious. This is real classic old Canadian whisky with crisp clean woodiness and lots of spicy rye. Unfortunately Canadian whisky does not appreciate in value the way Scotch does, so it is probably not worth a whole lot. This bottle comes from the old demolished Corbyville distillery. You could have a look on e-Bay for similar bottles. I have bought two, both for less than $100. (1949 and 1954 editions).

      Order of Merit has a very good reputation among connoisseurs and collectors in the U.S. I have seen it go for well over $100 on e-Bay. You may want to try listing it there with a reserve bid. If you can’t get at least $100, I would suggest you open it and share it with whisky-loving friends.

      Hope this helps.

      Thanks for contacting canadianwhisky.org.

      Davin

  19. Joe Löwer:

    Hi all
    I have a bottle of Wiser’s Oldest 18 years old, bottled in 1947, never opened and in Original Packing.
    Is somebody interested in helping me , finding out the price for this bottle and wether I should keep it or not.

    thanks and best regards from Meersburg, Germany

    Joe Löwer

    • Davin:

      Hi Joe,

      I think you have a very nice bottle there. Unfortunately Canadian whisky does not appreciate in value the way Scotch does, (at least not yet), so it is probably not worth more than 100 euros, maybe less. This is real classic old Canadian whisky with crisp clean woodiness and lots of spicy rye. The distillery where it was made is demolished now but the new distillery still does a really good job of keeping it going with the same flavour profile. If I were you I would gather some whisky loving friends around and let everyone taste it. The memories will last for a long time. If you want to sell it you could try whiskyauction.de. They also have an archive showing prices for the last 10 years or so. It is organized by country so really easy to find similar bottles.

      Thanks for contacting canadianwhisky.org.

      Davin

  20. John McLellan:

    Love this stuff, however, noticed in BCLDB stores the product has gone up to $65.00 / bottle. My last bottle was Christmas 2010 for $49.98.

    Anyone know the reason for the hike?

    John

    • Chris Brown:

      As I slowly work my way through Davin’s excellent Holiday and Best of 2011 lists of whiskeys I finally made it to the Wiser’s 18 and it is a worthy addition to my collection!

      I love the complexity and balance and can now place it in context with the Legacy.

      To belatedly suggest an answer to the above query concerning why the price shift upwards at the BCLDB (and most probably across Canada). I’ll hazard a guess that Wiser’s originally positioned the Legacy at the top of their regular selections and priced it accordingly with the 18 falling into second position. Perhaps due to a lack of sales on the part of the Legacy at the $65. price point it was switched with the 18 and there they sit to this day. All about marketing and perception it seems.

      Next up will be the Gibson’s 18 when I manage to pick up a bottle and a head to head with the Wiser’s 18.
      Any thoughts comparing the two?

      • Davin:

        They are both excellent whiskies and similar in many ways. I find the Gibson’s slightly “softer.”

  21. Gordon Andrews:

    “This whisky takes you to two very different places at once. Its dry grass, fresh water, and vague hints of pine recall a fall day on the Canadian Shield. But then its leathery redolence of burley tobacco leaves brings to mind the late-August aromas of the kilns in Tilsonburg, Ontario”..
    I grew up in Tillsonburg and now live in Timmins right in the middle of the sheild, and your description hit the nail on the head.. Reminds me of my two favorite places, I suppose thats why its my favorite.
    -Gord

    • Davin:

      Hi Gord,
      Thanks for your comment. I was a kiln hanger for a season and I have spent lots of time enjoying the Shield.

  22. Lene:

    Hello.
    We have family in Toronto and have been introduced to this fine and good tasting whiskey.
    Does anyone knows if it can be bought in Europe or an online shop that ships to Denmark?

  23. RT84:

    I’m stocking up on this stuff before its gone!

  24. Sailor Joe:

    The Gibson’s is definitely softer, including the 12 year old and Grey Cup edition. But it was the pleasantly long complex ending finish to this that impressed me.

  25. Ryan:

    Amazing whiskey!

  26. Jim:

    I have a bottle of Wisers Finest Whisky that was aged for 18 years in an oak cask and bottled in 1957. Makes this a very old bottle of Rye! Any idea of the value today?

    • Davin:

      Hi Jim,

      If you are getting the date from the tax strip, then that is the date that the whisky spirit went into the bonded warehouse so it would have been bottled 18 years later in 1975 or 1976. These old bottles are really great to find and the whisky is very flavourful but unfortunately they do not appreciate much in value. With the Wiser’s 18, today’s whisky tastes pretty much the same and since whisky doesn’t really age in the bottle they are about on par. I would expect you could sell that bottle for somewhere between $50 and $100 so you’d be better off to crack it open and enjoy it with friends. Incidentally, they all have serial numbers and that does not add to the value.

      Davin

  27. Jim:

    It is a limited edition, with a bottle #.

  28. Henry:

    Does anyone know if the Wisers (18 yr old)is available
    in the States. It can’t be beat.

    • Hank:

      I’ve seen it sold in Michigan and Kentucky. I can’t find a list or anything. I live in Texas and I’m trying to figure out if I can find it down there. No luck so far.

  29. Scott:

    I have 18year old bottle Of weisers oldest from 1971 unopened do you know what its worth?

    • Davin:

      These old bottles are great for drinking as they do not really go up much in value. That one is probably worth in the $60 to $80 range if the seal is intact and the level is good.

  30. mary:

    mary dec 30 2012 I have a bottle with a date on the label of 1959 any idee what the value is?

    • Davin:

      As I told Scott, it is not worth a lot. Maybe for one that old a bit more, but certainly not more than $100.

  31. Hank:

    I discovered Wiser’s 18 through a friend in Michigan. I’ve also seen it sold in Kentucky. Is it available in Texas or is there a list of distributors anywhere?

  32. I had the opportunity to try this whisky once and was blown away. I’d love to get a hold of another bottle sometime. So much subtlety and distinction.

  33. Rich:

    I have a Weiser’s 18 yr named Canada’s oldest, black lable/black bottle dated 1967. Unopened.
    Is it worth anything?

    • Davin:

      Yes, between $85 and $100.

  34. Linda:

    I have a bottle of Wisers Olympic Rye numbered in a black velvet bag. I believe from the Montreal Olympics 1976? Is it worth anything?

    • Davin:

      Yes, between $50 and $100 if it is sealed, full and in very good condition.

  35. Linda:

    It is, Thank you.

  36. Carsten:

    Have you any idea, how to get a bottle of WISER´s 18 years old Whisky in Germany. I tasted it once and can´t forget it.

    • Davin:

      Perhaps The Whisky Exchange in London can send one. Other than that, no idea. Sorry.

  37. Richard Ryder:

    I have a bottle of black velvet Canadian Whisky unopened from 1980, can you tell me is there any value to it if at all, thank you.

    • Davin:

      Hi, These old bottles do not go up much in value over today’s prices. Your best bet is to open it and enjoy it with friends.

  38. I have a bottle of Limited edition Canadian Masterpiece Whiskey 80 proof still sealed in leather silk lined case dated 1968 with the paperwork of authentication. Can you tell me what it is worth? Thank you

    • Davin:

      This is very nice whisky but sadly, not worth very much at all. IF you can find a buyer you might get $100, but most likely less. The good news is that it will be still be god to drink so why not open it on a special occasion and share it with friends.

  39. Greg:

    Davin,

    I picked up a bottle of Wiser’s 18 from a Duty Free shop in the USA. The bottle is slightly different as it says Case XXXX of 2000 (instead of 3500) and around the neck it says “Imported from Canada.”

    I’m just wondering if to your knowledge, there is any difference between the exported version and the domestic version. Having tasted this version, I am disappointed as I feel it’s average whisky at best.

    • Davin:

      My understanding is that the whisky has not changed at all in the past 50 years and that there is only one version. Sorry you were disappointed. It is quite subtle, elegant and complex on my palate.

      • Greg:

        Thanks for the reply.

        I remember hearing that some Canadian Whiskies, when exported to the USA, have some American spirit added to save on taxes. I was just curious if maybe that was the case here.

        Maybe I got a bad bottle or the flavors are too subtle for my palate to pick up. Regardless, I much prefer the Legacy.

  40. [...] Wiser’s 18 year old reviewed here. [...]

  41. Josh:

    Just saw one of these laying on a shelf with a decent accumulation of dust, maybe bottled 6-10 years ago? Considering the current rise in whiskey pricing, I probably should go back and pick it up for $33 based on the comments above.

    • Davin:

      Good find. If it was me, I would buy it.

  42. Brandi:

    Hi, I have a 1979 wisers coin, I was just wondering if you knew how much it’s worth?

    • Davin:

      It has no value. It’s just a marketing novelty.


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