Wiser's Small Batch Canadian whisky photo

Wiser’s Small Batch (43.4% alc./vol.)

December 7, 2011


Big whisky. Cinnamon, cloves, and other rye spices. Dark fruits, vanilla, butterscotch, cedar oil, some earthy tones, and a slight flintiness. Weighty. Spicy Rye. ★★★★☆

One hundred years after his death, John Philip Wiser’s recipes are still used to make some of Canada’s most well-established and most sought-after whiskies. What’s odd about this detail is that Wiser’s distillery itself has been out of production for nearly a century as well. In fact, all traces of it have long since been erased from the Prescott, Ontario neighbourhood where it once proudly stood. But the whisky makers at Corby’s who have taken up Wiser’s mantle are not content to rest on their laurels, or should we say J.P.’s laurels.

Yes, Wiser’s Legacy, the most recent addition to the Wiser’s line-up, is based on an original, rye-rich J. P. Wiser recipe. But before committing to full production of this super-spicy heritage whisky, Corby’s tested the Canadian appreciation for spicy whisky. They did this by releasing Wiser’s Small Batch, a whisky that has been formulated clearly in the image of Legacy.

When it was introduced, Wiser’s Small Batch was something strikingly new for Canadian whisky lovers: a return to J. P. Wiser’ original methods. The result? Flavour and heritage in a glass. Rich in baking spices and with an enhanced candied quality, Small Batch was bigger, much spicier, and a lot sweeter than the whiskies loyal Wiser’s fans have become used to. And with the 43.4% alc./vol. that Wiser is said to have favoured, it was also just a little bit stronger. I can report that J. P. Wiser would be very pleased with what his successors have done in his name.

Nose: Dusty rye, redolent with cloves and clove oil, and rich in vanilla, hangs heavy deep in your nostrils, while cinnamon tickles away at the edges. This, one of the spiciest Wiser’s noses ever, is rich in fully developed, integrated spices reminiscent of dark-rum-laden Christmas cake. Notes of fresh-cut wood, cedar oil, and furniture polish accent the spiciness. Heavy black fruits, sweet fresh red fruit, and candied dried fruit meld with the generic fruitiness of rye. The rye returns in the middle with its earthiness and a not-too-common flintiness. Imagine, flinty rye in such a robust nose. Butterscotch and hints of burnt sugar finally succeed in pushing their way through the sweetness of the vanilla. This is a big nose.

Palate: What starts a bit creamy with burnt sugar and fresh concentrated vanilla quickly becomes very rich, oily and spicy until it coats your mouth with syrupy spices and fruit. Cloves dominate without overwhelming the heaps of burning hot pepper and hot cinnamon, which, in turn, are complemented by toffee sweetness and balanced against a refreshing bitter zest. The sweet, ever-present baking spices and clove oil really deliver a wallop. But even more complexity comes quickly with a rich oakiness, complete with sawdust, green wood, cedar and fresh cedar leaves, followed by wood smoke. Earthy rye returns along with freshwater plants and really crisp flintiness. Weighty. This is a very complex, highly flavourful, “busy” whisky with all kinds of actions and reactions in the glass and on the palate.

Finish: Long, hot, and very spicy, returning always to cloves and hot pepper. A gentle sweetness and slight fruitiness fade into a simple citric zestiness with just a touch of pith.

Empty Glass: Barbeque sauce, hot toffee, brown sugar, vanilla, fresh-cut wood, sawdust, wood smoke, burnt wood, cloves, sweet spices.

$28.95 at LCBO.

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 Legacy introduced here.

Wiser’s 18 year old reviewed here.

Wiser’s Red Letter reviewed here.


16 Responses to “Wiser’s Small Batch (43.4% alc./vol.)”

  1. Darko Vusir:


    After reading your notes, I tried my bottle.

    I agree with you. Although I didn’t pick up much of the subtle flavours that you did, the basics were there.

    This is a really good whisky. I feel that if this was scotch it would cost at least three times as much. IMO this is one of those whisky’s that show how underappreciated/undervalued good Canadian Whisky is.

  2. J. Allen Wood:

    Hi Davin,

    Did you ever do a review of Wiser’s Reserve, and how does it compare with this whisky?

    • Davin:

      I have not yet published a review of Wiser’s Reserve, but I will eventually. I quite like it. From memory it is not as spicy or as sweet as the Small Batch. I still have a couple of bottles in reserve.

      • J. Allen Wood:

        Great! I’m looking forward to the review. I was lucky enough to find a few bottles here in town, but haven’t tried it yet. I hear it has since been discontinued. Is this correct?

        Thanks again for all of your reviews and this great website!



        • Davin:

          Hi Jesse,
          I saw a few bottles of Wiser’s Reserve on a website for a shop in Texas, but as far as I know it has been discontinued for some time.

          • J. Allen Wood:

            Ah, that’s where I live (Houston, to more specific). I will give it a try tonight and (if I find I really like) will keep my eyes open for any remaining bottles I might find.

            Still haven’t seen the Small Batch bottlings down here yet. I’m hoping they will appear on the shelves soon. Would like to compare the two side by side.

    • Kirby:

      I travel to Canada quite a bit & small batch is Available up there & I brought a bottle back with me. Also “Reserve” is NOT available in Canada but its still sold in the USA, so i had my bottle shop order up a couple bottles. Boy its hard to tell the difference, they are both so damn good!.

      * Both have identical looking GLASS bottles with the “wisers” logo stamped in the glass.

      * The labels are in the same spots but look different of course.

      * Small batch is listed at 43.4 ALC/VOL
      * Wisers Reserve is listed at 43.0 Alc/VOL

      * the bottles open the same (wire around the cap)

      I would say its close & Im not so sure its not the same stuff labeled differently.

      • tanner:

        reserve is available in canada. Small batch is better tho

  3. Marc:

    Hi Davin,
    Picked up I’m sure, the last bottle of Wiser’s Reserve at the LCBO today in Toronto. Couldn’t believe my eyes. Saw the listing on their website last night and raced over in the morning to pick it up. Said they only had one left in the province. Someone must of found it in the warehouse on a dusty shelf and decided to put it in a store. Can’t believe how lucky I got finding it. Not that it’s that remarkable of a whisky but it’s not produced anymore and I thought it to be a good find.

    • Davin:

      You lucky guy. I cleaned out my local LCBO about a year and a half ago. I like the Reserve. Yeah, it’s a good find.

  4. Andy:

    This may just be the best whisky for under $30 available in Ontario. I am also a big fan of the Legacy. Looking forward to Corby releasing Pike Creek and Lot 40 to the lcbo in September…getting impatient.

  5. Rob:

    Davin is the star ranking system related to the cost of the whisky? I’m curious what makes this a five star in comparison with Crown Royal reserve which is a 4 star under your ranking I believe. Not trying to challenge your opinion. Just debating between trying either Gibson 18 and this. The cost is a lot more on the 18 year Gib which also happens to be a 4 star.

  6. Davin:

    Hi Rob,

    Price is not a factor. Gibson’s 18 should have 5 stars. I will correct that now. Thanks for noticing. 5 stars = wow factor.

  7. Andrew:

    The LCBO put the price up to $32.95 recently. Wisers started shipping it in new packaging too.

  8. otto:

    Am I crazy or is this (Small Batch) just not available in Ontario?? I can’t find it anywhere.
    I just got two of the last discontinued Double Still Rye in London (replaced by Triple Barrel Rye) for the bargain price (in Canada) of $27.95. I find all of them still too heavy on the bourbon sweetness so I’ll stick to Alberta Premium/Canadian Club 100% rye in the future. Bottling in Ontario hasn’t changed the taste although you may disagree.
    I was not happy with the flavour of my last bottle of Centennial Rye either. Is it the wheat that gives it that sour taste and why Germans started to add rye to the mix.

    • Davin:

      It is now out of production.

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