Black Velvet 3 year old Canadian whisky

Black Velvet aged 3 years (40% alc./vol. (80 proof))

November 20, 2011


Candy, sweet, dark fruit, cream sherry, pepper and hot spices, dusty, floral rye, spirit, slight zestiness, and hints of fresh wood. Fruity and Spicy. ★★★

There are three whisky distilleries in Alberta. This may sound like quite a few until you realize that Alberta is more than 8 times the size of Scotland. Scotland, of course, boasts more than 100. The most southerly of these Alberta distilleries, Black Velvet (formerly known as Palliser), is located in Lethbridge, not far from the famed desert-like Alberta Badlands and the Milk River Hoodoos on the Montana border. This is the parched, rugged landscape of western movies and rot-gut-slugging cowboys. Talk about location!

Named for the top selling Canadian whisky it produces (the rankings change from year to year), Black Velvet Distillery takes a weekly delivery of between eight and ten rail carloads of corn (maize). And each week, two rail tanker cars of mature Black Velvet Canadian whisky leave the plant for bottling in California and Kentucky.

Black Velvet whisky for Canada and the rest of the world sees glass right at the distillery, but transportation is such a large component of the cost of making whisky that a market as huge as America is best served by bulk shipments. American consumers also demand a slightly different flavour profile than whisky-lovers in the rest of the world. Consequently, each year The Black Velvet Distillery blends close to 100 tanker carloads of Black Velvet whisky according to a special recipe, to be shipped to the U.S. Well, with 100 tanker loads a year, it can’t be considered that special, but certainly, the U.S.-version of Black Velvet is unique to the American market.

Nose: The dark ripe fruit that greets the nose soon turns to cotton candy, hard candy, and marshmallows. Then the vaguest hint of rubber dissolves back into fruity notes, including sherry, peaches, dried dark fruits, fruit juice, and prune juice. Rye expresses itself loudly and clearly as dry cereal grain, dustiness, and slight floral notes. In addition to its wood- and grain-derived flavours, a good mixing whisky needs to retain a bit of spirit character, and though it does not intrude, this one certainly does. Yes, this is a mixer, not a sipper, but don’t add that ginger ale right away. Waiting just a few minutes will be rewarded with slight sawdust notes and developing woodiness. Although both are three years old, this U.S. version of Black Velvet is somewhat more expressive than the austere, almost elegant Deluxe.

Palate: A first impression of sweet caramel becomes a lasting one, while other flavours come and go. But the sweetness also has candy-like, almost sugar-like qualities. A lush mouthfeel, which is surprising in a three-year-old whisky, has both creamy and oily sensations. The rubber from the nose briefly crosses the palate then quickly gives way to increasingly hot and lingering pepper, complemented by hot ginger that heats the sides of your mouth.

It’s a fruity whisky whose fruitiness goes in two directions: dark sweet fruits, fruit juice, over-ripe fruit, and cream sherry, then a bitter grapefruit zest and oranges. Overall this whisky is sweeter than Black Velvet Deluxe, and has just a little bit more of everything, but ultimately the candy flavours overshadow, pushing it slightly out of balance. Ahh, a dash of ginger ale will soon fix that!

Finish: Medium-short and fading. Peppery with lots of heat. Ripe black fruit, caramel, and burnt sugar. Just a hint of fresh-sawn wood before it fades out with a lime zestiness.

Empty Glass: Quite closed, but there are suggestions of stale beer, fruit juice, dust, flowers, wood, and toffee.

Not available in Canada, but about $10.00 in the USA.

Recommended. ★★★

History of Black Velvet and its distilleries (Gilbey, Diageo/Valleyfield, Schenley, Palliser) here.

Black Velvet Deluxe reviewed here.
Black Velvet Reserve 8 year old reviewed here.


32 Responses to “Black Velvet aged 3 years (40% alc./vol. (80 proof))”

  1. Barbara Thomas:

    Hi. I seem to remember a billboard that came out in the southern california area, with a little blond girl on it. Do you happen to have a picture of that billboard. It would have been mid 60 ish? Thanks.

    • Davin:

      Sorry, I don’t have a copy. Black Velvet is famous for it’s glamourous models. I bet you could find it on e-Bay under Canadian whisky.

    • warwizzle dodds:

      i was just looking at that image on the web. the girl is cheryl tiegs. and the photo is from 1975

  2. The Hamer:

    I understand that Christie Brinkley and possibly Cheryl Tiegs were featured in BV ads in the 1970′s. Black Velvet is my go to whiskey for making a Manhattan since I cannot get Alberta Premium down in the States. We promise to keep sending corn if you promise to keep sending the Black Velvet!

  3. scooter:

    I am looking for a list/pics of BV models over the years. I once met a Rebecca Schmidt at a Grateful Dead show in Wisconsin. She was supposedly one of those models. Trying to find out if that was true and a pic of her. I have searched google but no luck. Anyone know?

    • Davin:

      Try searching “Canadian whisky” on e-Bay. Quite a few of the old BV ads and posters show up there. As for Rebecca Schmidt, sorry I don’t know if she was a BV model or not.

  4. marie clover:

    Is Black Velvet Gluton Free?

    • Davin:

      Best to ask your doctor or a nutritionist.

  5. PDNott:

    Back in the early ’70s my boss dated one of the Black Velvet girls. What she saw in him I have no idea, but she was one hot toddy. Always at our functions in her black velvet cocktail dress.
    She’s the reason that I drink Black Velvet today

  6. John Spaulding:

    In laws just dug this gem out of the basement; a bottle of BV from 1977, never opened.

    Made me realize I don’t know anything about in-glass aging of whisky; does it continue to mellow after bottling, or does only the time spent in barrel benefit the flavor? Shall we just crack it and find out, or is there some value to an unopened 36-yo bottle?

    • Davin:

      Officially, ageing stops as soon as the whisky is put in the bottle, so you have a 3-year-old whisky, not a 36 year old. However there are some who believe that some minor changes do occur very slowly in glass. Whether this is the case or not is a matter for debate. Your 1977 bottle, however, is worth about the same amount as a brand new bottle is today. Old whisky rarely goes up in value. If it was mine I’d crack it open and enjoy it.

      • John Spaulding:

        Thanks, and cheers!

  7. Donna:

    I have an old Black Velvet Wooden Box, probably holds 9 -liter(?)bottles, worth anything?

    • Davin:

      Sorry, not really.

  8. Kibu:

    I just picked up a pint bottle of this with a friend who swears by Crown Royal. After showing him how smooth it is, and (in his opinion now and mine) better than what he usually drinks, I believe he’s converted.

    • Davin:

      I like both. Depends on the occasion.

  9. bob dennen:

    just picked up a bottle of black and could not belive the taste sold on it a bit pricy but worth it

    • Black velvet Costco in Las Vegas 1.75 litre 10.99

      • Costco 1.75 litre 10.99

  10. Joan:

    I truly enjoy Black Velvet. But I need to know what grains are used. My daughter is alergic to corn, eggs, wheat and peanuts. She discovered these alergies when she was living in California. There are many people that I know with some of these alergies. Anyone can develop an alergy at any time. My daughter was in her mid twenties when she found out. These facts are helpful in trying to live a normal life with severe alergies.

    • Davin:

      Your daughter is best to discuss this with her doctor or nutritionist. Allergies can be serious so I never answer this question just in case I get it wrong or something changes in production methods.

  11. JJ:

    I have stumbled across a bottle of Black Velvet bottled in 1977. Unopened. How would a person find out if it is any good or worth anything?

    • Davin:

      The value has not gone up. If the seal is good then the whisky will be also so open and enjoy.

  12. Debbie:

    I have always bought Black Velvet and have always loved it’s smooth taste. Yesterday I bought your new Sweet Caramel, well I now have a wonderful sipping bourbon. This one is a keeper, please keep making this one. I tried the Cinnamon and didn’t like it at all, too much of a bite.

    I probably will have a small glass of the Caramel always by my side. I can’t remember the last time I fell in love with a drink until yesterday, I actully bought it by mistake. Now I just need to find the right small elegant glass for it, crystal of course. At seventy it’s nice to fall in love again, even with a new drink. Thank you again and blessed be.

  13. Janyce cutler:

    Was Joel cutler the first mr black velvet whiskey and was he on billboards?

    Thank you .

  14. David sheils:

    Where can I purchase black velvet whiskey in Canada or Europe to bring home to Ireland.

  15. Debbie:

    I am so sad. I have been looking all over Ontario to purchase some Black Velvet Toasted Caramel Whiskey. (I was introduced to it a couple of years back.) It is definitely my Go-To drink. There is always a bottle in my freezer. Before Christmas I drove to a couple of cities to purchase their stock. I can no longer find anyone left on Ontario with any… :(
    Could you please help me out and tell me where I can find some.

  16. doug:

    what date was this black velvet produced seal # 055905995

  17. doug:

    just dont want to break the seal

  18. Mo:

    I think the ingredient question above should be answered. I have been searching for the same info and cannot find it published.

    Is it only Rye or does Black Velvet contain wheat, barley, corn, etc.?
    Thank you.

    • Davin:

      I am not qualified to give information to people with allergies. Theoretically, all distilled products are free of gluten. However, that theory does not always carry over into reality. If, for example, a still boils over – and this does happen from time to time – then there is every likelihood that some gluten may carry over into the spirit, undetected. For this reason, it would be irresponsible for a distiller to guarantee that their product is gluten free, even when it probably is. As to the contents question, Black Velvet is not made from rye grain alone.

  19. Aiden:

    I had never experienced Black Velvet until moving to CA a few years ago. I befriended an Irish family there who swore by the stuff, even over Irish Whiskey. There was an added benefit that Black Velvet was pretty inexpensive in northern CA ($11/1.75L).

    Recently, I moved back to NC, where spirits are sold only in ABC Stores, and thus price-regulated by the State. The same $11 bottle is $20 here, so I discovered Canadian Hunter for much less. Just curious about people’s comparison of the two… Davin, your thoughts?? I was rather shocked that, to my palette, the Canadian Hunter actually tastes better. But, then again, I’m a weird, misguided misfit.

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