JP Wiser’s Hopped Whisky (40%)

April 19, 2016


Fragrant aromas of burlap, sweet fall flowers and dry brown hay lead into burnt caramel, searing spices and ripe orchard fruits. A long juicy finish with a slight bitterness, hints of IPA hops and citrus pith. ★★★★☆

An innovative new whisky that is showing up on LCBO shelves across Ontario is exactly what the label suggests – Wiser’s whisky made with a whiff of hops. Not the bitter hops of IPA beer, but aromatic, floral, herbal, nutty hops that entwine in perfect balance with similar qualities in the whisky.

This is not the first whisky ever made with hops. From time to time, early distillers in Canada and the US would use hops to improve sanitation in their fermenters. Hops have natural antiseptic qualities. It’s the flavour though, that today’s distillers are after.

Although Wiser’s Hopped is bottled at 40%, its robust flavours will have you looking at the label to make sure. It tastes a lot bigger than that. And if the current craze for heavily hopped beers has given you ideas of what hopped whisky should taste like, get ready to be pleasantly surprised.  The powerful bitter notes I had anticipated are held well in check by strong just-burnt caramels and a hearty deluge of hot spices.

The sweet caramels that cushion the jolting blow of those spices leave ample breathing room for a broad range of fruity flowery fragrances. Hints of milk chocolate on the nose linger right into the finish along with searing hot spices and soothing caramel. A base of new canvas or burlap gunny sacks knits it all together.

Over the past few years several small US distillers have added hops to their processes to bring new flavours to their whiskies. Tennessee’s Corsair distillery, New Holland Brewing, in Michigan and California’s Charbay have each released hopped whiskies to critical acclaim and commercial success. Quantities though, are very limited and accordingly, they come at premium prices. Now, Dr. Don Livermore, the master blender in North America’s largest beverage alcohol distillery has turned his hand to hops. The result is a whisky that is accessible both to the palate and the pocketbook.

With two degrees in brewing and distilling, the first a master’s, the second a PhD., Dr. Don is considered one of the leading whisky scientists in the world. He knows his enzymes from his esters. First and foremost, though, Dr. Don is a consummate craftsman. No one brings more craft to the whisky table than Dr. Don. So, when he set out to make hopped whisky, he didn’t simply throw some hops in the mash, hoping that through trial and error he would eventually find the best approach. Instead, he studied the flavours and their nuances, then decided to approach hops differently than most distillers do.

Massive hops flavours are all the rage these days for making beer. Brewers making Pale Ales and India Pale Ales (IPA) especially, use hops to add intense bitterness, flavour and aroma. Depending on when in the brewing process the hops are added makes a big difference. The earlier in the process, the more bitterness they contribute. Floral, herbal and grassy notes tend to boil away fairly quickly.

Brewers who want bitter beer add the hops early on, while those looking for more complex character wait until later in the process. Some, who want to introduce the sweetest and broadest flavours and aromas from their hops use a process called “dry hopping,” where the hops are added after the beer has cooled. This is Dr. Don’s approach. By adding hops late in the process he eliminates almost all of the bitterness while bolstering Wiser’s characteristic floral sweetness and herbal notes.

Wiser’s Hopped is an after-dinner sipping whisky, a mixing whisky for highballs by the pool, and it brings extra depth to Manhattans and summery fragrances to a whisky sour.

Highly recommended. ★★★★☆

$28.95 at LCBO.


42 Responses to “JP Wiser’s Hopped Whisky (40%)”

  1. Ken Clark:

    Will this be available in the USA or will it be sold only in Canada?

    • Davin:

      I understand it is just Canada for now.

  2. Ken Clark:

    Thank you Davin. I will look for it on my next trip up north!

  3. Toronto Tim:

    Already at local LCBO Ontario 29$. I can not wait to try this. Reminds me of Grant’s Dark Ale about 3-4 years back. Let us see if this would give the Copper Pot CAD whiskies a run for its nose, i mean money – uh, on the nose that is. …

  4. A mention of Ontario, is it coming to the rest of Canada and if so when? Enquirying Lassies need to know!


    • Davin:

      As far as I know it will soon be available right across Canada but not in the US for now.

  5. this sounds interesting. i’ll pick up a bottle tonight.

  6. Cameron Lewis:

    Any opinions on Wiser’s new “Double Still” rye? It turned up in Winnipeg a few weeks ago, but I can’t find anything about it on the net, apart from the registration of a trademark.

  7. Not listed on Wiser’s website (29 Aug 2015.)

    Not available at LCBO (29 Aug 2015.)

  8. But this, unhh, recipe IS on the Wiser’s site, along with a stiff dose of pure marketing flannel…

    1 1/2 oz. of J.P. Wiser’s® Deluxe

    Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add 1 1/2 oz. Wiser’s Deluxe whisky, top with cola and stir.

  9. I bought a bottle of this on the weekend and had my first glass. Completely different from any other whisky I have had. There is an enormous amount of coffee flavor. So much that to me it seems like a coffee flavored whisky. I liked it at first by by the time I had my last sip, I got tired of it. I’m hoping the rest of the bottle is better.

    • Davin:

      I really enjoyed it from the start and it does become more complex and flavourful after the bottle has been open a few weeks.

  10. Davin, I agree with John Velocci above that it has a coffee-like taste behind the hops. I`d call it almost like Postum, which those of a certain age here will remember: caramel-like but dryish and in fact maybe it is spirit caramel, not sure.

    The hop taste was clean and strong, they didn`t stint on the named flavour. Personally, I`d prefer the whisky taste itself to be more full. I added CC Green Label to my bottle, not a lot, maybe 2 ounces out of the 26, and I find that gives it just the weight I want. Wiser Legacy might work too although I think more would be needed.

    Good effort though, I`ve never seen a reference in the literature to flavouring whisky with hops. Since they are used sometimes to help culture yeast (for bourbon they were or are), the tie-in is kind of natural though. And perhaps going way back hops were added as part of the stew of spices and flavourings to early white dog.


    • Davin:

      Hi Gary,
      I have enjoyed Postum and suspect the flavour of the coffee malt that went into this whisky is similar. Spirit caramel is very bitter and given how much oak caramel occurs naturally in the whisky, I think it is unlikely the spirit caramel contributes any noticeable flavour. Love your http://www.beeretseq.com/ blog, by the way.

  11. Hi Davin, thanks for this reply and your most kind words. I was intrigued by your term coffee malt, were you punning on Coffey still?

    Thanks too for the new review on the double-still rye, that one looks a winner!


    • Davin:

      Ha! Chocolate malt! I meant chocolate but wrote coffee.

      • Eric:

        Coffee malt is actually a type of malt as well. Similar to chocolate malt, with more pronounced coffee flavor.

  12. Jeff:

    are the flavours from actual hops or is this chemical flavourings to achieve and hop like flavour?

    • Davin:

      Seriously? Where would you get that idea? The flavour comes from real hops, Bravo variety to be specific.

      • Dram Tanna:

        “What would give you that idea?” Canadian law states that Canadian whisky “may contain caramel and flavouring.” Flavouring. So I think its a fair question.

        • Davin:

          The review clearly states that they use hops.

          The regulation you cited is valid, but most commonly used by marketers of other types of whisky who are threatened by how well Canadian whisky sells. Sadly, their naïve interpretation is widely accepted and cited by whisky lovers.

          To be clear. Wiser’s Hopped Whisky is made using real hops.

          • Dram Tanna:

            I’m sure they do. I’m just unclear as to how you know this. I looked at a bottle to day. It said “Ingredients: Whisky, Natural Flavour.” Now I’m not sure what the legal definition of “Natural Flavour” is, but I know it didn’t say “Hops” in the ingredients.

  13. Wayne:

    Got a small sample (50ml ) bottle hanging of the neck of my Wiser’s Deluxe great flavour …… Straight up

  14. Brampton Jude:

    It’s definitely a coffee flavor. Doesn’t feal like drinking wiskey. I just add rocks on the wiskey. Should I add soda to bring wiskey flavor? But I like it..something different!

  15. [...] don’t take my word for it; see what noted Canadian whisky expert Davin de Kergommeaux said, here. Share this:TwitterFacebookGoogleLike this:Like [...]

  16. Graeme Black:

    Harsh and abusive.
    As a whiskey, Why? Yours is great, this s**t sucks.

  17. Where can you buy it in Calgary?? I would like to purchase as a Christmas gift

  18. Cheryl:

    If it is not available in Calgary can you order

    • Davin:

      Canada’s antiquated postal regulations do not permit on-line ordering.

  19. Mondo:

    They have it at the beltline co-op liquor store in calgary

  20. Lucite:

    Just got a bottle. Not much hop flavour, at least not in bittering or aroma. I don’t get much spice either. I get carmel, coffee, chocolate. Those flavours are very dominant unpleasantly strong. I don’t care for it. It tastes artificial to me. They might be trying to appeal to people that don’t drink usually whisky. I will not be buying it again.

  21. Craig:

    This is just plain horrible stuff. Tastes totally artificial. Where can I e-mail for a refund?

    • Davin:

      Whisky is like any other product. If you are not happy with your purchase, return it where you bought it.

  22. James:

    Really enjoyed this whisky, I was thinking it was going to be another gimmicky whisky from Wiser’s (torched toffee, really?). The flavour was not what I was expecting though, definitely got that nice hint of coffee like other have said.

    I Don’t usually mix my whisky’s (unless it’s a Manhattan) but this tasted surprisingly great with a splash of ginger ale.

    • Tobey:

      Tried it with ginger beer (as opposed to ginger ale) and was wickedly good.

  23. When I first tried this whisky, I did not like it. However after each glass I had, I liked it more and more. I recently finished the bottle and I love this whisky. I intend to buy another bottle. :)

  24. Nathan Sheperd:

    I tried Weisers whiskey hopped on a whim and I must say it’s damn good after trying it I won’t be buying any other whiskey

  25. John:

    Just tried it as a sample included with a bottle of Deluxe here in Edmonton. Smooth can’t begin to describe the sweet and chocolate notes. My wife and I just stared at each other and said, ” wow!”

    Thanks, now to find it for sale here!!

    • Davin:

      Yep, good stuff.

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