Wiser's Red Letter Canadian Whisky

Wiser’s Red Letter, 150th Anniversary (45% alc./vol.)

November 10, 2011


Complex, ever-changing tertiary flavours of dry grain, tobacco, Christmas spices, wood smoke, new tires, sour German rye bread, black fruits, cedar and fresh-sawn oak, toffee, vanilla, hot pepper, and bitter grapefruit zest. Rich & Oaky. ★★★★★

This super-premium Canadian rye whisky takes your palate on a wild joy ride through grain fields, gentlemen’s clubs, and Christmas puddings by the fire. Based on an original best-selling recipe, Wiser’s Red Letter was re-created in 2007 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of John Philip Wiser’s distillery in Prescott, Ontario. To mark the event Wiser’s transported the best barrels of mature rye whisky from their warehouses in Pike Creek, Ontario, to Walkerville for blending. The resulting blend was then aged for a further 150 days in new white oak casks, resulting in a scrumptious rich rye whisky that would make old J.P. proud.

J.P. Wiser was an American of German descent who came to Prescott, Ontario from Ogdensburg, New York in 1857 to run Charles Payne’s distillery. The energetic Wiser learned quickly and was a great innovator. He also had the wisdom to wait just five years before moving to buy out Payne and thus become the sole proprietor of his own business venture. Wiser’s distillery brought prosperity to Prescott, but in 1932, 21 years after his death, Wiser’s heirs sold the distillery. The new owner was Corby’s who decided to move the maturing stock and distilling operations 180 Km west to their own warehouses and distillery in Corbyville, Ontario. In 1991, when Corby’s distillery was consolidated with Hiram Walker’s plant, operations moved yet again, this time to Walkerville, Ontario, just across the river from Detroit.

Nose: Creamy, sweet and loaded with Christmas spices—cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Quite complex with notes of sour German rye bread, dried grain, ripe black fruits, cigar smoke, new tires, cedar shavings and sawn oak on a fresh vanilla pod base. Changes and develops over time, so give it time.

Palate: Creamy mouthfeel with sweet fruits and vanilla. Quickly develops some nice hot pepper, getting hotter and hotter until a cleansing citric zest arrives. Then it’s new bike tires and dried grain, earthy rye spices—hot and zingy, hints of butterscotch and dried dark fruits before more grapefruit zest gets your mouth ready for the next complex wave of integrated flavours. These include cedar, cigar box, a hint of sandalwood, fudge, more Christmas spices and more pepper. And it’s loaded of earthy rye spices. Nice weight with sweet hints of corn whisky. Very, very tasty.

Finish: Long and warm. Spicy, with a touch of vanilla. Hot and peppery at first, then fading into a citric zest leaving a clean palate ready for another sip.

Empty glass: Rubber, vaguely fruity, caramel, vanilla, dry grain, tobacco, cigar box, cedar, vague rye sourness, mild caramel, ashes, vanilla and pipe tobacco. Now aren’t you glad I didn’t wash my glass?

Very highly recommended. But at $150, is it worth the price? Well I certainly think so. After my first few sips led to a surprisingly empty bottle, I went back for a second. It’s a limited edition of 6,000, and before they’re gone I’ll certainly pick up a couple more.


Wiser’s Red Letter 2013 Release is reviewed here.

Wiser’s 18 year old reviewed here.

Wiser’s Legacy introduced here.

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 Small Batch reviewed here.


53 Responses to “Wiser’s Red Letter, 150th Anniversary (45% alc./vol.)”

  1. Well, did i missed something on this one ‘cause this was a real disappointment to me. For this price i would prefer the whole range of Forty Creek or 6 bottles of Alberta Premium… I gave a 76%. Bloody hell !

    • Davin:

      Well, tastes differ. Try tasting Red Letter blind with a few others, and include Wiser’s 18 in the flight. I think it compares very favourably with the 18 year old, and I know you like that one as much as I do.

  2. Marty:

    Is it a 100% Rye Whisky?

    • Davin:

      Hi Marty,
      No it was not distilled from 100% rye grain.

  3. Mike:

    Jim Murray gave this his Canadian Whisky of the Year award in the 2010 bible.

    • Jim Murray also gave a 90% to the Macallan Fine Oak who is one of the worst single malt i’ve ever tasted…

  4. Piers:

    Much to my surprise, I found a bottle for sale – $142. Sadly beyond my budget at the moment :(

    • Davin:

      Wiser’s Red Letter is going fast so that bottle won’t last too long, especially at that price.

  5. Rob:

    I have myself a slight issue. I own a bottle of Wiser’s Red Letter that hasn’t been opened but I just discovered it has floaters in the bottle. LCBO will take it back no problem but now I’m stuck there are a few bottles available of this stuff left in my area but with Alberta Prem 30 year coming I’m wondering if I should change this and get 3 bottles of Alberta or do I get another Wiser’s red letter? Which one would you say tastes better?

    • Davin:

      Whew! That’s a tough one. If the Red Letter has bits of cork in it then that means it may have been stored lying down at some point. If it’s a haze at the bottom then probably a good shake will take of it. I would be very hard pressed to choose between the two. I generally open my bottles so I’m never in a position to return them. If it was me, I’d keep the Red Letter or exchange it and I’d still try to get an Alberta Premium. They both really are quite special.

    • John:

      I just today looked at my bottle for the first time since I bought it and it is full of floating bits … very sad

      • Davin:

        Not at all! Those are flavour congeners that have fallen out of solution because the whisky was not chill filtered. Most whiskies are chill filtered and this removes some less soluble compounds but also some flavour. Don’t sweat it. The whisky will still taste great.

  6. Rob:

    Hey Davin,

    OK so I called all of the LCBO locations that have the Red Letter, unfortunately each and everyone of them are being sent back for testing due to this same problem. So as it stands it seems I will never get to try the Red Letter. I’ll jump on Alberta Premium 30 year asap but for now I exchange the Red Letter for Wiser’s Legacy and Forty Creek Barrel Select. Sipping on the Legacy right now and it’s outstanding I would say even better then Wiser’s 18 year and at 15 bucks less it’s a steal.

    • Davin:

      This is so bizarre. I have two bottles of Red Letter left, one recently opened. Both have a little bit of haze, but this just looks like the normal haze you get after a few years when whisky has not been chill filtered. I’m keeping mine. The open one still tastes fantastic.

  7. Rob:

    So I think I may have had something to do with J.P Wiser’s 150 anniversary being discontinued in LCBO’s. On the site it says it’s discontinued and I was told it is being tested. All I did was try to buy the thing at three different locations and each place had the same issue.

  8. Marc:

    been trying to locate a bottle of Red Letter for a while now. Went to Queen’s Quay LCBO in Toronto and asked customer servie what the deal was on availability. Gave me the number for Corby’s and said they will at times arrange for a private delivery if they have it available.
    I called Corby’s and they were very helpful. I don’t know how they did it but they made a few calls to some local LCBO stores and were able to locate the last bottle available in Ontario. Red Letter has not been avialable on their website for months so I don’t know how they found it and I couldn’t. They will now ship it to my local LCBO and I will finally own my own bottle, finally. Duty Free website for Fort Erie/Buffalo Peace Bridge lists it on their website but they have no stock. I was also able to secure a bottle of Canadian Club 30year old from BCliquor. Some friends will bring me the bottle in August when they visit Ontario. Don’t know if we’ll ever see the Wiser’s Red Letter again.

    • Davin:

      Hi Marc,
      Thanks for letting us know. I was also searching the LCBO website and found none. I have one bottle left but if I ever see another I’ll snap it up.

  9. Rob:

    I’m suprised you guys didn’t find any bottles of 150 annaversary at the LCBO. I just picked up a bottle today at a Mississauga LCBO.Pretty psyched about it, going to open the bottle on the Wedding day in 3 weeks.

    • Davin:

      I just checked and it is not listed in inventory. I guess you got lucky. I wouldn’t mind buying another bottle myself. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. I can’t think of a more appropriate toast.

  10. Rob:

    Thanks! On the online LCBO website there are two listed one in Collingwood and another in Meaford, both located in Ontario obviously for it to be on the LCBO page. Heres the link


  11. Marc:

    Hi Rob,
    Thanks for the information regarding the Red Letter. I just learnt something by reading your entry. If you enter Wiser’s into the lcbo search engine the Red Letter won’t come up, you must enter J.P. Wiser’s then it will pop up and you’re right, two bottles left in Collingwood and Meaford. Unfortunatly I was in Collingwood yesterday but didn’t go into the LCBO store, looks like I’m going back tomorrow.

  12. Rob:

    they actually just dropped the price to 115 bucks

  13. Keith:

    Picked up bottle #4812 for $125 yesterday.

  14. Paul:

    just bought #5810 here on the “Rock”.NFLD. Have friend searching the liquor store of edmonton for AB Preium 30yr anyone know where a bottle of this might be? thanks.

  15. Marc:

    Hey Paul,
    We have lots of the AB Premium 30 year old in Ontario. On my third bottle since being released. Jim Murray sadly didn’t give it that great of a score in the 2012 Whisky Bible. Stil good stuff produced right here in Canada.

    • Paul:

      Hey Marc,
      if i know of some one going that way i’ll ask them to oick me up some more..If get there i’ll buy what i can carry. just bought a set of canadian whiskey tasting glass online. should be interesting to see if there is a difference.
      take care

  16. Marc:

    Bought my bottle of Red Letter last year but haven’t opened it. Took it out of the box the other day after it had sat for 10-12 months and my bottle also had a haze and looked cloudy like unstired orange juice. I’m keeping it as I’m a collector but it must be the same issue one of your readers experienced last year. Have you heard anything regarding the quality of this stuff, is Wiser’s aware of the problem?

    • Derek Wellwood:

      the haze is from non chill filtered whisky. it’s a great thing, more flavor and an ideal trait in an aged spirit

    • Derek Wellwood:

      have 2 bottles.. one for a special occasion, and the other to stash away. already polished off a bottle.. it was delish

  17. Rob:

    Davin, I have a bottle of this on my bar. To be completely honest I’m a little worried about opening it because it’s expensive and I don’t want to be let down. Have you ever considered creating a quality vs price chart. Something like a ranking system?

    • Davin:

      Hi Rob. This is great whisky, really great. I have never done a “bang for your buck” chart as prices vary so widely from place to place.

  18. Rob:

    Hey Davin, I’m curious. What do you think whisky like this one, Canadian Club 30 Y.O and Crown Royal XR will go for in 10 to 15 years unopened in the original box. I own one of each and I’ve been debating whether I should drink them or store them.

    • Davin:

      It’s hard to say for sure, but generally old bottles do not go up much in value. I also have a couple of each of these and it is my intention to open and savour them. Slowly.

  19. paddockjudge:

    I’m seeing indications that this will be re-released; do you have any information that you could share with us?

  20. kyle:

    Sure is. Ive been labeling and packaging 700+ by hand everyday so enjoy it everyone. And no floaties either. Cheers

  21. Mark:

    Small amounts have shown up in Sk. $100 a bottle.

    • Paul:

      40 bottles at Ontario LCBO’s as of today, well 39 now, at $115.

  22. CognacFan:

    Any chance it’s as good as the last release?

  23. [...] Wiser’s Red Letter 150th anniversary edition reviewed here. [...]

  24. charles:

    Just treated myself to a bottle and have to say it ranks up there with any high end whiskey. Highly recommended

  25. Mark:

    After special order I finally got my hands on a bottle. My father in law got the original release in 2007. His came in a really nice box but mine is a few bucks cheaper. I’m tempted to get a second to stash away.

  26. Peter:

    I have enjoyed about 50% of my bottle and really like it.
    That said it is not worth 2 bottles of Highwood Ninety which I like more anyway…so 1 of WRL or 2 HWN, no contest here.

  27. Rob:

    Have an unopened bottle of this. Getting rid of it email if interested. Rdesantis9779@gmail.com

  28. Columbus T Wheeler:

    I have a Wiser’s token from 1857 and want to know what it is worth

    • Davin:

      It’s actually from about 20 years ago and has no value that I know of. Sorry.

  29. Paul Nickles:

    I would like to ask for some guidance. I have a bottle of Wiser’s Red Letter 150th Anniversary in it’s original wood case. According to the enclosed documentatio, it is one of only 6,000 produced. The bottled is numbered “0098″.

    What should I do? Should I savour it over ice? If I do, would I be foolishly opening an extremely valuable bottle of fine wiskey? What is it worth?

    • Davin:

      If it was mine I would open it and enjoy it. The value has not gone up since it was released. It is very good whisky and well worth savouring.

  30. Adam:

    Does anyone have a bottle of this they would like to part with?

  31. Mike K:

    Found a bottle and box in a small place in Alberta. Crazy find for being 10 years old.

  32. David:

    I have a bottle forsale in Alberta contact if interested lgdag@yahho.com original box sealed 200.00

  33. Paul M:

    I Have an Un opened bottle in wood box. 150.00. Niagara Falls, On. paul964@sympatico.ca

  34. David barrington:

    I am looking for $224. If interested im in kw ontario area . contact me at 12stepsA@gmail.com. This is bottle 0224 of 6000 ever made mint unopened w wooden case velvet liner certificate bottle signed by master brewer

  35. Gordon:

    And one trade one for a 40 year old Canadian club email me gordonlatour@live.com

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