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Alberta Distillers Alberta Premium 20 Year Old

Sorry, not sorry

5 1645

@OdysseusUnboundReview by @OdysseusUnbound

27th Aug 2020


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

There's no easy way to say this. My experience with Alberta Premium 20 Year Old has been awful and has gotten steadily worse. While this whisky has generally gotten middle-of-the-road to positive reviews, I don't like it. At all. In fact, I hate it. I'm hesitant to post this review because I've liked every other Alberta Premium I've tried and I don't want to be negative for the sake of being negative or "edgy". That said, I paid money for this bottle of whisky and it's been worse than a disappointment. There's no way to sugar-coat this. It's bad. Aggressively and obnoxiously bad. Imagine William Shatner singing Puccini arias with Nickelback playing the role of his "orchestra". And since I'm bound to draw criticism from certain quarters for what I'm about to publish, allow me to address some of the likely criticisms:

  • "Joe, maybe you just don't like Canadian whisky." Ok, let's look at some of my ratings of Canadian whiskies: Alberta Premium Cask Strength (93/100), Gooderham & Worts 49 Wellington (92/100), Lot no.40 Cask Strength 11 Year Old (95/100)
  • "Joe, maybe you only like higher proof whiskies, you cask strength snob!". Let's look at my ratings of whiskies in the 40-45% abv range: J.P. Wiser's Last Barrels (89/100), Wiser's Wendel Clark Rye (88/100), Forty Creek Confederation Oak (88/100), Lot no.40 (89/100)
  • "Joe, maybe you don't have the palate to fully appreciate older Canadian whiskies." Let's see what my record says: Canadian Club 40 Year Old (89/100), Highwood Ninety Decades of Richness (89/100), J.P. Wiser's Seasoned Oak 19 Year Old (89/100).
  • "Just because you don't like it, it doesn't make it bad whisky." All tasting notes and reviews are inherently subjective. And in my opinion, this is really bad whisky. Many will disagree and that's fine. But I spent my own money, so I'll tell you the truth.

Tasting notes

February 6 2020 (first tasting)

Neat From A Copita Glass

  • Nose: nail polish, galvanized metal, and an industrial note reminiscent of snowmobile exhaust on a really cold day. It sounds weird, I know, but it's there. I can't say it was pleasant. No, I'm not trying to overplay the Canadian stereotype, but it's there and it's distracting. After a long rest in the glass (30-40 minutes), there are some typical (albeit subtle) rye notes: cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg.
  • Palate: tame and gentle arrival, thin texture, faint fruitiness with plums and apricots, then butterscotch, some oak, and a little bit of orange zest and vanilla.
  • Finish: short, sweet, slightly peppery, hard caramel candy, black pepper, a touch of orange zest.
  • Thoughts: It's unique that's for sure, and I guess doesn't totally lack complexity. I'm disappointed by the low proof; 42% abv makes it feel thin and weak. I'm definitely intrigued, and I'm hoping this one develops over time as the bottle "opens up". Perhaps I'll better appreciate this whisky once I get a bit more familiar with its flavour profile. I have to say, however, that the initial aroma is one of the worst I've ever experienced.
  • Initial Rating: 60/100

February 20th 2020

With 1 teaspoon of distilled water from a Glencairn glass

  • Nose: nail polish, pine sap, exhaust fumes, freshly cut pine, a metallic industrial note, a bit of overripe banana. This is unpleasant. Really unpleasant.
  • Palate: gentle arrival, almost non-existent, caramel, a touch of orange and apricot, hints of barrel char, some rye spice
  • Finish: mercifully short length, sweet caramel, mint, some oak spice (cinnamon and black pepper)
  • Thoughts: This is "better" without water, and I use the term "better" loosely. At 42% abv it doesn't need or benefit from adding water. It's already a bit thin at the bottled strength; no need to dilute any further. I think this has gotten worse since I opened the bottle.
  • Rating: 55/100

August 14th 2020

Neat from a Glencairn

  • Nose: Nail polish. I can not emphasize enough how strong and off-putting this aroma is. Even my wife, who rarely comments on my whiskies asked "Are you drinking nail polish?" from across the room when I poured this. Exhaust fumes, galvanized metal. Even after letting this rest an hour in the glass, there are few other notes coming through. A bit of oak, some pine tree car air freshener. This may be the most aggressive, unpleasant whisky I've ever nosed.
  • Palate: thin, thin, thin. You'd think after 20 years in oak, there would be something going on, but there isn't. There's nothing elegant, mature or "luxurious" here. There are faint toffee, plum, and apricot flavours, or I think there are. Perhaps I'm imagining them or wishing they were there.
  • Finish: It's short, and that's a good thing. The exhaust fumes come back, and then there's a touch of pine and mint.
  • Thoughts: This whisky gets worse every time I try it. Maybe my expectations are too high, hoping it will get better with time. Maybe I've got some lingering anger over having paid good money for this awful whisky. Who knows? But I've (regrettably) consumed 1/3 of the bottle, giving each pour time and attention. I really wanted to like this. I really did. But I hate it. This Alberta Premium 20 Year Old is downright awful to my nose and palate. The remainder of the bottle will likely stay in my cabinet, only to be opened when someone asks me "What's the worst whisky you've ever had?" Perhaps it's harsh, but I'm nothing if not honest. #sorrynotsorry
  • Final Rating: 45/100 (not a typo)

  • Would I accept a glass of this if it was offered to me? Not on your life. I'd rather drink water.

  • Would I order this in a bar or pub? Nope. I'd order a Zima before paying for this whisky.
  • Would I buy another bottle? You're kidding me, right? No.

Related Alberta Distillers reviews


Victor commented

@OdysseusUnbound thank you very much for your very comprehensive review. The outliers for quality, bad and good, are whiskies needing reviews. It is helpful to others to know what differentiates those whiskies from other whiskies. You paint a very clear picture.

It must be difficult for commercial interests to decide what to do with aging whisky product which they know is not of the highest quality. "Will it get better with more age?" they may ask. Or "How will this be received if we bottle it now?" Or, "We can't really afford to just throw this whisky out, can we?" Or "SOME people will like this, right?".

SOME people do tend to like almost anything which is released. But the majority of people will notice large differences in quality.

about one month ago 3Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

@Victor Thanks for your encouragement. I have to wonder if there was more than one batch released. Two people whose palates I trust, @paddockjudge and @talexander , have reviewed this whisky rather favourably. Reading their reviews, I have to wonder if we were tasting from the same batch... Maybe something went wrong when AP was bottling mine? I can’t really reconcile the vast differences.

about one month ago 1Who liked this?

paddockjudge commented

@OdysseusUnbound, I was not kind in my review of this one. I scored it 83, that is in the ginger ale zone.

When I review a whisky, the first question I ask is “Would I be proud of this whisky if I had made it?”

I did state that ADL produces some very good whisky, but not enough of it was in AP20. Different batches, possibly... I’ll check the number on mine.

about one month ago 3Who liked this?

paddockjudge commented


about one month ago 1Who liked this?

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BlueNote commented

I sense you're holding something back @OdysseusUnbound. You're among friends here, you can be totally honest with us. wink

If that's not the case, I think you might have got a really bad bottle. @paddockjudge sent me a sample of that one, and although it wasn't my favourite of the samples he sent me, it wasn't THAT bad. You could try giving it a Canada Dry tune up.

30 days ago 1Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

Some of the numbers are hard to make out

29 days ago 0

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Astroke commented

I certainly was not a fan of this one, would have scored it in the mid 70's I suppose. That said I was foolish enough to buy 2 bottles and will be returning one to the closest LCBO for something else in that price range. Hopefully they start taking returns back shortly.

28 days ago 2Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

@Astroke "Not a fan" would be an upgrade. I don't think I've ever had a negative reaction this strong to a whisky before. Most whiskies that I don't enjoy fall on the bland or "too spirit-forward" side of things, but this AP20 is aggressive, and not in a pleasantly seductive "Eva Green in 300: Rise of an Empire" kind of way. It's like listening to Gilbert Gottfried singing Britney Spears' "Greatest Hits".

28 days ago 1Who liked this?

Astroke commented

@OdysseusUnbound for me though Gilbert Gottfried singing Brittany Spears songs would be an upgrade :)

28 days ago 3Who liked this?

MadSingleMalt commented

Oh, look who's trying to be so edgy!

28 days ago 2Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

@Alexsweden It was difficult to put any number on it....but the nose, ugh, the nose is unbearable.

26 days ago 0

Nozinan commented

Sounds like a contender.... Lambertus better be on its toes...

26 days ago 2Who liked this?

casualtorture commented

It almost sounds like they didn't make proper cuts in distillation. Whenever I am (legally) distilling a corn based spirit, the heads (not fore-shots that get thrown out) will have a very aggressive, artificially sweet nail polish or industrial chemical thing going on. The tails will have like a wet dog, almost oily, moldy "funk" smell. I can handle a small bit of heads making it into the final product, but not tails in corn based spirits.

24 days ago 2Who liked this?

Victor commented

@casualtorture your description of the taste of 'heads' sounds very much like what became the result in the final product in Lambertus 10 yo Single Grain Whisky. Thank you for your very revealing comment.

24 days ago 3Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

@casualtorture This smells like they only kept the heads, and then aged them in eighth-fill casks. angry

24 days ago 1Who liked this?

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