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.
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.