In the always-developing world of premium Canadian whiskies (well, developing for the last three or four years anyway, since Corby's first Northern Border Rare Collection altered the landscape), Alberta Distillers has come out with both a 20 Year Old and a Cask Strength expression. They had previously released 25 and 30 year old variants (the 25 was better) but that was quite a few years ago. The 20 is a limited edition, bottled at a slightly higher strength of 42% (rather than the standard's 40).
The colour is a dark caramel. On the nose are classic Alberta Premium notes dialled up: thick toffee, vanilla bean, fruitcake and citrus peel - all supported by a backbone of buttered corn (and yes, I know there is no actual corn here, all rye). Hint of balsamic, I think? Slightly perfumy. A nice burst of oak spices (cinnamon, cloves, white pepper) envelopes it all. With a few drops of water, more perfume, more balsamic and some buttery croissant. Very nice.
Spicier on the palate with rum raisin, dark caramel, more cloves and blood orange. Creamy, buttery mouthfeel with honey everywhere. Pralines. Peanut skins. Gets much spicier with time in the glass. More of everything with water. Mouth-watering and delicious.
The finish is terrific - long, ashen, spicy with tons of mouth-drying oak. This is where it really stands out. Elegant yet complex - but with no real surprises - this is a lovely though straightforward dram. Side-by-side with standard AP, it shows it's age; more oak and caramel, less fruit and rye spice. But where the 20 really works is the finish, a long developing lecture on the beauty of what very good Canadian whisky can be. Next, let's up the ABV to around, oh I dunno, 65.1% and see what happens....