Alberta Premium is known in Canada for their high rye content. In fact, the "stock" Alberta Premium is made from 100% rye. Dark Horse was available in the United States under the name "Dark Batch" for awhile, though I'm unsure if it still is. Dark Horse is a unique whisky. While some whiskies (and rums) are aged in ex-sherry casks for added fruity sweetness, Dark Horse has sherry added direclty into the mix. Why would Alberta Premium do this? Why to save money, of course ! What do you think happens when a single malt scotch is aged in ex-sherry casks? The sherry that had infused the wood is "re-released" into the whisky. So it's just 99% rye and 1 % sherry? Well, not exactly. According to canadianwhisky.org, Dark Horse is a "mingling of 12-year-old rye whisky and 6-year-old small pot rye, Dark Horse has an 8% dollop of well-aged corn whisky added to flesh out the body. The whisky is aged in heavily charred American white oak barrels, and is bottled at 45% alc/vol." Dark Horse also contains 0.5%-1.0% sherry wine by volume. Rumour has it that the 8% corn whiskey is in fact Old Grand-Dad's Bourbon.
- Nose (undiluted): fruity, brown sugar, vanilla, toffee, raisins, rye, herbal notes
- Palate (undiluted): medium to light-bodied, a very bourbon-like arrival of vanilla and toffee, developing to brown sugar, maple, peppery rye, dark fruits (dates? dark cherries?) I would have liked it to be a bit "thicker" in the body.
- Finish: medium-short finish, rye spiciness, developing to an almost Dr. Pepper/Cherry-Coke flavour (in a pleasant way)
Adding water did NOT improve this whisky at all. In fact, with water most of the subtlety was lost and Dark Horse simply tasted like watered-down rye. I do NOT recommend drinking this with water. I found it a bit thin neat and adding water made it even thinner. Others, including Dave Broom, disagree. In his book, Mr. Broom gets more cherry-type fruitiness by adding water to Dark Horse. Perhaps our palates are different, or maybe mine is simply not as developed as Mr. Broom's. Probably the latter. Dark Horse does very well neat, or perhaps in a rye and coke. I'm just guessing about the latter since I don't drink rye and coke, but Dark Horse's finish leads me to believe it would work.
I think I payed $30 CAD for my bottle of Dark Horse. It's better than any bourbon I've had at that price point and it can compete with most budget blended scotches, especially for those who don't like smoke or peat. Definitely a winner.
@dloewen Thanks for the kind words. I stopped buying this one awhile back because the batch variation was just too wide for me. I had some nice bottles that I scored as high as 85, and some that were flat and I scored as low as 72-73. The last bottle I bought (and left at my parents’ house) is undrinkable. I’d score it 55/100 if I was feeling generous. It tastes like chewing green corn husks while smelling rotten eggs. I’m not sure how quality control can be that lax. I hope the ones you got are from good or great batches, because I know there were some out there.
Oops—I got mixed up on whose comments were whose. It was actually @OdysseusUnbound who made the "middleman" point I was talking about. Sorry if that was confusing.