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Alberta Premium Dark Horse

Average score from 7 reviews and 9 ratings 83

Alberta Premium Dark Horse

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Alberta Premium Dark Horse

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.

"Central Ontario" within 150 km of Toronto, @OdysseusUnbound? Anyone outside of Canada looking at a map would call "Central Ontario" about 400 clicks north of Marathon.

I never get tired of hearing people say "oot".

Yes, Toronto is sort of the Canadian "Middle Kingdom". Several Connosr members have posted their locations as "GTA" which means absolutely nothing whatsoever to 99% of the world's population.


This whisky is a bit of a bolder release from the regular line of Alberta products, even with a tiny bit of sherry added to it (directly rather than through a sherry barrel). I believe it is, more or less, a mix of a 12 year old and a 6 year old whisky. It comes in at 45%, which is high for most Canadian whiskies.

Lots comes through on the nose, with apples, prunes, raisins, sharp rye, maple, oloroso sherry, and some cola notes. The apple notes continue through to the palate, with some bourbon notes and a it of a spicy kick. I find notes reminiscent of cola once again on the palate. The finish is quite fruity with some cinnamon and decent weight. Sometimes I feel the rye doesn't quite mesh with everything else in this whisky, but I still enjoy this one. Relative to other Alberta Distillery products it's a bit darker - the notes are a bit more subdued and heavier.

more thoughts/notes at whiskywon.wordpress.com/2014/05/…


An odd thing happened here. I had a bottle of this back some months ago and thought it was a decent whiskey. It's been some months so I bought a bottle of the Dark Horse again and this time - Yikes...My opinion of this one has dropped precipitously. Either the two bottles came from vastly different stock (I'm guessing unlikely) or what I like in Whiskey has really changed over the last 4 or 5 months.

NOSE: I'm not sure how I didn't notice this before but this has the stink of chemicals in it. There's a bit of a sherry smell in there and some toffee - its pleasant enough but it sits alongside something akin to a cleaning product. This is really off putting.

PALATE: Toffee or Caramel taste initially. Nice. Quite Spicy. I found my tongue was tingling a bit with this. It tastes better than it smells but still - chemicals again make their presence felt. I found I cringed when I tasted them.

FINISH: Short finish but there's some heat here - it warms the throat and the top of the stomach. The Sherry influence is stronger here than either on the nose or the palate. The finish is a strength of this whiskey.

OVERALL: This seems to me like a Whiskey that just didn't need to happen. I really like the base Alberta Premium. This one, however, is rank with that cleaning product influence. The bottle says it imparts flavors of Vanilla. Didn't sense it in either smell, taste or finish. I'll pass on this next time and just stick with the base Alberta Premium.

One thing about rye is that occasionally it'll taste like varnish/cleaning products. I had this happen with a bottle of Ridgemont Reserve that made it undrinkable, this doesn't mean every bottle of Ridgemont is bad, just that one.

I have a bottle of Dark Horse on the go right now, and I don't get any cleaning product notes. I'd say you got a dud bottle, but at least it's a cheap dud.

So I finally got the courage to give this another go. Much better the second time around. It looks like you were correct and I must have just got a bad bottle last time. I still wouldn't rank this as a must have drink but it's not terrible either and would do in a pinch.


The last two Canadian whiskies I reviewed were flavoured whiskies (or, to coin a friend's phrase, "Frankenwhiskies.") Does this offering from Alberta Distillers fall into that category, given it has 0.5-1% sherry in it? Not from being matured in a sherry cask, mind you, but actual drops of sherry in the whisky? I would say...yes - though this is not mentioned on the label.

Unlike Alberta's other 100% rye whiskies, this has 8% corn whisky in it as well, and is bottled at a higher strength, at 45%.

The colour is dark copper. On the nose is pencil shavings, hot pepper, rye spices, and lots of oak. Fruits like plum, raisin and red grapes. Herbaceous. But the nose is rather thin, and water doesn't do much to bring it out.

The palate is richer, with more vanilla and caramel, and with more bite than most Canadian whiskies due to the high rye content, where you get that grapefruit pith note. Rich and delicious. Water gives it a creamier mouthfeel.

The finish is long and deep, lots of smoke, spice and oak. More wood shavings and a tannic element as well, no doubt from those drops of sherry. This is far and away the best of the "flavoured" whiskies out there (though I'm sure Alberta Distillers would not classify this as such). While I do not prefer it to their standard Alberta Premium offering, it is something a little different and very enjoyable.

I've compared this head-to-head against the standard AP bottling and Dark Horse wins, no contest. I know this has a lot of purists up in arms over the added sherry and bourbon but I've had several bottles and this is a repeat buy for me. Try it on ice. I dare you to.

Also I must commend Alberta Distillers for their pricing. I once bought a bottle of their 25 year old for $23.95. As for comparing the 25 to the 30...the 30 had richer flavour but also had a rather dank, musty finish, whereas the 25 was a cleaner whisky overall.

Thanks for that talexander. I was tempted on that one, but I think I'll stick to the standard Alberta Premium which is universally acknowledged to be a great Canadian. Unless of course I run accross there 25 year old somewhere in my travels.


Nose: Starts with acetone , spices , leather and vanilla ice cream. Herbs with nice sweet edge to it. Nice rye spiciness with hint of sherry. Fruity (dark fruit) and very intense and perfumed. This is massive stuff.

Palate: Lovely rye notes. Spicy and cinnamon-y. Rather creamy with vanilla ice cream , but also masculine. Getting bitter with some grapefruit and orange peel and hints of Cherries and prunes. Mouth-watering, and full bodied, with a nice oomph factor at 45%. I like!

Finish: Dark fruit. Bitter grapefruit. Rye spices. Longish.

This is an excellent whiskey, no doubt. It’s powerful, masive, mouth coating, with a lot of strong flavours, while being very enjoyable to drink straight. Rye goodness, with another dimension of fruit and sweetness in addition to the spiciness one can expect from a Rye. They sure know how to make whiskey in Canada. I am looking forward to the other samples in my “to do” list.


Thanks for the reviewed sample is given to @paddockjudge. The reviewed sample is from bottle # L2249AD201180917, opened December 2012, 3 months ago. While Alberta Distillers whiskies usually use a grain mash which is 100% from rye, Alberta Premium Dark Horse is reported to be made from some 6 yo rye, some 12 yo rye, with 8% corn whisky blended in, and 0.5 to 1.0% straight sherry added. This review will be in sequential format

Nose: first there is a balance of strong re-used wood flavours and strong wine flavours...then the rye grain flavours become more apparent. Very enjoyable. Score 22-all whiskies; 23 Canadian Category

Taste: the sweet sherry shows itself first, then the rye and wood come on. The sherry is much stronger in the mouth than in the nose. The wood flavours almost have a burnt smoky taste. There is lots of flavour here. Score 22- all whiskies; 22 Canadian

Finish: the strong flavours persist, closing on a deep burnt smoky note. Score 21-all whiskies; 22 Canadian

Balance: when I heard that some straight sherry was added to this whisky I was appalled and put off. The small amount of sherry added has its effects, but this is not a sherry atrocity, like, say, Tangle Ridge, also from this distillery. By contrast to standard Alberta Premium, Dark Horse is intense and murky. Both are very pleasant if you can get past the idea of additives in whisky, and the often intense sweetness of the Canadian style. Alberta Premium Dark Horse is a lot of fun. Score 21-all whiskies; 22 Canadian

Total scores: 86- all whiskies; 89 Canadian Category


This new expression from Alberta Premium competes with Crown Royal Black in the higher-proof, extra-coloured Canadian whisky category. The label states that it uses some small pot-distilled rye in the blend, and charred oak casks for aging.

Nosed from the bottle, it almost smells like a bourbon with those sweet cherry notes. In the Glencairn glass, sampled immediately after drinking Forty Creek, it is so fruity that it reminds me of cognac. Yet there is still that flinty, metallic edge to it that reminds you it is Alberta Premium. Overall, a rich and expressive nose that is quite un-Canadian.

It is incredibly silky and smooth in the mouth, with only a mild burn. The initial flavours are fruity and even a tad minty, reminding me of sherried Scotch, interestingly. Very nice and easy-drinking. However after a moment a sour flavour develops and throws things off somewhat. Once the sourness fades the finish is light and fruity with a touch of oak.

Overall this is a very pleasant whisky that goes down a little too easily. Reminds me rather of a mix of CC Sherry Cask and regular Alberta Premium, perhaps with some bourbon or Kentucky rye thrown in. Would be near perfect if not for that but of sourness in the finish.

You did not state whether this is, like the other Alberta Distillers Limited products, from 100% rye mash. I am surmising that it is, since you did not address the subject and likened it to other ADL products. Are the charred barrels new? If so, of course it would remind a person somewhat of bourbon. "Bourbon-like", for those to whom bourbon is a 'foreign' whisky, usually just means you can taste the fresh new wood. That 'un-Canadian' taste, is probably just from some new wood exposure. (with Forty Creek's recent new wood use as the Canadian exception.) Or were there other flavours that (also) may have tasted 'un-Canadian' to you?

The fruity flavour part you mentioned is interesting to me. You CAN get fruity flavours (and mint flavours) from rye grain, but with Canadian whisky and its additives you never know quite where the sweet fruity flavours come from.

I love an unusually dry batch of Alberta Premium whisky, but the average batch tastes to me like the sweetness is not from the wood nor the fruitiness from the rye, but rather both fruitiness and sweetness are from additives. I will be very happy if I ever succeed in getting again a very dry batch bottle of standard Alberta Premium, as was was my first 750 ml of it. It may never happen.

This is a subject upon which I feel very strongly, and I will endeavor to express myself with as much moderation as I can summon.

To me the average bottle of Alberta Premium tastes like it has both sherry and caramel in it, which is to say, the fruitiness doesn't taste like it comes naturally from rye, nor the sweetness taste like it comes naturally from wood.

I've also had 750 ml of Alberta Preumium, my first, and reviewed bottle of it, that was light years drier and less fruit-pimped than the average batch. I just loved that bottle, and would love to one day have 4 or 5 more like it in my cabinet, if I can ever find any like it again. That one tasted like it had not been debased by putzing around with a lot of additives to sweeten and 'fruitify' it.

Alberta Distillers Limited (Beam Brands Global, no less!) is no stranger to sherrying up rye whisky. Tangle Ridge is like "Death by Sherry". You can't friggin' taste any rye whisky for the sherry. For cocktail drinkers this sort of thing is no big deal, but to be taken seriously as straight whisky? Not for me.

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