The latest Wiser's in Corby's annual special release is their first cask strength, at a fat 64.3%, a blend of corn and rye whiskies that have matured for at least 23 years (to celebrate their Master Blender's twenty-three years at the distillery). Let's try it next to last year's 35 Year Old (50%) and the standard Wiser's 18 Year Old (40%).
The colour is a pale gold. One the nose the corn is very apparent, with buttered popcorn, hot caramel and marzipan. Then the rye shows up with freshly sawn pine and pencil shavings. Fruity with green apple skins; also heather, vanilla pods and cinnamon. Wood smoke as well. Water really opens it up with even more smoke, leather and tobacco. It's a lovely nose, elegant yet also with some oomph.
Hot on the palate with more caramel, cinnamon hearts, chili pepper, heaps of vanilla and lots of oak. Thick mouthfeel. Dark honey. With water it's a bit spicier, and with more wood. Not as well balanced as the nose, unfortunately - it is a bit one-note.
The long finish is tobacco, mouth-drying oak, more pencil shavings and a touch of mint. Definitely an essential purchase given how few cask-strength Canadians are bottled, though this doesn't come anywhere close to Cadenhead's legendary bottling of Indian Corn whisky distilled at Potter (long since closed). Now the compare-and-contrast: last year's 35 Year Old release has a smoother nose and a more balanced palate (though at 50% it still has quite a bit of power); and the 18 is overall much gentler (not a bad thing, the 18 is always a treat). Though for me it doesn't quite reach the heights of the 18 or 35, it is a unique and more-than-worthwhile dram.