I know this will review will be tagged as July 2, but it’s still July 1 in Toronto. I just got back from a quick trip to Calgary to celebrate the upcoming 40th anniversary of my wife arriving in Canada as a refugee (Thanks Joe Clark for making it happen), and I met 5 of the original sponsors. I picked up my puppy and brought her home (my mother must be relieved, given the puppy has “relieved” herself pretty much everywhere except where she was supposed to the last 3 days). She is tucked in bed, my older kids and their mother are still away (yes, I miss them), and I’m determined to review a good Canadian whisky on Canada Day.
I don’t have a lot of experience with Red Letter. I’ve hunted it successfully in Calgary but most of those bottles have gone to a friend. Seeing 2 at a shop for $106.29 plus tax (not bad for a unicorn) put this one back on my radar. The ones I see in Calgary are the 2015 release. After I received one as a gift last year, @paddockjudge was kind enough to give me this sample of the 2013 release. I’m sure I’ve tried Red Letter with him a couple of times before but this is my first time delving into the nuances.
Aside, it shows how far I’ve come when I’m delving into nuances of a Canadian Whisky. 3 Years ago I would have scoffed at the suggestion. But I’ve gained much respect for the genre thanks to gems from Forty Creek (before Campari) and (more recently) WIser’s, Corby, etc…
I can’t tell you the grains that are in Red Letter. Probably mostly corn. I can’t confirm for this release but the 2015 release (shown in the picture) states it is not chill-filtered.
This expression, tasted in a Highland whisky glass, is reviewed in my usual manner, allowing it to settle after which I take my nosing and tasting notes, followed by the addition of a few drops of water, waiting, then nosing and tasting. Yes, water. I rarely use it in most Canadian whiskies, even at 45%, but this is for the review.
Very Canadian Rye nose. Spicy, a little dusty. Lots of caramel and some vanilla. For 45% there’s a lot to smell in this whisky. Something fruity, maybe apple. Maybe the bitterness of citrus pith. Not too complex, but very solid and quite pleasant. Water brings out some fruit syrup (like in a fruit cup) and softens the spiciness a little.
A little thin on the palate upon first sip. The second sip, about 2 minutes later, is more rich. Sweet but not overly. Lots of caramel, vanilla, a bit of pepper. Sour in the development. This is a spicy (not spirity) whisky. Not a lot of difference with water. Maybe a little more fruity.
Astringent. Peppery, medium-long. More pepper in the finish with water (21/25)
This is a solid Canadian whisky. The nose and palate are complimentary. Not too complex but bold, even for a low (45%) ABV.
Score: Neat - 87.5/100 With Water: 87/100
A few years ago I was at the LCBO and someone was asking one of the employees to recommend a good Canadian whisky for an American who was into whisky. She was given a recommendation of some of the standards. Having heard its praises sung by @paddockjudge, I piped in and suggested this one or FC Confederation Oak (at the time both were plentiful). I now know I made a good recommendation.
A couple of years ago, after exploring some other Wiser’s products (Legacy and Dissertation primarily) I had an epiphany, and could say “I finally get Canadian whisky”. Had I had access to this one, it would have fit in. This is a solid, flavourful Canadian whisky.
I would very much like to try this next to the 2015 edition.
Happy Canada Day!!!
All of the Red Letters ('13, '14, & '15) are ncf, natural colour, and from the same Bond. Don Livermore told me circa 2015 that Red Letter is a 13 YO double distilled corn whisky finished in new American Oak casks. The 2013 version would be approximately two years younger than the 2015 release.