Hi, Devoz here. I apologize in advance for what will be something rather long and rambling. Thursday night I was lucky enough to get a private tour of Toronto Distillery Co., as part of the Toronto Whisky Society. It was a great experience to tour and sample a small craft distiller in Toronto. To give you an idea of the scope of the operation, Toronto Distillery Co. uses a 400L still/fermentation tank, using a few hundred pounds of grain/corn.
By chance, I had a private tour of Wiser’s distillery in Windsor set up for the very next day. The difference in scale and scope was unbelievable. Each one of the dozen or more fermentation tanks contained 60 tons of grain. The number, size and variety of stills being used on the site was surprising. From massive column stills, to beautiful copper pot stills, to a small ~400-600L newly installed copper pot still for experimental batches.
Cool fact: Wiser’s maintains a separate still for their rye distillation.
Hundreds of trucks arrive daily to drop off different grains, or pick a co-product produced and sold in the production process, Distillers grain. An odd and intrigued historical note, the distillery was originally run by Hiram-Walker to primarily produce distillers grain, alcohol production was not the main goal. Distillers grain was essential for cattle feed over a century ago, and is still widely used today.
Wiser’s was kind enough to grant my wife and I a private tour, covering almost the entire massive facility. Beginning with the site of grain arrival and inspection. They uses a combination of analytical and objective tests to determine the grain meets the quality standards required. One of the most interesting things I learned was that one of the employees smells each batch/truck of grain that comes in, and their nose is practically sensitive to a common type of fungi which is found on corn.
Next we moved onto the massive warehouse which all of the distillers grain was produced and stored. They are constantly emptying and refilling the warehouse. The powder coated everything, and a mulchy, grain smell was powerfully present. That was one thing that jumped out at me during the tour. Every area of the facility had significantly different aromas. From the fermentation room, to grain areas, etc.
Throughout the facility, the scale of it is striking. Considering they have their own power plant to avoid the high cost of Ontario hydro, the concept of efficiency through scale is evident.
Which is what makes the next part all the more interesting. While the large volume and well known releases make up most of their sales, Wiser’s has recently created two exclusive releases aimed at the whisky enthusiast market. First was Wiser’s Last Barrel, a 14 year old sour mash, with a bourbon style mashbill bottled at 45%. This was great step up from the entry level releases. That is being followed up by an exclusive release for BC, which is a blend of 52 year highland scotch (two barrels I believe, which were some of the many unique barrels aging at Pike Creek), with 15 year old Canadian whisky (which is the basis of Wiser’s Red Letter). ~4,900 bottles were made and being released in early November.
In addition, Wiser’s recently installed a small copper pot still (couple hundred liters) to allow them to experiment with and hopefully release unique whiskies. They are hoping to appeal whisky fans who want to try new and unique releases. Which is great news to me.
I’m getting a little lazy, and the tour covered an incredible amount of detail, so here are some other points I have done, some which may have already been covered:
- 60 ton fermentation tanks
- Over 50 million liters of alcohol produced each year
- Distills many of the major Canadian whisky brands Gibson’s, Canadian Club, etc.
- Wiser’s owns one, if not the largest barrel aging facility in the world. A number of experiments and unique barrels aging in the facility, which is located ~20 minutes outside of Windsor.
- Facility in Pike Creek has almost 2 million barrels of whisky aging, included random bottles of scotch. An example of this would be the two barrels of 52 year old scotch which was blended with 16 year old Wiser’s Red Letter, to make the new upcoming release, Wiser’s Union 52. An exclusive release for British Colombia.
- Wiser’s uses both used and virgin oak barrels which are charred. This depends on the flavor profile that they are trying to obtain. Lot 40 Rye uses a high amount of new barrels for its aging.
- Wiser’s recently purchased and installed a small new copper still to enable them to make small experimental runs. Looking towards unique grains, organic, uncommon strains and mashbills.
- They recently barreled a new bourbon style sour mash, though it is years away.
Anyway, now on to my favorite part of the tour, the tasting room.
They were kind enough to open up a bottle of Union 52, a blend of 16yr old Canadian whisky with 52yr Highland scotch.
Union 52 Review
- Blend of 15 year Canadian whisky with 52 year Highland scotch
- 45% ABV
- Virgin oak casks for the Canadian whisky.
- ~4,900 bottles
Nose: Barley, oak, vanilla, honey, cinnamon, and cloves.
Palate: Oak, some smoke, honey, green apples, vanilla, spices.
Finish: Little bit drying, earthy with touches of smoke poking through. Oak, caramel and vanilla. Better balance, medium in length.
Overall, the scotch added some smoke, earthiness, and complexity to the finish. It also helped add some balance to the Red Letter profile. Hoping to get my hands on a bottle, it is a really unique release for a Canadian distillery. Much better than the average Canadian whisky, and a step up from the Red Letter which served as the Canadian whisky base.
Anyways, a huge thanks to Wiser’s and John who personally spent the time to give us the tour. It was a truly amazing experience, and I have a great deal of appreciation they were willing to do this. In addition, Wiser’s was kind enough to give a sample bottle of Lot 40 Cask Strength to our group, you should see reviews posted in the coming weeks.