Occasionally one of our members will pick up a bottle and give out samples to a number of Toronto Whisky Society (TWS) members to review individually. These reviews are amalgamated into a single multi-person review like this one.
This time around both Bryan Vanderkuk and Devozwhisky were lucky enough to purchase bottles of the new Wiser’s release, Union 52 from British Colombia. Originally Devozwhisky and his wife were fortunate enough try some of the Union 52 on a tour of the Wiser’s distillery in Windsor. He was impressed to the point that he wanted other TWS members to try it.
Below are the reviews from 8 of the TWS members for Wiser’s Union 52:
Some quick details on Union 52:
- 45% ABV
- $70 + tax in BC
- A blend of 4% 52 Year Old Highland Scotch and 96% 15yr Wiser’s Canadian whiskey
- Available only in British Columbia
- Colour: Light Gold
- Nose: Oak, apples, lots of spice, pepper, rye, sharp. At first this nosed like a typical Canadian Whisky, then after 20 minutes of rest, nosed like a bourbon, weird. Getting tobacco after that 20 min.
- Palate: tiniest hint of smoke, perhaps that tobacco coming through from the nose. Caramel, granny smith apples, cloves, mineral, lots of oak.
- Finish: drying, med length, malty.
- Score: 84/100
Thoughts: Very different from many Canadian whiskies on the market, a blend of 4% 52 Year Old Highland Single malt and 96% 15yr Wiser’s Canadian whiskey, it actually doesn’t taste like a Canadian whiskey at all, none of the heavy sweetness, maple caramel stuff going on. Wish I had a bottle so I could revisit this after being opened for a few months. It’s intriguing that’s for sure.
- Colour: slightly more red-orange
- Nose: it does have many of the same notes as the red letter… maple, oak, caramel, vanilla… but the fruit is more pronounced and there’s more of an herbal character to it. some spices too. Nutmeg and cloves maybe. Toffee, caramel candies.
- Palate: the nose had some similarities to the Red Letter, but the palate is completely different. Biggest difference is a smokiness that permeates everything. Way more oak, dark fruit, some grass and flowers, the maple is almost gone, rye spice, caramel, honey, apples. way more going on.
- Finish: much longer than red letter and that smoke lingers nicely.
- Score: 87/100
Thoughts: I still like Lot 40 better than this, so given a choice to buy this for $80 or that for $40, it’d be an easy choice. However, it definitely answers the question of what’s wrong with regular Canadian whisky… not enough 52year scotch in it! It improved every aspect of the Red Letter.. more complexity in the nose, way more going on in the palate, and a longer better finish. Glad I have a bottle of it, and let’s be honest.. it’s the closest thing to a 52yr highland I’ll probably ever taste!
- 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.
- Score: 84-85
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.
- Nose: Caramel, vanilla cream, grass, oak, banana, apple, baked bread, hint of baking spices
- Taste: Green apple, oak, vanilla, nutmeg, mint, grass, honey
- Finish: Oak, caramel, vanilla, mint, black pepper
- Score: 84/100
Thoughts: The nose starts off soft, creamy sweet and grassy. With time, rich fruits emerge (the banana note in this case isn’t the same note as that found in young whiskies) along with a slightly sour baked bread. Big green apple notes lead off the taste, with some classic bourbon notes and spices. The grassiness makes an appearance near the tail end before giving way to more sweetness in the form of honey “tea” (the sweetness of honey, but seemingly diluted). Gives the distinct impression of a cooling sensation. The finish is fairly short and slightly drying, with some sweetness and a spice that builds for a bit.
Mellow and relaxed throughout, this is a delightful sipping whisky. The experience holds similarities to bourbon at times, and rye other times, but the addition of the scotch lends something that gives it an additional charm. I greatly preferred this to Last Barrels and most Canadian whisky, with the only knock here being that it may be a little too mellow (for my tastes). I’m happy to say that for me Wiser’s is one to watch out for in 2017 as they keep releasing these experiments.
Colour: 7.5YR 5/6
Nose: Wood, honey, cranberry apple, banana, cherry blossom, butterscotch
In comparison with the normal Red Letter, this has a nice woodiness to it, which calms the sweetness right down.
It all walks up and yells “CALM YOUR TITS SWEETNESS” and Sweetness isn’t a prostitute so I don’t have to come in for a talking to by the police again.
Taste: Floral, caramel, honey tea, pear, milk, butter
There’s a floral aspect that has been added. Some milk notes, and again the sweet aspects are more mellow.
This is missing more of the earth and wheat elements from before. More umami, and creamy aspects.
Finish: Violets, green melon, brine, oak, cocoa nibs, ginger, grassy
Oddly this part is now just as fruity, earthy, and now has the wheat to it.
Talk about stealing from Paul to give to Paul’s feet. I’m pretty sure that’s the Bible quote, right?
Thoughts: An odd dram, that’s for certain. It rounds out the brash aspects of the red letter. However it loses some parts from the taste, can have a lot of floral aspects, and is more odd than tasty.
That’s not to say this isn’t a great thing to buy. I’d say it’s better than the standard Red Letter, and a better buy if you’re in BC. It’s probably the closest I’ll come to trying a 52 year old Scotch (so far) and I think this is a great idea for old whiskies that may be below the 40% line.
Now if only they’d release the distillery name.
- Nose: Caramel, toffee, cream, Crème brûlée, vanilla ice cream.
- Palate: Oak, vanilla, honey, metal, wheat, rye, cinnamon, paprika, anise, faint smoke.
- Finish: Black pepper, mace, floral honey, green peppers, cinnamon hearts, toffee, mint.
- Score: 82/100
Thoughts: A blend of 16 year old Wisers aged in virgin oak and a 52 year old scotch. The result is an incredibly creamy nose, a surprising mix of spicy and sweet on the palate, and a more spice dominant finish. Very identifiably as coming from a major Canadian distillery, but with something rather… different. This is odd, but somehow the dominant Canadian whisky notes (wheat, rye, metal, and some spices) really works here. Perhaps the scotch added depth, complexity, and an odd balance.
- Nose: Caramel, honey, vanilla, grass, apple skins, menthol, oak. Much richer than the Red Letter.
- Palate: Rye, caramel, cinnamon, orange peel, malt, oak, licorice, I like this more than the Red Letter but the mouthfeel remains pretty thin.
- Finish: Short and spicy, definitely not as sweet as the Red Letter. Orange peel.
- Score: 80/100
Overall: Going into this I had thought that I would be able to pick out a lot of similarities between the two whiskies as U52 uses Red Letter as its base but was surprised when I found them to be fairly different. To me the U52 was better than the Red Letter across the board. It was deeper and richer and more complex beating the Red Letter slightly in each category from the nose to finish. Both are not my preferred style as I found them too light and thin but they were definitely able to improve on the Red Letter by blending in that scotch cask. Glad I was able to do this side by side I’m looking out for more releases from Wiser’s coming up in 2017.
- Appearance: 1.3, Russet
- Nose: An odd nose. I would have trouble dissecting this if I didn’t know the back story, but since I do, I get a mix of typical Canadian whisky profile mixed with a musty/dunnage smelling old scotch. I get a very dark rye bread nose, with some sweet corn mixed in, musty old cask, and vanilla.
- Palate: Again, I get a very typical sweet Canadian whisky up front, but it is underscored by something rich. It’s really odd to have an interplay of these two things, younger Canadian with old Scotch; I feel like I’m trying to listen to Bach playing from across the room while the latest chart topper is turned up to max right beside my face. Sweet, rye spices again, pepper, cloves, musty wood, dirty oranges (huh?).
- Finish: Spices abound, rye, pepper, clove, nutmeg, sweet corn, vanilla, caramel, must. Medium length.
- Score: 83/100
Thoughts: I found myself waxing a bit more poetic in this review than I usually do, probably because I was struggling a bit to describe the elements of this whisky. I’ve heard others say they get smoke in this whisky, but even on my 3rd sitting I just don’t see it. Maybe the hit of mustiness and spice I’m getting is what others interpret as smoke, I’m not sure. I enjoyed this one, but I give the edge to Last Barrel’s still.
Overall as a group we enjoyed this whisky, and more or less unanimously we felt the addition of the 4% of 52 year old scotch helped expanded and improve the base profile. Union 52 is far better than many other Canadian whiskies on the market, and is a unique and enjoyable sipper.
Great to see Wiser’s continue to put out novel, delicious and experimental releases. Great to see this kind of innovation in the Canadian marketplace. Looking forward to future releases from the distillery.