We’re going to be honest here… when we first saw the J.P. Wiser’s Alumni Series get released, we assumed it was simply a marketing gimmick that would in all likelihood take existing whiskies and re-brand then with famous players’ names to up-sell the hockey fan market. We even told the folks at Corby this and that we didn’t feel these would appeal to the whisky connoisseur market.
Then we had a chance to discuss with Dr. Don Livermore about the work and thought that went into the creation of these whiskies and were actually curious to give them a try and see how they perform! Below are some specs and stats, some quotes from our interview with Don, as well as our collective thoughts on each bottle.
- Grain: 100% unmalted Rye
- Distillation: 25% column distilled, 75% pot distilled
- Age: 11 years
- Barrels: 25% ex-bourbon, 75% virgin oak
- ABV: 41.6%
The Wendell Clark release was chosen by Wendell at the Hiram Walker distillery and is one of two single grain whiskies in the line-up. Similar to Lot No. 40, it is 100% unmalted rye distilled once in a column and then a second time in a copper pot. Unlike Lot No. 40, it’s aged in ex-bourbon instead of virgin oak, and sports an 11yr age statement. The whisky is tied back to Clark by way of its ABV, which at 41.6% references his career in Toronto. Don’s perspective is that anyone who likes Lot no. 40 will be a fan of this as it’s a bold rye expression. Here are the specs on the juice and the collective tasting notes and impression from the TWS reviewers:
- Nose: rye spice, green apple, mint, cinnamon, nutmeg, oak, fruit juice, rye bread, yeast, very light maple
- Palate: rye spice, cinnamon, oak, vanilla, lightly sweet, dried fruit, green apple, creamy, light dill, raisins, light maple, brown sugar, green banana, fresh baked goods
- Finish: medium, spicy, apple, cinnamon, oak, sweet cereal, unripe banana
Overall thoughts: This is actually a better version of Lot No. 40 in our opinion, likely owing to the longer aging. It has the heaviest nose of the line-up and a ton of really unique notes that intrigued us and had us pouring seconds!
- Grain: 3-grain – corn-based (majority of blend), with wheat (large proportion) and a bit of rye.
- Distillation: wheat is pot distilled, rye is column distilled
- Age: 9 years
- Barrels: Canadian whisky barrels (most of the blend) and the wheat was aged in virgin oak
- ABV: 40%
The connection to the player is the age statement (#9) tying back to his jersey number, and the high proportion of wheat in the blend paying homage to his agricultural Albertan roots. Don told us when Lanny was at the distillery, he loved the wheat whiskies and that it reminded him of his childhood on the farm, so they ensured it was a large proportion of the blend. Not many Canadian whiskies have this much wheat in the blend, and here are our thoughts on it:
- Nose: vanilla, coconut, light maple, mineral/stone, caramel
- Palate: maple, caramel, vanilla, lightly bitter oak, light rye spice, cereal and grains.
- Finish: bitter oakiness, maple, caramel
Overall thoughts: It’s a well-rounded, light and easy drinking Canadian blend. It has a decent amount of oak, and a lot of the notes you would look for in a Canadian whisky, with a bit more spice and cereal notes.
- Grain: 100% Corn
- Distillation: double column distilled
- Age: 10 years
- Barrels: ex-Speyside, ex-Rum, and ex-bourbon; roughly 1/3 each
- ABV: 40%
The connection to the player is the 10-year age statement which was his jersey number, and the 1/3 proportion is an homage to how many hat-tricks he scored. Don’s goal with this one was a smooth whisky to reflect his playing style. Here are our thoughts on what appears at first glance to be a variant on Pike Creek 10:
- Nose: sweet rum, passionfruit, oak, lightly musty, tropical fruit, grassy
- Palate: sweet rum, candy-like sweetness, tropical fruit, oak, light maple, cinnamon, nutmeg, lightly earthy
- Finish: earthy, oak, sweet rum, fruity
Overall thoughts: This is a slight upgrade on Pike Creek 10, and that’s saying something considering the Pike Creek won a TWS award recently! Its palate is stronger but nose is weaker; anyone who enjoys Pike Creek will find this variant really interesting to compare head to head!
- Grain: 4 grains: corn, rye (6%), wheat (4%) and barley malt (4%)
- Distillation: all column distilled
- Age: 10 years
- Barrels: majority in Canadian whisky plus some ex-bourbon barrels
- ABV: 40%
The bottle hearkens back to his 10 point night in 1976, and the blend proportions reflecting his number of goals (6) and assists (4). Don said he blended this to Darryl’s preferences to a smooth, quiet whisky. Our assumption is this is essentially a lighter version of Gooderham & Worts four grain, but let’s see what the notes reveal!
- Nose: spicy, lots of rye, oak, melon, ginger
- Palate: cantaloupe, rye spice, baking spices, creamy, oak, brown sugar, vanilla, sweet
- Finish: maple, grassy, oak, sweet, butter
Overall Thoughts: this says corn-forward, but we get more rye spice than typical DD corn notes. Lots of typical Canadian whisky notes again, but more spicy. An upgrade for fans of Wiser’s Deluxe or Triple Barrel.
- Grain: corn and rye (7%), with majority corn
- Distillation: column distilled
- Age: 7 years
- Barrels: Canadian whisky, Speyside casks (7%), virgin oak, ex-bourbon
- ABV: 48%
This is the highest ABV bottle in the line-up, and the 48% refers to his record for most goals scored by a defense-man in a single season. Paul’s high octane energy both on and off the ice also inspired the high ABV for this bottle – Don felt he could probably still play today! The other connections to the player are that his jersey number 7 is reflected in the age statement, and in the cask and grain blend proportions.
- Nose: fairly spirity, maple, oak, vanilla, spice
- Palate: corn, quite sweet, maple, spice, sweet corn, musty, marshmallow, bitter oak, stonefruit
- Finish: leather, corn, sweet, maple, spice
Overall thoughts: has a lot of typical Canadian whisky notes, and is a bit spirity probably owing to the combination of youth and high proof.
- Grain: Corn and rye (19%)
- Distillation: all column distilled
- Age: 6 years
- Barrels: Canadian whisky, double charred, ex-bourbon, rum, port and French Oak
- ABV: 40%
There are a couple of connections to Larry’s playing career: the 6 years in 6 barrels references his 6 stanley cup wins, and the blend proportions 19% refer to his jersey #19. The French oak was included because he played for a French Canadian team. Don found him to be a very cerebral man and was very intellectual and serious about the blending process, which was reflected in the complexity of his blend.
- Nose: fruity, musty, spice, leather, cereal, floral, cinnamon, vanilla, sweet
- Palate: lots of oak, coca cola candies, rye spice, light dill, maple, oak, grape, caramel
- Finish: cola, mint, cinnamon, vanilla, light maple, oak, spice
Overall Thoughts: this is really interesting! Obviously with many cask types it’s got a ton of depth, and it balances the spice and sweet notes very well. The description on the bottle says “Imposant et élégant” and we have to agree! This would be great as both a really interesting daily sipper and something to put in a Manhattan or Boulevardier. We are sincerely impressed with this one, and more than one of the panel said they’d be buying a bottle of this!
TWS Rankings and Final Thoughts
Decent mixers: Paul Coffey & Darryl Sittler
Nice sippers: Guy Lafleur & Lanny McDonald
Connoisseur must-buys: Larry Robinson & Wendel Clark
We were impressed at the wide variety of flavour in these bottles. Some are a pretty typical Canadian whisky profile, but each has a unique twist that make them stand out from the crowded LCBO shelves. The Robinson and Clark bottles we have won’t last long and we’re hoping the stock hasn’t run out on them yet!
Don is incredibly proud of this line-up and especially the fact that it supports the Alumni Association, since many NHL alumni never made the kind of money players take home today. He had nothing but high praise for the alumni who came in to blend. (And side-note, if you’re interested in blending your own whisky, visit jpwiserstour.ca to find out when their next blending class is!)
Stay tuned for future Alumni releases. We had heard a rumour that the next group will be goalies or Captains, but he couldn’t confirm or deny! What we do know is when they come out, we’ll be trying them!