Whisky Advocate

Whisky Advocate Award: Canadian Whisky of the Year

December 13th, 2013

Wiser’s Legacy, 45%, C$50

Amidst a wealth of outstanding new releases it’s easy to forget old favorites. Forty Creek Heart of Gold, Highwood Ninety, Collingwood 21 yearWisers_Legacy_750mL_CDN old, Wiser’s Red Letter, and Masterson’s Barley each fought to stay at the top of my 2013 whisky charts. Many head-to-head tastings and much thoughtful consideration later, the whisky to hold its own and emerge as Canadian whisky of the year is Wiser’s Legacy.

Legacy is the crowning achievement of Wiser’s former master blender, David Doyle. Looking back, it was also a harbinger of the new direction Wiser’s whiskies would take following Doyle’s departure. In hindsight, the influence of Doyle’s then-apprentice, Don Livermore, is obvious.

After a decade and a half as a blender, Livermore completed his PhD in brewing and distilling in Edinburgh at Heriot-Watt University. Shortly thereafter Doyle handed him the master blender’s reins at the Corby distillery in Windsor where Wiser’s whiskies are made. Livermore studied the effects of wood on aging for his doctorate. That almost candied succulence of toasted new oak that you taste in Legacy is the fruit of those studies.

A muscular, full-bodied, friendly whisky, Legacy slathers your mouth with its creamy, not-too-sweet candied essence. Hot cinnamon hearts and peppermint buttress the ginger, cloves, and nutmeg of warm Christmas pudding. Sweet vanillas and sumptuous butterscotch toffee becalm the steely earth of rye-grain whisky into kid-soft armchair leather. Then, just as you hit a pocket of black licorice, toasted new oak resurges with freshly split red cedar, over-ripe dark fruits, and out of nowhere, a briny wash of seashells. Finally, ever so gently it fades to a sweet spicy memory.

Though price was not a factor in deciding the Canadian whisky of 2013, its $50 price tag is a welcome bonus. Formerly in U.S. distribution, Legacy is now exclusive to Canada. –Davin de Kergommeaux

Come back tomorrow for our Irish Whiskey of the Year.

10 Responses to “Whisky Advocate Award: Canadian Whisky of the Year”

  1. Ben McNeil says:

    It’s just now starting to show up in the DC area, along with other Wisers products. Are you sure it’s been taken out of the US market?

    • Lew Bryson says:

      Davin’s on the road at the moment, but did send this response, so I’m putting it up for him:

      “That information came from Wiser’s global head office in Canada. I had asked them to confirm US pricing and was told that Legacy would soon be in Canada only. Then I sent a note to the US headquarters and got a detailed list of its current availability in the US. It looks like there is still quite a bit in DC, GA, MI, MN, NY, OH, TX and SC. There are also smaller inventories with distributors in other states. Hope that helps.”

  2. Paul says:

    Wiser’s is widely available in Illinois, supplied by Pernod Ricard.

  3. Anthony says:

    Paul, JP Wiser’s Rye (and Spiced) are available in the US, along with Wiser’s Deluxe (some markets) and Pike Creek.

  4. Davin de Kergommeaux says:

    Yes, Wiser’s is rolling out much of its range right across the US. This is good news if Legacy does not get replenished in the US, as the rest of the range is also good. Try JP Wiser’s Rye if you can’t get Legacy. Also Wiser’s 18 is a long-standing favourite and former Whisky Advocate whisky of the year. Pike Creek is another top-of-the-line whisky from Corby which makes Wiser’s.

  5. James says:

    If this beats Forty Creek Heart of Gold, I’ll have to give it a try!

  6. Davin de Kergommeaux says:

    Well, remember, score alone was not the determinant. There were 7 finalists. i whittled this down to 6, then again down to 3. Lew reminded me the deadline was upon us and I still had to spend a day with the final 3. In the end, it was almost a toss-up between Wiser’s Legacy and Forty Creek Heart of Gold. I just wish there could be two whiskies of the year.
    I just absolutely LOVE the way Heart of Gold changes in the glass and in your mouth. After half an hour sitting untouched in the glass it’s like a different whisky. And the whole time it is so big and flavorful. Believe me, choosing between the two was murder. So if you are a Heart of Gold believer, don’t let me shake your faith; I share it. Legacy, because it marked a change in direction at Wiser’s edged out Heart of Gold, despite the fact that head to head, I would score Heart of Gold slightly higher.

  7. Jason says:

    a whisky worthy of the award! I’m glad to see this whisky continuing to be recognized as it is one of my absolute favorites. I wish for my friends in America and the UK that it was easier to find outside Canada!

    However, as much as this whisky did change up the direction at Wiser’s, Forty Creek Heart of Gold is quite the dram as well in terms of a different flavor profile. Despite the age, the rye seems fresh to me – it’s floral, with notes I’ve seen more in rye new makes than matured ryes – John Hall did indeed do his work in trying to preserve some of the essence of the grain without changing it up too much. You don’t often see a whisky in Canada which, in my opinion, has so much reserved subtlety which gently draws you in. It’s not trying to be extremely bold and powerful, or extremely smooth and simple, but rather to me it seems that intrigue is the point.

    Despite the above, I still think I put Legacy a tad above Heart of Gold, so I do approve of the selection…

  8. Clem says:

    Nice review Davin!

    “A muscular Legacy slathers your mouth with its creamy essence.”

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