Linette Lopez for Business Insider
You don't just run around willy-nilly trying to sell whisky to Americans.
We love our bourbon, we respect a good scotch, and there is a time and a place for Irish whisky — but it had all better be good.
So when Wiser's, the number one whisky brand in Canada, invited Business Insider to a tasting for its U.S. launch, our response was basically... 'bring it on, eh.'
The tasting was held last night in a private room at Charlie Bird, a new NYC restaurant that's getting a lot of foodie love.
And the most important person in attendance was J.P. Wiser's Master Blender Don Livermore. He's been in the business for 17 years — Master Blender for about two. He's also basically a real life Ron Swanson, since he holds a PhD in wood management and brewing and distillery from Heriot-Watt University in the U.K..
Wiser's itself is one of the oldest whisky brands in Canada, founded in the mid 1800's by J.P Wiser.
Before the Highland Clearances had Scots leaving their homes for new lands, and before the American Revolution had loyalists running for the safety of our neighbor to the north, Canadians were rum drinkers.
A number of pioneering whisky barons (like J.P. Wiser and Henry Corby, who founded the distillery where Wiser's is made) built the industry out of nothing. The U.S. got more and more of a taste of their work when Civil War and Prohibition took their style south.
So what's the style? There are a few things that make Canadian whiskey distinct. It's double distilled (in copper stills), light, aged at least 3 years (4 for the U.S. market), and blended after the grains in the whiskey have been distilled.
And of course there's rye.
"Rye is the back bone of our whiskey," said Livermore during his lesson. "It's our style."
During the tasting, Livermore walked through four different kinds of Wiser's whisky.
- First up was J.P. Wiser's Rye, a recipe that dates back to the 1860s. It's your standard, caramel toffee tasting with a sweet and spicy rye kick. It's also aged in an American bourbon barrel. To us, it tasted Christmas-like, almost — Livermore explained it as a dried fruit flavor (same difference?).
- After that we tried J.P. Wiser's 18 — this was Business Insider's personal favorite. It's light, and in the taste you'll note hints of green apple. This whisky is aged in old whisky barrels.
- The next whisky was Pike Creek. Livermore ages this whisky in port barrels, so actually, it has kind of a red wine-ish taste to it. If you like a Cabernet, you'll probably dig this too.
- Last up was Lot 40. "This is my pepper," said Livermore. And indeed this is for people who enjoy a swift kick on the tongue. While the rest of the whiskies contained a various blend of grains, Lot 40 is made of 100% rye and aged in barrels made of new wood.
Now, whisky is a very personal thing. There's no telling what someone is going to like, but it should be said that within Wiser's universe of whiskies there is a lot of variety in terms of taste.
More importantly, that variety is delicious.
So Livermore can consider this one brought.
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