J.P. Wiser’s Canadian Rye Whisky

Oh, Canada. When will you start sending some of your good whisky south of the border? I know you make it up there, and I know you keep most of it for yourselves. Meanwhile, the hapless American whisky consumer sees an attractive bottle of “Canadian Rye Whisky” on the shelf for a bargain-basement price of $15 and snaps it up. “It’s got rye in it,” he thinks, “so it can’t be all bad!”

Now, when Canadian whisky bottles (many of which are actually bottled in the US from tanker trucks of the stuff) say “rye”, they mean it has “some” rye in it, unlike a bottle in the US that says “Rye Whiskey” which must have at least 51% rye grain in the mash. That’s not necessarily a good or bad thing, just a major difference between Canadian and American rye whisky. J.P. Wiser’s is made at the Hiram-Walker & Sons distillery in Windsor, Ontario, and the brand is owned by Corby Distileries. I can’t find any recipe information online, but it’s basically a blend of corn, rye, and other grains distilled on a continuous column still and aged for at least three years in oak barrels (apparently ex-bourbon ones) and bottled at 40% ABV.

For $15 you can’t ask for much, but if you want to see what real Canadian rye is all about, Corby’s own Lot 40 is a fantastic introduction, and so far my favorite Canadian whisky. It’s also made with 100% rye grain (some of which is malted), and that’s what I call rye. I think it’s amazing that Lot 40 and J.P. Wiser’s are distilled at the same facility and yet show such a wide gap in quality. As always, you get what you pay for (Lot 40 is around three times the price of JPW) but after tasting it and mixing it, I think J.P. Wiser’s could cost $2 for all the good it does my cabinet.

Nose: Toffee or butterscotch. The nose is fairly faint, which some might call “smooth” while others might call it “bland”. There is sweetness, but it has an artificial bent. Of rye, there is nary a sign.

Palate: Lightly sweet, and so “smooth” that there is neither much tongue burn nor much flavor. A faint cereal note, a manufactured caramel note, and.. that’s all, folks.

Finish: Short. A reprise of the palate, with still no hint of rye character. A slight chemical bitterness – like the residue on new plastic – forms the tail end of the finish.

With Water: At this ABV and lightness of character, water isn’t warranted. Indeed, adding it only heightened the artificial sweetness, now like bottled corn syrup.

Overall: It is perhaps not fair to rate this whisky neat. It was likely not intended to compete with single malt or straight bourbon. Still, with the word ‘rye’ on the label you’d expect a little spice or something. The sweet flavors are artificial, and the whisky flavors so light as to be ignorable. I suppose you could mix drinks with it, but unless you’re allergic to flavor, a similarly-priced bourbon is likely to give you more bang for your whiskey buck in any cocktail. It says “Quality is something you just can’t rush” on the bottle, which leads me to wonder if this whiskey was made in record time.

J.P. Wiser’s Canadian Rye Whisky
40% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $15 - $22
Acquired: (bottle) K&L Wine Merchants, Redwood City, CA, $15

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11 thoughts on “J.P. Wiser’s Canadian Rye Whisky

  1. Timely review, I was looking for it last week.
    Got a bottle of the stuff and don’t know what to do with it. It’s only redeeming quality is not being offensive.

  2. I live in Windsor and have never tried this stuff. No point when we have Canadian bottles like Lot 40, Wisers Legacy or 18yo, Alberta Premium Dark Horse, or any of the Forty Creek annual limited editions to enjoy. I’ve also heard good things about the relatively new Canadian Club Chairman’s Select 100% Rye Canadian Whisky, but have not tried it yet.

  3. Why this review, Wiser’s Red Letter, 18 years and Legacy are all spectacular.

    This is like reviewing Four Roses Bourbon and ignoring single barrel, small batch and special releases

    1. I did review Four Roses bourbon (which I liked very much, despite its low price point), and then I later went on to review other Four Roses products.

      The fact that Wiser’s might have excellent products on the shelf NEXT TO Wiser’s Rye doesn’t really change the fact that I didn’t enjoy the Rye and wrote about my experience above.

      Your suggestion is akin to telling a car reviewer that he shouldn’t review the Ford Focus when he can review a Ford Mustang.

      1. Yes, but the people who drive a Focus wanted that type because it was affordable and easy to obtain. Those who would rather hear the review on the Mustang are looking for a sweet ride.

        Cheers

      2. Personally when I drink Rye I drink wisers 18yr….easily the best rye on the market but it comes at a price $$ which I’m more then willing to pay :)

  4. I really enjoyed this whiskey – very drinkable and pleasant, and a good bargain for the price. I don’t get all of the poor reviews, I’d recommend this whiskey to anyone – it tastes good and its cheap. I like it.

  5. I thought wine snobs were bad. Whutzup with u guys? I like it. It’s smooth, pleasant, tasty, & reasonably priced. What’s not to like?

  6. It tastes like vanilla custard and baked bread. It’s delicious. Maybe it’s just not for you, but when I get a craving for this stuff it really hits the spot. Cheap Canadian Rye is kind of an aquired taste. All of the standards here are thick, syrupy, not complex and have very sweet finishes. The overall cheap taste is part of their charm for me… Like Jim Beam in the US. It’s cheap and somewhat one note, but there is no denying It’s delicious when you’re in the mood for it with that ketchupy carmel nut taste, if that makes any sense to you.

  7. Enjoying a glass as I type and I think…. it’s good for the price. I must however admit, bought a bottle of CC 100% Rye for $20 and it was certainly better in my opinion, for a few dollars more.

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