A Few From Our Friends At Alberta Distillers Limited
Snugged in not far from the heart of Calgary, just miles from the foot of the Rockies, lies one of the whisky world’s most surprising little secrets. Namely, Alberta Distillers Limited.
This very industrial looking distillery – leagues apart from the polished copper stills and tour-oriented distilleries of Scotland – is a deceptive little giant. However, much like in Scotland, the people who run Alberta Distillers are the lifeblood of the company. A while back a few members of the collective were fortunate enough to tour the distillery and were treated to an absolutely exceptional experience. The ADL family welcomed us like long lost family members. From initial contact with recently retired quality assurance manager Kathy Pitcho to our behind-the-scenes tour with Distiller Rick Murphy, this was a warm downhome experience. The tour itself was both enlightening and entertaining, and the overall experience was every bit as memorable as any overseas distillery tour I’ve taken.
While it is easy to hunt and peck the web (or bookshops) for all the ins and outs of Scottish distillation, details regarding Canadian whisky production are a little more obscure. This opportunity to spend some time with the faces behind the whisky we love was a treat.
After the tour proper, we were taken back to ADL’s tasting lounge for a dram (or four). The lounge is a site you simply have to see. Much like the throwback tasting room in a distillery like Lagavulin, this charming little sitting area is straight out of a time long gone. Loved it. As we settled in to sip a flight of whiskies, Distillery manager Rob Tuer joined us for a bit of blind tasting.
We were afforded the opportunity to sample a couple of (as yet) unbottled expressions, under the caveat that we not mention what was being experimented with, as well as an offering from the general release spectrum. After a bit of fun, several laughs and a brilliant little bit of interaction, we were actually thanked for having asked to come (!!) and each sent off with a bottle of Alberta Premium and a nifty little gift. Truly unbelievable.
It was great to see that the people at Alberta Distillers are as special as the whisky they make.
While this piece has been a long time in the making, I did sincerely want to take the opportunity to share a little bit about our hometown pride.
ADL’s flagship expression is Alberta Premium, a young 100% rye whisky, rich in spice and sweetness. And while this whisky is a stunner in its own right, the distillery has also managed to awe the legions of Canadian whisky drinkers twice in the past couple of years. First with a stunning 25 year old limited release, and then again last year with an equally winning 30 year old.
Stay tuned. I happen to know there is a further surprise in the coming days.
A big ‘cheers’ from ATW to ADL!
Unaged Rye (aka ‘new make’ or ‘white dog’)
Nose: Almond paste. White chocolate. Cherry. Saltines. Caramel corn.
Palate: Popcorn. Almond. ‘Bitey’. Silky Delivery, then…WHAM!! Hottest spirit I have ever tried. Salty and savoury. Fast fade.
Thoughts & Impressions: “A glass of Chuck Norris”
Nose: Mild artificial lemon. Light cocoa. Amazingly clean grain. Vibrant. Crunchy berry. Caramel.
Palate: Apple. Sheaves of grain, dripping caramel.
Thoughts & Impressions: One of the best Canadian spirits going. And undoubtedly the best price point. There is always a bottle of this at home.
Alberta Premium 25 y.o.
Nose: Lumberyard. Fresh cut pine. Dust. Char and wax. Bit o’ eucalyptus. White pepper. Old dunnage warehouse. Very dry spiced fruit. Vanilla.
Palate: Pine and big grains. A very mature 25. More fruit than on the nose.
Thoughts & Impressions: This has seen more wood than Pinnochio’s girlfriend. Lovely and charming, and deserves undivided attention to discern all of the nuances.
Alberta Premium 30 y.o.
Nose: Deep char. Almost a note of ‘burnt’. Smells younger than the 25 y.o. expression, and the fruits are certainly more prevalent. Orange and cherry. Pine. Creamy caramel
Palate: Mature…smoky…waxy…oaky. In essence…old.
Thoughts & Impressions: I remember initially liking the 25 more than one. Not so sure anymore. Truly a fantastic offering from this distillery. Up until recently was still available. You’ll be hard pressed to find it now.
Alberta Springs 10 y.o.
Nose: Creamy. Orange zest. Gorgeous spice balance. Rich caramel…bordering on over-toasted. Sweet and ‘produced’. Entirely pleasant…better yet…comfortable.
Palate: Super sweet. Midway carnival caramel apple. Very sweet. Clean and pleasantly spicy.
Thoughts & Impressions: Hmm…tough one. Something seems…not natural here. Lovely, but don’t overthink it.
– Photos: Bottles & Glasses…Curt, Cask…Pat
As an employee of Alberta Distillers for the past 24 years it is with pride to read the comments made about our distillery and the products produced – we pride ourselves on perfection and processing an award winning product. Glad that your visit and tour was memorable.
I have a bottle of Alberta Springs with a 1983 tax stamp on it. Complete with leaflet and wood box. Is there anything you are able to tell me about this bottle? Is it a collector or a drinker?
As far as I know this is more of a mixer than a sipper. It’s widely available in Ontario but has different packaging.
Likely not worth much to sell, but probably very worthwhile to do a comparison à la Ralfy (he compared a bottle of JW Red bottled in the 60s to a contemporary bottle – I reproduced this experiment in Leduc 2-3 years ago with a 20 YO bottle of Red and a new mini with fantastic results).
Get a new bottle (small one if they come small – smallest LCBO size is > 1 L) and compare the 2 head to head.
Thanks David. Cheers