Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Only in Canada: Gibson's Finest Rare & Alberta Premium Dark Horse

While the US gets more Canadian Whiskey than it used to, there are tons of well respected Canadians that still never make it down south.  Today, I will review two Canadian blends that are only available in Canada (though one is now in the US under a different name).

Gibson's Finest Rare, 18 yo, 40% abv ($65 Canadian)

A former American brand that moved north during prohibition, Gibson's is currently owned by William Grant and distilled at Hiram Walker. The older Gibson's expressions, like this one, were distilled at an old Schenley distillery in Quebec.

The nose is very light with green grapes and rubbing alcohol. On the palate, it is quite light and sweet with strong alcohol notes. The finish is short and a bit medicinal with a touch of anise. Yuck!  It's light and alcoholy and just unpleasant.  Too bad, as I had heard a lot of good things about it and was really looking forward to trying it.

Alberta Premium Dark Horse, 45% abv ($30 Canadian)

Beam Suntory's Alberta Distillers is one of the most well regarded distilleries in Canada.  Aside from being responsible for most of the Canadian straight rye that makes it to the US (WhistlePig, Masterson's, Jefferson's, etc.), they make a Canada-only line of blended whiskeys under the Alberta Premium label.

Dark Horse is a blend of a 12 year old high proof rye (i.e., the base whiskey), a six year old lower proof rye (the flavor whiskey), 8% bourbon (Old Grand-Dad) and a small measure of sherry. While Dark Horse is not available in the US, Beam recently introduced a whiskey called Alberta Rye Dark Batch to the US market which appears to be the same stuff.

The nose is fruity, and the palate, at first taste, is light and fruity. Light wine notes emerge in the middle and then a strong grain whiskey profile dominates the later palate and finish. It's not terrible, but very grainy; more of a light horse, if you ask me.

I have to say, every time I taste one of these well regarded Candian blends, I feel disappointed.  The light, grainy notes that seem to characterize them just aren't my cup of tea.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more - the Wiser's Legacy and the Alberta Premium Dark Horse are probably my favorites (of the Canadian whiskies) - but, like you, I always seem disappointed as my expectations are always higher. Cheers!

My Annoying Opinions said...

Just wait till you get to try Wiser's Red Letter!

Also, now we need to be able to identify breads to be allowed to post on your blog? Elitist!

Tadas A said...

As far as I understood that Gibson's brand does not have a home distillery owned by William Grant in Canada, correct?
Hiram Walker is owned by Pernod Ricard (

sku said...

That's correct Tadas. Gibson's was previously a Schenley brand so the whisky was made at the Schenley distillery in Valleyvield, Quebec. Now the brand is owned by William Grant but distilled by contract at Hiram Walker.

There is a good history of the brand on the always informative

Marduk said...

I bought a bottle of Alberta Rye Dark Batch a couple of weeks ago for $30. I would say a large measure of sherry, not small, or thats what it seems like to me. Odd duck, this one. Not bad, but not great.

tanstaafl2 said...

I have to say I didn't get the grain notes on the Alberta Rye Dark Batch but don't have a Dark Horse to compare it to. Will have to give it another try but having already gotten well into this bottle I guess perhaps I don't have the same appreciation for the grain character.