By Father John Rayls
And now for the news from the weird and wonderful… Alberta Rye Whisky Dark Batch (a Canadian blend) has been available in Canada under a similar name since 2013 and the US since 2015. When I ask my son about his relationship with a female, he will often respond, “It’s complicated”. This is the best phrase to use when thinking about describing Dark Batch. This Canadian rye is distilled by Alberta Distillers the number one rye producer in North America with over 450,000 barrels aging on site. Let that number sink in for a moment. If nothing else, it would certainly indicate a depth of knowledge concerning how to distill rye. This is also another component in the Beam-Suntory conglomerate (the third largest spirits maker in the world). All of this makes perfect sense when you consider Alberta Rye Dark Batch Whisky is made by blending 91% rye whisky with 8% bourbon and 1% sherry. The Canadian rye portion is made from two different batches. One is 6 years old aged in new American oak. The other is aged 12 years in ex-bourbon casks at a higher proof. Both are made from 100% rye. The bourbon comes from Beam and it’s Old Grand Dad (80 proof) collection. The sherry is at least partially Oloroso from Spain. This rye whisky is bottled at 90 proof with no age statement (NAS). But believe me, it’s complicated.
This is clearly the darkest color of whisky I’ve ever seen. It’s a dark brown verging on mahogany in the apparently clear bottle. When the sun hits the bottle there are dark red highlights accompanied by medium brown streaks. In the glass, it’s slightly lighter with a medium brown body and copper colorations. The legs are reluctant, but clearly visible. The nose is light to medium and is filled with allspice, vanilla and sweet oak all on top of dried fruit.
On the palate, the sherry announces its presence immediately. There is a creamy mouthfeel with the initial flavors experienced almost exclusively at the back of the mouth. This is a silky smooth tasting experience. It’s sweet, but not too much. It’s honey, oak and dried fruit with just a hint of smoke. It quickly kicks in with cinnamon while at the back of the mouth and changes to a peppery experience at the tip of the tongue and lips. The finish is long, but not on every sip. If you rush the experience, the finish can be by-passed and the sherry exerts an overt presence and counteracts the pepper. Don’t miss this finish. Take your time and think about the finish experience while it’s occurring.
I have to admit Alberta Rye Whisky Dark Batch surprised me. I bought the bottle, but didn’t even open it for a month or two. I was just expecting a pretty mild blend with an average flavor profile. In a sense, I believed it was just some slight-of-hand trickery performed with smoke and mirrors. I can assure you this isn’t a marketing ploy. It’s genuinely interesting, complex and enjoyable. Definitely give this a try. You can find a bottle of this surprising rye for anywhere from 29.95 to 39.95.