Wiser's Canadian whisky has always had a lot going for it. The perennial favorite among drinkers of our neighbor to the north has the category's signature smoothness without sacrificing the fullness of flavor or the spicy bite of rye grain so often toted as a forte of Canadian whisky, but not always evident.
Those qualities also make it a great choice for cigar pairings.
But Wiser's has had one fatal flaw: it wasn't available in the United States. That all changed at the end of last year with the introduction of J.P. Wiser's Rye Blended Canadian Whisky, as well as Spiced Whisky (flavored with vanilla).
The brand was founded in 1857 by John Philip Wiser, an American (upstate New York) who transplanted to Canada where be became a politician and one of that country's first whisky barons. It was originally made in the Corby Distillery, in Ontario, and is now made at Hiram Walker, of the same province. The brand is imported to the U.S. by distillery owner Pernod Ricard.
A large dose of rye whisky in the blend and the use of a single copper column still distinguish this whisky.
Whisky Advocate magazine, a sister publication of Cigar Aficionado, recently named Wiser's superpremium ($47) Canadian Whisky of the Year.
The launch is being promoted with a snarky ad campaign that includes its "Wiserhood" promotion. One video commercial, widely seen on the Internet, shows a man asked to hold his wife's purse. When she leaves the scene, he drops it and carefully transfers it into an opaque plastic bag to the applause of an on-looking group of men. We've all been there.
(Cigar pairing notes on next page)
J.P. Wiser's Rye Blended Canadian Whisky (80 proof, or 40 percent alcohol by volume; no age statement; $23 a 750-milliliter bottle)
APPEARANCE: Light amber color. Rapid, thick legs.
NOSE: First impressions are of honey and light fruits—apples and pears—then come barrel notes and Bourbon-like impressions (toffee and caramel).
PALATE: The rye bursts forth in a flush of spice (cinnamon). The whisky is then tempered by caramel, honey and wheaty notes. Finally, the fruit from the nose comes out with hard-candy impression of apples and pears.
FINISH: The ending is an insistent blend of the fruit and spice from the nose and palate.
CIGAR PAIRING: Cain F 550 (5 3/4 inches by 50 ring gauge, $7.00, 92 points, August 2013 Cigar Aficionado) Solidly rolled with a dark, oily wrapper. It's a medium-bodied smoke full of nutty, woody flavors and sweet touches of nutmeg and butterscotch. That last note on the cigar brings out a similar flavor on the whisky, making it fuller and rounder. The Wiser's gives back with its spiciness, adding dimension to the already complex Cain.
Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur No. II (6 3/4 inches by 48 ring gauge, $7.39, 91 Points, February 2014 Cigar Aficionado) Profound woody and coffee intonations lead to a savory, leathery finish. Medium bodied and balanced, this large cigar smokes evenly throughout. A big blast of nuts and toasts comes through with the addition of the Wiser's to this cigar. The leather finish also becomes immediately evident without the wait. The whisky picks up some spice and heartiness from the smoke. An excellent give and take.