Review: Alberta Rye Dark Batch Whisky

AlbertaRye_Bottle_HIRESAlberta Rye Dark Batch Whisky is so complicated it is typically accompanied by a flowchart explaining the convoluted method by which it is made. I’m going to try to digest this oddball Canadian rye for you… but don’t feel bad if you get lost. Really it’s all about what’s in the glass in the end.

Alberta Dark Batch starts with two ryes. One is from a pot still, aged six years in new #4 char American oak barrels. One is from a column still, aged 12 years in ex-bourbon barrels.

These two ryes are blended 50-50. This rye blend now becomes 91% of what goes into the Dark Batch bottle. The other 9%? 8% is bourbon (provenance unknown said to be Old Grand Dad). 1% is sherry (provenance also unknown). Yes, it’s really 1% sherry. No, not 1% whiskey finished in a sherry barrel. Yes, real sherry. Yes, like the wine. I know.

My first encounter with Dark Batch at a recent whiskey show wasn’t a hit, but I don’t think I was prepared for the assault on the senses that Dark Batch makes, particularly when compared to some more delicate and gentle alternatives. Now, Dark Batch has grown on me at least a bit — though it’s still certainly not my favorite whisky.

Let’s start with the name. Dark Batch is right: This whisky pours a dark tea color, almost a mahogany depending on the light. On the nose, it’s exotic and complex, with notes of coffee, tree bark, evergreen needles, burnt caramel, and blackened toast. All dark, dense, earthy overtones — made even pushier thanks to its somewhat higher 90 proof.

On the palate, even more oddities are in store for you, starting with distinct sherry notes — surprising, considering it’s just the 1 percent. I guess that was enough. There’s more coffee character, plus some red raspberry fruit — particularly evident as the finish approaches, taking the whiskey into sweeter and sweeter territory. This lingers for a considerable amount of time, growing in pungency to the point where it evokes notes of prune juice. As it fades, it coats the palate in an almost medicinal way — which isn’t such a great thing as you finish your glass, but hey, at least I haven’t had to cough all evening.

90 proof.


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7 Responses

  1. moretears July 25, 2015 / 8:36 am

    You say the provenance of the bourbon is “unknown,” but it actually quite widely known to be Old Grand Dad.

  2. Christopher Null July 25, 2015 / 10:23 am

    Moretears — I stand corrected. I guess that’s not part of the official release notes.

  3. MadMex July 25, 2015 / 9:19 pm

    Oddball is exactly right. I called it an odd duck. This cooky Canadian law allowing for “flavorings”, in this case sherry, is for the birds – meaning cuckoo. 1% huh? Tastes more like 10%. For $30 I gave it a shot but, I ain’t going back. On the other hand, maybe some crafty mixologists can help make something out of nothing. C+

  4. Jim Walters May 31, 2016 / 7:28 am

    Chris — just because some random, anonymous guy says it’s Old Grandad doesn’t make it so. The only source of repute for that is Chuck Cowdery. He originally said it was Jim Beam and then changed it to Old Grandad, all of it without saying a word about what his source was.

    Forums are full of guys who think they are Richard Patterson and can tell what the source of something is. Confusing opinion with fact is pretty common in those circles. Without official confirmation, “unknown” was the best call.

  5. Christopher Null May 31, 2016 / 8:11 am

    Chuck is neither random nor anonymous, but point taken.

  6. Richard Bostan May 31, 2016 / 8:21 am

    Hey, Jim Walters — the source for the information that the bourbon is Old Grand Dad is Dan Tullio, who holds the position of “Canadian Whisky Master Ambassador” for Beam Suntory — you know, the owners of this whisky. Good enough authority for you? Now if you don’t mind, I have to get back to maintaining my busy life as some random, anonymous guy who thinks he’s Richard Patterson.

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