Long an under the radar producer for much of North America’s sourced rye (at least for U.S. consumers), Beam Suntory-owned Alberta Distillers has been leaning into their house brands under the Alberta Premium banner since 2020. That year marked the first American release of Alberta Premium Cask strength, and in 2022, the brand’s 80 proof standard offering also became available south of the forty-ninth parallel.
Recently, Alberta Premium announced its 2022 Cask Strength batch for U.S. consumers, the third straight of the yearly release.
We’ve reviewed both the 2020 and 2021 American-release Cask Strength offerings. Like its Cask Strength predecessors, the 2022 release is made from 100% rye grain and is marketed as a limited edition release. While Alberta Distillers operates both column and pot distillation, the liquid used in Cask Strength releases is 100% pot distilled.
With a few other spirits writers, I was able to sample this latest batch months ahead of time on a trip to Alberta Distillers’ headquarters in Calgary. While I took tasting notes at the time, I wanted to wait until I had a general release bottle on hand for a review. As many whiskey fans can attest, sampling at the batching source versus the retail bottle can be vastly different experiences.
Alberta Premium’s latest Cask Strength Rye clocks in at 127 proof. (It’s worth noting that previous American releases have tended to vary slightly in proof within a given year’s bottles.) Let’s dive in.
Immediately, I notice the nose here is more reminiscent of some lower-proof Alberta products — including the 80 proof release and Canada-only 20 year old — than previous Cask Strength batches. There’s a familiar sweetness (a lot of sweetness for a 100% rye), fresh oak, and high-octane vanilla extract. A bit of almond extract shines though, though much less than their lower-proof offerings.
There’s more going on here than I expected from previous batches. After a little more time, the nose opens up to a fairly traditional caramel that hits in conjunction with the ethanol, and neither is overpowering. There are some light herbal notes reminiscent of a few 95/5 ryes I’ve tried, but not nearly as much dill as typically comes with that mashbill. Going back yet again, I get more cinnamon on this than I’ve nosed on Alberta’s other products. The nose here is far superior to earlier Cask Strength batches I’ve tried, including a 66% abv version I sampled against this.
On the tongue, I get caramel and then hot and spicy cinnamon, a bit hotter on the alcohol kick I was expecting after the nose. Then comes a definite chocolate note, a bit like a malted milk ball, that covers the tongue on a second sip. It’s a different type of sweetness compared with caramel. I almost wish it was more pronounced, and it tangles with the rye spice; there’s a small battle occurring here. It’s overall pleasant but feels just slightly inconsistent from sip to sip.
Alberta’s branded tasting notes emphasize more fruit than I get here, though a bit comes through on the finish: dark/black cherry, maybe some grape, coupled with a warming classic rye spice and caramel sweetness. The finish is pleasant after some grappling on the palate between sweet and spicy.
With a few drops of water, the alcohol’s heat dies down a bit, and the texture and flavors both get a bit more buttery while maintaining that chocolate note. I’d highly recommend keeping a dropper close by when sampling this.
Compared to an earlier Alberta Premium Cask Strength release I had on hand at 132 proof, the 2022 version is markedly improved. The nose is richer and more complex, the heat is toned down, and chocolate is more pronounced on the tongue and finish. It’s a continued improvement on the American releases, though inconsistencies in the palate are still holding this back slightly from where it could really fly, and it’s not hitting the heights of the 84 proof, 20 year product I reviewed earlier this year. (Which, sadly, is still not available in the United States, at least for now.)
Still, as a noticeable improvement on previous United States releases, Alberta Premium’s 2022 Cask Strength Rye is a promising step in the right direction and should appeal to more drinkers compared to previous iterations. I’ve found it nice to have on hand to compare with American rye releases, and it’s especially fun to toss in a blind tasting lineup with friends. After all, who doesn’t like nerding out a bit?
B+ / $80 / albertadistillers.com