This was released a couple of years back as part of a series of straight whiskeys, they are sourced by all available information from Alberta Distillers in Alberta, Canada. The straight rye was the first at 10 years old, then a barley and wheat version. I think a 12 year old version of the rye has appeared now too. These are a merchant’s bottling and initially were sold only in the U.S. but are now available in parts of Canada. Alberta Distillers is owned by Beam Suntory which owns the Canadian Club brand.
I tried the barley version earlier and thought it was just so-so but the wheat one is very good. Reviews online seemed a little tepid, questioning why the whisky is so light-coloured for its 12 years in new charred oak, and noting the lightness of palate.
The colour is down in my view to the colder Canadian climate, in comparison to that of Kentucky and Tennessee. A colder climate results in less intensive “cycling” – the movement of whisky into the barrel frame as heat rises and back into the barrel as temperature drops. This means less tannins and wood sugars get into the whiskey as compared to a hotter-climate whisky. Some warehouses are artificially heated but even so my experience is cold-climate whiskeys are different than the classic Kentucky straights, you get a more restrained palate which isn’t bad or good as such, it’s different.
The flavour of this straight wheat is excellent, winy and with an unmistakable waxy note that shows distillation at a low proof: a copper pot still is used in this case. Distillation at low proof, in the range, that is, historically used to distill brandy, tequila, the original style of rum and Scots and Irish barley-derived whiskeys, results in the true whiskey taste, modified to be sure by long aging. Whiskies which are distilled to a proof at or close to that which produces the vodka-like grain neutral spirits are a later development from better distilling technology – better from a throughput and cost point of view – but they never deliver on their own a classic whiskey taste. They find their best use in blending though.
The Masterson’s needs a touch of water, at bottling proof the texture isn’t quite right. A little water makes the spirit glycerine smooth and it slides down easily while disclosing fine taste. You can almost smell the wheat too, and the connection to Maker’s Mark, say, is quite evident if you discount for the Kentucky climate, and the corn. This product reminded me of some Scots malts aged in well-used casks, the ones that have a “white wine” look and taste. A good example is here, Old Malt Cask’s Bladnoch at 15 years old. Viewed in this light, much of the online critiques of the Masterson’s wheat lose any force. In other words, the product should not be compared even implicitly to a Kentucky bourbon or straight rye.