J.P. Wiser's Dissertation

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J.P. Wiser's Dissertation_bottle shot.jpg
J.P. Wiser's Dissertation is the distillery's latest release in their Rare Cask Series; a limited run of one-off bottlings put together by Master Blender Dr. Don Livermore. This one however, is particularly special to Dr. Livermore as the whisky in the blend came from 114 barrels he used during his doctoral research to develop a method of predicting the effect of wood on the maturation process.

"How do you know a barrel is any good?" asks Dr. Don somewhat rhetorically. "Well, typically, you look at the barrel and smell it...and then make a decision, but you won't really know until the spirit has had time to mature, and by only then would you know with any certainty if it worked out or if it was a loss." 

The so-called "wood character" of a barrel is one of the most important factors when it comes to producing whisky. Not only does the wood draw out unwanted flavour compounds in un-aged spirit like dimethyl sulfide - which displays a potent cabbage-like aroma even at low concentrations -  but it's also responsible for imbuing the liquid with all kinds of delicious and desirable flavours. One way that distillers attempt to alter the chemistry of the wood is through charring the barrel, but is more or less char on the barrel better when aging whisky? 

"Back in 2005 when I started the project, my thinking was a bit like 'Tim the Tool-man Taylor' you know? More Power! I thought deeper levels of char would give the best results," says Dr. Livermore with a laugh. 

In order to test his hypothesis, he created a method of using infrared sensor technology to determine exactly how much "wood character" would be extracted into the whisky after just a 30 second scan of an empty barrel. The result: less is more. A char level of just 2mm seemed to deliver the best flavour results. 

"I was surprised! We learned that 2mm was the right amount for our whiskies." After the experiment was over, he turned to writing his dissertation and "kind of forgot about the barrels." 

Twelve years later he and his colleagues re-discovered the barrels in the Pike Creek warehouse and decided to try and make something with them. "It evolved quite organically, there was a lot of interest in our other Rare Cask bottles so we wanted to see how these whiskies might work." Containing a mix of what would have been Red Letter, Lot 40 and a double distilled rye, Dissertation is bottled at 46.1% ABV, is non chill-filtered and shows natural colour.   

Given the title of the whisky, I ask if there's something he'd like people to take away when sampling this dram. "I think we're challenging the status quo of the category. We're not making caramel-flavoured vodka here.... so let's stop apologizing for Canadian whisky; other countries recognize our success before we do! We can make quality whisky that consistently wins international awards." 
Nose: Sweet with tones of maple syrup, candied fruit and marzipan accompanied by a whiff of violets and dusty peanut shells. 

Palate: Rye-forward with an almost creamy texture. Heaps of candied fruit and sweet toffee blend with subtle oaky vanilla tones. Floral notes and a restrained, warming, spice heats things up a bit just before the finish.

Finish: A long floral and spicy fade out showing a great deal of rye character with a hint of caramel underneath. 

Overall: The latest offering from J.P. Wiser's Rare Cask series is on point and offers up a delicious and approachable blend of fruity rye flavours, warming spice with generous amounts of vanilla, maple syrup, that last right through to the rather long finish. With only 12,000 bottles produced and no more ever to be made again, this limited run whisky is an opportunity to sample the work of one of Canada's foremost Master Blenders. There are still a handful of bottles left in Ontario but at $64.95 in the LCBO, they may not be around for long. 

2 Comments

Couldn't agree more - one of the very best Canadian whiskies currently in the marketplace.

I agree with Tom's forthright statement (who is agreeing with you, so I guess we all agree, a rarity for the internet) - one of the very best Canadian whiskies currently in the marketplace. I picked up my most recent bottle on clearance at $52. At that price, definitely worth the premium over Lot 40 but with Lot 40 currently on sale for $35, Dissertation has a little more competition.

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  • James Peach commented on J.P. Wiser's Dissertation:

    I agree with Tom's forthright statement (who is agreeing with you, so I guess we all agree, a rarity for the internet) - one of the very best Canadian whiskies currently in the marketplace. I picked up my most recent bottle on clearance at $52. At that price, definitely worth the premium over Lot 40 but with Lot 40 currently on sale for $35, Dissertation has a little more competition.

  • Tom Alexander commented on J.P. Wiser's Dissertation:

    Couldn't agree more - one of the very best Canadian whiskies currently in the marketplace.

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