View Full Version : Alberta Springs Dark Horse 45% ABV

09-22-2012, 12:33
Wow! A new whisky that sings out the pot still advertised on the label! Big flavours of cassis, sweet wood, slate and petrol, with a soft finish that seems to show new charred barrel influence. I always "wanted" the real flavouring whisky, and I finally got it. True enough, it's a blend, apparently of 12 year old whisky and a younger pot still element, but again the pot still is very forward. Not at all like U.S. straight rye or even Whistle Pig. No age is mentioned on the label. Closest to this in the past is Lot 40 but that's only approximate.


09-22-2012, 17:05
Any idea where one might find this one? Is it a Canada only bottling?

09-23-2012, 04:31
So far I believe Alberta and Ontario in Canada, but most Canadian bottlings seem to get to the U.S. now and some get there first, e.g. Crown Royal XR Lasalle.


09-23-2012, 08:11
So far I believe Alberta and Ontario in Canada, but most Canadian bottlings seem to get to the U.S. now and some get there first, e.g. Crown Royal XR Lasalle.


I don't think Alberta Springs sends anything to the US.

09-23-2012, 17:01
I picked up a bottle...i found it has some similar flavour notes to Mastersons. Definately way better than Crown Royal Black. For the price it's a great deal no doubt.

09-24-2012, 18:42
Having a glass of this now. I should point out that it is Alberta Premium, not Alberta Springs. Therefore, pure rye. It is quite nice indeed, and very smooth for 90 proof. It definitely has the slate/flint elements of normal Alberta Premium but also much more fruit. For me this falls under the "dangerously drinkable" category.

09-24-2012, 19:54
Thanks for the correction on the name, and good notes! I do however find this way more flavourful than the usual Alberta Distillers products.


10-02-2012, 13:10
I should point out that it is Alberta Premium ... Therefore, pure rye.

I'm not sure that is the case. Other Alberta Premium expressions that I'm aware of (regular and 30 year old) state "100% rye grain" on the label, this one does not!

The back label states:
Dark Horse was crafted for the next generation of whisky connoisseurs who are ready for a bolder, richer tasting Canadian whisky. Expertly distilled using our finest Canadian Prairie rye grain, Dark Horse is blended at a higher strength with a small pot distilled batch that has been aged in handpicked charred oak barrels. The result is an ultra smooth rye whisky that imparts flavours of vanilla, smoke, sweet oak, and blackcurrant.

The fact that they have left out the "100% rye grain" tells me it is NOT all grain. I have sent an email to Beam asking for clarification - not surprisingly they have not answered.

10-03-2012, 20:01
Word on twitter (#APDarkHorse) is that it is only* 91% rye plus 8.5% corn whisky and 0.5% sherry. Not sure what that means exactly but it appears two component aged whiskies are blended together with some sherry (wine?) thrown in.

*I say "only" because other Alberta Premiums are 100% rye grain.

12-02-2012, 22:09
I just picked up a bottle of Alberta Premium Dark Horse in Windsor, Ontario, Detroit, MI's neighbor across the river (at the LCBO Ontario provincial liquor store) for $29.95 Canadian (750 ml bottle). This is a truly outstanding and complex rye (and a very good value). Per Davin de Kergommeaux canadian whisky site, Alberta Premium Dark Horse is 91% rye grain, 8% to 8.5% bourbon, and 0.5% to 1.0% sherry. The whisky is a comprised of 12 year old (at least 51%) and 6 year old (at least 40%) whiskies.

There are a number of Canadian whiskies that are never sold here in the states. I believe that Alberta Premium’s whiskies are currently only available in Canada.

12-03-2012, 07:51
Based on what I've read here and on Davin's site, it seems to be three whiskies blended with some sherry. The three are a 12 year old whisky, surely all-rye and perhaps containing a small amount of pot still blended in at birth but otherwise likely distilled at a high proof, a 6 year old pot still all-rye whisky aged in new charred wood - perhaps this is similar to, say Masterson's, except 4 years younger - and some bourbon, probably brought in from Kentucky.

The pot still element, and the bourbon too since it is similar to that in flavour intensity (not flavour type), are quite noticeable in the whiskey, but I'd say mostly the 6 year old pot still rye is because there is a good top-note of slate, earth and other flavours associated with that type of whisky. Perhaps this 6 year old "straight" Canadian rye is typical of straight rye made in house at Canadian distilleries, if so I'd think you will want often to blend it because it is potent stuff! So this is probably why it is "cut" with a well-aged standard blend and the bourbon and the wine, but that's just my deductions and guesstimating of course. If that 6 year old rye will age into, as I believe, the very good WhistlePig and Masteron's type of palate, then clearly there is no need to blend it but that whisky is at least 10 years old. Canadian whisky typically is 3-6 years old, with some well-known exceptions of course which go all the way up to 30.

In other words, I would think most Canadian pot still rye, or rye made in a column still but distilled out to a low proof, aged to about 6 years, has a very prominent palate which in the past is deemed best used as a flavouring whisky as we call it. 6 year old U.S. rye , or that neighborhood of age, certainly is sold on its own in the States but it may be noted the market is relatively small. Also, not all Canadian distillers invariably use new charred oak to age their flavouring whisky in, which would make it even stronger in taste, think e.g. of Anchor Distilling's rye that is aged in re-used barrels.

I think this whisky does withal represent a rare "inside look" at Canadian rye flavouring whisky. I would doubt that 6 year old pot still rye would find much of a sale on its own, but maybe I'm wrong...


12-03-2012, 10:25
"...three whiskies blended with some sherry..."

Can it legally be called a whisky/ie if wine is blended into it?
Would it not become a "spirit" or "liqueur"?

12-03-2012, 10:51
Canadian whiskey can contain ~9% non whiskey by law.

12-03-2012, 12:45
Here are the actual current rules as I understand them: Since July 1, 2009 the 9.090% limit does not apply to Canadian whisky sold in Canada.

You can add, theoretically, any amount of any domestic or foreign wine or spirit to Canadian whisky provided the bottle contains at least 40% ABV and the spirit is at least 2 years old.

Actually, there were before July 1, 2009, and still are, two references to 9.090% in Canadian whisky regulations. Under changes to the law that took effect from that date, both references are now contained in a regulation passed under the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food Act, a law under the aegis of the Federal Minister of Agriculture.

Before July 1, 2009, for any whisky sold in Canada, if more than 9.090% of the absolute alcohol derived from “flavouring”, i.e., from any added domestic or foreign spirit or wine, the whisky was deemed to have the age of the youngest element in the blend. If the mentioned percentage threshold was not exceeded, the whiskey could be stated at the age of the whisky to which the flavouring was added. Say 10% or more of the alcohol (the ethyl alcohol itself) in a bottle of Canadian whisky was derived from bourbon 8 years old, and it was added to Canadian whisky that was 10 years old. The resultant blend had to be labeled 8 years old. If the same bourbon was added but with the result that only 9% of the alcohol came from that source, the blend could be identified as 10 years old. The rule, therefore, was age expression-related, it did not prohibit as such adding more than 9.090% flavouring to Canadian whisky whether by the measure of absolute alcohol or otherwise. But we must recall another rule that states that Canadian whisky must have the taste, aroma and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky. Setting aside for a moment what that means in practice, this was and is a control on adding too much flavouring.

The other reference to 9.090% in the Canadian whisky regulations stated (before JUly 1, 2009) that not more than that percentage of “imported spirits” (here referring to the original drink, water and all, as I read it) could be contained in Canadian whisky exported from Canada in bond unless Canadian excise authorities, i) stated that percentage in a certificate, and ii) did not refer to the product as Canadian whisky, rye whisky or Canadian rye whisky in the certificate. Where an importer outside Canada wanted the certificate, and perhaps in any case for various reasons, one can see that distillers would have ensured that the whisky in the bottle was not comprised of more than 9.090% imported bourbon or straight rye, say.

Basically, after July 1, 2009, the position is as mentioned above except that both 9.090% rules mentioned now apply only to exported Canadian whisky. The age-related 9.090% rule no longer applies, therefore, to Canadian whisky sold in Canada.

It may well be that not more than 9.090% of any domestic or foreign wine or spirit is added to Canadian whisky even where it is sold only here (Dark Horse is only sold here I understand at this time) because so much Canadian whisky has always been exported and presumably therefore was made to that standard whether exported or not. And indeed - it should be said - some Canadian whisky has never had such flavouring added, it depends how the maker wants to put it together.


02-23-2013, 19:53
Yup, it appears they are taking full advantage of the (DUMB) Canadian Whisky rules:

Dick Dekoko
03-17-2013, 11:35
I tried some Dark Horse earlier this week and really enjoyed it. Finally a sipping whisky from Canada! My everyday swill is Jim Beam or Teacher's, which lead me to this forum and this thread, but I'll probably start reaching from Dark Horse a lot more often.

03-17-2013, 14:05
Interesting on the spec. You can make "your own", say CC 12, CC 6, any decent bourbon you like, small dash cream sherry, in the proportions mentioned. For a variant, instead of the bourbon, substitute any straight rye. I've made similar things over the years.


03-19-2013, 02:26
Intriguing idea Gary, of course I'll need a bottle of the original for comparison purposes.

03-19-2013, 10:26
Here are the actual current rules as I understand them: ...


Additional Canadian requirements: By Canadian law, Canadian whisky must be produced and aged in Canada, in oak barrels for a minimum of three years (although most spend from six to eight years in the barrel.) (No distinction is made between new and used barrels in the regulations.) The age statement on a bottle of Canadian whisky is that of the youngest whisky used. They must "possess the aroma, taste and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky" (per Canadian Whisky Regulations).


03-19-2013, 10:33
Yes for sure. I was addressing earlier the 9% rule only. Further rules are coloring or flavoring can be added. Flavoring can be any wine or spirit domestic or imported.


03-19-2013, 11:04
Frankly, I think the Canadian rules make a lot of sense because they give the maker flexibility.

03-19-2013, 13:15
That was always the rationale here, indeed. From what I have read, in the early days we had all kinds of whiskey here, straight, blended, with some being malt-driven (Scots-type), some more Irish, many American-type. Finally, the CC type of whisky became identified with the Canadian taste but the law never was codified to refer only to that type. It was different in the States where you had a strong tradition of bourbon distilling in Kentucky and it became a major spirit, not just in the States but world-wide. So the law, while also fairly flexible there in terms of the types of whisky that can be made, seemed more concerned to demarcate the different types. Canada's rules are closer to the U.K.'s for Scotch whisky actually. There too you have a fairly wide approach in the law even though malt whisky and blended became the two categories made, at least in modern times.

We need now IMO in Canada to distill and age more straight-type whiskey, i.e. whisky distilled out at a low proof whether aged in new charred oak or not. This will result in a wider range of palates available than at present. We are currently more in a middle phase where a number of characterful products have been released but they for the most part do not break with the CC template, IMO.


03-19-2013, 16:50
We need now IMO in Canada to distill and age more straight-type whiskey, i.e. whisky distilled out at a low proof whether aged in new charred oak or not. This will result in a wider range of palates available than at present.
The problem isn't lack of quality distillate or aged whisky in warehouses, but an unwillingness to bottle it:
- in small batches
- no additives
- un-chillfiltered
- >40% ABV

If the likes of Whistlepig, Jeffersons 10, and Masterson's 10 are an indication, quality stuff ALREADY EXISTS inside Canadian warehouses, the problem is that no-one in Canada seems willing to bottle such a product. It appears Canadian distillers (mostly owned by foreign multinationals) would rather sell it in bulk to American pretend-distilleries to re-package in fancy containers with tiny "made in Canada" printed on the back label.

03-19-2013, 17:51
Maybe, but I'm not sure they have enough flavouring whiskey as they call it for commercial release. I've heard they only distill enough to add to grain whisky to make the blends. Also, CC presumably doesn't have any unblended straight stuff since it is all blended at birth. So one huge producer has none to offer to begin with (I infer)...


03-23-2013, 16:16
I'm thinking what a Canadian Club 10yr 46% UCF would taste like...

03-23-2013, 16:23
I would even settle to have 10 Canadian Club back period. I bunkered quite a bit after it showed up on shelves dropped down to 9 years in age!


03-23-2013, 16:42
Tom, the two are side-by-side on the shelf here so I'm not sure the 10 is being replaced.