A Canadian Rye Has Been Crowned 'World's Best Whiskey'

Introducing top critic Jim Murray’s 2021 World Whisky of the Year.
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Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye Bottle and Carton shot

The best whiskey in the world—at least according to Whisky Bible author Jim Murray—is Alberta Distilling’s Premium Cask Strength Rye. Murray gave the Canadian rye the title of World Whisky of the Year for his 2021 edition of the Whisky Bible, which he has published annually since 2003.

Alberta Distilling’s winning bottle—a first for the distillery—is only the second Canadian whisky to ever take home Murray’s coveted top spot (Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye won the award in the 2016 edition). It’s made with a mixture of malted and unmalted rye, and bottled at an eye-twitching 65.1 percent ABV, which translates to 130.2 proof.

The whisky has been on his short list for a long time, and took the crown of Best Canadian Whisky in his books from 2006 through 2009.

This year’s notes described the winning whisky as having:

“A succulence to the oils, balanced perfectly by ulmo and manuka honeys ensure for the most chewable Canadian mouthful possibly ever and yet this is constantly salivating, from the very first nanosecond. Truly world-class whisky from possibly the world’s most underrated distillery. How can something be so immense yet equally delicate? For any whisky lover on the planet looking for huge but nearly perfectly balanced experience, then here you go. And with rye at its most rampantly beautiful, this is something to truly worship.”

Murray is one of the most well known and controversial writers in the business, having proclaimed himself the first full-time whiskey writer in the world, and having been the first in the business to produce an annual book-length collection of tasting notes.

Murray is infamous for controversial picks, but within that space his picks have ranged from profound to irrelevant. While the 2016 Northern Harvest Rye pick caused such a demand for the whisky that it was sold out for months of 2016 and may very well have led to a distillery strike.

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But on the other end, Murray seems to have a favorite brand or two. Almost half of his World Whiskies of the Year have been produced by Sazerac, parent company of Buffalo Trace, and most of those have been rye whiskies produced by Buffalo Trace.

He’s also made things hellish on his audience with regards to supply; Booker’s Rye was a one-time release that has yet to be replicated, and the William Larue Weller bourbon he crowned for his 2019 edition was actually the 2017 vintage release of the whiskey, meaning that every bottle had been sold out for more than a year before his list was even published.

As for this year’s pick, we haven’t tasted it ourselves—it’s only available in Canada at the moment (for around $65, depending on the market). Sadly, this isn’t a great year for a quick international trip to pick up a bottle.

Here’s hoping the Beam-Suntory folks (owners of Alberta Distilling) can get some into the country soon. In the meantime, his other picks included two more Sazerac picks: Stagg Jr. Bourbon and Paul John Mithuna single malt. Pick up Murray’s book to see the full list, and over 1,200 other ratings.

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Clay Whittaker is a Contributing Editor at Maxim.com. His work has appeared in Cigar Aficionado, Playboy, Esquire, Forbes, Town and Country, and elsewhere. You can subscribe to his whiskey newsletter here, and follow him on Instagram here.