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Issue 112 - Canadian whisky

Whisky Magazine Issue 112
June 2013


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Canadian whisky

Our man behind the stick delves into a flavourful world

Since I started bartending (more than 10 years ago now), there was always some confusion around Canadian whisky. From the bar side, it was kind of neglected as people didn't know much about it, and there was rarely more to be encountered than a dusty bottle of Canadian Club.

From the customer side, it was often called a ‘rye' and you'd get the odd staunch call for a Manhattan to be made “properly” with a rye whiskey – which was stated to be Canadian whiskey.

Thankfully, confusion around the category has lifted. It still causes some ambiguity with American patrons where Canadian whiskey does get generically dubbed a ‘rye', but on a whole, knowledge of the products has risen. Although this is partly due to a general elevation in professionalism in the bar world, it is also due to more spirits becoming available, and more information being around.

With the resurgence in Irish whiskey, and World whiskies as a whole, perhaps we'll see more of a focus on Canadian whiskies in bars? The whiskies themselves I've found to be lighter than a Scotch, and lacking the full-frontal sweetness of a Bourbon. Although they share a similar grain-bill to American whiskies – a high corn content, and yes, rye – they don't share the same reflection of the mash-bill like their American cousins. The rye doesn't appear in a spicy, nutty sense, and the corn doesn't develop into a buttery, vanilla rich spirit. There certainly doesn't seem to be the dominant oak notes you find in Bourbon.

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