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Issue 115 - Hiding in plain sight

Whisky Magazine Issue 115
October 2013

 

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Hiding in plain sight

This great province provides some eye opening experiences

The rye hisses in the gentle wind, a blue-green mohair blanket thrown across the fields, stretching towards the Rockies, still snow-capped. We're talking about cattle and moving the beasts to the summer pastures. “We only lose a few to wolves,” says Tom Riehs blithely. Hang on. My eyes flick up to the horizon. Wolves? Welcome to Alberta. Tom looks at this year's rye crop. “I'll keep it on,” he says, “but I'm not sure that my son will. There's not many of us growing it anymore. Fewer and fewer each year.” The world's shorthand for Canadian whisky is ‘rye', but it isn't as simple as that, especially in Alberta. Yes, rye is still grown here for distilling, but it's only one of five cereals used (the others being wheat, corn, triticale and barley). Canadian whisky, as will become apparent in the next three days, is a complex and often contrary mix. The potential drying up of local Canadian rye isn't good news for Alberta Distillers located in nearby Calgary. After all, if it's rye whisky you want, this is the place to come, the world's largest specialist. Alberta Distillers [ADL] is the single biggest buyer of rye in Canada and what started, in 1947 as an incentive to provide an outlet for local rye farmers - has become a signature. “The idea was to put the distillery next to the farms - and now we are a medium-sized distillery in a mid-sized city which grew up around us,” says operations director, Rob Tuer. He's not wrong. We got hopelessly lost in Calgar...

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