Whisky Magazine Issue 135
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Going underground is where the real whiskies are found
Toronto is the most unlikely place in Canada to hold a whisky festival. Why? Because every whisky at the tables and masterclasses must be bought from the only provincial outlet. How do you spell government liquor monopoly in Ontario? LCBO. This provincial crown corporation carries about 140 whiskies at any one time, a few of them goodies, but mostly bottom-shelf blends.
You don't go to a Toronto whisky show for the whisky. It's the scene – meeting old friends and chatting about the latest treasures in the whisky underground. Really, underground is where Toronto's real whisky scene happens. If you are a whisky lover in Ontario's largest city, you have to take supply into your own hands.
“The whisky geeks find their whisky elsewhere,” says Gerald Glavota. “People bring special bottles back when they travel. They meet in little clubs. Everyone chips in and then they share the whisky. Some people get them shipped to Niagara Falls, and sneak them across into Canada.”
Blair winces, his clouded mind conjuring visions of a border patrol back room, a single dangling light bulb and a burly border agent reaching for a blue latex glove. This may sound a lot like the days of Prohibition and the speakeasy, but Ontario has since legalised gambling and is now eager to sell marijuana. Even so, when it comes to booze, it seems the government didn't learn a thing from America's Noble Experiment.
Real whisky professionals cross-train rigorously. Full en...