Recently my friend Rod asked me for insights to an article on Canadian Whisky from
PunchDrink.com Canadian Whisky
By the time I finished the reply, I realized I had enough material for a blog entry, so here it is:
Let me start by giving you some of my wine / whisky educational background.
15 years ago I made one of the best decisions of my life by registering for WSET classes in Calgary AB Canada.
A man named Francois, who managed a wine store that carried some amazing examples, taught the class.
During the class on whisky, he told us that products coming into the market from the United States were actually whisky’s made in Canada, shipped to the U.S. for bottling and returned to Canada under new labels and at much higher prices.
So, for over 15 years, I’ve known about the history of producers like Whistle Pig acquiring their “juice” from Canada.
That knowledge makes a difference when I’m selecting a whisky for purchase.
Full disclosure: I’m a big fan of Beam Suntory’s Alberta Premium.
Yes, it’s inexpensive.
Yes, the packaging is dated and …
Yes, Davin de Kergommeaux in his book “Canadian Whisky – The Portable Expert” regarding Alberta Premium, states:
“Fermentation flavours normally associated with rye are deliberately distilled out, yielding a light mixing whisky with virtually no typical rye character”.
… but I grew up in Alberta, with Alberta Premium on my #WhiskyWall for as long as I can remember.
It’s the only spirit in my 5,000+ tasting notes where the flavour is permanently etched in my palate-memory.
It deserves a place in history, and not just because rail – tankers full of it are shipped to the States every year for repackaging.
But because it’s a really good product at a really good price.
Alberta Premium is the best-selling All-Rye Whisky in the world.
200,000 cs sold annually
Alberta Distillers makes about 20 million litres of whisky each year and exports about 14 million, sold in bulk and packaged by others who put their own name on it.
Most of it winds up in the United States, but up to 55 countries, Britain, France, Sweden, Japan – they all use Alberta distillers whisky.
In recent years, I’ve tasted hundreds of different whiskies.
A stand-out producer was … and continues to be:
Stalk & Barrel:
Rye Whisky 60.7% abv & Single Malt Whisky 62.3% abv are 2 of the best whiskies I’ve ever tasted in my life.
And I’m not just saying Canadian Whisky … I’m saying all whiskies. Stalk & Barrel Whiskies are magical in the flavors & aromas they deliver.
And tasting them at cask strength was just the icing on the cake.
When Raj Sabharwal and I were both in Atlanta for the Whiskies of the World show, he was kind enough to come to the Smooth Draws Cigar Radio studio where we enjoyed a tasting of the Stalk & Barrel Blue Blend at 40% abv and the Red Blend 43% abv.
Gary “Doc” Laden was totally taken with the Red Blend.
Raj taught us so much about whisky & we thoroughly enjoyed the tasting, as you can see by the in-studio photo attached.
If you’re going to add a whisky to your wall, make it Stalk & Barrel.
Alberta Rye Whisky Dark Batch.
Here in Canada we have Alberta Premium Dark Horse.
In the States, they have Alberta Rye Whisky Dark Batch.
If I’m not mistaken, if you read between the lines of the PunchDrink article, it’s kind of Alberta Premium retooled with Sherry.
For my personal tastes, it’s a little too sweet. But a lot of people like the sweetness Sherry imparts … I’m more a spicy-bite fan.
I guess I’ve got to give this one another taste. When it 1st came out, I lined up like every other whisky enthusiast … but I just couldn’t get enthusiastic about it. Keep in mind, I prefer sipping whiskies neat and this one just didn’t do it for me.
I guess bartenders like Lot 40 for its cocktail readiness.
I always kind of smile at any Crown Royal product because until Northern Harvest Rye, it was basically a corn-based whisky. Keep in mind, because there’s not a whole lot of rules defining Canadian Whisky, it can be made of almost any kind of grain, but typically corn, barley & rye.
When I’m judging a corn-based whisky, I judge it on its merits and keep my personal bias out of it.
But when it comes to what I pour in my glass, I prefer to go with a Rye-forward expression, just like I prefer anything 43% abv or higher. I generally find 40% a little thin when it comes to whisky.
So that’s my insight on the whiskies listed in the PunchDrink.com article.
But, I think this article missed an important Canadian Whisky that’s available nation wide and in certain areas of the United States … and that’s Forty Creek Canadian Whisky.
It’s another of my preferred Canadians. John Hall worked tirelessly, facing numerous challenges to get that product on the market and it’s worthy of mention.
As a person who loves Canadian Whisky with Cigars, I’m also compelled to mention the Canadian Whisky / Cigar pairing at Big Smoke Las Vegas in 2014.
The reason I attended that particular show was because Jack Bettridge, along with Manuel Quesada, were hosting a Canadian Whisky tasting/ seminar.
The whiskies were: J.P. Wiser’s 18, Collingwood, Canadian Club Small Batch Sherry Cask and Crown Royal
The cigar: Manuel Quesada’s Quesada 40th.
Like a lot of people, I’d have expected anything “sherry” to have been the best pair with a cigar. The sweetness can take on the smoke.
However, here’s the comments:
“With the Canadian Club Sherry Cask, a nougat flavor that didn’t appear before emerged for both Quesada and Bettridge.
While Bettridge declared this pairing as his personal favorite, Quesada politely disagreed.
“For me,” Quesada said, “it was the Wiser’s.
The liquid creeps back over the cigar sensations on the palate and layers it well”.
I was sitting in the 2nd row with a clear view of the moderators. I was very interested in observing their reactions.
When Manuel tasted that Wiser’s 18 with his cigar, the look on his face was one of complete wonderment.
As a matter of fact, I’ve wondered since if he’d ever paired one of his cigars with a Canadian Whisky before.
You could tell that pairing made a huge impression on him … you know, the kind of moment where time stops and you just want to be alone with that whisky & that cigar.
In terms of producers, Alberta Distillers will always have a place in my heart.
But there’s no doubt that Dr. Don Livermore and the team at Wiser’s do a lot for Canadian Whisky & the people who love it.
Dr. Livermore’s Canadian Whisky Flavour Wheel is amazing!
Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET)
Stalk & Barrel
Beam Suntory Alberta Premium
Corby Lot 40
Forty Creek Whisky
Cigar Aficionado Canadian Accents