What is the best Canadian Whisky?
You could be forgiven for thinking that canadian whisky is best served mixed, with ginger ale, or seven up or even in a cocktail and easily forgettable. Not a drink to waste money on, or enjoy on its own.
Well you would be wrong. In fact 70% of Canadian whisky is now exported to the USA. However Canadian Whisky does have a bit of an image issue, because it really hasn’t moved with the times and put itself out there. In fact whilst the US may be drinking 70% of Canada’s export, according to the Canadian distillers association, all the good stuff remains in Canada.
Historically Canadian Whiskies have been referred to as Rye whiskies, although this is not the case. Canadian whiskey is distilled from a selection of different grains. The Law in Canada states that a whisky must be distilled and bottled in Canada and matured for at least three years. There is no mention of which grains can be used or the percentages, as they do in the States.
Unlike its US counterpart (who are in the premier league when it comes to marketing) Canadian’s don’t make a big enough deal about what goes into their whisky, or how long it has aged for. These are things that consumers are really big on when choosing which whiskey they buy.
Although there are only 8 distilleries in Canada, things are slowly changing. The “Good stuff” is slowly leaving the country and there are some real hidden gems that you need to try.
Here are our recommendations for some of the best Canadian Whisky.
Royal Canadian Small Batch Whisky
This is a new take on an old favourite. The original Royal Canadian has been popular in the US and sold strongly for a number of years. The Sazerac company, who own several distilleries have brought this particular whisky up to date. The whisky is a little older and a blend of different whiskies and the labelling has a more modern feel to it.
For the Sazerac Company and their master blender Drew Mayville, this is the start of their entry into the premium whisky market and judging by the sales to date, they are on course to make their mark!
This is a complex whisky with a lemon and lime citrus nose, punctuated with a ripe fruit note, figs, dates and berries. The taste is sweet, and spicey and a little bitter, with hints of pepper. The finish is long and again you notice the fruit and pepper. $25 in US Liquor Outlets.
Caribou crossing Single Barrel Canadian Whisky
Caribou Crossing is another whisky from the Sazerac Company. This is a single barrel rye whisky and is the worlds first from Canada. A premium whisky from the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Because this whisky is bottled from individual barrels, there will be subtle differences in the taste. Unfortunately the distillery don’t label each bottle with the barrel number, so if you find a bottle you really like, it will be impossible to find another from the same batch.
In an interview Drew Mayville stated he wanted to use the release of Caribou and Royal Canadian small batch to redefine Candian Whisky. Whilst they have a lot of competition this is a very good start.
This is a more creamy whisky with a hint of rye spices and oak. The whisky smells of rick dark fruit and spicies, with a hint of citrus. The finish is medium, but has no real aftertaste, apart from lingering oak and a hint of pepperiness. Presented in pretty bottle with the Maple leaf emblem on the top. this premium whisky can be found for about $50
Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel
The Crown Royal distillery can be found in the small village of Gimil on the western shore of lake Winnipeg. The workers have stuck to the same processes for generations to keep alive the old traditions and make sure the whisky remains top quality.
The hand selected barrel uses only the finest coffey rye to achieve the smooth creamy texture that makes this whisky so popular.
The first 500 or so barrels were sold in late November 2014. Uniquely each barrel was assigned to an individual retailer. There are no specific barrel numbers on the bottle, but there is a medal around the neck of the bottle, that tells you the specific retail outlet it was sent to. Distribution of this brand will increase over the next twelve months, but it appears that the Canadian knack of keeping the best for themselves is no more. In fact to date none of the Crown Royal Single Barrel has been released in Canada
You get a huge hit of butterscotch and bananas with this whisky. The taste is surprisingly sweet with hints of cinnamon and oatmeal and a smooth creamy finish. A bottle will set you back $55.
Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve
This whisky like others is a mixture of three separate whiskies, corn, rye and barley. Each one is typically aged in separate barrels, so that the individual flavors can mature. When the time is right the three are blended and then added to a different barrel, giving them chance to marry and mellow together.
John Hall the owner of the Forty Creek Distillery, changed the process slightly for the double barrel reserve. He filled used bourbon barrels with the blend instead of the usual sherry casks. This allowed the whisky to take on its creamy vanilla taste.
These are the tasting notes from John Hall himself:
“Forty Creek Double Barrel has a wonderful golden roasted aroma filled with deep vanilla notes and highlighted with toasted spice, pecan and walnuts. There is a caramelized creaminess to the flavour with a rich spice that lifts it off the tongue. The finish is very smooth, mellow and extra long”. Recommended retail price $49.