BEST CANADIAN WHISKY
In time past, the Canadian whisky got labeled with the nickname “brown vodka” [deservedly; one may want to say]. It should be recalled that –up north at the border –there were many regulations [call it chalk and cheese] as a result of which–rotgut whisky –were distilled in all manner of flavors; such as the use of caramel flavoring and dyes. In other cases, they were blended with rum and brandy. So, as it seemed to be the case in the past; the country was engulfed in poor or substandard ‘blending practices” which eventually tagged Canadian as the land of bad rye. At the time, the country became famous with the phrase “lighter-style” which was synonymous with bland or tasteless whisky.
In those days; it came the time United States witnessed exodus movement of craft whisky; the number of poor whisky in the U.S were increasing at the time and eventually; it sparked a blanket ban on all Canadian liquors. The generalization or so to say, the blanket ban had a demonizing effect which spans across the Great White North.
Having said all this; as we proceed, it is important to note that –in recent times –things seem to have taken a new turn. In the light of this, let’s now reevaluate Canadian whisky as we separate it from some age-long perceptions. Canadian whisky is not how it used to be; it has greatly improved.
However, as we address existing misconceptions, it should be noted that the then ill-famous words associated with Canadian whisky in the past [such as bad rye, etc.] are now fit for the grave and should be taking out of the mind. It is true that, historically, Canadian whisky came with a large pour of rye –that it became the second word for Canadian whisky [Rye and Canadian Whisky were used interchangeably].
As the case was in those days, the fact that ‘Rye’ produced in Canada lacked legal restrictions as compared to their counterpart in the U.S [a restriction –as it was in the U.S – where production of Rye was sourced from 51% of “raw Rye grains.” Canadian rye at the time lacked such restriction and this birthed series of distrust amongst ‘True Rye lovers”.
So, rye produced in Canada came in “diverse” forms – concerning the various level of concentration [as far as the use of raw materials was a concern; I.e., Rye grains]. On the other hand, whiskies with non-rye content from the U.S are appropriately marketed [with right labels] naming all ingredients as duly used. The attendant effect was glaring on the wider appeal for whisky amongst the populace.
What has happened in the last two decades –as we’ve seen –is that Canadian distillers have gone through series of an upgrade. They’ve done quite much to up their game. Canadian distillers are now rightly positioned to give American counterpart a run for its money.
Speaking about the evolution of quality whisky in Canada, many distilleries are now on-board, new shops are opening amidst old folks aging up to 20years. And more recently, we’ve seen brands by Canadian distilleries such as Alberta Distillers [the maker of Canadian Club] and Crown Royal launched in the market some high-graded and quality whisky.
Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye [$45]
In 2016, the famous researcher and inventor, Jim Murray enthroned Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye as his world whisky of the year. In the world acclaimed book [Whisky Bible] Jim Murray successfully launched this Canadian whisky into the awareness of Northern neighbor –it was a reawakening that dawned on American consciousness. This experience was similar to “Yamazaki Sherry Cask” the Japanese’s whisky that got featured in Jim Murray’s whisky Bible a year before.
Crown Royal Northern Rye popped into the market at a time Canadian whisky, in general, was going to be de-ranked in” its chapter in the whisky Bible.” However, the whole game changed by the arrival of CRN Rye.
It was a no surprise that Crown Royal Northern Rye was hardly recognized by Northern Harvest; CRNR’s standard is way up in quality, with the Rye content been richly spiced compare to the much taunted Crown Royal deluxe. In no time, the usual rye favored by the palate due to its floral and high note peppery [that leaves out a bitter taste].
Crown Royal Northern Rye has a price tag of $45 which –undoubtedly –presents this bottle as a perfect introduction to the quality spirits made of Canada.
Lot 40 [$49]
Though the name says LOT 40, this brand had more than 40 customers. The truth, however, is that this brand enjoyed massive following; it became a world-celebrated Canadian Rye before it was withdrawn in the early 2000s. It was so popular that after its discontinuation fans scrambled for “lasting-hold” of disappearing bottle. This development ultimately led to its acquisition by Pernod Ricard’s affiliate; Corby and eventual revival by Hiram Walker distillery. So, as it is, Lot 40 is now available across the U.S. This brand is made of 100% rye. To be clear, the production of Lot 40 has 90% grains and the remaining percent been malted rye. Without a doubt, Lot 40 has placed Canadian whisky on the spotlight with the pure and rich flavor of pumpernickel, citrus, and pepper. This highly packed flavor is perfect for Rye cocktails; however, drinking it purely with ice would wake any American whiskey snob.
Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve [$70]
This brand –oddly by the way –was able to leap across the continental U.S; thus making waves in Texas. It should be noted; however, that while ‘Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve’ is popular in the U.S second largest state, its popularity should span across the country. It may be so that creator may have a direct influence on brand’s quality. It is true that in 1992, Vintner John Hall, a Canadian introduced into the market to challenge at the global stage supreme whiskies originating from Scotland, and Kentucky. And as a result, we have Forty Creek barrel select. This brand has a blend of Rye, sweet corn, and nutty barley whiskies. The sweet corn taste is more pronounced, covering the rich toffee, vanilla, black walnut, and honey.
The blends were stored in barrels made out of hundred and fifty-year-old Canadian white oak trees which were brought down within 40 miles distance to the distillery. Also, noting the distinct effect in Canadian oak as a result of cooler climates, this has an impact on the whisky flavor mainly due to the difference like Oak wood. This distinct difference set this whisky apart in its final product. Combining with rich vanilla, walnut and sweet flavors of date. Also, fig and raspberry, not leaving out the highly refined pepper spice.
Alberta Rye Dark Batch [$25]
At the mention of Alberta Distillers, ‘Canada club’ would mostly come to mind. However, Alberta Rye Dark is underrated and certainly worth a try. This brand introduced as a dark batch by Beam Suntory in the U.S in 2015, ultimately made the most of Canada liquor laws which supports up to 9.09% of other rum. As it were, Alberta Distillers had up to 91% of Rye [to be more detailed, the Rye has a balanced mixture of high-quality rye and lower grade –flavored –rye]. Also is 8% “old grand-dad bourbon and 1% “Oloroso sherry.” This blend produces a tasteful, aromatic mixture of malty spice, jammy, cola, ripe fruit as well as chocolate and cinannmon. Leaving you with a sweet and finely produced spicy Rye.
JP Wiser’s 18 Year Old ($50-65)
Looking for a classic Canadian distillery? JP Wiser qualifies as a perfect example. This brand has grown to utter the status quo and now challenging modern-day whisky market. JP wiser has greatly improved over time, similar to Sylvester Stallone in Rocky II; this brand has gone through series of phases [training and upgrades] in other to have a kill at the market. JP Wiser is made with green apple; wood accompanied by fresh pine, also, toffee and vanilla. Without mincing words, this aged classic deserves the following compliment, as “classic light Canadian Whisky.”