In the world of whiskey, many are classified by their country of origin. Yet where they are distilled is not the only thing that sets them apart from others. Yes, Canadian Whisky comes from across the Northern border, and the missing letter “e” in whiskey is not the only thing setting it apart from other spirits.
Whisky is believed to have been first distilled in Canada by John Molson, an English orphan who had immigrated to Canada in 1782 at the age of 18. In 1786 he became the sole owner of a Montreal brewery, which started distilling whisky by the turn of the century. Today we know this company as the Molson Brewery, the oldest of its kind in North America.
Like most whiskey, the Canadian version is made using multiple grains, with corn having dominance over all others. Some Canadian distillers began adding rye grain to their blends, giving the whisky a distinct flavor. Soon there was a demand for this “rye” whisky, which today is synonymous with Canadian Whisky.
Canada is one of two countries that spell whisky without an “e” before the “y”. Scottish immigrants were heavily involved in distilling liquor in Canada throughout its early history, and used their version of the spelling when labeling bottles. As a result, Scottish and Canadian Whisky’s are immediately discernable by their name.
Canadian Whisky grew in popularity in the United States during the prohibition period. With American labels shut down, bootleggers looked to their northern neighbors for help. Hiram Walker’s distillery, situated directly across from Detroit, was a major supplier of spirits to Americans during this time. Using small boats, cases of Canadian Whisky and other spirits were smuggled across the Detroit River and into speak-easies across the country.
Any whisky that has been labeled Canadian Rye, Canadian, or Rye Whisky is considered to be the same product in the eyes of Canada’s Food and Drug Administration. All of these products must have their ingredients mashed, distilled and then aged at least three years in wooden barrels before it can be marketed and sold. Even Rye Whisky that has been sent to the United States for distribution must be able to satisfy the laws set forth by the Canadian government first.
Like bourbon that is distilled in the United States, the most important grain used to make Canadian Whisky is corn. Brands seek out different types of corn in order to create a distinct flavor. Smaller quantities of barley and rye are also added, but rye contributes the most flavor to the blend. The more rye a whisky contains, the spicier it will smell and taste.
Distillers of Canadian Whisky can also experiment with the by switching the types of barrels used. Although the aging process must take place over the course of three years, the distiller can use charred or uncharred barrels so long as their capacity does not exceed 700 liters. This also contributes to the many different flavors you find with Canadian Whisky.
No matter which brand of Canadian Whisky you prefer, the final product will always be full of flavor and contain at least 40% alcohol by volume. Around the world, it is recognized as being a strictly Canadian product, with many countries (including the United States) enacting their own regulations on what exactly defines Canadian Whisky.
The unique flavor of Canadian Whisky gives classic cocktails like whiskey sour a distinct taste. The spirit can also be used to make original drinks like this Canadian Clubhouse Punch:
Thin Peels From 2 Oranges
1/4 Cup of Sugar
2 1/2 Cups of Orange Juice
6 Ounces of Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Teaspoons of Orange Extract
4 Ounces of Blackberry Liquor or Brandy
1 750 Milliliter Bottle of Canadian Club Whisky
1 Orange Sliced Thin in Half Moons
Ice For the Punch Bowl
Mash the orange peels and sugar inside of a large bowl. Add the orange and lemon juice, stirring until all of the sugar is dissolved. Add the orange extract, Brandy or Blackberry Liquor and Canadian Club Whisky. Stir until well blended. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Once it has chilled, remove the orange peels using a slotted spoon. Pour the punch over the ice in a large punch bowl and garnish with the orange slices. With this recipe you should get 12 cups of punch for your guests.
For a drink that will have your legs wobbling try this Crown Royal Paralyzer:
1 Cup of Ice Cubes
1 Ounce of Royal Crown Canadian Whisky
1 Ounce of Kahlua (or other coffee flavored liqueur)
1/2 a Cup of Root Beer
2 Ounces of Milk
Use the ice to fill a highball glass. Pour in the Royal Crown, Kahlua, and root beer. Slowly add the milk making sure that it does not curdle. Stir the ingredients gently and drink immediately. Take care, this Canadian Whisky cocktail goes down very smooth, yet packs a strong punch.
For a cocktail that incorporates all of the best flavors of the Northern Territories, try this Canadian in Manhattan:
1 Ounce of Seagrams VO
1/2 an Ounce of Pure Maple Syrup
1/2 an Ounce of Ice Wine
Use a cocktail shaker to combine all of the ingredients with ice. Shake vigorously and then strain the mixture into a rocks glass full of ice. Garnish with a maraschino cherry before lapping up this sweet drink from the Great White North.
Aptly named the Toronto, this Rye Whisky concoction appeals to the sophisticated drinker:
2 Dashes of Angostura Bitter
1/4 Ounce of Rye Whisky
1/4 Ounce of Gomme Syrup
1/4 Ounce of Fernet Branca Liqueur
1 Orange Peel Slice
Combine all of the ingredients (except the orange peel) in a mixing glass with cracked ice. Stir until well blended and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Squeeze the orange peel over the drink and then drop inside to garnish. This is an impressive cocktail to serve at intimate get-togethers.The inclusion of just a small amount of rye makes a big difference in the flavor of Canadian Whisky. That, along with the strict distilling techniques required make it a liquor of choice for those who prefer a strong and robust flavor.