Our neighbors to the north boast a long history of distilling, which was started by Scottish immigrants. The big break for Canadian whisky brands was America’s Civil War, which, of course, hampered production of bourbon and rye in the US and created a huge demand for Canadian whiskey in the States.
Contrary to popular belief, Prohibition wasn’t a huge boon for Canadian distillers, according to Don Livermore, master blender at Ontario’s Corby Distilleries. Even though the dry period made many bootleggers rich, it was a tough period for Canada’s legitimate distillers—so tough that liquor salesman Harry Hatch was able to buy four of the country’s five biggest distilleries for bargain-basement prices.
For years, if you asked for rye whiskey in a bar or a liquor store, you most likely would be given a glass of Canadian whisky. While Canadian distillers do use rye, they also use a number of other grains. Canadian whisky is usually not straight rye whiskey. (However, over the last few years, Canadians have been increasingly bottling straight rye to satisfy America’s thirst.) Unlike the complex rules for making bourbon or Scotch, there is just one law for Canadian whisky distillers to follow: Their whisky must be fermented, distilled and aged in Canada.
Canadians also ferment, distill and age each grain separately. Only at the very end are the different whiskies combined. (For bourbon, the different grains are fermented, distilled and aged together.)
Here’s a shot of spelling with your glass of Irish whiskey. Whisky from Scotland, Canada and Japan is spelled without an “e.” Whiskey from Ireland and the United States is usually spelled with an “e.”
HOW TO DRINK CANADIAN WHISKEY:
Canadian whisky can be enjoyed straight, neat or on the rocks. Club soda and ginger ale are also common mixers, and it can stand in for other types of whiskey in cocktails.
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