Whiskey Dossier: Canada

Canada’s first licensed distillery opened in 1769. Large numbers of Scottish and Irish immigrants who entered Canada in the 19th century brought with them a natural thirst and skill for producing good whisky. Column still distillation is the driving force in Canada, as is a philosophy that focuses on the art of blending. The acknowledged thumbprint character of almost all Canadian Whiskies is their delightful drinkability. Canadian Whiskies are designed, first and foremost, to be smooth and approachable. In light of the 200+ million bottles that are produced each year, one would have to draw the conclusion that this approach has worked out.

Canadian Whiskies are typically made from a majority of corn and lesser portions of rye and barley. Canadian Whiskies are matured in barrels for a legal minimum of three years. Interestingly, as opposed to the rigors of governmentally imposed production regulations south of the border in the U.S., Canada’s Whisky industry is largely self-regulated and is thus a significant departure from other Whiskey making nations. This liberal system has triumphed for more than a century and a half as Canadian Whiskies have flourished globally and have come to be viewed as reliable and welcome libations. On top of having first-class entrée on an international scale, the gentle, mildly sweet nature of Canadian Whiskies makes them prime ingredients in scores of Whiskey cocktails.

Two pivotal companies, Hiram Walker and Joseph E. Seagram, led the charge in the 19th century and some of their brands still resonate to this day. In recent years, however, smaller distilleries, like Forty Creek in Ontario, Glenora in Nova Scotia and Urban, The Liberty and Okanagan in British Columbia, have raised the bar in terms of offering more idiosyncratic Whiskies that reflect their region. Whisky now represents 25% of all spirits produced in Canada, being produced in 18 distilleries sprinkled around the vast Canadian nation from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. Whisky is the only category that has an “appellation protected” status, meaning that Canadian Whisky can only be produced in Canada.