Last night (Tuesday December 3), I attended a tasting of Balblair vintages. We tasted five whiskies, 2003, 1997, 1990, 1983 and 1969, prefaced by a glass of Balblair’s base spirit.
I have to confess after many long years in the drinks industry, my knowledge of Canadian whisky is pretty negligible. After Canadian Club, a brand long forgotten outside of its homeland, I could not think of another single brand.
Completely overshadowed by scotch, bourbon and Irish, Canadian whiskies had two great opportunities, author Davin de Kergommeuas tells us. The American Civll War (1861-65) and, of course, Prohibition (1920-33). Folklore suggests Canadian whisky was the “drink of choice” during Prohibition but obviously there are no records to substantiate that.
De Kergommeuas writes: “Canadian whisky is not scotch and it is not bourbon (um-mm obviously). It is rye and has been for nearly two centuries.” Interesting but then later on when discussing ‘The Substance of Canadian Whisky’, he states that rye is only now used for flavouring (except at Alberta Distillers) and the principal grain in Canadian whisky is in fact corn or maize, the main constituent of bourbon.
Anyone who has ever studied basic geography would think ofCanadawith its vast prairies, theCanadian Shield, as a major grower of grain and specifically winter and spring wheat and barley. According to de Kergommeuas most of the barley goes to brewing rather than distilling which is interesting. He doesn’t say what happens to all the wheat but one presupposes it goes to flour for bread making and other such things plus possibly animal feed.
Anyway, for any whisky student wishing to learn about the Canadian cousin, de Kergommeux’s book is to be recommended.
Author: Davin de Kergommeux
Publishers: McClelland & Stewart
Price: £15.99 (circa, Euro20, US$25,)