Where I live, and I speak in a very broad definition here, as I think of Europe, the focus is mainly on Scotland, and also a bit on USA, Ireland and Japan. Canada is more or less off the radar. Totally.
I have heard of Canadian Club only growing up. Last week when I held a bourbon tasting in a local whiskyclub, I asked if they knew any bourbons. Canadian Club was mentioned as the 2nd!. I bet if I did a poll in the street asking what country produced Canadian Club I wouldn't get 100% same answers :-)
Just to put you in a good mood, here's a little fun video, not whisky related, except it's about the symbols of some of the whisky producing countries - Scotland, Ireland and Canada included.
My favourite Canadian Whisky Blogger, Johanne McInnis of The Perfect Whisky Match has kindly sent me the following 4 samples. I am now ready to educate myself a little on the subject of canadian whiskies and I will share my thoughts.
I start of with a couple of Gibson's, a brand owned by William Grants and Sons. It's now made in the Walkerville distillery in Windsor Canada (not owned by Grants) and current bottlings was probably distilled in the Valleyfield distillery near Montreal in Québec
1. Gibson's Finest. 12yo. 40%
The nose is light and very typical of grain whisky. The palate again reminds me of standard scottish grain whisky. I am refering to scottish whisky often when describing other countries whiskies, as that's where my whisky heritage is. This is not as neutral as the standard scottish grain whisky usually is, there's more flavours coming through from the grains used in the mashbills, with a strong rye component. Rye is the most flavourful grain used in whisky production and gives a minty spicy flavour to a whisky. This whisky is not very intense in it's basic flavours and I see myself pouring some rather large pours to taste it. It is very smooth and drinkable. There is some small hint's of the standard flavours you expect to find in a whisky that has spend 12 years in a cask. A little butterscotch is most notable for me and the finish has a nice little hint of sweet wood berries, whatever that is ?
2. Gibson's Finest Rare 40% 18yo
This is a limited production of 12000 bottles a year according to Gibson's website, where I also stole the photo above. The first difference I notice on the 18yo compared to the 12yo is some small hints of oak wood on the nose. The palate is a lot more balanced than the 12yo and I feel I am drinking an aged whisky. Everything is again very subtle in the flavours and I again have to pour some real large pours to get the flavours of this. I am a very experienced microdrammer, usually I can get a lot from just pouring ½-1 cl of whisky, but this isn't doing it for me this morning. I am reviewing this four samples first thing in the morning before my palate has been in contact with any food so no tired palate here. Along with my previous experiences with Canadian whiskies I get the feeling that this is grain whisky I am drinking with a rye component. I am repeating myself, this is smooth, not that intense, very easy drinking, grain whisky, very typical canadian. I would say this is exactly an older version of the 12yo with a very similar flavour profile. The finish is again very nice, this time with wood infused with berries
3. Wiser's Small Batch 43.4%
Another brand produced in Walkerville.
Great pours again to get the flavours through. The higher ABV introduces a slight alcohol burn for the first time this morning, and I had the first two to prepare my palate! This whisky has a hint of rubber on the palate, but knowing my sensitivity for rubber I doubt anyone else would find it. I never mind hints of rubber in a whisky so this is not a negative, I think it adds some complexity to this whisky. The whisky is again a typical grain but this is bit more fullbodied, the higher ABV surely helps
4. Alberta Premium Dark Horse 45%
From Alberta!. According to Davin, this is a mainly a 100% rye whisky mixed with some goodies like corn whisky and sherry casked whisky to enrich the rye base.
What a wonderful nose. The nose takes me back to some of the wonderful LDI High West whiskeys I have tried. The rye is dominant, but its embedded in a nice traditional yummy whisky/sherry nose. The palate comes through as sherried with a hint of classic dried fruits. This particular whisky is more a sherried rye than a grain whisky if I have to relate it the whiskies I usually drink. The balance between the rye and the sherry is perfect. A bit like when a peat/sherry whisky is perfect. This is something I would like a bottle of
This is the best canadian whisky I have tasted along with the Whistlepig, which has really grown on me since I reviewed it on this blog some time ago-
My verdict is that if you are fan of grain whiskies you should explore these canadians. To me, these canadians are somewhat quite similar in style. Solid grain whiskies. They also somehow remind me of irish whiskies with a rye component, but I wouldn't be surprised if experienced irish and canadain drinkers would say that's the most stupid thing they ever heard :-)
I also find myself getting drunk while drinking these canadians. I had to pour a lot to get flavours out. Everybody talks about responsible drinking these days. I get the thought that bottling these whiskies at below 45% is irresponsible as it leads to excessive drinking. Give me 55%+ cask strengths and I will be sipping drops instead of necking big pours.
Talking about casks strength. Where are the cask strength Canadians?. I would really love to try some of these at full strength. There's million of casks maturing in Canada and I am 100% sure that if you want to make an impact into the whisky geek/entusiast world it must be possible to find one or two good casks and bottle them at full strength. It can't be that hard! When I visited Forty Creek last summer I suggested this to John Hall and he just looked at me like I was clueless. Maybe I am?, but I bet they want to sell whisky to someone like me AS WELL :-)