What is Canadian Whisky?
Canadian whisky dominance, and in particular Seagram's, can be attributed to prohibition. During this infamous dry period in US history, Canadian whisky literally poured down the hill into America's illicit speakeasies.
was abolished in 1933, the Federal Alcohol Administration allocated
the importation of 3,314,443 gallons of whisky (we're guessing for
medicinal purposes). Most of this came from Canada.
The most popular brands of Canadian whisky, Crown Royal, Seagram's V.O. and C.C. and are called for in bars all over the world. For beginning whisky drinkers, these are the lightest and easiest whiskies to swallow.
Canadians spell whisky in the Scotch fashion, without an "e" (When speaking of spirits from the U.S. or Ireland, the spelling "whiskey" is used.)
Interestingly, the Canadian government does not mandate a specific grain mixture, proof level for distillation or type of barrel for storage, preferring to let each individual distiller make those decisions. The US government is another story however. According to U.S. federal regulations, Canadian whisky must be produced in Canada according to that country's laws, must contain no distilled spirits less than three years of age and must be a blend. Canadian law simply states that the whisky must be produced from cereal grain. In compliance with that regulation, Canadian whisky may be distilled from a fermented mash of wheat, corn, rye and/or barley.
A common misconception about Canadian whiskies, and American blended whiskies for that matter, is that they are rye whiskies. In reality, however, Canadian distillers use seven times more corn than other grains. But because Canadian distillers have been allowed to develop their own methods, it is important to remember that each distiller's recipe calls for different amounts of the individual grains with the exact proportions being kept as closely guarded secrets.
All Canadian whisky must be aged in oak casks for a minimum of three years, although most spend from six to eight years in the barrel. After aging, the whisky is dumped into huge blending vats. This is the stage at which the art of the blender is put to the test. One of the many tricks of the blender's trade is the use of whiskies of various ages in order to produce a consistent blend from year to year (the bottle label can only carry the age statement of the youngest spirit used). That's why a bottle of Canadian whisky produced today is likely to have the same taste profile as a bottle of the same brand purchased 10, 20 or more years ago.
After blending, the whisky is returned to barrels to allow the newly combined whiskies to marry. Only then is it bottled and sold. As a rule, Canadian whiskies are light-bodied, slightly pale and have a reputation for being mellow. What many people, even in the business, don't realize is how big the Canadian category is. Accounting for 11.5% of all distilled spirits consumption, Canadian whisky trails only vodka in terms of its share of the market.
According to U.S. law, Canadian whisky must be a product of Canada. It is also further classified as either bulk or bottled in Canada. Bulk whisky, which is also called U.S. bottled, is shipped to this country in barrels. It is then bottled at U.S. plants by the marketers of the various brands. With few exceptions, these U.S. bottled brands have traditionally been 80 proof products and are targeted to compete with blended American whiskeys and straight bourbons. More than half the Canadian whisky consumed in the U.S. is bottled in this country. Canadian whisky bottled in the country of origin is marketed at a higher price point than the bulk brands and carries more of the cachet associated with fine imported whiskies. These brands tend to be aged longer and are blends of the best available spirits. Although once bottled at 86.8 proof, almost all bottled in Canada brands are now 80 proof (40% alcohol).
BASIC FACTS ABOUT CANADIAN WHISKY