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You've heard of Scotch whisky and bourbon, no doubt, but have you given Canadian whisky a try? Canadian whisky shares many characteristics of Scotch whisky and bourbon, but it does its own thing, which is great when you're looking for a subtler alternative to the strong stuff. Turns out Canadians like to keep their whiskies light. Maybe it's because they're so polite that they wouldn't dream of overwhelming your palate. They're so considerate, those Canadians.
That's not to say Canadian whisky isn't flavorful, however. On the contrary, it offers an interesting alternative to heavier, more forward whiskeys from the United States, Scotland and Ireland, which makes Canadian whisky an excellent choice for year-round sipping! And unlike the stringent regulations on American whiskeys, the only rule for Canadian whisky is that it must be fermented, distilled and aged in its home country, with each individual grain being fermented, distilled and aged separately. Canadians really know how to show a grain a good time!
While you'd think Prohibition would have made Canadian whisky popular in the U.S., actually, it was the Civil War that put whisky from our northern neighbors in such high demand. Many whiskey distilleries in the South were destroyed or abandoned during the war, and troops had to get their whiskey from somewhere. Naturally, our friends in Canada answered the call. Who wouldn't take advantage of such a golden opportunity?
Is It All Rye?
The short answer is no. Rye was once the prominent grain used in Canadian whiskies, and people in the northeastern U.S. referred to spirits from their northern neighbors as Rye to distinguish them from homegrown spirits. It's a simple mix-up, but we know better nowadays.
In fact, in the early days, Canadian whisky was made from wheat. Settlers had such an abundance of wheat that it was practically growing out of their ears, so they had to find creative ways of using it. Naturally, crafting a new alcoholic beverage seemed like a no-brainer. Wouldn't you agree? When German and Dutch immigrants arrived and wanted more flavor, rye was added, and wheat whiskies all but disappeared.
By law, Canadian whisky can be labeled Rye whisky, but unlike in America, Canadian distillers can use any number of grains in any number of grain combinations. These days, they're just as likely, if not more so, to use corn than rye. Yeah, it may be a bit misleading, but now you know the truth!
How to Drink It:
Because most Canadian whisky brands are lighter than their American counterparts, they're perfect for mixing in any and every whisky-based cocktail you could imagine. Try it in a Manhattan or Raymond Massey, or play around with its pleasing flavors to create your own concoction.
We're partial to the Canadian Manhattan, which features Canadian whisky, bittersweet vermouth and aromatic bitters. If you prefer something rich and creamy, go with a Cynar Flip. This increasingly popular cocktail combines the allure of Italian aperitivo and Canadian whisky with cynar, clove syrup, Cointreau, bitters and egg. Trust us, it's amazing.
You also can't go wrong with a Burgundy cocktail. Made from Canadian whisky, ginger ale and cranberry juice, Ron himself would definitely approve!