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I've had Crown Royal and thought it was disgustingly sweet. Is Crown Royal representative of Canadian whiskies, or have I inadvertantly done my sampling on the "Jack Daniels" of the group!?
Is there a better widely-available unobscure Canadian I should try to give it a fair shake!?
Tangle Ridge, Gooderham and Worts, Lot 40, Pikes Creek, Forty creek three grain, Forty Creek Barrel Select.
Tangle Ridge, Gooderham and Worts, Lot 40, Pikes Creek, Forty creek three grain, Forty Creek Barrel Select.
Thanks for the suggestions. I checked the VA ABC website and the only one of those available is Tangle Ridge. Going back to my original question though, is this going to be just a tweaked version of Crown Royal, or is it dramatically different?
Most Canadian whiskies (Blends) are made by distilling grains to 95.5% EtOH, which is as high as distillation will take you without the addition of Organic Acids, which will render the product unconsumable. Then, Rye distillate, or other grain distillate, is added in a certain percentage. This accounts for the bland, weak taste of most Canadians, including Crown. I don't know what percentage of Grain Neutral Spirits is allowed without demarcation on the bottle, but if you pick up McCormick Blended Whiskey, it says 70% Grain Neutral Spirits, 30% straight whiskies. I believe that 20 or 30% is allowed without having to say so on the bottle.
However, Tangle Ridge is 100% rye distillate aged for 10 years in both sherry and bourbon casks. Vastly different.
Tangle Ridge is distilled from an all-rye mash but I would be surprised if it is distilled at under 180 proof, which would make the rye flavour rather ... attenuated. That is why - I think - they add all that wine and vanilla flavouring, to give it body and flavour. The only Canadian whisky I know distilled like a U.S. straight whiskey is Lot 40 which has a very big Gothic taste (perfumed, pinesol-like) I find hard to come to terms with. I believe it is a true pot still product and while the U.S. straights are all today from continuous distillation, the proof delivered from the stills is likely similar in either case. Lot 40 may well, I do not know, approach what real rye was like in the old days. I do think though it would benefit from long aging in heavy-charred casks, yet my fellow Canadians generally abjure that route for aging whisky, so we are left with a kind of compromise..
Century Reserve 13yo single cask is readily available here in Las Vegas. It would also be very different from Crown.
Although I think Crown Royal is a good (if you like sweet) Canadian whisky, I think that Crown Royal Special Reserve is more elegant and a bit less sweet. Crown Royal Limited Edition (Canada only?) is even better. It seems to be even older and the wood better balances the sweetness.
Canadian Club Classic 12yo is also very good in the typical Canadian style.
Gillman, I am pretty sure that Tangle has no additives, unlike most of the Canadians out there. I am not positive, if you have a source for that info, I would love to know it.
The label and leaflet that come with the bottle are a little vague. A Wisconsin wine store's website states the whisky is aged for ten years and is, "dumped and then blended with a hint of sherry and a touch of vanilla" and recasked to marry the flavours. I read this, and the original bottle leaflet, as meaning that some sherry and vanilla were added. To me the bottle has a bouquet that shows both these influences. However it is possible the references to sherry and vanilla were intended to refer to aging in sherry and bourbon casks at some point (cask-finishing). Either way, this is a kind of flavoured whisky in my view. I feel that without such additional flavours likely the whisky would taste mildly oaky but not very rye grain-like. The other aged Alberta Distillers products taste like that. I am not saying the rye grain element is not detectable, but it is a restrained presence compared to U.S. straight rye or Lot 40 (which by the way I have not seen lately on the LCBO shelves in Ontario). I like Tangle Ridge, I like to blend it in the glass with another Canadian rye because I find the flavour quite pungent, especially of the vanilla flavour. The ten year old Alberta Springs rye is perfect to mingle with this whisky - kind of a vatting I like to make..
Well, Tangle Ridge is distilled by Alberta Distillers. Other names in their line include Carrington, Alberta Premium and Alberta Springs. All are made from 100% rye. Jim Murray thinks Alberta Premium is the best of the line. Hw calls Tangle Ridge "a sop to the chattering masses."
Canadian whiskey is typically made from high proof distillate from a corn mash and low proof flavoring whiskey made from rye mash. Alberta Distillers uses a rye mash for both blending components. The bland flavor of Canadian whiskey is due more to the distillers preference. Of course they may be influenced by the desire to include as much cheap, no flavor, high proof distillate as possible.
<font color="blue">Tangle Ridge is distilled from an all-rye mash but I would be surprised if it is distilled at under 180 proof, which would make the rye flavour rather ... attenuated. That is why - I think - they add all that wine and vanilla flavouring, to give it body and flavour. <font color="blue"> </font>
Well, all I am saying is, despite the all-rye mashes, the flavour of these products is quite mild as compared to U.S. straight rye. When you distill out at 90% abv. or higher the impact (flavour) of the grain used in the mashing becomes less important. It has some flavour impact (more than in vodka manufacture where rectification reaches around 95%), but not all that much in my view in Canadian whisky production. I know straight whiskey-style "flavouring whiskies" are used to flavour some high-proof Canadian whiskies. I am not sure though that Alberta Distillers uses such flavoring whiskies - they may, but I am not sure. Allied Domecq (making Canadian Club and many others) and the Seagram whiskies incorporate such flavouring whiskies, but I am not sure about whisky distilled in Alberta and B.C. Clearly, the Canadian style was to make a lighter product that, regardless of the grains used to mash, would not obtrude in taste. The old-type rye whiskies continued to be made in-house, ie for blending (in relatively small amounts by the way). They were even sold as specialties, ie. unblended with any high-proof spirits, into the 1950's, but today that tradition is lost. There was a small revival when Allied Domecq sold Lot 40 through the LCBO in the last few years. I have not seen it lately, though. In truth, Lot 40 is a drink I think few people can come to terms with, so big is it in flavour, and so unique. Maybe had charred cask aging been used, Lot 40 would have found a larger audience than I think it did. Anyway, its release was a welcome return to tradition and one hopes Allied Domecq and Seagram (Pernod Ricard) will do more of the same in the future..
Jim Murray is a whiskey expert, has written many books. He says Alberta Distillery is the only Canadian distillery that does use 100% rye mash in both the high proof "grain spirits" and in the "flavoring" whiskey. I tried the Alberta Premium in hopes of getting a real "rye kick" but was disappointed to find just another bland Canadian whiskey.
I think you are missing the point of Canadian whiskey production. The "high proof" stuff is just alcohol to be used in blending whiskey. It is sometimes called "grain alcohol". It doesn't matter much what grain is used because it has almost no taste. It is much like vodka. The same stuff is used by Irish whiskey producers to produce blended Irish whiskey or by the Scotts to produce blended scotch. In all cases, the taste of the whiskey is determined by how much of the "flavoring" whiskey is used. Canadian whiskey producers, for what ever reason, blend a bland tasting whiskey.
<font color="blue"> Well, all I am saying is, despite the all-rye mashes, the flavour of these products is quite mild as compared to U.S. straight rye. When you distill out at 90% abv. or higher the impact (flavour) of the grain used in the mashing becomes less important. It has some flavour impact (more than in vodka manufacture where rectification reaches around 95%), but not all that much in my view in Canadian whisky production. I know straight whiskey-style "flavouring whiskies" are used to flavour some high-proof Canadian whiskies. I am not sure though that Alberta Distillers uses such flavoring whiskies - they may, but I am not sure. </font>
Hi again, well, I would say the taste of Canadian whisky is a function of a number of things:
(i) the taste of the high-proof distillate (it is not quite as bland as vodka because lower in proof and is entitled to the descriptor whisky in Canada, which vodka, say, is not);
(ii) the age of those whiskies;
(iii) the types of barrels used to age it (recall, grain whisky in Scotland and Ireland too is aged at least to the statement of the label, and provides a taste contribution);
(iv) the blending of all of the above, a skill of course particular to each maker, who will have its "house" flavour; and
(v) the flavouring whiskeys where used. I am not sure about whisky made in Alberta because I once read an article on Alberta whisky production that seemed not to mention the distillation of lower proof flavouring whisky to blend in. I have read the Murray book you mention (he is an expert on whisky, to be sure) but I am not sure if he visited all the distilleries he mentions or was otherwise told specifically by Alberta Distillers that they use these flavouring whiskies. If they do, that's great, and I commend them for sticking to (Canadian) tradition. But based on other things I have read (send me a private e-mail and I'll give more explanation), I am not 100% sure. If Murray is categorical that Alberta Distillers told him that they make and use low proof straight-style flavouring whisky, I'd take him at his word, certainly.
This accounts for the bland, weak taste of most Canadians, including Crown.
I've discovered one good use for Crown Royal. Sample it prior to drinking any of those bourbons that you may consider to be bland. In my case, this would be Evan Williams '93 vintage.
The Crown Royal is so incredibly weak and blah that it makes those less flavorful bourbons come alive! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif
I don't know what percentage of Grain Neutral Spirits is allowed without demarcation on the bottle
Michael Jackson has stated that usually 3 to 5 (definitely no more than 10) percent straight rye is normally used in Canadian whisky. That allows for an overwhelming percentage of neutral grain spirits. Such a ratio is almost hard to believe.
Gents, I agree Canadian whisky is usually bland. That is its style though, it is a different product from bourbon with a different history. Also, the portion of Canadian whisky which is not straight-type (flavouring) whisky is not grain neutral spirit. It is whisky distilled to a high proof, certainly, but designed to retain some flavour from the secondary elements. It is also my understanding that about 20% of Crown Royal, maybe more, is straight-type whisky including (at one time anyway) bourbon made at Four Roses.
I disagree regarding Canadian whisky's history Gillman. Canadian whisky became very popular during prohibition in the US. It was 100% rye at that time, I believe. Increased demand saw the addition of neutral grain spirits. Canadian whiskies "style" is 100% rye. Its adulteration is blends, just like Scotch, "Kentucky whiskey" and cheap brandy. IMHO.
This is partly not my understanding. My understanding is both straight rye and blended rye-type whiskies were well-established in Canada as early as the late 1800's. In Michael Jackson's World Guide To Whisky (1987), Michael states that Hiram Walker pioneered the blending of whisky in Canada by utilising spirit from continuous stills. While U.S. blended whisky (as our Chuck Cowdery has reminded us) enjoyed huge sales in the U.S. before 1919 (far more, spake Chuck, than straight whiskey), in Canada the blended style became a distinct national style (typified by Canadian Club which was and is a byword for quality whisky and not just in Canada).
Canadian whisky (I mean the blending agent component, which is most of it) is a mild style of whisky but it is not GNS. The reason is it contains controlled amounts of congeners.
Certainly Prohibition encouraged Canadians to make more blended whisky and sell it as "rye" in the States. But it is not as if blended Canadian (as a style) was only invented then; my reading over the years suggests that is simply not the case.
Interesting! I was under an erroneous assumption it seems. Do you think that they used more or less GNS in the blends at the turn of the century or now? I know that some blends now use up to 70% GNS. Do you know what proportions Crown uses?
I do not know what Hiram Walker used as the blending agent in the late 1800's. Probably it was very rectified and might be what we would call GNS today. It is possible some Canadian blends today use what is essentially a GNS, but I know that traditionally (in the last (20th) century anyway) the blending agent was not GNS but rather a very high proof mild whisky that was so-called because it was allowed to contain some secondary elements. I agree that straight rye whiskey (originally from pot stills) preceded, long preceded, this more modern rather tasteless (in comparison) whisky. The same applies re malts and grain whiskies in Scotland. But both in Scotland and Canada, the quality makers at any rate never used completely tasteless GNS for their blends. That is the only point I am trying to make, I would not argue the blends taste better (generally) than the whisk(e)y that preceded them; au contraire.
Gillman, glad you mentioned the additional flavorings such as bourbon, etc. I agree, a Canadian with 5% rye doesn't mean the other 95% is "neutral grain spirits".
Speaking of "neutral grain spirits", I'm again just going by some information I obtained from Jackson. He seems to regard the grain spirits used in Canadian whisky as "neutral" relative to the grain spirits used in scotch blends.
I agree, and based on reading taste notes of aged Scottish grain spirit, it seems (often) it has more character than aged Canadian spirit. I think the difference lies in the amount of the secondary elements allowed to remain in the spirit in each country (because otherwise they should be similar, being made mostly from corn or wheat and to high proof in continuous stills). But recall too that blending can add a lot to a beverage. Many people on this board admire not just the new craft-style ryes (some of which are straight ryes and others of which are superior blends) but also some of the traditional rye whiskies sold here like Century's 15 year old (which is very good, about our best, and better IMO oddly than Century's 21 year old whisky). Crown Royal is a good whisky too. It has a subtle taste and used in fact (50 years ago) to be better but it is still a quality spirit and I enjoy sampling it from time to time.
Yeah, I was joking somewhat about Crown Royal. I purchased a bottle mostly out of curiosity plus the fact that several forum members mentioned it as a prime example of Canadian fare.
It most definitely seems bland when you're used to big-bodied bourbons. But you can tell it is (as Jackson describes) rounded, delicate and well-balanced in its own way.
I think it would make and interesting poll here to see who drinks what. All straight whiskies. Straight whiskies and Canadian blends. Straight whiskies and Scotch Blends. Straight whiskies and "Kentucky whiskies" or All Straight and Any Blends.
I fit into the first category, as I only drink straight whiskies: Single Malt, Bourbon, Rye Canadian, etc. However, there are two brands of "Mixto" tequila I like: Sauza and Xalixco, so I guess I do drink some "blends". HeHe.
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