View Full Version : Canada - only blend?

11-12-2006, 13:50
Are all whiskey from Canada blended?

11-12-2006, 19:27
Are all whiskey from Canada blended?

No, I don't think so.


11-12-2006, 19:55
There are one or two that are single cask bottlings. Of the ones I have tried, they are typically Canadian in taste, i.e., light-bodied and mild-flavoured. If you did not know they were single cask, I don't think you could tell, in other words.

The rest are, as far as I know, blended, which means, mostly, that whiskies of different types are combined. Typically a fairly neutral, high distillation proof distillate is blended with a much smaller amount of flavorful, low-distillation proof distillate, in either case after each is aged in wood a minimum of three years.

Blending in Canada can also mean that flavorings are added (e.g., sherry, vanilla, caramel) but not all whiskies in Canada have flavourings added. My understanding is the Seagram whiskies are not flavored, for example.

When we speak of blending, what is important is not so much the combining of whiskies from different barrels from the distillery warehouse (since most bourbons are blended in that sense) but the kind of whiskies being blended. In Canada, the majority type used for this purpose is almost neutral in taste before being put into the wood to age. After aging it is still quite mild-flavored but gains additional taste from the wood extracts that entered the spirit.


11-21-2006, 15:50
Since all Canadian Club products are blended before barreling, the "single cask" designation doesn't necessarily mean the product isn't blended.

So far as I know, all Canadian whisky is blended, but I will defer to the Canadian.

11-21-2006, 17:23
Well, I just bought a Hirsch 12 year old Single Cask whiskey (at cask strength). If the contents were "blended at birth", that doesn't make it blended in the normal sense. The whiskies aren't finished and are still a raw material. After all, I am sure different runs are combined to fill bourbon barrels too, from the same mash bill to be sure, but each mash is different to a degree. Anyway, not all distillers here blend at birth, some (e.g., Seagram, Kittling Ridge) blend after dumping. I bought another single barrel Canadian, in Manitoba last year, but cannot recall the name now.

Certainly these are rarities and it is true in practical terms to say Canadian whisky is blended.


11-22-2006, 12:10
If you don't consider whiskey "blended at birth" to be blended, then how do you account for all of the Hiram Walker brands, all of which are made that way and all of which are very recognizable as "Canadian blends"?

11-22-2006, 12:43
Because they are I believe coloured with caramel (and caramel I think has some taste), and possibly other things are added at bottling stage. This is true certainly for some Hiram Walker whisky and some Canadian whisky in general.

Also, the term blended at birth - or the concept in general that mixing high and low proof whiskies when newly distilled is blending - may be a survival from the time when finished whisky received little or no aging. The term probably predates in other words the Canadian law that requires whisky to be aged 3 years.


11-23-2006, 02:22
Just to collect and refine my thoughts on this (which is just my opinion), I think the hallmark of Canadian whisky is the blending of the product prior to bottling.

This is achieved in different ways, some of which are not used by every distillery or for every brand:

i) addition of caramel or other non-whisky substances (sherry, vanilla, etc.) to adjust color or for flavor;

ii) mixing of many barrels, even of the same kind of whisky, to achieve a taste profile. E.g. Michael Jackson in his 1987 World Guide to Whisky speaks of Seagram using a "complex matrix" of cooperage to achieve its final products. Some of that is new (plain) wood, some new charred, some ex-bourbon wood, etc. So in Canadian practice because wood gives so much to the final character, I believe one can say the whiskies are blended in a way different from the mingling of straight whiskeys in the U.S. where all the whiskeys are from the same kind of wood; and

iii) some distilleries here blend their different whiskey types after dumping (possibly followed by a marrying period).

A single cask whisky issued by a distillery that generally follows the practice in no. iii above, if not colored or otherwise added to (e.g. the Hirsch 12 year old Canadian whisky I referred to if issued by such a distillery), is not blended.

Hiram Walker (for its part) regards the combining of low and high proof new distillates as blending. Presumably if it issued a whisky from one cask, i.e., if it did not follow practice no. ii above and maybe practice no. i, that whisky could be viewed as less blended than its regular whisky but not as unblended since Hiram Walker uses the concept of blending at birth for all whiskies barreled. I can't gainsay that since that is their practice apparently (see e.g. the Canadian Club website). Therefore, presumably even Lot 40 when unaged was a combination of two or more whiskies (maybe it contained more flavoring whiskey than high proof, or a higher proportion of low proof than most Hiram Walker or Corby whiskies). I say this because I believe Hiram Walker and Corby do not barrel low and high proof whiskies separately (from what I have heard to date anyway).

I believe however the blending at birth concept is a survival of a time when the new whisky was essentially the final product. Today, that blending is really part of making the raw material - it isn't whisky until aged at least 3 years in wood. To me that is like blending corn and rye to make a bourbon mash. And therefore to some degree even in their regard the question may be more terminological than anything else.

I would add that scotch whiskies are classically regarded as blended where malt whiskies are combined with grain whiskies. But the combination occurs prior to bottling, not from birth.


11-30-2006, 13:37
My son lives in Canada and he is going to bring me a bottle of Glen Breton single malt made in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia when he comes down for the holidays. I looked it up on the net and it is apparently made of 100% malt in pot stills (like scotch malts). In fact, Scotland tried to prohibit them from using the name Glen Breton because they were afraid people would think it was a scotch malt. So I guess I'd have to say that not all Canadian is blended. I was told that the only place it was available here in the US was at Sam's or Binny's in Chicago. There is a toll free number to the distillery liste on their web site.

Stu (a malt lover who recently learned to appreciate bourbon at the gazebo at the festival)

11-30-2006, 13:51
Stu you are absolutely right, but as good as Glen Breton is, to me it is something apart from "Canadian whisky", at least as understood traditionally.

I would say Glen Breton is an artisan Nova Scotia whisky made in the style of a lighter Highland, or even a Lowlands, malt.


11-30-2006, 15:09
Gary, I haven't tried it yet, but I'm looking forward to it. It probably won't be one of my favorites because I'm and Islay fan (Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig - love it or hate it). I'm pretty much the same way with bourbons. I seem to prefer the stronger astringent ones that a lot of folks don't like, but I also like a good wheat based bourbon s well. Stu

11-30-2006, 19:50
By your definition, Gary, Canadian Club is not a blended whiskey. You are entitled to your opinion, even to your own private language, but the rest of the world understands blended-at-birth Canadian Club to be blended whiskey.

The following is from the Canadian Club web site:

"The original light and versatile blended whisky, Canadian Club® is the only Canadian whisky blended before aging in white oak barrels. This allows the flavors of the rye, rye malt, barley malt and corn to merry (sic), giving CC its unique, smooth taste. Canadian Club® is ideal for any occasion and goes perfectly with your favorite mixer."

11-30-2006, 20:29
Well we kind of drifted in the thread. The original question was can a Canadian whisky that advertises itself as single cask be truly unblended.

I suggested that it could because many distillers in Canada blend before the bottling stage. Therefore, if the 12 year old Hirsch Canadian whisky I bought was made, say, by Seagram or Kittling Ridge, it unquestionably is unblended (since they blend before bottling, not from inception). I don't know who made it though. If it was made by Hiram Walker, the matter is different and here I offered the view that a single barrel of CC, say, is arguably unblended because when the spirits in it were mingled they weren't whisky and wouldn't be whisky for at least 3 years.

This was a subsidiary point and I acknowledged that CC calls this a blended whisky and I referred to its website in this regard.


Hedmans Brorsa
12-01-2006, 03:35
I´m not sure if I understand all the goings here, but can we at least conclude that a Canadian whisky that advertizes itself as a 'single cask' is not the same as a single barrel bourbon or a single cask malt whisky?

When I first heard the term single cask canadian whisky I regarded it as a contradiction in terms but now I think I get the picture. (hopefully.)

12-01-2006, 05:06
I would say products identified as Canadian single cask whisky are different from single barrel bourbon or single malt whisky in two ways:

i) in volume, since there is so little Canadian single cask the category almost does not exist! The only examples I can think of are the aforestated Hirsch which was never sold in Canada as far as I know (and which may not be a "true" single cask if blended at birth by Hiram Walker or another distiller) and a brand I bought in Winnipeg last year but cannot remember the name of. I'll have to check my Century Reserve 21 years old to see if it may be single cask, but even if so, we are talking about very few products so in commercial terms the idea hardly exists here;

ii) in its nature, since Canadian whisky is typically different from bourbon or malt whisky.


12-01-2006, 05:28
I searched in the SB archive and the single cask bought in Winnipeg, Manitoba last year was Century Reserve Single Cask 13 years old. I recall it had a light, clean taste typical of Canadian whisky.


12-01-2006, 11:15
I may be introducing some more drift here, but the subject of Canadian whisky can be mystifying. I have frequently heard American distillers take potshots at Canadian whisky and their implication is that the only thing the Canadians actually distill is the nearly-neutral "base" whiskey. The flavoring whiskies are bourbons, American straight ryes and Scottish single malts that they buy in bulk. These comments are always snide asides and I never have had the opportunity to pursue them in greater depth. I have even been told that Canadian law requires such a thorough removal of fusel oils that base whisky is the only thing they can make. Don't ask me to explain these comments. I can't, and am repeating them here because I'm confused by them and am looking for clarification if anyone here can offer any.

12-01-2006, 11:28
Well, that is interesting.

Unquestionably some of the flavoring whisky used is simply bourbon or rye brought in in bulk from the U.S.. I understand when Seagram owned Four Roses it sent bourbon from there to Montreal to be blended into Crown Royal, for example (not sure what they do now in regard to flavoring whiskies).

In Jackson's 1987 World Guide to Whisky, he stated that flavoring whiskies also were made in-house for the purpose, i.e., in Canadian distilleries and these could be corn, rye or barley (malt whisky-type) whiskies. These would have been low proof, straight whiskey-like products except not all if any were aged in new charred wood. Apparently Lot 40 is an example of a rye flavoring whisky, one used to flavor the Corby whiskies.

As for distillation to remove fusels, I believe no legal rules state what type of distillation must take place, it can be any type I think.

The thing about Canadian, and I too welcome more information, is its flavor comes not just from flavoring whiskies but sometimes from other things added (e.g. sherry, caramel or similar things) and from the wood taste imparted by the mandatory 3 years aging. All the whisky must be aged at least 3 years in small wood, i.e., both low proof and high.

I don't doubt that the high proof base is quite neutral tasting before aging because I understand it is distilled to something like 96% ABV.

But the complexity such as Canadian gets can be interesting from the combination of barrel tastes, added flavorings if used and of course flavoring whiskies. That gives the blender a pallette of flavors to work from especially when one considers that different woods are used (per Jackson again) such as used bourbon wood, new oak, new charred oak, etc.


12-02-2006, 05:36
. . . I have even been told that Canadian law requires such a thorough removal of fusel oils that base whisky is the only thing they can make. Don't ask me to explain these comments. I can't, and am repeating them here because I'm confused by them and am looking for clarification if anyone here can offer any.

I don't have any actual knowledge about it (I too have always been mystified by Canadian whiskey, although some of it tastes pretty good), but I can't believe that there is any such law since it would certainly preclude a pot-still malt whiskey distillery like Glenmore. (I believe that's the name of the joint that makes Glen Breton; please correct me if I'm wrong.)

12-02-2006, 05:38
I thought the attached would be of interest, which states (as far as I can tell) the oft-referred to 9.09% Canadian flavoring rule.

As I read this, it means, if say, a Canadian whisky (aged, mashed and distilled in Canada as required under regulations to the Food and Drug Act) is 4 years old - it must be a minimum of 3 - any domestic or foreign wine or spirit can be added and if, say, a foreign spirit is added in an amount not to exceed the 9.090% ethyl alcohol limit mentioned the blend is still considered 4 years old even if the addition was younger than that.

If the addition is older than the age of the Canadian whisky it is added to, the deeming rule arguably is not applicable (again as I read it). In that case, the first part of the blending rule would apply that any domestic or foreign spirit or wine can be added.

This is presumably in any amount so long as (presumably again) the article blended still has the aroma and taste characteristics of Canadian whisky (as required by said Food and Drug Act regulation).

So I think the 9.09% limit can be exceeded if what is added is at least as old as the whisky it is added to. However I am not 100% sure of this. Maybe the 9.090% rule is absolute so that the effect is, no matter the age of what you add, the age of the blend is deemed to be the youngest whisky that was in it before the addition. Under this interpretation, the 9.09% rule is an absolute limit. I just don't know how this seemingly simple rule is interpreted in the industry here.


Hedmans Brorsa
12-02-2006, 05:51
This is getting way too complicated for me, but if I understand paragraph 14 (2) (a) right, then the 9.09 limit can be exceeded but that product cannot call itself "Canadian whisky", "Canadian rye whisky" or "rye whisky".

But maybe you´ve drawn that conclusion already?

12-02-2006, 06:03
No I don't think so Lennart although I am not 100% sure.

I will try to attach the definition of Canadian whisky from the Food & Drug Regulations.


12-02-2006, 06:38
Sorry I can't figure out how to upload, maybe someone can do so who knows how.

I found it in Yahoo by searching "Food and Drug regulation + Canadian whisky", it is section B.02.020 of the regulation.



12-02-2006, 10:14
Is this the link? :grin:

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Enabling statute: Food and Drugs Act (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/F-27/index.html)
Disclaimer: These documents are not the official versions (more (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/note.html)).
Source: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/F-27/C.R.C.-c.870/section-B.02.020.html
Regulation current to September 15, 2006

Food and Drug Regulations (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/F-27/C.R.C.-c.870/index.html)
PART B: FOODS (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/F-27/C.R.C.-c.870/236799.html#rid-236799)
Division 2: Alcoholic Beverages (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/F-27/C.R.C.-c.870/236939.html#rid-236939)
Whisky (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/F-27/C.R.C.-c.870/236939.html#rid-236943)

[See this section in its context (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/F-27/C.R.C.-c.870/236939.html#Section-B.02.020)][Previous (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/F-27/C.R.C.-c.870/section-B.02.019.html)]

B.02.020. [S]. (1) Canadian Whisky, Canadian Rye Whisky or Rye Whisky
(a) shall
(i) be a potable alcoholic distillate, or a mixture of potable alcoholic distillates, obtained from a mash of cereal grain or cereal grain products saccharified by the diastase of malt or by other enzymes and fermented by the action of yeast or a mixture of yeast and other micro-organisms,
(ii) be aged in small wood for not less than three years,
(iii) possess the aroma, taste and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky,
(iv) be manufactured in accordance with the requirements of the Excise Act and the regulations made thereunder,
(v) be mashed, distilled and aged in Canada, and
(vi) contain not less than 40 per cent alcohol by volume; and
(b) may contain caramel and flavouring.
(2) Subject to subsection (3), no person shall make any claim with respect to the age of Canadian whisky, other than for the period during which the whisky has been held in small wood.
(3) Where Canadian whisky has been aged in small wood for a period of at least three years, any period not exceeding six months during which that whisky was held in other containers may be claimed as age.
SOR/93-145, s. 10; SOR/2000-51, s. 1.

[Next (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/F-27/C.R.C.-c.870/section-B.02.021.html)]

Sorry I can't figure out how to upload, maybe someone can do so who knows how.

I found it in Yahoo by searching "Food and Drug regulation + Canadian whisky", it is section B.02.020 of the regulation.



12-02-2006, 12:53
That's it, thanks (B.02.020 subsections 1, 2 and 3).

This part is relatively clear, it is the other (blending) rule that makes me scratch my head a bit.

I think the rules together mean you can add more than 9.09% alcohol from, say, a foreign bourbon, and the result is still Canadian whisky, but if the addition is younger than what it is added to, the blend acquires that youngest age. If the addition is the same age or older, no problem, provided the result still has the aroma, taste and character of Canadian whisky (pretty broad criteria).

This is what I think it means, but I am not sure. E.g. I know that in the 1960's a luxury Canadian whisky said on the back label that it was blended 50% with bourbon whiskey. How could that have been if the 9.09% rule was an absolute bar to adding more than 9.09% ethyl alcohol from a flavouring spirit or wine (unless the law was different then)?

I think the 9.09% rule is really concerned with age statements more than anything else, in other words.

I wonder if anyone on the board works with these rules professionally or in business and would offer his or her interpretation.


12-03-2006, 04:31
Note the rules at the end of the bulletin from Canada revenue that where bottled spirits are exported (section 12) or "whisky" that is blended is exported in bond(section 14), certain restrictions apply: in the former case, not more than 25% of the alcohol may be derived from foreign spirits; in the latter case, the whisky may not contain more than 9.09% alcohol from foreign spirits.

Note this applies only to exported whisky. However since much Canadian whisky is exported, it is possible most or even all whisky manufactured and blended here is made up the same way regardless of the destination of sale (I don't know).

Therefore Lenart, you are correct at least with regard to exported Canadian whisky in that Canada will not certify such is Canadian whisky (or the other, variant names such as rye whisky) if it contains more than 9.09% alcohol from foreign spirits, at least as regards whisky exported in bond. Section 12 respecting exported bottled spirits allows a more generous 25% alcohol from foreign spirits.

I am not sure if section 12 refers to non-bonded exports (whatever that may mean and bonded exports may mean), or whether section 12 and section 14 both refer to the same kind of export but section 14, not section 12, applies to whisky (applying the rule of interpretation that, "the specific excludes the general").

Also, we haven't seen yet the rules on labelling that must specify (I would think) that an age expression must relate to the youngest whiskey in the blend when it is possible legally to exceed the 9.09% limit.

For example, say a 10 year old Canadian whisky, so labelled (not all are - CR isn't) has more than 9.09% of its ethyl alcohol from foreign spirits. I will speak of domestic distribution only. If what is added is at least 10 years old or more, I see no problem in placing a 10 year age statement on the blend. If the addition is younger than 10 years, say it is 8 years old, probably another rule in the Food and Drug Act Division 2 regulation mentioned earlier or in the Excise Act 2001 or the regulations enacted under the earlier Excise Act (which continue to apply per that Canada revenue bulletin), or some other rule, would require that the product be labelled as 8 years old.

If the addition of foreign ethyl alcohol from flavoring is less than 9.09% percent however, it can still be labelled as 10 years old.

I don't have all the rules before me but I think what I have suggested above about the 9.09% rule is essentially correct (not necessarily in my earlier posts where I was stll developing my thoughts).


Hedmans Brorsa
12-03-2006, 07:37
Therefore Lenart, you are correct at least with regard to exported Canadian whisky in that Canada will not certify such is Canadian whisky (or the other, variant names such as rye whisky) if it contains more than 9.09% alcohol from foreign spirits, at least as regards whisky exported in bond. Section 12 respecting exported bottled spirits allows a more generous 25% alcohol from foreign spirits.


I have also read somewhere, although I can´t for my life remember where, that the European Union has banned Canadian whiskies that contain other beverages than whisky in that 9.09% slot.

Thanks for your efforts, Gary, even though this is terribly complicated! :)

12-03-2006, 10:37
No problem. It is a little complex, but I think I have sussed out the essentials, anyway. (I would like to figure out now the difference between sections 12 and 14, the situation each is envisaging, that is).

You could be right about that EU requirement. If it is true and e.g., would preclude addition of sherry in lieu of whisky to make up the 9.09%, that seems a little unfair to me.

After all, whisky from Scotland contains sherry too (and they don't make sherry in Scotland) except in that case it derives from a barrel that used to hold sherry. For this purpose, I don't see the difference between adding it straight in and the whiskey absorbing it from the barrel, do you?


12-23-2006, 09:48
Are all whiskey from Canada blended?

Century Reserve 13 & 15 year old are "Single Cask Unblended", as stated on the label.
They are produced by the Century Distilling Company. They are fairly widely available in Canada and the USA.

12-23-2006, 18:56
I thought I would try to help by looking elsewhere for info, and it's astounding how little information there is on Canadian Whisky. For example, here is the wikipedia entry:


This thread is far more authoritative. If someone who understands this discussion better than I has the time, please update the wiki entry, it could use some help...