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  1. #1
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    Canadian Whisky Rules

    We were discussing on another thread aspects of these rules. It is a complex question, the rules appear strewn throughout different legislative sources. I cited in that thread the Food and Drug Act (Canada) regulations concerning the definition of whisky and Canadian whisky. Under these rules, no distillation proof threshold is provided. I could not find any other rule that stipulates one.

    As for the 9.090% rules, I find this extract helpful:

    http://www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/20...-tr61-eng.html

    I interpret this to reflect underlying rules (again they are in different places) that say two things: first, if whisky from Canada contains more than that percentage (9.090) of imported spirits (bourbon, say, or Scots malt), it cannot be certified as Canadian whisky on export and the certificate of age and origin accompanying it must in that case state what the respective percentages of domestic and imported spirits are. In practice therefore, all Canadian whisky (so certified on export) sent out of the country will not, as I read this, contain more than that percent of imported spirits.

    Second, for the age part of that rule, if any domestic or imported spirits or wine are added to spirits (including therefore Canadian whisky), provided the absolute alcohol of the addition does not exceed 9.090% of the total alcohol in the blend, the blended spirits can be stated as aged for the period the spirits to which the addition was made were aged.

    Thus e.g., if you add 2 year old 80 proof US bourbon to 6 year old 40% ABV Canadian whisky, and the bourbon represents 5% of the total blend, that can be sent out for export as Canadian whisky aged 6 years.

    That is how I read it anyway.

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 05-03-2010 at 06:01.

  2. #2
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    Re: Canadian Whisky Rules

    Gary, funny post title. I read it as "Canadian Whiskey.....Rules!" and thought that was a strange title for a SB post!

    I hope you get to taste those BT Canadians so you can let us know how they compare.
    ~Robert BTOTY #2 2009

    GBS Member - 2011 Indoctrination

  3. #3
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    Re: Canadian Whisky Rules

    Robert, I did not mean it in the sense you mentioned, nor is it a "Freudian slip" since my admiration for bourbon is well-known! Nonetheless I like some brands of Canadian whisky too. As often discussed in the past, it is really a different drink.

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 05-03-2010 at 07:44.

  4. #4
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    Re: Canadian Whisky Rules

    I have long wondered about these rules and the common interpretation of them, which seems to be that Canadian distillers can add 9.09% of whatever the hell they want to the spirit and get away with it. I've always felt that there is more to the equation than that but as you pointed out the wording is tricky.

    Also, these rules seem to apply to exported products, which I understand can be quite different from the Canadian whisky sold domestically, such as Canadian Mist which is shipped to Kentucky in tanker trucks and blended with American rye or something like that. So I wonder how the rules are applied to whiskies sold within Canada, where export regulations are not a consideration.
    Last edited by Megawatt; 05-03-2010 at 16:42.

  5. #5
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    Re: Canadian Whisky Rules

    I can give you a partial explanation, i.e., one valid until mid-2007. (Since then, I believe the situation is the same but I need to confirm).

    Look at this notice:

    http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/E/pub/em/edn4/edn4-e.pdf

    What this is saying is, the Excise Act, 2001 replaced the Excise Act. Despite that, the government decided to maintain certain provisions of regulations relating to spirits and whisky that had been passed under the latter Act. As you see, sections 7 and 8 of the Departmental Regulations were preserved, amongst others. These state that any "spirits" (which would include Canadian whisky) can be flavoured. Flavouring is any domestic or imported wine or spirit. Thus, in terms of sale in Canada, you can add to Canadian whisky any amount of domestic or foreign wine or spirit, say sherry from Spain, or U.S. bourbon, and 9.090% does not enter into it as such. But there is an important proviso. Recall from the other discussion I said that Canadian whisky must have the aroma and taste generally attributed to Canadian whisky. So, let's say you add 50% strong Islay whisky to Canadian whisky. Can you sell that as Canadian whisky? Not if the aroma and taste aren't generally characteristic of Canadian whisky, which I think they wouldn't be in that case. Can you add 20% bourbon (again I am speaking only of Canadian whisky intended for sale in Canada)? I would say yes because the result wouldn't be radically different from Canadian whisky's palate as known up to now. Where the 9.090% comes into it is for aging. If the alcohol part of the wine or spirit you add is more than 9.090% of the total alcohol in the blend, then you cannot claim the age of the spirits to which the addition was made. I gave an example earlier, this is intended to allow the age of the base whisky to describe the age of the blend even though the addition was younger, provided you do not exceed the percentage mentioned. If the addition is older than the base, the problem doesn't arise of course, you will claim the age of the base - if claiming at all - unless (I would think) what you added is more than 50% of the absolute alcohol content. As we saw, this rule is also relevant for exports.

    The rest of source linked above explains the other rule, again for exports and that we saw earlier, that no more than 9.090% can be added as imported spirits (water and all) to Canadian whisky to claim the description (or that of "rye whisky" or "Canadian rye whisky") for export.

    So to sum up, for domestic purposes, and setting aside the aging statement aspect, you can add whatever amount you want to Canadian whisky of any domestic or imported spirit or wine - provided the final result still has the character generally associated with Canadian whisky.

    This is how I understand it, it is my interpretation of the rules I have found on this matter. And as stated above, this situation existed until June 30, 2007 although I believe the same situation applies today.

    One thing to consider is that so much Canadian whisky is exported that I would think even what is sold locally is made the same way as the most stringent rules (discussed earlier) for export. And just because a rule allows this and that to be added doesn't mean that commonly occurs in practice. Finally: there is a rule somewhere (I have seen it) that states that no spirit may be added to Canadian whisky which is not aged at least two years, this again is a domestic requirement.

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 05-03-2010 at 18:04.

  6. #6
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    Re: Canadian Whisky Rules

    One thought I'd like to point out is that since the late 1800's and with few exceptions, Canadian whisky has been a blend of a fairly neutral, albeit aged, base whisky with a smaller amount added of strong-tasting whisky and/or other flavourings (say, rum or sherry). I don't know if rum today is used to flavour some Canadian whisky. But at one time it was sometimes added. There was a brand called Captain's Table, no longer sold, and I always thought it might have some rum added, both from the name and the taste. And I have read historically that rum was sometimes used to flavour whisky here. Same thing for sherry or similar additives, sometimes imparted through aging in a barrel that once held such wines.

    We should remember that in the 1800's, the term whisky was fairly flexible, it meant a spirit, generally derived but not alway from cereals, that originally had an assertive taste, before rectification really got going that is. When distillers gained the ability to make a mild-flavoured, cereals whisky, they decided to add things to the base to lend a pleasing final balance. While blended Scotch was a model in part for the approach, the Canadians were more flexible, recognizing that, say, rum or brandy could be added to a neutral-tasting base to make up a pleasing spirit. This flexibility allowed makers to come up wth their own proprietary formulas. (Although as is known, the Scots often age their malt whisky in casks that formerly held other spirits, or wines). In effect a new category of drink was created. This history should be recalled when trying to make sense of the current regulations. That being said, based on what I have read and understand, most Canadian whisky is made using cereals only as the fermentative source. And as I said too, I would think most of it does not utilize more than 9.090% imported spirits and much of it probably uses none. In the end, what is important is, is this whisky pleasing to your palate (and pocketbook)?

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 05-04-2010 at 04:46.

  7. #7
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    Re: Canadian Whisky Rules

    Thanks Gary, I'll go back to read and digest all that info later today when I have the time. I will mention, though, a discrepancy I find between the common conception of Canadian whisky amongst Scotch/bourbon connoiseurs (namely, it is vodka with a bit of rye plus 9% whatever), and the statements of companies like Crown Royal who claim to use upwards of 30 different whiskies in their blend. I would find it hard to believe that any company would go through the trouble of blending dozens of neutral-tasting spirits, just to flavour them with some cheap imported spirit or something. But knowing little about the actual blending processes of different distillers, it is hard to know what really goes on. This is why I'm encouraged by companies like Still Water, who give detailed descriptions and photographs of every step of their production process. A vast improvement over many other distillers who don't even have a website!

  8. #8
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    Re: Canadian Whisky Rules

    Well, the industry is old and conservative, it is not one which is accustomed, as some U.S. and Scots distilleries are, to responding to consumer writers and interest in the area. Part of the reason too is the wariness about having too high a profile as an alcohol producer, which in turn reflects differing social conditions here and provincial control of liquor sales.

    Whether the intricate blending of the big companies does assist to make a final unique product is hard to say: I would think the main reason for it, is not so much to make a highly distinctive product, but to make a consistent one. But there has to be a certain logic to it I think. E.g., Seagram uses both batch- and continuous-distilled whiskies in its blends, and no flavourings (no wine or caramel) as far as I know except for one or two one-offs. Crown Royal is a big seller and it does have a distinctive taste, so does CC, so as light (relatively) as they are, their careful make-up does I think lead to a controlled final result and one that pleases many.

    The new small distillers are great and they of course want to distinguish their products in the marketplace, so most of them are interested to explain what they do and how in some detail.

    But then too, I am not sure how often the big boys are approached to explain (and contrast) their methods in the way the U.S. or Scots industry often is. It would be good to sit down with one of their master distillers and really go over things. I am sure some of the companies would be open to this if approached in the right way.

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 05-04-2010 at 06:57.

  9. #9
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    Re: Canadian Whisky Rules

    Here is a provision from the Excise Act, 2001, an amendment added in 2007:

    Transitional application of Distillery Regulations
    315.1 (1) If, during the period beginning on July 1, 2003 and ending on July 1, 2009, sections 7, 8, 9, 12 and 15 of the Distillery Regulations, C.R.C., c. 569, would have applied in any circumstance had those sections, as they read on June 30, 2003, been in force and section 1.1 of the Excise Act not been enacted, those sections apply, with any modifications that the circumstances require.

    Transitional application of Distillery Departmental Regulations
    (2) If, during the period beginning on July 1, 2003 and ending on July 1, 2009, sections 13 and 14 of the Distillery Departmental Regulations, C.R.C., c. 570, would have applied in any circumstance had those sections, as they read on June 30, 2003, been in force and section 1.1 of the Excise Act not been enacted, those sections apply, with any modifications that the circumstances require.

    2007, c. 18, s. 131.

    _________________________________________________

    Under these rules, the compositional standards I mentioned earlier were extended until July 1, 2009. I am not sure what happened after that, maybe the rules were placed in regulations adopted under this Act. I'll look into it.

    Gary

  10. #10
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    Re: Canadian Whisky Rules

    http://www.canlii.org/en/ca/laws/reg...i-2009-61.html

    The above regulation re-states the rules mentioned earlier for exports, i.e., they are now set out in a regulation adopted under a federal statute dealing with agriculture.

    I cannot find any continuation after July 1, 2009 of the rules mentioned in sections 7 and 8 of the old Distillery Regulations, i.e., for whisky sold in Canada. Perhaps such rules no longer apply and if they don't, the situation would be essentially as before, i.e., there would seem no limit as such on the amount of domestic or imported spirit or wine that can be added to Canadian whisky. Perhaps though the part of the Distillery Regulations that allowed the age of the spirits to govern, where you did not add more than 9.090% of a younger imported spirit, doesn't apply any longer, that is the point I am not sure about. Maybe the industry uses general rules in the Food and Drug regulations and/or general law to decide what age expressions are proper for domestic sales, I am not sure.

    If I can get any further hard information I will bring it forward here but this is as far as I can take it now.

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 05-04-2010 at 12:28.

 

 

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