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  1. #11

    Re: Canadian whisk(e)y

    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.

    Regards, jimbo

    <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>

  2. #12
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    Re: Canadian whisk(e)y

    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.

    Gary

  3. #13
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    Re: Canadian whisk(e)y

    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!

    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.

    -Troy

  4. #14
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    Re: Canadian whisk(e)y

    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.

    Gary

  5. #15
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    Re: Canadian whisk(e)y

    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.

  6. #16
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    Re: Canadian whisk(e)y

    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.

  7. #17
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    Re: Canadian whisk(e)y

    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?

  8. #18
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    Re: Canadian whisk(e)y

    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.

  9. #19
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    Re: Canadian whisk(e)y

    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.

    -Troy

  10. #20
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    Re: Canadian whisk(e)y

    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.

 

 

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