Sounds very tempting
Sounds very tempting
Well, I live in the north of Sweden so I cannot take responsibility for decadent southerners . I bet it´s mostly Danes disguised as Swedes to give us a bad name.
The other side of the coin are the militant teetotallers who are overrepresented in the Swedish Riksdag (our equivalent to Congress) which helps to explain why Sweden, with the possible exception of Norway, has the most heavily taxed alcohol in the entire world. Double-sigh!
Incidentally, the best Canadian I have tasted is not a Canadian at all : Four Roses Super Premium. Certainly the mildest bourbon that has ever made acquaintance with my taste buds but it´s so goooood. Alas, it is also very hard to get - most of it goes to the land of the rising sun, I belive.
For those interested in "improving" Canadian whisky and who have access to any straight rye whiskey (even a traditional rye-based korn if unflavoured), I suggest adding a dash of the rye whiskey to a glass of Wiser's or any other Canadian whisky. The effect is remarkable. Canadian whisky will (it seems) always be a compromise spirit because it has evolved into a fairly light-bodied, mild-tasting drink (mostly high-proof near GNS) which has a good market. But an idea of what the earliest versions were like can be gleaned I think by adding some real rye to a Canadian whisky. After all, that is what, say, Allied Domecq/Hiram Walker still does, it adds (its own) real rye whiskey to its base spirit to come up with its blends, so by adding more one is continuing and arguably improving the process. E.g. take a two ounce glass of Canadian Club and add even half an ounce of Pikesville Rye (or of course Lot 40 which is Hiram Walker's own real rye); the effect is quite noticeable and pleasant. The idea of diluting Pikesville with vodka to come up with a Canadian-type taste, and possibly an improved one depending on how far the dilution is taken, is an interesting one. I think it didn't work because the vodka is not aged and has no barrel flavour. Whereas adding some rye to a drink already intended to have some flavour through (largely) aging but which arguably needs more rye is a way, IMO, to come up with a better Canadian taste. Sure, I wish our producers were more inventive in this sense. They are remarkably conservative, having issued very few new products or brands in recent years. A recent Lot 40 (as I reported some weeks ago) tasted better to me than the first release of some years back because it is evidently aged in sherry casks or treated with wine addition in some way. Its finish is very good, but the few bottles available in the stores here were snapped up and there is no more, at least for the moment. I am still trying to find some and I hope it will reappear before long. There were a few other artisanal-style Canadian whiskies released a few years ago but I found them largely disappointing. The Canadian stamp seems resolutely to be mildness, but good results can be obtained by making cocktails in a way which follows (broadly) what the distilleries do themselves, just more so.
Thanks - I will give that a go.
Cheers B (no post for 2 weeks as in Italy ).
I will retain an innocent-till-proven-guilty stance concerning Canadian whisky until I have tried some bottling from the Alberta distillery. Unfortunately, their whisky is almost impossible to get here in Europe. If I´m correctly informed, it should be made entirely from rye.
Have you (or anyone else, for that matter) tried any of their brands and, if so, what do you think?
Hi and thanks. Alberta Distillers whiskies are made entirely from rye. This adds to their authenticity. However, like almost all Canadian rye whisky the Alberta Distillers products are mostly near grain neutral spirit, distilled to 190 proof if not 194-195. This is essentially how vodka is made except, (i) all Canadian whisky is aged at least 3 years and therefore takes a colour and some flavour from the barrel, and (ii) apparently, certain congeners are left in Canadian whisky to add flavour. Despite these two differences from how most vodka is made, the base spirit is still fairly neutral. Many straight whiskey fans call Canadian whisky "brown vodka", which is more or less true. Thus, the fact that all-rye is used to make a Canadian rye is not that significant. The final result will not be much affected just as it is hard usually to tell a vodka made from potato from one made with rye or corn, etc. Possibly Alberta Distillers adds "real" (i.e., low-proof American straight-type) rye to its blends to give them more drive. Even if this is done the additions will not be large. But from the point of view of flavour, adding traditional (low-proof) rye whisky to the base can only improve the drink. Any real rye will do, but by the same token any Canadian whisky for the "base" will do since they are all, except for Lot 40 and one or two artisanal-type products, mild in flavour no matter what they are made from.
Yet, due to aging and blending, a number of Canadian whiskies are palatable and enjoyable. I like Crown Royal, for example, and a number of others. One should, I feel, view Canadian whisky as a separate category.
Taste notes on some Canadian whiskies (offered not as such but rather to try to define the Canadian taste profile in general):
Crown Royal. Age not indicated, but clearly well-aged. Good oaky flavours, some vanilla and hints of rye. Balanced, not (as most Canadians) very spirity. Clearly age and savvy blending have made it a hit. Still (as most Canadians) gentle, laid-back.
Alberta Springs 10 years old: the best in Alberta Distillers range. Some flint in the background, more a big whisky than a rounded one, e.g. a tad spirity (probably from the high-proof component) but a good bracer, good cold-climate drink.
Canadian Club: has a light "ginger" palate that may derive from the rye whisky flavouring component (apparently both malted and unmalted rye whisky is used) but overall rather light and snappy. The 12 and 15 year old CC's offer more flavor and complexity.
Wiser's 18 year old. The patriarch in the Wiser family. Good deep oak flavour, the spirit finally dampened down after so long in wood. Some estery development but not as much as most aged straight ryes or bourbons show.
Conclusion: Canadian whisky tends to show its stuff (unlike a number of straight whiskeys) at more advanced ages. The oak flavour gets in and recasking and blending can lend complexity. Most would, in my opinion, be better if the distilleries added more low-proof whisky to the base spirit. The signature of most Canadian whisky today (and likely this has been so for a long time) is mildness, palatability, drinkability (making it perfect for mixed drinks), but within the range there are a number of good products worth sampling neat. And one or two artisanal-type products can offer surprises, e.g., Lot 40 when available and Barrel Select from Kittling Ridge in Ontario. The latter is a combination of single-grain whiskies (one from corn, one from rye and one from barley), and the result is a good-flavored product, still quite "Canadian" in profile yet distinctive.
Thanks a lot for your exhaustive reply. Nice to get feedback from such a knowledgeable person. With my insight into Canadian whisky being extremely limited, I always thought that it was the whisky made from corn that was the main culprit. The reason why I leaned on this explanation was the sometimes striking similarities between Scotch grain whisky made from corn and certain Canadians.
In your message you categorize Lot 40 as an artisanal product, hinting that it was differently produced than other Canadians. I found it (the old bottling, that is)to be markedly different than the other Canadian brands that I´ve tasted. Would you happen to know anything about its production? I´m tempted to try this new bottling since Lot 40 is available here in Sweden as a special-order product. Unfortunately, non-single malt Scotch premium whisky does not sell very well here which means that the risk of getting an old bottling would be prevalent. Does it differ in design from the older one?
Thanks. Lot 40 is made by Hiram Walker/Allied Domecq but is traditional nonetheless. It is a pot still product (therefore low-proof by definition) and all-rye. I believe the malting grain is malted rye and that Lot 40 is a combination of malted and unmalted rye. The packaging of the current one is identical to the original one. However it seemed clear from the flavour that the latest version has a slight sherry-wine or sherry-wine-type finish, which softens and improves the drink. I think I said artisanal-style because I knew Lot 40 is made by a corporate giant but nonetheless it is very good, very interesting both on its own and to add to the more commercial-type Canadian whiskies. MIchael Jackson gave even the first version a high rating in Whisky Magazine. If you search under Lot 40 on www.whiskymag.com the taste note and score may come up.