Are all whiskey from Canada blended?
Are all whiskey from Canada blended?
No, I don't think so.Originally Posted by kress
Self-Styled Whisky Connoisseur
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.
Last edited by Gillman; 11-12-2006 at 20:58.
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.
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.
Last edited by Gillman; 11-22-2006 at 03:37.
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"?
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.
Last edited by Gillman; 11-22-2006 at 17:00.
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.
Last edited by Gillman; 11-23-2006 at 08:31.
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)
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.