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Canadian Whisky Brands

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A premium product from Canada, Canadian whisky is a blended multi-grain liquor with corn spirit as the predominant ingredient. But it’s the use of rye in Canadian whiskies that incorporates a unique flavour into it.

Canadian Whisky History

Centuries ago, Canadian distillers added small quantities of rye to the whisky production, which instantly gained popularity among locals.

The use of rye can be traced back to the time when eastern Canada soil and climate were not favourable for cereal crops. Only the rye crop could sustain the winters, hence, it was used in distilleries. Over the years, farmers found better land in the West which reduced the significance of rye.

Whisky production in Canada dates back to the British rule in Canada. European and Canada settlers brought along with them distilling methods and technologies which were used in Canadian flour mills for distillation of excess grains. Their knowledge in distilling rye and wheat was used for the early Canadian whisky production where grains closest to decay were distilled with uncontrolled proofs. Before aging, these whiskies were sold in the market for consumption.

However, distilling companies swerved to rum production, as Atlantic Canada’s prevalent British sugar trade favoured rum. But this was not going to dampen Canadian whisky production, thanks to the efforts of Seagram, Molson and Walker.

In 1801, John Molson together with his son, Thomas Molson, and his partner James Morton, established a whisky distillery in Montreal and Kingston. Napoleon wars witnessed reduced supplies of brandies and French wines to England. And Molson’s distillery took advantage of this to become the first Canadian exporters of whisky.

Molson’s had new competitors when in 1837, Gooderham and Worts started whisky production apart from wheat milling in Toronto. And soon their production increased with a new distillery, which later came to be known as Distillery District. Likewise, in 1859 John Corby, alongside his gristmill operation, started whisky production. This defunct distillery and its surroundings today are known as Corbyville.

In 1857, American J.P. Wiser migrated to Prescott to work in his uncle’s distillery and later purchased the distillery with his success in rye whisky production. Another American Hiram walker moved to Windsor in 1858 to establish a flour mill and distillery. The year 1883 had a similar story, when Joseph Seagram progressed from being a worker at his father-in-law’s flourmill and distillery to become its owner.

American Civil War gave rise to export of Canadian whiskies. By then, Wiser and Walker had succeeded in aging whisky and could surpass the post-war tariffs. In 1890, Canada became the pioneer in establishing an aging law for whiskies with a minimum requirement of two years for aging. The temperance movement against alcohol consumption led to prohibition in 1916. All this and the storage charges accosted due to Aging Law for whisky added to the production woes. During prohibition, Detroit River was the hub of illegal Canadian whisky traffic to US and hence came to be known as ‘the river of booze’.

Some distilleries produced industrial alcohol to support the nation’s effort in World War II. But the whisky industry gained momentum after the war till 1980s as several distilleries sprung up nationwide. Later, the popularity for white spirits in American market, the surplus supply of Canadian whiskies resulted in longer aging of whiskies and their storage costs. This forced acquisitions of Canadian distilleries by international companies.

Canadian Whisky Characteristics

Corn and rye are the main characteristics of a Canadian whisky as the comparatively inexpensive corn with its high starch content is ideal for base whiskies. And though the Canadian whisky is also referred to as “rye whisky”, the authentic blending technique requires only a small amount of rye for the required flavouring.

Here is a list of popular Canadian whisky brands listed as per the distilleries:
  • The Canadian whisky brands Alberta Premium, Windsor Canadian, Alberta Springs and Tangle Ridge, are produced by Alberta Distillers. A particular strain of yeast is used for fermenting the rye to prepare these Canadian whiskies.
  • Black Velvet Distillery produces Black Velvet, while Canadian Mist Distillery is known for their Canadian Mist. This distillery also produces Collingwood brand made from whisky aged for a year with toasted maple staves.
  • One of the top selling Canadian whiskies in the world, Crown Royal, is produced by Gimli Distillery. This distillery along with Valleyfield Distillery also produces Canadian 83 and VO.
  • Mainly using wheat in their base whiskies, Highwood Distillery delivers Centennial, Potter’s, Ninety and Century brands.
  • Old Montreal Distillery and Kittling Ridge Distillery produce Sazerac and Fort Creek brands respectively.
  • And the 19th century Hiram Walker Distillery is known for the following Canadian whisky brands:  Lot 40, Gooderham and Worts, Pike Creek, Corby's Royal Reserve Hiram Walker's Special Old and J.P. Wiser’s brands. The distillery is also used for contract production of the popular brand, Canadian Club.

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Pike Creek Whisky
Pike Creek Whisky is a traditional Canadian whisky, and is distilled twice through small, copper stills.
Canadian Rich & Rare Whisky
Butterscotch, sultanas, pepper and smatterings of oak bathe in a mouth-filling, quintessentially smooth whisky.
Seagram's Five Star Whisky
The Seagram Company was a large corporation headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Lot 40 Rye Whisky
Lot No. 40 is expertly distilled in small batches using only the finest locally sourced ingredients.
Wiser's Deluxe Whisky
This award-winning, full-flavoured Canadian Rye whisky offers a rich aroma with a body that is complex and perfectly balanced.
Revel Stoke Whisky
creamy vanilla, black cherries, hints of allspice, oak, and tobacco.
Gooderham & Worts Whisky
Blended in tiny batches of only ten barrels, this is a super-premium Canadian whisky.
Wiser's Special Blend Whisky
Hand-made using traditional methods and ingredients, this golden amber whisky is fragrant with honey, vanilla and cloves on the nose.
Mt Royal Light Whisky
Mount Royal Light Canadian Whiskey is meticulously handcrafted by master distillers using a long-standing tradition.
White Eagle Whisky
White Eagle Canadian Whisky contains delicious display fresh corn , changing to caramel.
Wisers Small Batch Whisky
In the late-1800s, John Philip Wiser, or J.P.
Forty Creek Whisky
Forty Creek Barrel Select Whisky is a premium Canadian Whisky.