Canadian Single Malt Whisky
Where We Are Now and Where We Are Headed
On September 20th we held a Canadian Single Malt Whisky tasting here at KWM.
The lineup consisted of six single malt whiskies from a total of four different distilleries:
- Glen Breton ‘Battle of the Glen’ 15yr
- Stalk & Barrel Canadian Single Malt
- Shelter Point Inaugural Run Single Malt
- Two Brewers Yukon Single Malt Release 3
- Two Brewers Yukon Single Malt Release 2
- Glen Breton ‘Jardine Reserve’ 25yr
These bottlings represent a good portion of what is available in the way of Canadian single malt whisky right now. There are more coming though. We will talk a little about that below. Canadian whisky has been around for quite a while – but Canadian Single Malt Whisky is still in its relative infancy.
For years looking for a Canadian Single Malt Whisky meant you were looking for a bottle of Glen Breton and that was it. This has recently started to change and now we have a few more distilleries with their own single malt offerings hitting the shelves. Here is a list of what is available now.
Glen Breton from Glenora Distillery in Glenville, Nova Scotia – The Canadian single malt distillery that started it all has been around since 1989. They currently produce the only Canadian single malt whisky with an age statement stated explicitly on the bottle. Among its current lineup you can find 10yr, 15yr, and even 25yr single malts. Glenora Distillery originally sourced its malt from Scotland. It now gets its barley from Alberta.
Glen Breton is famous (or infamous) for winning the right to use ‘Glen’ in its name after the Scotch Whisky Association set out to oppose it. In the suit – which took from 2000 until 2009 to come to a verdict – the SWA eventually lost and had to pay a portion of Glenora’s legal fees. This is where their 15 year “Battle of the Glen” gets its name.
Possibly the second Canadian Single Malt to hit shelves was Stalk & Barrel Single Malt Whisky from Still Waters Distillery in Concord, Ontario. Still Waters Distillery was the first micro-distillery operating in Ontario starting production in 2009 with their first single malt release coming in 2013. They focus on using local grain as much as possible.
Okanagan Spirits in Kelowna, BC. Okanagan Spirits dubs itself as “Western Canada’s Oldest Craft Distillery” and has been operating since 2004. Their own Laird of Fintry Single Malt Whisky is a very limited release that also started in 2013. Sadly is only available to purchase through an annual lottery where winning gets you the opportunity to purchase a bottle.
The next to release a Canadian Single Malt Whisky hails from a place you might not expect. Two Brewers Single Malt Whisky is produced by Yukon Spirits in Whitehorse. Part of Yukon Brewery which started in 1997, they have been distilling since 2009. Two Brewers focus on small batch releases that are meant to be unique with no two being the same.
Release 01 was a Yukon release only of 850 bottles. It sold out at the distillery in the first day it was available.
Release 02 was a Yukon and Alberta release aged between 6 to 7 years old and finished in Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks and bottled at 46% ABV. 1650 bottles were produced.
Release 03 was lightly peated. 20% of the malt used was sourced from Baird’s in the UK and heavily peated. The other 80% is unpeated Canadian Malt. It was aged in first fill ex-bourbon barrels and some new oak casks before being bottled at 43% ABV. 1750 bottles were produced.
Shelter Point Distillery has become the most recent Canadian distillery to release a single malt. Located on a farm halfway between Comox and Campbell River on Vancouver Island in BC. Shelter point has been laying down spirit in casks to eventually become whisky since June of 2011. They source much of the barley used from their own farm..
Their first release just arrived a few months back and is exclusive to us for Alberta. It is bottled at 46% ABV. It is a little over five years old. Ex bourbon barrels from Kentucky were used for aging the whisky.
Beyond what is already available there are many more to come. The rules for Canadian Single Malt Whisky are essentially the same as the rules for single malt scotch in scotland: The whisky must be aged for three years in barrel and it must be made up of 100% malted barley. This of course means any new distillery that comes online must wait at least three years after putting their single malt in barrel before they can actually release it as a whisky.
Possibly coming soon:
Eau Claire Spirits – in Turner Valley. They are at least a year and a few months away from being able to bottle their first rye whisky and single malt whisky. If you live in Calgary or Southern Alberta they are worth visiting – they have a great tasting room where you can try their spirits. Perhaps they will even let you take a peak in their barrel room!
Pemberton Distillery – in Pemberton, BC has had single malt in barrel since 2010. This means they could possibly release a single malt whisky now. Perhaps they are waiting until they feel the whisky is ready…
Victoria Caledonian Distillery – Just officially opened on September 10th. Makes beer and is laying down single malt.
Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers – In Grimsby, Ontario – Just released their first official rye whisky. Might have single malt in barrel as well but I am not certain.
Dubh Glas Distillery in Oliver, BC – A neat walkthrough of the the distillery can actually be found on google maps here. Dubh Glas has single malt in barrel quietly aging – including our own very own Kensington Wine Market barrel!
Urban Distilleries in Kelowna, BC – Sells a Single Malt Whisky with a piece of oak put in the bottle to continue the aging process to your liking.
LB Distillery in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan has whisky aging in barrel likely including some single malt.
Last Best Brewery and Distillery – right here in Calgary. Located on what used to be known as Electric Avenue near downtown – Last best makes great beer and also happens to be an excellent restaurant. They have recently installed a still on site as well and have started laying down single malt and other spirit in barrel offsite.
Those are the distilleries that I could find information on. There are possibly even more to be found. These next few years should prove to be exciting as we see more small distilleries open and more Canadian single malt whisky arrive on the scene!
Kensington Wine Market
Instagram: @kensingtonwm @kwmwhisky