The Spirit of Canada

by Evan

Canadian Whisky as a concept is very much in flux. If you go back in time by a decade the idea of what defines Canadian Whisky was a lot more clear. With the craft distillery boom very much in swing and a lot more of these producers having stock old enough to be called whisky, we are now seeing a greater depth in style than ever before.

We are living in exciting times. Let’s see where some of thee younger craft distilleries around us are at:

Dubh Glas
Dubh Glas Distillery in Oliver, BC is now three years old. Kensington Wine Market has its own barrel ageing away at the distillery and is now passed the two-year mark. Their Noteworthy Gin lives up to its name and is worth tracking down (when it isn’t sold out!).

Eau Claire Distillery
The Turner Valley Distillery released their first Single Malt Whisky earlier this year. Sadly it was sold only through the distillery and also sold out quickly. There first Rye Whisky release may be on the horizon though and a sample I tasted was very promising…

Burwood Distillery
This Calgary distillery is a relatively new kid on the block, having only been in operation since May/June of 2017 and only having started laying stuff down later that summer. Definitely worth keeping an eye on. Burwood does a very good Vodka and Gin as well as some cool and unique Honey Eau de Vie and Honey Liqueur.

Last Best Distillery
Our store also has a barrel with Last Best Brewery and Distillery right here in Calgary. It is about 19 months old right now. They also have excellent beer by the keg and are in the middle of an ambitious plan to release a new Gin for each week of 2018 as well.

Victoria Caledonian Distillery
Vancouver Island seems to be a busy place for distilling – already to home to both Shelter Point and Victoria Gin as well as Sheringham Distillery. Victoria Caledonian Distillery in Saanich has been operating since September of 2016. No Whisky yet beyond some blended malts that they sell and an aged spirit. They also do beer.

This is just a small sampling of the distilleries operating in our neck of the woods right now – even just within 200KM of Calgary, I neglected to mention both Wild Life Distillery and RAW Distillery in Canmore, Park Distillery in Banff, and probably a few more.

The only disappointing news is that nothing new has come out of Calgary’s own Alberta Distillers since Canadian Club 100% Rye and Alberta Premium Dark Horse Rye were released a few years ago. All of those amazing barrels of whisky they have ageing away only to be sold off to some other company to take credit and acclaim or blend away to oblivion in their own bar rail stock. Would it be too much to ask for a return of the 25 or 30-year-old? Or even better – something at Cask Strength?

But I digress. Let us get back to the fun aspect of Canadian Whisky. Our lineup included a majority of bottles that were not around at this time last year. When we do this again next year, I am confident that I will be pouring an entirely new lineup than as well. This lineup only includes one big brand as well. The rest of the bottles are from smaller distilleries. One of these bottles actually hails from the oldest operation Single Malt Whisky distillery in North America.

The Lineup:

Mapleshade Repose Barrel Rested Spirit
From Goodridge & Williams Distillery in Delta, BC comes the Mapleshade Repose. Too young be called whisky, they are calling this Barrel Rested Spirit. It was released to showcase the path that the distillery is on and their first true whiskey should be hitting shelves later in 2018.

Distilled from Malted Barley and Wheat, Mapleshade Repose was then aged for about a year – starting its life in ex-bourbon barrels before being finished in ex-red wine french oak barrels from Mission Hill Winery. $36

Dillon’s Three Oaks Rye Whisky
This Rye is dubbed ‘Three Oaks’ as it was aged in a combination of new Ontario Oak, New American Oak and first fill ex-Bourbon casks.

Dillon’s Distillery is located smack dab in the middle of Niagara Wine Country within Ontario. Dillon’s Rye Whisky comes in a 500mL bottle at the strength of 43% ABV. Created from 100% Ontario Rye Grain with 10% being malted and the rest unmalted, this is a true Canadian Rye Whisky. $36

Crown Royal Bourbon Mash
Made from a mashbill of 65% Corn, 32% Rye and 3% Malted Barley. Aged in a combination of ex-bourbon barrels and charred virgin oak barrels. Bottled at 40% ABV.

Virgin Oak is a big part of what makes Bourbon and other American Whiskey more full flavoured in comparison to what we think of as the lighter style of Canadian Whisky. This is probably why we are seeing more Canadian Whisky producers utilize them in newer products.

While the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau or TTB originally the Bourbon Mash Label, upon review they decided it was not appropriate for a non-American Whisky to be called such. All bottles of this Canadian whisky destined to be sold south of the border are now labelled Crown Royal “Blenders’ Mash.” $45

Odd Society Single Malt Whisky
Odd Society Spirits is a small batch distillery located in Vancouver, BC. With a big focus on the bar and cocktail scene, the distillery produces everything from Vodka and Gin through to Creme de Cassis, Amaretto and even Vermouth. Bottled at 43% ABV and available in 500mL bottles, this is their first available Single Malt Whisky. Released in small batches, it was distilled from 100% British Columbia grown malted barley and matured in oak barrels for three years. $83

Canadian Rockies 21 year
Canadian Rockies 17 year
The Canadian Rockies Brand was introduced a few years ago with the Canadian Rockies 21-year-old Canadian Whisky. It has recently been expanded into a lineup of Whisky, with the re-introduced 21-year-old being joined by a younger sibling 17-year-old Canadian Whisky, as well as the American Rockies Bourbon from south of the border. More releases are planned for the future.

The Canadian Rockies 17 and 21-year-old whisky were both sourced from Highwood Distillery of High River, Alberta. The 17-year-old is bottled at 50% ABV and the 21-year-old is 46% ABV. $82 and $70 respectively

Two Brewers Yukon Single Malt Release 09
The 9th release of Yukon Single Malt from Two Brewers is a return to their “Special Finishes” program. We are very happy to see it bottled at 46%. Two Brewers was the Canadian Micro Distillery of the Year in the “2018 Canadian Whisky Awards”. Release 02 was also a PX Finish, but a different mash and in the distillery’s opinion a completely different whisky. It is a blend of whiskies from 4-8 years of age, with 40% 6 and 20% 8 years of age. The whisky was finished in PX Sherry for 7 months before bottling. $100

Glen Breton Ghleann Dubh 13 yr Peated Single Malt Whisky
From Glenora distillery which is located near the west coast Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, the Ghleann Dubh is a peated whisky from the longest operating single malt whisky distillery in North America.

Ghleann Dubh means ‘The Dark Glen’ or ‘The Black Glen’ in Gaelic and refers to the valley in which Glenora distillery resides. This is the first bottling that I am aware of that apparently used Canadian peat. $116

And that was the lineup! Crowd favourites for the night were the Two Brewers, followed by the Ghleann Dhub and the Crown Royal. Thanks as always to Peasant Cheese for the meat and cheese pairings!

Cheers and until next time,
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