Last updated: June 19, 2020

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Whisky is one of the oldest drinks in the world. It is a classic drink and it is very appreciated by liquor lovers everywhere. This drink is considered by many, ideal for enjoying and relaxing at the end of a hard day’s work or simply to delight over its its flavour. Whisky is a drink with a long tradition behind it, full of nuances, aromas and flavours. In Canada after decades of marginally declining sales, we have seen a real turnaround in the popularity and production of whisky.

Canadian whisky (Rye) is known for the many rich, bold, powerful blends that were in vogue before the 1980s. Within the Canadian market there are many brands of whisky and many types of whisky. For whisky lovers, each brand has a distinct flavour that represents them, a unique touch. In order to choose a good whisky, you have to take many things things into consideration: years of maturation (age of the whisky), barrel wood, colour and aroma. If you want to find the best whisky to suit your taste, keep reading. Canada has

Key Facts

  • Whisky is considered Scotland’s national drink. Even though it was actually invented in China. Its artisanal production has improved over the centuries. In Canada, there are currently 8 large whisky distilleries and over 50 micro-distilleries. Japan and the UK are known to have recognised distilleries. There are also many other denominations for whisky in countries like Ireland or the United Kingdom.
  • Whisky is traditionally made in Europe, especially in Scotland. Scotch whisky is generally made from malted barley or grain with the spirit aged in oak casks for more than three years. Bourbon, which is often confused with whisky, is traditionally American. In addition to the name and location, whisky is made with barley while bourbon varies between corn and rye.
  • The wood barrels in which whisky is stored during the ageing process, will play a large part in the aroma and taste of the drink. These qualities are also influenced by the time spent in the barrels and on the way the ingredients in it are roasted.

Ranking: The best Canadian whiskies on the market

Next to mezcal, Canadian whisky is one of the world’s most slept-on spirits. So slept-on, in fact, that while everyone was going gaga for vodka, tequila and bourbon, huge stocks of the country’s finest whiskies were quietly resting in casks. Readying themselves for their shot at the spot light — that moment is now. A slew of well-aged Canadian classics and younger, even more exciting newcomers, are politely making their way to centre stage.

Here is a list of the best Canadian whiskies on the market. Each one has its own nuances, so read carefully to find the best one for you. Keep in mind that some will be more expensive, while others will have a more intense taste or higher alcohol content. You can determine your priorities. We hope that in this list of products you will find the best one!

JP Wiser’s — 18 Year Old Canadian Whisky

In Canada we refer to our whisky as Rye, even though rye has often been just used as a flavouring component in what is otherwise a spirit made from corn, wheat, and barley. Each grain is typically mashed, fermented, distilled and aged separately before being blended together for bottling. That process actually allows the master distiller or blender a lot of latitude. He or she can dial up certain elements and bring others down, creating a spirit balanced to the blender’s style.

JP Wiser’s 18 Year Old is one such blend of all four spirits, made in the traditional lighter Canadian style. Rested in used Canadian whisky barrels, it takes on a lot of the wood’s characteristics; it’s deep, with a hint of earth, smoke, freshly cut wood and rye on the nose. There’s some citrus and astringency on the tongue, but all around, it’s a very light, well-balanced example of the classic Canadian style—at a great price.

Collingwood – 21 Year Old Rye

Collingwood 21 Year Old Rye is has been beautifully aged for two decades. Back in 1991, the distiller at Collingwood, Ontario’s Canadian Mist plant put aside a few barrels of 100 percent malted rye whisky without any plans for it. Twenty-one years later, the current distiller, David Dobbin, bottled it for a one-off project, and it went on to win top honours at this year’s Canadian Whisky Awards.

But don’t be fooled by Collingwood’s oversized cologne-bottle appearance. Inside is a wonderfully aged whisky that carries a nose of maplewood and caramel through the palate, where it’s met with a slight sweetness, deep, mellow tanginess, toasted rye, and gentle oak. For its price, it’s unbeatable.

Alberta Rye — Dark Batch

In Canada, there are only a handful of major distilleries, and Calgary’s Alberta Distillers is one of the biggest—and most respected. And a good deal of the rye that is exported —whether via Canadian or American brands—is made there. One of the feathers in the Beam Suntory–owned distillery’s cap has been its Alberta Premium Dark Horse—a flavour-packed blend of 91 percent rye whisky, 8 percent Old Grand-Dad Bourbon from the Jim Beam plant in Kentucky, and 1 percent Oloroso sherry.

As of April, it’s available for the first time internationally, under the name Alberta Rye Dark Batch. This one smells of ripe fruit, toasted rye spice and a touch of cola before transforming into a deeply complex and smooth whisky with a lengthy peppery-sweet finish. At 45 percent ABV, its solid alcohol punch makes it great for sipping or powering through a whisky-forward cocktail.

Forty Creek — Double Barrel Reserve

John Hall’s hugely successful Forty Creek brand was recently purchased by Campari, but that hasn’t changed how it make its spirits. While the company offers a cheaper Barrel Select mark, its higher-end (though still pretty darn affordable) bottles are among Canada’s absolute best. The Confederation Oak Reserve is rested in Canadian white oak that was planted sometime around Canada’s confederation in 1867.

It’s got a lovely mellowed spice, some nuttiness, a little bit of fruit and really nice oaky notes which all come together delicately with a clean finish.The Double Barrel Reserve, as its name suggests, also sees a second barreling, but this time in ex-bourbon casks. Its taste is rich, with lots of caramel, vanilla and oak that finishes with a pleasantly peppery sweet and dry balance. It’s full-bodied and delicious all the way through.

Still Waters Distillery — Stalk and Barrel Rye and Single Malt

While Canadian whisky’s old-guard distilleries produce some amazing high-end spirits, there’s a crop of new producers getting into the game. Concord, Ontario’s Still Waters Distillery started by bottling others’ spirits, but have since gone full-throttle distilling its own single-barrel booze in extremely tiny runs. Each cask is unique, and so is its ABV. The Stalk and Barrel Rye (no relation to Lock, Stock and Barrel) was bottled at 60.7 percent and the distillery’s Single Malt Whisky at 60.8 percent—both of which were aged for about four years.

It is made from locally sourced grain, has a caramel nose, and is an explosion on the palate—all dusty rye and intense flavour, backed with a lot of alcohol. It’s sure to be a hit with cask-strength fans. The Single Malt, made from Canadian-grown two-row barley, has a pleasant nose of vanilla, wood, banana and a little dark chocolate. It shows its youth pretty wildly across the palate, with big flavour (especially roasted hazelnut) and a whole lot of heat. But a drip of water does wonders to tame it.

Shopping Guide: Everything you need to know about Canadian whisky

Whether you’re a longtime devotee of Canadian whisky or you’re just beginning to dabble in it, there’s never been a more exciting time to dabble in the spirit than right now. Whisky is a drink with a long tradition. It is one of the most consumed drinks in the world. When in comes to Canadian Rye, we have compiled a list with the answers to the most frequently asked questions among drinkers to help you understand your drink a bit better and make a good purchase.

Two young businessmen in suits are smiling and clanging glasses of alcoholic beverage together while sitting at bar counter in pub

Each form of distillation offers some nuances and a different richness to the taste of the spirit.
(Source: Georgerudy: 53117647/123rf.com)

What is Canadian whisky exactly ?

Whisky is a traditional Scottish drink, although there is also evidence of early distillation in the Irish islands and China. This is a drink obtained by distilling fermented malt from cereals such as barley, wheat or rye. The drink is aged in wooden barrels, traditionally white oak. Originally it was solely distilled by monks, but then distillation was marketed and specialised.

Standard practice with Canadian whisky production is to mash, distill and age different grains separately. This is different than other whisky, including bourbon, which are made with a mash bill incorporating each grain together from the start. This adds importance to the role of the master blender, who is then able to very precisely fine-tune a final product. It also increases the flexibility of Canadian whisky.

Canadian whisky made by the major producers also generally falls into two camps:

  • Base Whisky: Base whisky may be distilled all the way up to 94 percent ABV, making it very light in profile.
  • Flavouring Whisky: Flavouring whiskies are kept richer and more robust by design and distilled to lower proofs to showcase the character of an individual grain, whether it’s rye, corn, barley or wheat.

Canadian whisky acquired that name because when Canadians first started making whisky, what made it different from Scotch, Irish and American whiskies was that it was almost always made with rye.

Where else is whisky made?

Before it was distilled in Canada, traditionally, whisky was made in Scotland. The most famous malts are those from the century-old distilleries of Isley and the island of Skye. Ireland is another country that has always distilled whisky.

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Did you know that whisky is also made in Japan and the United States? Although its name is bourbon and corn is used instead of malt.

What types of whisky are there?

Canadian whisky acquired that name because when Canadians first started making whisky, what made it different from Scotch, Irish and American whiskies was that it was almost always made with rye. You know rye, the spicy little grain that makes rye bread great every once in a while, but too distinct a taste to use every day. Similarly, rye whisky often packs a powerful punch that some aficionados swear by, saying that the sharpness of rye lends a much-needed edge to the sweetness of corn, and others swear at it, considering it a whisky suitable only for mixing.

But, over the years, things changed. While American rye whiskey by law, must be made from grains that are at least 51 percent rye, Canadian rye whiskies — through a loophole in Canadian law — can be made from no rye at all. Which is the case of most products today. However, the best of these blends usually have a healthy dose of rye, and a flavour that is distinct to Canadian whisky.

Moreover, there are different types of whisky depending on their ageing time. They can also be divided by the previous content of the barrel. For ageing, barrels containing port, sherry or bourbon are sometimes used. This changes the aroma and taste of the liquor, which is the big difference between the different types.

The taste of each type of malt is very different, as are its nuances and aromas. Choosing between one or the other is often a matter of personal taste. However, in order to understand the main differences and get a well rounded idea of what we’re talking about, we present the following table:

Type of whisky Characteristics
Malt whisky Made with malted barley and distilled in copper.
Single Malt stills A whisky made with barley from a single distillery, are usually strong liqueurs and the most popular are marketed as a base whisky.
Vatted Malt Blend of whiskies from different distilleries, all those labeled as “malt” usually belong to this category. Also known as “Pure Malt.”
Grain Manufactured from unmalted barley, they are also made from corn and other grain cereals. They are distilled in continuous stills or distillation columns.
Blended Whisky Mixed Whisky. Younger, stronger whiskies are mixed with softer grain whiskies. They are quality spirits at cheaper prices

Before delving in to the components of the mash inside the bottle, let’s get past the spelling difference: whiskey/whisky. Scotland spells the spirit without the “e,” according to Gaelic tradition, as do Japan and Canada. The Irish spell it with the “e” and brought this spelling with them when they emigrated to America.

What are the differences between Canadian whisky and bourbon?

Distinguishing the difference between Canadian whisky, rye whiskey, Scotch whisky (note the spelling difference) and Kentucky bourbon is already confusing. There is an old rivalry between whisky and bourbon, which is better, the traditional Scottish taste or the mild American aroma? The production area defines the taste, quality and aromas. Whisky is distilled from barley, bourbon is made from corn, rye and other grain cereals.

The biggest difference is usually the taste. Whisky, because of its elaboration, has a more intense taste, of wood and peat, while bourbon is much sweeter. In addition, for a liqueur to be considered whisky it must spend at least three years in barrel, which is not necessary for bourbon. We’ll leave you a table with the differences:

Whisky Bourbon
Ingredients Malt, barley and wheat Rye, maize, grain cereals
Place of Provenance Produced in Canada and in Europe, mainly in Scotland and Ireland Produced in the United States
Flavour Hard taste Sweeter taste
Undertones Smoky and wood or peat flavours. Sweet touches of caramel, honey and vanilla.
Ageing and Maturation Minimum of three years in white oak barrels. No need to mature for 3 years and its aged in burnt oak barrels.

How is Canadain whisky made?

First of all, to be called Canadian whisky, the whisky must contain alcohol distillate made from cereal grain that’s mashed and distilled. It must age in small wood for at least three years in Canada. Finally, it must contain no less than 40% alcohol by volume.

The whisky distillation process has hundreds of years of tradition. First, the best barley is chosen. Then it is immersed in water and malted to germinate. Once the sprouts appear, it is cooked in the oven so that it dries before grinding. When dry, it is ground and mixed with hot water to macerate.

The result of the previous maceration is transferred to large fermentation tanks. Yeast is added and the liquid is left to ferment so that the sugars create the alcohol. This fermented product is heated in stills. The best quality spirit is harvested and poured into oak barrels to mature. The rest is extracted and distilled again.

  • Distillation: Canadian Whisky uses two common distilling methods despite which grain they utilise. The first are base whiskies. Normally, base whiskies are distilled to a high alcohol content, then aged in used barrels. Some distillers make many styles of base whisky, but never grain neutral spirit. Base whiskies span a wide range of ages and can be very flavourful.Flavouring whiskies are the second distilling method. These are distilled to a lower alcohol content in column or pot-stills then aged in virgin oak, ex-bourbon or rye re-fill casks. The two methods come together after maturation through skilful blending.

Maturation: Distilling and maturing each grain is done for a reason. The distillery can fine-tune which cask is beneficial based on the grain. These tailored cask types, chars and ageing techniques give each grain a specific job within the final whisky. For example, a lightly-toasted barrel will preserve rye’s fruitiness and spiciness. An aggressively charred barrel will round a corn whisky making it silky.

How does whisky mature?

In order to be considered whisky, the legislation states that the malt must mature for three years. This maturing process must be carried out exclusively in white oak barrels. When age appears on the label of the whisky, it refers to the minimum time it has been maturing.

Row of bottles of alcohol in a bar or restaurant

Contact with the cap can damage the drink. Do not store it near chemicals, as it may absorb the taste.
(Source: Bizoon: 75038238/123rf.com)

How to drink whisky?

The way you drink whisky will depend on your personal preference. First of all, it is important to note that not all whiskies are equally good for drinking alone. A good spirit, distilled calmly, may have a sweet palate and be suitable for drinking alone. Some others are ideal for mixing in cocktails or for drinking on the rocks.

How you drink whisky depends, to a large extent, on your personal taste. Some people prefer to drink it with ice, this is known as “on the rocks”.

Others prefer to enjoy it straight, at room temperature or with a little lemon. There are also those who mix it with water or carbonated drinks, like the popular Canadian Rye & Ginger (made with ginger-ale). At the end of the day, it all depends on your taste and preference.

How long does a bottle of whisky usually last?

Whisky is a robust spirit. However, in order to preserve as best you can, it will need some care. It is best to store in a cool, dry, dark place away from sunlight. If the liquid is in contact with the sun it will lighten, losing many of its nuances and flavours.

Most good whiskies come in boxes, so it’s a good idea to keep the bottles store inside them. Unlike wine, whisky bottles should be kept standing and not lying down.

Purchase Criteria

Next, we’ll look at a number of criteria you should consider before buying a good whisky. If you understand the important factors listed below it will be easier to make a good purchase. After all, you want to make sure you can enjoy your purchase to the fullest. If you want to choose a quality whisky, follow these criteria:

Distilling Process

When doing a comparison between the best whiskies on the market, it is essential to know their origin. The best spirits come from Scotland, which is why many consumers buy only Scotch whisky. For many it is the best, since it is the original. However, there are other quality distilleries, Canada also being a leader in producing high-quality whisky.

Although not the most common, there are good whiskies in other parts of the world. Argentina, Spain, Ireland or Japan distil high quality malt. Of course, we can find great spirits much closer to home in the United States. The bourbon, as it is called there, has a sweeter flavour, ideal for drinking alone or with ice.

Standard practice with Canadian whisky production is to mash, distill and age different grains separately. This is different than American whiskys, including bourbon, which are made with a mash bill incorporating each grain together from the start.

Age and maturation

Before asking yourself how much a bottle of quality whisky costs, you must take into account its maturation time. By law, for it to be considered whisky it must spend at least three years in white oak barrels. The more years it remains in the barrel, the better the taste and the more nuances and aromas the spirit will have.

As you can imagine, antiquity has a direct influence to the quality and also on price of whichever product you choose. It is no wonder many users are looking for older whiskies because of their taste. You can also choose NAS. These are the drinks without antiquity, which are cheaper and have a milder, lighter taste.

Whiskey Lettering art

Whisky is not the answer to your problems, but it does help.
(Source: Nrey: 52119254/123rf.com)

Flavours

It’s important that you pick a whisky you like. Drinking whisky is a pleasure and you should be able to enjoy it. The taste will depend on the that is malt used, the fermentation processes, the distillation of each liqueur and other options. Some, such as Collingwood and JP Wiser’s, have a oaky, and nutty bottom for example.

For non-habitual drinkers, whisky may seem bitter, too dry or too strong. Remember that it is a drink with a high percentage of alcohol. The taste of whisky depends on the oak barrels used in the distillation. Some companies use new barrels and others use old or smoked barrels. This is what gives it its many different flavours.

Health

Whisky, in the Gaelic language means “water of life”. There have always been rumours that it has beneficial properties for the health — and it actually does — You may not believe this is true, since it’s an alcoholic beverage — and in a way that is also true — Alcohol should be consumed in moderation.

However, moderate consumption of whisky can help people prevent some diseases, as the drink contains elegiac acid, which destroys cancer cells. Moreover, when consumed in moderation, whisky does not contain any fat. This makes it ideal for people who follow a strict diet.

Reviews

Whisky is a very classy drink, but it also very personal to each individuals likings. Choosing the best whisky is a matter of taste. To help you make your choice, there’s nothing better than looking at buyers’ comments. If you are not sure of your choice, read the opinions of other consumers, you may find in them key information you need to decide.

In addition, among the reviews you can often find comments from specialists or amateurs. These often provide very valuable and interesting information about the products. You may discover a new product or realise that you were going to choose the wrong one. Take a look at buyers’ reviews before making your final choice.

Aroma

Before you actually taste whisky, you first inhale and taste its aroma. The nose is able to differentiate between 32 primary flavours, while the tongue only distinguishes 4 flavours. Whisky has many so different nuances and aromas for you to enjoy. Lightly stir the spirit a little through the glass and bring your nose closer to feel all the intensity of its aromas and undertones.

Although at first you will only feel the alcohol, if you wait you will begin to taste and recognise the complex and deep smells of its components. If you prefer to capture all its flavours, before drinking whisky, have a drink of fresh water. This refreshes the palate and cleans the tongue. Keep the whisky in your mouth for a few seconds and enjoy.

Summary

Canadian Whisky is an alcoholic beverage derived from the distillation of malt and the fermentation of cereals. Barley, wheat or corn are added to a century-old process of distillation and maturation. As a result, we have a very classy drink, appreciated and loved by all. Full of aromas and flavours.

Choosing the best whisky is a very personal task. This is a spirit that is made to be enjoyed, so you should choose the one you like best. Follow our shopping guide and take into account factors such as maturity, flavours and aromas to find your top candidate. Last but not least, don’t forget to consider the price, as it can vary greatly between distilleries and products. Be that as it may, regardless of the whisky you choose, just make sue to enjoy it.

If you liked the article, leave a comment with your thoughts or share it with your friends and family so they too can buy the best Canadian whisky on the market.

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