First commercial distillers making whisky in Canada were English & Germans. Scottish & Irish immigrants however made no contribution for developing Canadian Whisky. In fact, they were enthusiastic distillers who largely consumed rum. Nevertheless, early Canadian column stills which were used in production of whisky were of European & American design and were adapted so as to suit Canadian conditions. With abundance of locally grown crop, wheat was the grain of choice for making Canadian Whisky in early days. It was the Dutch & German immigrants who wanted more flavor suggested adding rye-grain flour to mashes. United States quickly became the main market for Canadian Whisky and which still continues to be as 75 percent of whisky produced in Canada goes to them. Until recently, Canadian Whisky remained the best-selling whisky in United States till the time Bourbon overtook it in 2010.
Distinct Taste of Canadian Whisky
With occasional exceptions, Canadian Whisky is generally a product of single distillery. Each grain type finding place in Canadian Whisky is milled, mashed, fermented, distilled and matured separately following which they are mingled as mature whisky; while American distillers combine grains before making whisky. Only Canadian Whisky exceptions like Black Velvet & Canadian Club distil spirits separately but mingle them before maturing. However, similar to blended Scotch distillers in Canada make two whisky streams that are later combined after maturation regardless of grain type.
Main Types of Canadian Whisky
One stream of Canadian Whisky is known as ‘base whisky’. This type is distilled to high alcohol content and includes several grain-derived congeners that facilitate full expression derived from wood upon maturity. Quite a few Canadian distilleries make just one type of base whisky, while there are others which make many. The second stream which is known as the ‘flavoring whisky’ are distilled to lower alcohol content in order to emphasize grain-derived congeners. Flavoring whiskies are most commonly made from corn, barley, wheat & rye which are distilled and matured separately. Different types of barrels and chars are used for each grain and matured for different periods of time depending upon characteristics of each grain. Getting them together in right proportions is key, to taste of Canadian Whisky.