Don't Call It a Comeback, Canadian Whisky Has Been Here for Years

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For years, Canadian whisky has been the ugly duckling in the whisky world. For many years, not much changed in the business. Products such as JP Wisers, Crown Royal, Gibson’s and Forty Creek regularly stocked the shelves and went out the doors of stores across Canada, but there wasn’t really a whole lot to get excited about. After all, all many of mixed the brand of our choice with cola or ginger ale. If you wanted something special, you got a nice bottle of Scotch, Irish whisky or maybe even a rare bourbon.

Slowly, that is starting to change as we’re starting to see new Canadian whiskys make their mark in the industry. “Don’t call it a comeback, we’ve been here for years,” said Colin David MacDougall, Canadian Whisky Ambassador for Hiram Walker Distilleries.  “For us, we’ve been sitting on expressions like this for a long time.”

MacDougall was recently at Happy Hour tasting a line of Canadian whiskys including Pike Creek, Lot 40 and Gooderham & Worts. These three lines are part of what parent company Corby is calling their Northern Border Collection. These three specific whiskys aren’t new to the market, they were actually rolled out a number years ago when small batch and premium bourbon really started to take off both south and north of the border.

“They didn’t do too well, but we knew that they eventually would,” said MacDougall. “So, we kept up our production. Today we have enough whisky to not only put Lot 40 on the shelves in Canada. We have this in Australia, into Europe. PIke Creek is really popular in France.”

When you think of different whiskys, they all have their own overall flavour profile. Scotch is smoky, Irish whisky is a little lighter and Bourbon can be a little sweeter due to the higher corn content. For Canadian whisky makers, the rules, relatively speaking, are a little less stringent than other areas of the world and that’s the strength of Canadian whisky. From single malt to blends, and different aging techniques, the options are almost limitless here.

“It really is this huge painters pallet that we can work with here in Canada based on the laws and traditions we put in,” said MacDougall.

Another advantage Canadian whiskys have right now over some of their international competitors is their price point. The Northern Border Collection offers up some seriously flavourful whiskys at an affordable price.

This is only the beginning though, as MacDougall says there is a “rare release” line of the Northern Border Collection coming that will include a 17-year-old Gooderham & Worts, 12-year-old cask strength Lot 40 (which will come in at a whopping 55% abv) and a 21-year-old Pike Creek. These bottles will top the $100 mark if you’re into high-end whisky.

A new age for Canadian whisky is upon us, and you can bet we’ll be stocking as much of it as we can here at Happy Hour.

If you want to learn more about MacDougall and Canadian whisky, you can follow him on Instagram at @ambassador_colindavid.

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