Whisky – part 1

Hey it’s been more than a week since I’ve had this blog and there hasn’t been a whisky post yet. (A picture yes, here, but no post). So here we go.

Whisky, at its root, is fermented grain mash. Doesn’t that sound appealing? Depending on the grains used, and about 50 bazillion other factors, the final product ranges from the smoky, peaty, warm the inner-most parts of your every last organ Islays to the caramel and honey of some of the Kentucky bourbons, to the comforting nostalgia, well to me anyway, of “Canadian” whisky.


NOTE: While I’ll try and keep my digressions to a minimum there’s bound to be some and well, this is the first of them. In Canada there is no legal requirement for “rye whisky” to contain anything more than the most miniscule bits of rye or rye mash. Actually, there’s no legal requirement to contain ANY rye. Seriously. That’s the way the Food and Drug Regulations are written.

B.02.020. [S]. (1) Canadian Whisky, Canadian Rye Whisky or Rye Whisky

(a) shall
(i) be a potable alcoholic distillate, or a mixture of potable alcoholic distillates, obtained from a mash of cereal grain or cereal grain products saccharified by the diastase of malt or by other enzymes and fermented by the action of yeast or a mixture of yeast and other micro-organisms,
(ii) be aged in small wood for not less than three years,
(iii) possess the aroma, taste and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky,
(iv) be manufactured in accordance with the requirements of the Excise Act and the regulations made thereunder,
(v) be mashed, distilled and aged in Canada, and
(vi) contain not less than 40 per cent alcohol by volume; and

(b) may contain caramel and flavouring.

(2) Subject to subsection (3), no person shall make any claim with respect to the age of Canadian whisky, other than for the period during which the whisky has been held in small wood.

(3) Where Canadian whisky has been aged in small wood for a period of at least three years, any period not exceeding six months during which that whisky was held in other containers may be claimed as age.


This makes me sad. I don’t know if it’s always been this way but I’m not so fond of the Canadian Whiskies that are mostly corn based. Canadian Club for example, although I am told it’s Don Draper’s drink of choice on Mad Men. I can’t tell you what the percentages are for CC, I can’t find it anywhere on the website. Forty Creek is at least partially rye based and I far prefer it to CC. Highwood Distillers in Alberta also make a couple of products with actual rye in them – white owl and centennial. Both are yummy. One of my usual go-to bottles is actually Alberta Premium. What I didn’t know until quite recently was that Beam Inc, owns both CC and Alberta Premium now!

But this post isn’t meant to be about all of that legal stuff. Well, maybe a little. It’s also meant to be an intro as to why, when I say I like whisky, I mean everything from “scotch” to “bourbon” to “rye.” Oh and to show off a bottle I own…

For example, I got this bottle of rye from Toby for Christmas:


It’s American (okay another digression – it’s sourced from Canada but bottled in the US; apparently that means it’s “American.” I don’t know how I feel about that one…), so calling itself rye means that it’s at least 51% rye based. Turns out Masterson’s is 100% rye. And man is it yummy. Earthy – you can taste the grain. And both peppery and vanilla-y. It finishes with a citrus, floral feel on the tongue.

It is lovely both on the rocks and in a rye and ginger.

yea, it's a better picture of my awesome glass

yea, it’s a better picture of my awesome glass

I love my rye and gingers. I recently told my mother-in-law that a rye and ginger is essentially a poor Canadian’s version of a Manhattan. And I also love my Manhattans. So much so that when we went out for a pre-birthday dinner at the globe bistro earlier this year, and I had the most wonderful Manhattan in recent memory, I told the waitress this. My enthusiasm for the drink must have been pretty evident because she went and told the bartender; who then came over to chat. I asked about the bitters used, and his preferred ryes and so on and while he was a little quiet and shy to start he soon spoke at length about what was available etc. And to cap it all off, at the end of dinner he brought over a “flight” of Manhattans – each with their own unique taste.

flight of manhattans_0001

This is all that remains. At least I was nice and shared with Toby and his parents!

1 thought on “Whisky – part 1

  1. Ryan

    Rye is definitely the member of the whisky family I know least about. I didn’t realize so many of ours were distilled from such a diluted mash (though it’s not particularly surprising about Canadian Club). When I’ve reached for one lately, it’s been Forty Creek, which has sort of slotted into the “good enough to drink, not so good I feel wasteful slugging it around in a flask” role for me. I’ll keep my eye out for Masterson’s if it’s 100% rye. With all this new information, I’d like to get a better idea of how the purity affects the taste.

    If you want good bourbon-based cocktails in Toronto, I highly recommend Goods and Provisions on Queen E. The bartender there’s an adventurer and knows what he’s doing to an alarming (positive) degree.


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