Sunday, April 21, 2013

The mystique of Canadian whisky

The mystique of Canadian whisky

November 13, 2028

Weekly Report Posted: December 04, 2012 08:54

Canadian whisky is a type of whisky produced in Canada. Most Canadian whiskies are blended multi-grain liquors containing a large percentage of corn spirits, and are typically lighter and smoother than other whisky styles. Several hundred years ago, when Canadian distillers began adding small amounts of highly-flavorful rye grain to their mashes people began demanding this new rye-flavored whisky, referring to it simply as "rye." Today, as for the past two centuries the terms "rye whisky" and "Canadian whisky" are used interchangeably in Canada and refer to exactly the same product

While the lighter and smoother Canadian whiskies are the most widely familiar, the range of products is actually broad and includes some robust whiskies as well.

According to the laws of Canada, a Canadian whisky must be mashed, distilled and aged in Canada. To improve marketability, it may contain caramel (as may Scotch whisky) and flavouring, in addition to the distilled mash spirits. As with Scotch and Irish whiskey, the alcohol content of the spirits used may exceed 90%. Thus, much of the spirits used in making a Canadian whisky, prior to aging, may have less grain-derived flavour than typical single malts or U.S. "straight" whiskeys. While this aspect is similar to Scotch and Irish whisky regulations, it contrasts with the maximum alcoholic proof limits on distillation (80% abv) and aging (62.5% abv) purity allowed in the production of straight whiskey in the U.S. All spirits used in making a Canadian whisky must be aged for at least three years in wooden barrels of not greater than 700 L capacity (a requirement similar to that for Scotch and Irish whisky and longer than for American straight whisky). The final whisky must contain at least 40 percent alcohol by volume. As with Scotch and most other whiskies, the barrel used for aging may be new or re-used and may be toasted, charred or left raw.

Historically, in Canada, whisky that had some rye grain added to the mash bill to give it more flavour came to be called “rye”. Although some Canadian whiskies are still labelled as “rye”,Canadian “rye” whisky usually contains high-proof corn-, rye-, or wheat-based whisky blended with lower-proof rye-grain whisky and/or Canadian made "bourbon-style" corn whisky as flavouring. Occasionally barley whisky is also used for flavouring. Flavour may also derived in other ways, such as flavour development from the aging process and blending with other lower-proof. stronger-tasting Canadian whiskies.

It is a common misconception that Canadian whiskies are primarily made using just rye grain. The use of rye grain is not dictated by law, and whisky products of all grain types are often generically referred to as (and may legally be labelled as) "rye whisky" in Canada. Under Canadian law, the term "Canadian rye whisky" is synonymous with "Canadian whisky." and the primary grain used to make most Canadian whisky is corn, which is blended with rye-grain whisky after distillation. Unlike American straight whiskies in which the grain is blended in a mash bill before fermentation, Canadian distillers do not use mash bills, but ferment and distill the individual grains separately then blend them after distillation or after they have matured in white oak barrels.

In contrast, because American rye is matured in brand new oak barrels, which over-write much of the grain flavour, and because they mature quickly in the warmer climate of the U.S., the U.S. definition of "rye whisky" requires that the whisky be at least 51% rye, which prevents a low rye content whisky from being labelled "rye" unless it is labelled as a "blended" rye whisky, and even then approximately 10% of such a "blended rye whisky" must still be from rye. However, U.S. law permits "blended" whisky to contain up to 80% un-aged grain neutral spirits (with an age statement on the label that refers only to the "straight" part of the blend), while Canadian law requires that all of the spirits in a Canadian whisky be aged for at least three years.

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