Skip to content


Age verification

By clicking "Enter" you are verifying that you are of the legal drinking age in your location.

Canadian whisky: debunking the myths

Canadian whisky: debunking the myths

Canadian whisky, rich and diverse in style, is sadly subject to many widely held misconceptions which might deter some enthusiasts from enjoying what Canada has to offer.

The use of rye in the production of Canadian whisky often confuses many newcomers. Although Canadian whisky is often referred to as “rye whisky”, the term is slightly misleading. The whiskies are actually made from a variety of grains, most profusely corn. While rye does not provide the “base” for the spirit, generally speaking, it does indeed play a key role. Even a little rye will greatly influence the flavour of the whisky; so much so, that it is perhaps the influence of rye which marks Canadian whisky apart from Scotch whisky and bourbon.

In the second episode of our Still Life podcast, Canadian whisky expert Davin de Kergommeaux draws attention to another very important misconception. Canadian whiskies, Davin reminds us, differ from other styles in that Canadian producers do not use neutral grain spirits. By contrast, American producers can use up to 80% neutral grain spirits in their blends. 

Even a quick glance at the regulations of Canada's Food and Drugs Act will leave the whisky enthusiast in no doubt as to the huge differences between Canadian whisky and, say, Scotch whisky. For example, the regulations state that Canadian whisky must "be aged in small wood vessels": unlike the regulations for Scotch whisky, the Canadian rules do not stipulate that oak must be used to build the casks. In order words, Canadian whisky is not as closely related to Scotch whisky (or any other style) as one might think.

The regulations debunk other myths about the nature of Canadian whisky, too. In order to be called “Canadian whisky”, the spirit must "be mashed, distilled and aged in Canada". It cannot be aged for “less than three years” and for no more than 18 years. It cannot contain “less than 40 per cent alcohol by volume". It "may contain caramel and flavouring". A few of these factors clearly reflect the regulations in place in Scotland. But within these parameters, whiskies can vary considerably; and not least because “flavouring” can be also added, which is not allowed in Scotch. The Canadian regulations, therefore, lead to whiskies which are very different to those produced in Scotland.

Ultimately, the fact that the regulations state that Canadian whiskies must "possess the aroma, taste and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky" implies very clearly that this category has its own distinctive character. This is the result of many factors: the great variety of casks and basic ingredients which can be freely used, the aging period and the timing of blending are all worth noting. 

In short, Canadian whiskies are indeed distinctive and stand apart from Scotch. As Davin de Kergommeaux points out, the notion that the whiskies of the two countries are very closely related is a misconception – as is the notion that Scots introduced whisky to Canada in the first place!

Older Post
Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Related posts

Meet the Educator: Daniel Whittington

Daniel Whittington is our Approved Course Provider in Austin, Texas. He teaches EWA courses on the campus of Wizard Academy and Whisky Marketing School.

Meet the Educator: Samantha De Noia

Samantha De Noia, founder of creative whisky agency 9 Smoking Barrels, is our Approved Course Provider in Madrid. Tel...

Meet the Educator: Joe Cabassa

Based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Joe Cabassa is our Approved Course Provider for Latin America. He is the founder of whisky and spirits education company, Academia De Whisky.

EWA Alumni: Can Ekinci

Tell us a bit about yourself. I am a bartender who loves my job very much. I enjoy doing research for my profession a...

Meet the Educator: Lia Niskanen

Lia Niskanen is the founder of Barrel Strength Talent, a bespoke whisky events and education business. Her focus is o...

EWA Alumni: Martijn van Opstal

Tell us a bit about yourself. I'm a 34-year-old whisky enthusiast who decided to turn his passion into his career. ...

Shopping Cart