Canadian whisky's role in the spirit world is generally portrayed as cheap liquor that is to be mix with soda to quickly achieve the physically effects of alcohol. With little to no recognition from whisky connoisseurs, Canadian whisky falls victim to it's own reputation. Little innovation in the industry has locked Canadian whisky into a stand still of producing the same "brown vodka" for the larger consumer base of drinkers. Canadian whisky's questionable quality makes people reluctant to spending more then they're usual $23.75 on a bottle. With most single malts and high end bourbons fetching $50 plus a bottle, it is no surprise that the Canadian whisky industry wishes to get a piece of that very large, expensive pie. Being that the "premium" spirit market is the fastest growing sector of the spirit industry we are seeing a rapid increase in Canadian whisky tipping the scales as high as $175 a bottle, but can any of these whiskies really compare to the quality of fine single malt scotch and bourbon?
I've selected 7 Canadian whiskies to compare in a blind taste test, all of which were tasted neat in a Glencairn glass. The Whiskies were marked in four categories: aroma, taste, finish and balance of flavors. All categories took into account complexity, presents of alcoholic burn and an over all impression of that specific attribute. Each whisky was tasted blind twice, in a random order. The scores from each categories were averaged and a total was assembled. Remember these scores are only my opinion. The whiskies chosen were as followed:
Alberta Premium 5 Year Old
Aroma: Various berries (Strawberry, raspberry, blackberry,) brown sugar, vanilla, apples, cinnamon, carmel, sherry.
Taste: Creme brulee, bitter chocolate, pecan, maple, oak, vanilla
Finish: Short, Sweet, slightly weak.
Balance: The youth in this whisky is still present but an other wise well balanced dram with sweetness, spice and a good complexity.
Alberta Premium 30 Year Old
Aroma: Banana, Cinnamon, nutmeg, strawberry, vanilla, brown sugar, coco, maple
Taste: Cinnamon, strawberry, raspberry, leather, carmel, sherry
Finish:Medium length, sweet with a slight spice.
Balance: Wonderfully balance with a multitude of flavors layered over top of one another.
Taste: Orange peel, banana, vanilla, tobacco, maple, oak
Finish: Mild, sweet, short.
Balance: Reasonably balance, slightly sweet, with a bit too much of a alcohol presents.
Crown Royal Special Reserve
Taste: Orange Zest, Black pepper, pumpkin pie, lots of floral notes, juniper
Finish: Long, mild finish. Dry to begin but leaves a sweet maple taste at the very end.
Balance: Very balance, many different flavors present. Bit on the dry side but nearly perfectly balanced.
Forty Creek Barrel Select
Aroma: Raisin, coffee, bell pepper, nutmeg, brown sugar, maple, dark chocolate. complex and subtle
Taste: Cinnamon, anise, raisin, maple, banana, herbal, coffee, tobacco, butterscotch
Finish: Medium length finish, slightly sweet and dry at the very end.
Balance: Sweet but a bit rough around the edges, none the less a great whisky.
Forty Creek Confederation Oak
Aroma: Carmel, honey, butter, toffee, marzipan, dark chocolate, maple
Taste: Campfire ashes, honey, cinnamon, creme brulee, carmel, apples, oak, maple, bitter lime
Finish: Short, mild, slightly dry and floral to conclude.
Balance: Wonderfully balanced whisky with lots of sweet notes. A nice hint of smoke and fruit rounds off this great whisky.
Wiser's 18 Year Old
Aroma: Juniper, bell pepper, nutmeg, maple, brown sugar
Taste: Butterscotch, carmel, raisin, maple, orange zest, floral, burn toast
Finish: Very strong, long finish. Begins sweet and tappers into a floral, dry ending.
Balance: No one element stands out in this whisky. Every compliments one another and is a perfect example of a balanced whisky.
After 2 weeks of tasting some great -and some adequate- Canadian whiskies, I really came around to appreciating the true qualities that these spirits possess. While I will still prefer a Scotch over a Canadian whisky the majority of the time, there are certain occasion that I do find my self craving a good Canadian whisky.
Sadly, even with the handful of spectacle Canadian whiskies currently on the market, I can't help but think, why is there such a lack of regulations governing what is and what isn't Canadian whisky? Here are some fun facts, Canadian whisky may include "Carmel and Flavoring," as well as up to 9% of fortified wine. There is also no cap to distillation limits, meaning, a distiller may distill the majority of the whisky used in the final product to 180 proof and above! Essentially what you are getting is aged vodka with a dash of genuine pot still whisky. The lack of regulation governing Canadian Whisky is truly detrimental to the over all industry. If Canadian whisky is to ever see a turn around of reputation, laws must be set into place in order to dictate for a higher quality product. Regulation similar to the Scotch and Bourbon industry need to be used as a model to direct Canadian Whisky in the proper direction. Age statements, no addition coloring or flavoring, caps on distillation proof and sticker barrel regulation would be just a start.