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Homepage > History of Canadian Whisky

History of Canadian Whisky

Canada has been making distilled spirits for over two centuries according to Canadian Distillers Association. The first Canadian distillery was opened in Quebec City in 1769. By the 1840s, there were over 200 distilleries in Canada.

Canada had its own Prohibition too, from 1916 to 1917. During Canadian Prohibition, alcohol production was limited only to military, medicinal, scientific, mechanical, and industrial purposes. When American Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Canadian whisky became popular once again, this time legally, both in Canada and in the United States.

In the early days of whisky making in Canada, Scottish immigrants made their whisky the very similar way as they did back home. Canadian whisky today is still written as in Scottish way, without an "e." By definition, Canadian whisky is a grain spirit that has been aged in charred oak barrels for a minimum of three years.

Canadians tend to give John Molson a credit as the first distiller to produce whisky in Canada in 1799.

Like American bourbon whiskey, the most important grain ingredient used in Canadian whisky is corn, along with smaller quantities of barley malt and rye. Whisky distillers look for different types and styles of corn because each contributes different flavors to the final product.

Rye is often a small part of the blend, but it contributes the most flavor. The more rye in the blend, the more spice you'd smell in the aroma of the whisky.

For every gallon of Canadian whisky produced, distilleries usually consume up to 100 gallons of pure water.

During the aging process, the whisky undergoes significant changes through the chemical reaction between wood, water and temperature.

Master blenders of each distillery would usually take different types of matured whiskies to blend with a house recipe. When the criteria of quality and consistency is met by their standard, whisky is sent off for the final step to be packaged. At Canadian Club distillery, blending takes place before aging their whiskies.

Today among more than 500 Canadian distilled spirit brands available, Canadian whisky is the number one selling product category. Although the sales of Canadian whisky is slightly declining compared to 5 years ago, according to the Canadian Distillers Association.

In the recent years, spirit smuggling has became a major industry problem. Each year the estimated amount of nearly 50 million bottles of distilled spirits arrive in Canada illegally. The rise of taxes on distilled spirits in Canada over the years made it a lucrative business to smuggle spirits into Canada from the United States. The average taxes imposed on distilled spirits in the U.S. are 44 percent compared to 83 percent in Canada.

Canada Day Cocktail
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