Time To Give Canadian Rye Whiskey Another Look

on 03/03/14 at 5:41 pm


indexThe whiskey hype machine is dominated by Scotch, bourbon, American rye and even, on occasion, Japanese whiskey. Canadian rye, meanwhile, gets lost in the shuffle.

In part, that’s because when most of us think of Canadian whiskey, we think of a light spirit better for mixing than imbibing on its own. That’s largely a legacy of the relative looseness of Canadian whiskey regulations; Canadian law enables a whiskey to be labeled “rye whisky,” “Canadian rye whisky” and “Canadian whisky” (Canadians drop the “e” in whiskey) even if the percentage of rye in the mash is small.

That’s a stark contrast from U.S. law, which requires that spirits called rye whiskey have at least 51 percent rye in their mash. As a result, many Canadian ryes have traditionally been blended whiskeys made up of a light “base,” often made from corn, and a “flavoring whiskey” with a high rye content. Those blended whiskeys typically are light mixing whiskeys, while American ryes have been sharp, bold and complex spirits.

But it’s time to give Canadian rye another look. A slew of new whiskeys have arrived over the last few years that are every bit, if not more, interesting and complex as those that garner attention.

Take Masterson’s Straight Rye, a 10-year-old whiskey distilled in Canada that features intricate clove and ginger notes that meld with dry herb notes and vanilla. Or Tap 357 Rye Port, made from rye aged up to eight years and finished in port barrels, giving the whiskey hints of nutmeg, cinnamon and dark berries. Or Lot No. 40, a whiskey produced by Corby Distillery based on an 1869 recipe, which combines sharp, earthy rye flavors with hints of clove, ginger and dark fruits.