During her 2008 election campaign, Hillary Clinton drew fire for drinking Crown Royal, America’s bestselling whisky, because, well, it’s secretly Canadian, says Ottawa author, whisky blogger and enthusiast Davin De Kergommeaux.
“It’s actually the best selling Canadian whisky in the world,” De Kergommeaux said and aims to prove why Canuck whisky spirits have gained attention the world over in his new book Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert.
“Seven years ago I went to a tasting in Las Vegas,” De Kergommeaux said. “There were a hundred bottles, you could have whatever you wanted and all the top connoisseurs there were drinking Canadian. I wanted to find out why.”
The rise of Canadian whisky, he said, first came during the American Civil War when men like Hiram Walker in Windsor and JP Wiser of Prescott, Ont., were supplying the U.S. when their industry was in shambles.
“At the end of the war, American distillers were even writing “Canadian processed” on their whisky to tap into the cachet,” he said.
During more than 200 years of Canadian whiskey making, blends have become much more nuanced than big and bold whiskies to the south, De Kergommeaux said. “It’s complex like a French wine. When people think Canadian they think light and flavourful.”
Still, a lot of Canada’s best whiskies are only available in the country or by special order.
“I get so many emails from overseas from people asking ‘where can I get Gibson, where can I get Crown Royal XO?’ They aren’t available, but I think this book is going to help change that.”
What makes a good whisky?
It needs to have a character of its own and to develop over time on your tongue. Let it sit in your mouth and try to identify the different flavours. By the last sip the whisky should be changed from the first. It should leave a silky tannen at the back of your mouth and have an enjoyable finish. I like a long finish, but a whisky that has a lot of action in it and a short finish is good too.
What does De Kergommeaux think are Canada’s best whiskies?
- Forty Creek
- High River
- Crown Royal XO
- Danfield’s 21
- Wiser’s small batch 10-year-old