Take a break from Scotland and the American South: Canadian whisky has become well worth a tipple. Unconvinced? Start with these four fall releases.
Although we’d like to consider ourselves long past that hoary old “identity crisis” stage, Canadians can still slip into the odd existential funk. And Canadian whisky is no exception. Sometimes, on late, quiet nights, you can almost hear that whisky asking: “Who am I?”
American whiskey knows who it is: a sweet, dark, strong, and woody drink. The Scots peddle their hyper-peaty single malts along with a little dose of kilt and eccentricity. Canada could invent its own boozy shtick (Loyalist Liquor? 1812 Hooch?). But in true Canadian fashion, whisky-makers have created an ethos by boldly going off in all directions and refusing to adopt a single flavour profile or identity. Four new fall releases reflect the best of this diversity—a mosaic of grandiose thinking, throwback artisanship, earnest environmentalism, and the occasional reference to Neil Young.
Sometimes you have to aim high—you know, like when Canada made a confederation out of wildly distinct and unwilling regions back in 1867, or when Tim Hortons branched into the United States. Wiser’s Red Letter ($115.25), with its whopping price tag, is an example of this ambition. If it sounds like a lot for a whisky, consider that it’s sure to last longer than the five or six bottles of table wine you’d get for the same sum. It’s also totally worth it. The taste is delicate and ethereal, with light oak and honey practically dancing together.
When not thinking big, it’s best for distillers to think extremely small, trying to recreate the old days when every product was made by hand (see: maple syrup; Hudson’s Bay blankets). Still Waters, a grain-to-glass craft distillery, is a perfect example of this artisan mentality. Its new release, Stalk and Barrel Canadian Whisky ($39.95), is a light, herbal, and mildly medicinal spirit.
Pipeline or no pipeline, we prefer to think of ourselves as pretty green here, especially with folks like the Toronto Distillery Company now making an Organic Wheat ($39.50) from pesticide-free local grains. It’s a white whisky, so it’s more suitable for mixing into cocktails than sipping straight, but chances are good they’ll roll out some aged stuff in a few years. Expect that to be smooth and peppery.
Forty Creek distillery is widely known for reviving the lost art of Canadian whisky by sticking to traditional recipes—called mash bills—and methods. Heart of Gold ($69.95), its limited-edition fall release, is a credit to the category, marked by a complex mix of spice, orange, and maple that harmonizes with a smooth, sweet finish. Grab a bottle and enjoy your true patriot drink.