Ep. 88 - The Mysteries and History of Canadian Whisky with Author Davin de Kergommeaux
DAVIN de KERGOMMEAUX // Author Canadian Whisky: The New Portable Expert
Listen to the Episode
If you feel as confused about Canadian whisky as I do, Davin (who like me is writing a book on whisky history) is going to dig in deep and introduce us to the world up north. What is this 9.09% rule? Are Canadian rules more lax than U.S. rules? What's the deal with Canadian Prohibition? Can you travel to Canadian distilleries. And do Canadian's mandate no "e" in whisky?
Lots of insights in this episode. Enjoy!
Welcome to Whiskey Lore, the interviews. I'm your host, Drew Hannush, the Amazon bestselling author of Whiskey Lores Travel Guide to Experiencing Irish Whiskey and Whiskey Lores Travel Guide to Experiencing Kentucky Bourbon. And today it is my pleasure to have a fellow whiskey traveler and author joining me online. He is the author of Canadian Whiskey, the new portable Expert, and the Definitive Guide to Canadian Whiskey Distilleries. It's Daven Degamo. And if you're as confused as I am about Canadian whiskey, well, you're going to get a ton of detail on how it's made, its rules, the history, some tastings talk about distilleries and Patreon members. If you go to patreon.com/whiskey lore, you'll get even more history with an extra 20 minutes in the episode. So if you're a member of the Whiskey Lore Society, you may want to head out there and check out that version. But without further ado, let's jump into our conversation with Devin de Kergommeaux, welcome to the
Show. Yeah, well thanks for having me, drew. Appreciate that.
So let's dive in a little bit here and talk about Canadian whiskey because this is last year we went through and we were talking to people in Ireland and Scotland and then going to some places like Australia, and I was getting further and further away from where I'm based and I'm thinking, I'd really love to get somebody online to talk about Canadian whiskey because I think for a lot of people the Canadian whiskey there is kind of a generalized view of what Canadian whiskey is. And what I have learned from learning about Irish whiskey is that when I walked into Irish whiskey, I had that same feeling that it was a very sort of, they're blends. They're all blends. There's really not much else going on in Ireland. Then I go and I find out, wow, okay, there's a lot of diversity going on in terms of distilling and that I really didn't know what the rules and the concept of Irish whiskey is. And we have a lot of Canadian whiskey drinkers here in the United States. It is still one of the bigger selling whiskey lines in the country, so definitely worth knowing about.
Yeah, I think still maybe it's tied with bourbon, but it's in North America, Canadian whiskey sells more than bourbon, scotch and Irish whiskey combined. If you look at all of North America, wow, it's pretty big, but it kind of flies under the radar. Canadians are like that too. But yeah, there's a lot of really, really interesting Canadian whiskey and a lot of people also use it for high balls.
What's interesting to me is that when I first started getting into whiskey, Canadian was the first one that when we were doing whiskey tastings, as my friends would get together, I would always try to find a Canadian whiskey to sneak in there because there are opinions about different styles of whiskey and scotch fans are, oh, scotch, you're just not going to do better than scotch. And then your bourbon fans, they're like, oh, bourbon is it? And I say, okay, why don't we jump in and try something a little different. So the first Canadian whiskey I bought and brought to a tasting was Caribou Crossing. Oh
Yeah, I like that.
Yeah, I kind of call that the Blains of Canada because it comes in a decorative bottle that you collect your maple leafs on the top of the bottle and all of that sort of stuff. And everybody was impressed and that really got me interested in trying to find other Canadian whiskeys. But I think the thing that confuses me and confuses a lot of people is that some of the rules for Canadian whiskey feel very liberal. And I think it causes some people to think, oh, is this really good quality stuff or not? And you'll hear people call Canadian whiskey rye whiskey and you going, okay, does that mean it is a rye whiskey or it's, it's not a rye whiskey. So what are some of the rules around Canadian whiskey to have that label? Yeah.
Well, I think that if I can take a couple steps backwards, this is quite a misunderstanding because can American whiskey makers have a lot more liberty than Canadian whiskey makers do to be called an American whiskey? There are only four requirements. I may not remember them right away, but they're on the tvb if you want to check there. It has to be made from a mash of grain. But of course they don't define grain in the states as just the seeds and candidates, just the seeds. So there are some whiskey makers in the states who are making whiskey out of sorghum juice that they press out of the stems. So it has to be made from grain in a mash of grain. It has to be distilled to not more. This is American whiskey distilled to not more than 95%. Well, that's very easy to achieve because it is impossible to distill beyond 94% because at that point the water and alcohol are evaporating at the same rate.
So you never get above when they want to go with above that till make alcohols for chemicals, they have to add benzene or something else so they can get up to 99% and even then it pulls water right out of the air so it doesn't stay. So okay it has to have the flavor and taste of gee, <laugh> been pretty wild that we have the same thing here. And I'm sorry, I'm forgetting the fourth one. Canada has all of those, but we have another one on top of that, which is in Canada, the whiskey must be aged for a minimum of three years. Now in America, it doesn't have to be aged at all to be called whiskey. If it touches wood, you can call it whiskey In America they can use any kind of grain. They want any kind of they don't have to use a mash bill, but they can if they want, but they don't have to.
And those 36 of different kinds of whiskey that are listed on the TTB website, those really are just how do, you can name a whisk something that qualifies as being whiskey. If it's made with 51% quarter more and matured for two years and new wood and things like that, then you can call it straight bourbon. You don't have to, but you can't. Right. So this is a big misconception from the start because Canadian whiskey has everything that American has plus one more regulation, which is it must be aged at least three years. So it's a bit of a misconception. Now, the thing that gets people going wild is our 9.09% regulation, which says that Canadian whiskey make whiskey makers may add up to 9.09%. That is one 11th, 10 parts whiskey, one part of either mature spirits, not anything mature spirits or wine now. And so people get a little bit upset about that. Most whiskey makers don't do that.
Many will. They'll make a whiskey for the United States that has 9.09% of something else of American spirits added and they'll make the very same whiskey and it tastes exactly the same because they blend it to taste the same for the rest of the world with which is just a hundred percent whiskey. A good example is black velvet, but in any case, but people don't know when, no one ever talks about it, is that the American whiskey makers for 28 of those 36 kinds of whiskey, they also are permitted to add flavoring. And their definite definition of flavoring is not spirits at least two years old or wine, their definition, definition is anything that is not harmful. So that stuff you buy in a bottle, this is American regulations, it's on the TTP website, that little bottle of stuff you can buy on online and you dump it into a bottle of vodka and you have instant whiskey.
They're allowed to add stuff like that. I'm not saying they do, but they can add hugely potent chemicals that are produced in Flavor labs. So people are, what they do is they take the rules for a straight bourbon and compare it to Canadian whiskey. And that just really is a non-starter because there're more kinds of whiskey than just bourbon and more kinds of whiskey than just straight bourbon made in the United States. I've got a graph a nice, that shows that bourbon is not the biggest part of the graph for the kinds of whiskey made in the United States. So it it's really people, they compare one kind straight bourbon to Canadian whiskey. And of course than it seems a lot more flexible in Canada. But overall whiskey makers in the states have so much more latitude than they do in Canada. People who say otherwise are, they just haven't read the rules carefully. So read chapter four, but then read chapter seven and you'll see <laugh> of the t d regulations.
Yeah, no, it is, it's really interesting because even in my own mind, I do sort of not even think about what the rules of just straight regular whiskey is in the United States because the whiskeys that we have that are that for instance, I think early times has a Kentucky whiskey. And so it came from Kentucky. It was put in used cooperage. It was only aged for two years or less I believe. And so it's 40 A b V. But then actually the other day we got into a online discussion about fireball, and Fireball sells fireball cinnamon whiskey, but it's 60 proof. And so you're going, wait a second, how can it be 60 proof and be whiskey and have flavoring added to it? So it's just a matter of really understanding the rules and being able to figure out what passes and what doesn't pass. And I think something else that's interesting is when I was in Ireland learning that they could use different types of wood besides fresh new oak or used oak, they could use any type of wood. So is that also the same in Canada or is there a restriction on the types of wood you can use?
No, we can use any type of wood and so can American whiskey makers, they can use any type of wood they want. But here's the thing the only wood that really is useful for maturing whiskey is oak because almost, well, every other type of wood that I know of leaks, it's because oak has those little has pores in it, but it has little plugs that they're called Tys that prevent the whiskey from getting out, but they let the air get in and they let vapors get out. So you get a renewal of the oxygen in the barrel, and that is what leads to aging.
Long age whiskey often has nosis or maybe sweet nail polish or something like that that is oxidation of ethanol that causes that to happen. And that only happens and oh, now people make, they say, this is hickory whiskey or this is cherry whiskey or whatever. They put inserts in the oak barrels to get that. They don't make cherry barrels. I mean if you've ever seen a cherry table, I mean you can almost see the holes going right through of an inch ancient cherry, but people put inserts in. Now this was pioneered by maker's Mark, of course with the maker's Mark 46, they use French oak, but whatever. So yes, we can use any kind of wood. So can you in America?
Okay. Yeah. But I think is we have to have it age in an American oak barrel, but other oak or other types of wood can be put inside of that barrel. But the regulation is that some kind of oak, not American oak, but some kind of oak has to be used for the outside container that it sat in. For moments, <laugh> the practical,
Practically speaking everybody has to use oak because it's the only wood that works. So yes, we can use any kind of wood, but nobody uses anything other than oak because it would evaporate before it matured. So we use inserts like black swan cooperage in the states it's has been selling different kinds of wood. They make honeycomb staves and things like that that people put in their barrels. The little guys have been doing it in Canada for a long time and they've been doing it the same in the states. So they put some hickory in or some cherry or some maple or some birch. I've tasted all of these, they're quite nice. And now one of the big distillers has just released one that's made with hickory, but believe me, it's an oak barrel with an insert the same as it is when the craft distillers in the states do it.
So do you find majority of Canadian whiskeys have a maple note to them because that So many of them that I've tried do, but that may be the limited quantity of whiskey that we get down here.
I think that most of them have a butterscotch note or a caramel note that comes through oak caramels. Then when they're matured a certain way, they taste like butterscotch. A lot of the maple syrup that I've tasted in the United States doesn't taste like maple syrup. To me, it tastes like something that is made in a lab or something like that to taste like maple syrup. Maple syrup that we get up here is kind of woody and it's sweet, but it's not like sugary sweet. And I do get maple notes in some whiskeys, but I would say probably not more than 10%. Okay. But it is, yeah, when you get that, the chemical is solon that gives you that flavor maple flavor in real maple syrup, Solon s, ot, o l o N. And you do get that in Canadian maple whiskey. If you ever want to know what it tastes like, you can take Fen Greek seeds and fry them in a dry skittle skillet and you'll get that same real maple
Flavor. That's interesting.
It's cool. I was going to say, you have a science mind. I take it, you have a very deep interest in the technical side of things. It sounds like.
Well, you're asking me science questions,
<laugh> my real, but I couldn't flow them out. I couldn't flow those answers out the way you are. Well,
I, yeah, I have studied whiskey steadily for more than a quarter of a decade, and I really have gathered a lot of information and not, in fact, I've gathered enough information to know that there is a lot more that I don't know. So what things that I'm not confident about, I will just say I don't know. But yeah, I've put a lot of time into studying flavor and studying perfumes and studying wine and studying how people taste flavor. If you want a good book read Nose Dive, it really tells you a lot about flavors and at the end it really gets into good things like why incense smells the way it does. But there are lots of great books out there about flavor. They're boring,
But they're used to <laugh>
Other than nose dive. Nose dive isn't boring
<laugh>. Okay. I love the history of flavor. I love the fact that I grew up in school with the tongue map and that I hear people talking about the tongue map. But as I went back and did research on the tongue map, come to find out it was based on research that was basically saying this guy was just seeing slight variations in flavor between spots on his tongue. He wasn't trying to say, you taste only this in one section of your tongue and you taste only this in another section. It took somebody else trying to decipher is German to come to find out that with this weird he looked at a chart and the chart was basically showing top to bottom the degree of power, but there was nothing on the side. There was no legend on the side to tell you the power difference. And he was just being basically saying a little more here and a little more here.
And next guy picks it up and says, oh, so you only taste this here. And now I hear people on tasting at tasting events going the tongue map and here's where you taste your whiskey. And I'm going, okay, one of those things that definitely needs to be de debunked because when I taste a whiskey, I sometimes will taste certain flavors in some areas and they'll stand out and people will say, oh, you get that rye flavor in the back of your palate. I get it on the sides, I get the spicy notes really come out nicely on the sides of my tongue. So it's interesting to debunk those things and see that we all kind of taste differently.
You get the pepper on the side of your tongue for sure. Yeah, that tongue map is pretty much out of date now because <laugh>, those regions that taste certain thing, if that thing isn't present in the whiskey, they'll taste something else.
Well, and down to your tasting experience too, when I say maple, I don't live around that much maple, and as you say, whenever I go to buy maple syrup, I try to find maple syrup that's natural maple syrup, not the stuff that has basically corn syrup for 80% of what's in the bottle. You've grown up around it. So you're much more familiar with those flavors. The more natural flavors,
To me, the most flavorful maple syrup is the stuff that is harvested at the end of the season. And you'll often see that one individual producer will put out three grades of maple syrup and it's just based on when it's harvested because it changes over the season.
Natural product going to evolve. Yeah, that's interesting. Yeah,
It's pretty cool. It really is.
Yeah, it's aging in wood, but a different way. Nobody put it there. It got there itself.
Yep. It fell from the sky
<laugh>. Very nice, very nice. So let's talk about, first of all, a little bit about your background. How did you get into whiskey riding and what were you doing before to transition into this?
Well, I was writing before Whiskey.
Used to write, started in high school. I had a column in the high school newspaper and it lasted two issues, but nonetheless, I was there for the whole thing. And I know I had a one of those community entertainment newspapers for a while here in Ottawa, and then I published another one called Watch the Poop that was kind of dealing with bands and things like that in London, Ontario. And I just went from Washington another, I've always enjoyed writing. I started really getting into whiskey late in the nineties, and there was not much happening on the web at all. I managed to get in touch with a few people around, well, right around the world actually. We started a website called The Malt Maniacs, which turned out to be hugely influential probably because we were the only ones who were really doing a non-commercial website about whiskey back then, my dream of choice was single malt scotch and everything else was crap.
And I really, <laugh> got into that and I got fooled when someone poured me some excellent Japanese single malt, and I realized, you know what? Scotland's not the only place. And then Amrit came along, the Indian single malt, which is still very just wonderful stuff. So then I started branching out tasting other things that I started drinking more Canadian whiskey. It's one fifth the price of scotch, and I found if you buy the bottom shelf stuff, it doesn't taste that great, but if you just pay at that time, just spend $5 more, you can get some pretty decent whiskey. And now there are some just wonderful connoisseur drums out there. So I still like my scotch. I remember at a whiskey show with, it was somewhere, I think it was in New York Dan Tulio was there from Canadian Club, and I was over talking to him and he reached onto his table, he pulled out a bottle of Maker's Mark and poured it for me and said, tell me what you think of this.
And I have to say he was pretty darn good. So really, I kind of had to be dragged into Canadian whiskey and I kind of had to be dragged into bourbon. But I love my bourbon now and Irish whiskey. Yeah, I did a good tour of Ireland, and it's like you say, we have maybe 20 Irish whiskeys here and they have like 600 over there. You go into a bar and it's from one end to the other Irish whiskey, and they're amazing trams, just wonderful trams and not that expensive in a bar. So I pretty much like it all. I started riding with about whiskey with the malt maniacs, and we published a ezine at the time, and we went to Glen Goin once and there we were in their brochure, our notes and our comments and things like that. Oh wow. Suddenly we were realized, holy Crow, people were reading this and every time we went to a distillery in Skull and they treated us like we were some kind of celebrities and we were just enjoying our whiskey.
So it kind of grew from that. When I got into Canadian whiskey though, I started a website, canadian whiskey.org, and then Whiskey Magazine asked me if I would write for them about Canada and Canadian whiskey, and then a whiskey advocate did the same, and it just kind of mushroomed from that. And I was visiting distilleries and I was tasting all the whiskeys and making notes. It was my daughter, Danielle said, dad, you're writing a book. And I thought, holy crow. So seven years later I published the first edition of my Canadian whiskey book, and it really has been, I hate to use the cliche organic growth, but it really has kind of happened without a big plan to do. So.
Yeah, that's interesting that we share that in common, that I started out actually liking Scotch whiskey first and then worked my way around. It was like, there's got to be, there's more out there. I need to know what the differences are. And it started out for me as a blog and traveling through Kentucky and writing up, and it's like, you know, have all this information, why not teach people? What's interesting is though, there are a lot of books on Kentucky Bourbon, and I don't find very many books on Canadian whiskey. So you're kind of Blue ocean out there with writing on that definitive of a guide on Canadian whiskey and really introducing people to it.
Well, it's a big country and it's very expensive to travel in Canada, and it's hundreds of miles of barren territory. It's not like there's a whiskey trail you have in Kentucky or in Scotland if you're going to go to visit a distillery plan on that being the only thing you do that day. And if I'm going to a distillery, I'll usually drive there the day before, stay in a hotel that night, do my whiskey visiting and riding up the next day, and then I'll stay in a hotel and then I'll drive home. So it's really, it's like two nights in a hotel to visit one distillery. Wow. It's not like Kentucky where you can, well, I think in Kentucky I maybe have done four distilleries in a day. <laugh>, certainly in Scotland, yeah. Yeah. And it, it's quite different. So I think it's quite daunting to people.
And also there's just so much misinformation out there about Canadian whiskey and that I think people are just overwhelmed with how much there is to know. And as for those books, all those books about bourbon, I honestly don't believe someone should sit down and write a book unless they're going to tell you something new or tell you something in a really different way, make it easier. I can remember in the early days with scotch, there were a whole bunch of what we called cut paste whiskey books, cut and paste scotch books, and they were just one after another that was just the same as what somebody else did. So all they did is put their name on it and changed, put it in their own less aite words. I remember one that copied Michael Jackson's companion. Oh my goodness. So I think that hurts the whiskey industry because it means that it's more difficult for the writers who really study and really have something to say to be heard, because there's so much noise of me too, of people, of just writing for their own ego or something like that.
Yeah, it's really shocking to me too, how one book can get something very wrong and then another book shows up and also gets it very wrong. Me always taking a history focus left a grand opportunity for me. I wouldn't have a whiskey lower Stories podcast if it weren't for the fact that there's so much information that's misinformation that people just take as everyday fact about bourbon and other types of whiskeys.
Yeah. Well, lemme say, I was just talking to some people last week on a podcast like this wrote about writing a book, and I was saying that the most important person in the process of writing a non-fiction book is your fact checker, because you have to check your fact. If you don't get the same information from at least two different sources, then you can't be sure it's right. And your fact checker then has to go back and find all the facts and come back and say, why did you say this? Where did you get this information? Prove this to me. Show me this. I've had some really interesting discussions with fact checkers. Things that really seem to be disputed sometimes are dates of death because people go back later and they change things so that people die at a more convenient time, but not when they're, they're with their mistress, for example. Yeah.
Well, and believe me, when I'm doing my history research, and this is the challenge, you may be finding this as well because I heard it through the grapevine that you are working on a book on Canadian prohibition history. And boy, I tell you the difference between writing a travel book and writing a history book once it comes, one of my favorite writers is David McCullough, and if you look at one of his books, he does great storytelling for about 600 pages, and then there's about 200 pages of footnotes at the end where he is just dug in and found every single corroborating fact that it's I.
And then I go look at some of the history books that I've read and I go look in the back and it's like bibliography. And it mentions about five other books that it used as its reference for this history. And it's like, no wonder as I found with even newspapers, I found I had that same thing. My dad was a writer of presidential family histories and he said, get two sources, always make sure you have two sources. I said, well, now that I'm starting to really dig into this, I'm finding out that a newspaper can write something and another newspaper that's not right because they didn't get their facts. And then another newspaper comes along and uses them as their resource, and now you're going, wait, I've got two sources, but they're both wrong.
Even worse than that with whiskey, because even a hundred years ago what the were publishing was very often press releases from the brands. And I'm telling you, you can go through some of these old newspapers and just find stuff that now is just so obviously propaganda and just not true. It's really interesting. Online research is not everything that's cracked up to be. There's nothing like seeing the real document. And even better if it's handwritten. There's nothing like seeing the real document because and there's also different newspapers have different political perspectives. So with whiskey there may be newspapers that are in favor of temperance or even prohibition and others who are not, and they will tell the same story two different ways. And your best bet is to disregard both
You can find other evidence, see what really happened. It's really
True. I had that actually happen. I was digging through newspapers in Bourbon County, Kentucky, and I had gone from 1812 up to about 1860, and I found very little about whiskey in it. So mean, we're talking about Bourbon County, Kentucky. There were 12 distillers in Bourbon County, Kentucky in the 1860s. So going, this seems like they're, I mean, deaths of people who were pretty important to the community. And I'm thinking, I finally turned around and asked the woman, because the newspaper still exists, but it's under a different name now. I said, was this a temperance paper? Because I cannot find anything on distillers that were pillars of the community and have, they were tied to the railroads and all sorts of other things. They were not just whiskey men and I can't find anything on them. And she said, you know what? I got that inkling in the past from what I was reading as well, because there really isn't a lot. And it's funny because it was called the Bourbon News, so you would think that they would cover whiskey, but there was another newspaper across town that did much more in terms of putting ads in and that sort of thing for the local distillers and their distilleries. So yeah, it's tricky. So as you were getting into your whiskey journey, you said you started with scotch. What was your first favorite scotch
Ker? 10 year old?
I loved that Whiskey. I still do actually. Yeah, it's changed a little bit over the years. But yeah, that whiskey was really, really great. And there was a period there just after the turn of the century when they ran out a 10 year old. So they were putting the 11 and 12 year old tallk in those bobs as well. And they were putting in some really peaky tallk as well. There was a period there where you would've thought it was La Freud or something like that. Oh wow. But yeah, I really like Talisker Tan. I still do.
Yeah, it's one of those that I say it's always going to be on my shelf because it's just good man. Really nice, really nice flavor to that one. And have you been out to the distillery?
I haven't been to Sky, no.
You haven't? I've never been. You need to go? Oh
Yeah. Well, I've been to lots of Scottish distilleries, but
Yeah, that's one of my favorite. I suppose
I could do them all if I wanted to focus on that. Yeah,
<laugh> a lot. So how many distilleries would you say there are in Canada right now if you had to put it?
My guess is about 250. And if those, probably half of them make whiskey.
Okay. So what would rum be something they make or, well,
A lot of gin.
A lot of gin. Some of them might make wrong, but a lot of them make they make odd spirits, like various liquors and things like that. I mean, when you start new distillery, you got to make stuff you can sell quickly. So yeah, you can either sell whiskey that really doesn't taste very good, no one's going to come back, or you can sell vodka gin wrong. But Quebec has just gone wild for gin and they have wonderful gins there. Just amazing. Yeah.
Is there a moonshine culture? I know prohibition was kind of different in Canada in terms of it, it's spread across the country and all of that. Was there ever an establishment of a moonshine culture in any part of the country?
Small, virtually all of the distilleries, the major distill that exist in Canada began as large, well financed organizations. They didn't start from little weed distillers, the little weed distillers. They were just kind of pushed out of business by taxes and things like that. And also because once we got good transportation, then you could buy the other big distillery whiskey quite inexpensively. But there's always been a moonshine culture, and it still exists today, and I don't think it has diminished it in to any extent. I know my electrician makes moonshine out of deer feed. He goes to the mill by deer, feeded, some of, he feeds to the deer, some he puts in still and or puts in on mash to, and then it still, and yes, this is what happened to all of the small distillers, the small distillers in Canada. They didn't stop making stuff, they just stopped making whiskey and they really started making moonshine. But moonshine remember is alcohol. Yeah, it's not whiskey. And yeah, it is still out there. It's still quite common. It wouldn't take you very long to find a moon shin pretty much anywhere that I've been in Canada.
And it's my understanding that initially Canada was more using wheat in the early days, and then rye kind of worked its way in. What would the moonshine be made out of?
They might make it out of grain, but they might make it out of fruit or whatever they had. I mean, they wanted alcohol and they just distilled whatever they could get. The whiskey distilling really got its start in Ontario, west of Montreal. And the reason for that is that the St. Lawrence River, which flows to the Atlantic Ocean, it kind of hits a big snag at Montreal, which is called the Laine Rapids. And it's not navigable, it wasn't then. And so anybody east of Montreal, which is all the Scottish people and Irish people and whole bunch of others, they made rum because it's cheaper to buy Caribbean molasses and distill that, and you don't have any waste. It's sugar, you turn it into rum. So it was only when they got to Ontario than they really started making whiskey. There were a few whiskey distillers in Quebec.
Yes, there were, but primarily it was from. But the thing is that the grain that was grown in Ontario was wheat. It was wheat to be milled, to be sold to make bread and things like that. And Ontario at that time was the wheat belt. You'll see a lot of corn growing here now, but back then it was the wheat belt. Rye was a marginal crop. They usually only grew it on poor land, and it was the cover crop and just until the land was good enough to be properly cultivated. And so these distillers primarily, they began as large, well financed milling operations. Their business was making flour, wheat flour. They did mill some other grains, but primarily they milled wheat. Now they're millers and they have a lot of waste coming from making wheat. Plus they have a lot of leftover grain that they can't sell.
And they were paid in wheat, so they needed to put in some kind of a waste disposal facility to get rid of the waste wheat, the extra wheat. And so what they would do is they would take all the extra wheat and they would mash it up and run it through a distill, through a still and turn it into animal feed. The animal feed, it was made up of yeast and all the proteins from the grain, and it was very rich food. And of course, cattle and hogs and horses don't thrive well with a lot of carbohydrates. So once they distilled it, it was wonderful for feeding these cattle. So most of these mills had large feed lots, and they made a lot of money just selling beef or pork or whatever. But then when you distill it this to make cattle feed, there's a leftover waste product, this alcohol.
So they would sell this alcohol to the grocers and the grocers would compound it. They'd add flavoring and things like this and turn it into whiskey, things like that. So it's not like they set out to make whiskey. And so, hey, we're going to make whiskey, let's make wheat whiskey. It's like they set out to make flour, and what are we going to do with the stuff that's left over? And it's really kind of hard to get your head around that because today when we think of a distillery, we think that they are in business to make whiskey, and they're going to pick the best grains to make the whiskey. Of course, a lot of these mills ultimately be turned into distilleries exclusively because there's so much more profit in whiskey. Once they thought about it, they thought, you know what? We're spending a lot of money. We're losing a lot of money by giving this or selling this alcohol off to the grocers. And soon alcohol became the biggest profit center, and one after another, they switched to making nothing but whiskey and they'd closed down their mailing operations or just convertible exclusively. So it really was kind of an evolution, but they didn't say, what, back in the old country, we made moonshine and we should make it here too, and all that. There were those people, but they never, ever became commercially viable.
This is part of what I find fascinating about actually digging in and finding the real history, because in researching Tennessee, everybody here locally talks about, oh, well, it was all the Scott's Irish came down through the mountains, and that's where the whiskey industry came from. Yet the first distiller of record that I can find is Evan Shelby, who was from Maryland, and he was distilling rye whiskey in Tennessee because that's what he knew how to distill. And it was over time that Korn was just so prevalent in the state that, and it was easy to grow and you had more reliability in the crop. So it was just the thing that you distilled. But also finding that these, if you move to an area, if you were a pioneer, if you wanted an area to grow with settlers, you built a mill because that mill would allow farmers to come into the area and have a place to go to mill their grain and have some of it turned into alcohol. So again, it wasn't really, alcohol was the first idea for the Tennessean. It was, I need a place to get my stuff milled so that I can sell it, and then I've got some excess. So very interesting to see that evolution.
There's some interesting parallels between the dev develop growth in America and growth in Canada, because Canada wasn't settled till about a hundred years after America. So you guys had lots and lots of infrastructure when we were still using boats to travel. And of course, the wind rivers freeze and the lakes freeze. There's no more travel. So it really is very different. But an interesting thing about the Scott's Irish, I hear this story all the time. People say, well, Americans smell whiskey with an E because of the Scott's Irish. Because the Irish spell it with an E. Well, there are two interesting things about that. Back then they didn't spell it with an E, they didn't get that from the Irish. Number two, the Scott's Irish were lowland Scotts who had been transplanted to the Ulster plantation in Scotland by King James. Why did he do that?
He cleared all the Irish out there, and those were Scottish settlements in Alster. And he did that because they were Presbyterians and he was fighting the Catholics. And it was as simple as that. And this is another thing that just, people put two and two together and they come up with five every time. Why you have to do your research and don't jump to conclusions, because invariably you're going to get something twisted and then it becomes the lore. And after it's the lore, it becomes the fact. And many of our facts really are not at even remotely true.
I, I actually went in and did some really deep research on the E, and what's interesting is that, as you say Scotland was spelling without an E. England was spelling with an E around the time that the Americans were starting to spell it with an E, but then it shifted and through the eight, the 19th century in the US, it was predominantly spelled without an E. And so when you see brands like Old Forrester, and they still spell it without an E, if you go on the tour, they say, oh, that's because we're embracing our scotch heritage. No, it's not that. It's how when the brand was created, they spelled whiskey. And it's just slowly evolved into now. But if you look in the law in American law, you you'll find in the US law books whiskey spelled without an E in a lot of cases. So even codified into our law, it is. So now you can answer this question for me because this is one that I have heard that I'm not sure, I've never seen the facts on this, but Scotland, apparently Scotland and Canada are the only two countries that actually mandate that whiskey has to be spelled without an E. Is that true?
It's absolutely, totally garbage. It's not true. We have guns up here. Who spell the name? There is no requirement to spell. You can spell W I S K I if you want. Okay. There's no requirement. I love that. No requirement. You have to spell it that way. None whatsoever. Okay. And if you go to Scotland and look at the original Scotch whiskey order, you'll see it was spelled with an E in the orig, I think that was in the 17th century with an E. And then in the document, it's spelled sometimes with and some without. It was just plain illiteracy, right? People didn't to people. Why is the cut sar label yellow? Because the printer made an error and it's been that way all along. Why is whiskey spelled with an E? Because somebody who was illiterate started putting it on labels and nobody gives a hoot. Who
Cares? Well, it's so funny because one of the big myths is that the Dublin four, when they were trying to dismiss grain whiskey, decided to spell whiskey with an E because they wanted to separate it from the country distillers and all the rest. Well, as I'm digging into all of this come to, I mean, the obvious clue is that when you read their book, the Truth About Whiskey, where they were talking down grain whiskey, they spell whiskey without an E. So if they were trying to pump an E into it, why didn't they use an E on their book?
Well, I think the thing that we really need to worry about a lot more than that is why do you guys not spell donut with a G H N,
That's wrong. And yogurt. Why O G H U R D? Why do you that? And color the U in color? It's just different ways of spelling exactly the same thing. Spelling exactly the same thing.
So interesting that when I went to Canada, the only distillery that I've been to in Canada, and I say Ben too, but not into is the one in Gimley, the crown royal plant. Because I went up there and I was like, oh, I need to go see a distillery while I'm here. Of course, I didn't contact anybody ahead of time, and I was coming with a Kentucky sense that there was probably some kind of a visitor's attraction when you got there. And I showed up and I'm at a factory, and so I said, okay, I'm not really going to get a chance to see this. What's funny is I had the rest of the day to try to figure out what to do and found out there was a snake event. The narcist snake den was having their breeding thing going on. So you could walk around a field filled with snakes and watch balls of snakes mating, which is I guess what you do. And when you're in upper Manitoba trying to find something to do,
<laugh> love to work the smell of that into a tasting note. Gar gar snakes have that funny smell when you handle them, your hands smell afterwards. Yeah, I bet you when you got a couple of thousand of them all
Maintain and so on. I bet you it's exciting. Yeah, it's hard to have a visitor center when the distilleries are so far apart because you don't get enough tourists to support it. And if you're going to have a visitor center, then the place has to be safe. So either they all wear steel towed boots or you have to make passages where nothing can fall on them, particularly barrels and things like that. And they have to wear a hard hat, and the stills are insanely hot, so you have to keep them away from that as well. Health and safety regulations in Kansas say that most pot stills have to have fiberglass batting around them so nobody accidentally gets burned. So it's really a different thing here. If you want to want them to be a tourist attraction, then you have to accept your insurance rates are going to be astronomically higher and that you're going to have staff to look after them and that you, you're going to have to have facilities for them.
And then when you have facilities, you have to have all kinds of facilities for them, and people are going to get hungry and things are going to happen. It's this. So I think in a country like Scotland, it makes eminently good sense to have visitor centers. The same in Kentucky where you have enough distilleries that people can go out and they can visit three or four distilleries in a day and spend money at each one of them. The other problem, of course, is that until the pandemic hit, most of these distilleries were not permitted to sell whiskey, so they could sell souvenirs and things like that, but the government wanted to sell the whiskey. So it's really kind of a different thing. And people still shouldn't come here expecting to find a visitor center at the major distills, but at the small distillers, yes, most of 'em have a restaurant or a bar, something like that, and it's a lot easier doing it that way.
Yeah. Is there
An amazing distillery?
Yeah, I would love to go see it one of these days, and definitely don't want to take that big long drive out there just to find out I can't get in the door. But the big plants are always very interesting to see that scale, but then also see the smaller ones and mm-hmm. See it at that scale as well. Would you say most of the smaller craft distillers are using hybrid stills and pot stills, or are they using some form of column? At some of them? I,
I'd say you probably wouldn't want to say most about anything because they each have their own personalities. But yes, you have hybrid stills, you have pot stills, and you also have a lot, quite a few of the small distillers using columns, but they're short columns, maybe like five trays tray column or something like that, which is great. It's like a beer still at a large distillery, except it's a little bit shorter. So you're still getting really very flavorful whiskey or spirit come out of them. Some of them will have tall white, tall, skinny, stainless steel column stills, which they use primarily for making white spirits, for making vodka, and for making a white spirit so they can then turn into something else. So it's a real mixed bag. And there are some really beautiful pot stills in some of those little distilleries as well.
So when you're doing a distillation through a five tray column, still like that are they also doing the bourbon thing of putting it in a thumper or a doubler? Or do they maybe run it through that still two times, maybe get a lighter spirit? Or is there a process there that is, again, not to say standard, but it's interesting to see the different ways that different countries have developed systems and processes?
Yeah, I think thumpers are pretty rare up here because most of them have a condenser after they, they'll go to a doubler, but then they'll go to a condenser. So it's not really like a thumper but a lot of them will, they'll do a run through the columns, then take that, collect that spirit, and do a second run just in a pot. Okay. For example. Yeah. Or they'll run it in the equivalent of a beer still and then put it into a pot. So they'll do a stripping run first and just, it's really quite an interesting process, but it's not really analogous to what they're doing in Kentucky at all. But some of them do have doublers, but and most of them are pretty small, and they don't just do two runs.
So I don't know if you have whiskey around you or not. I got two bottles. I had to hunt everywhere, and I took a picture while I was up in Kentucky because I was at a total wine and I was looking at the Canadian section first. You have to find the Canadian section. It's like, okay, oh, there's the Irish. Oh, it's behind the Irish. Okay, there we go. And then once you find it, it's like you have Crown Royal, you may find a JP Wiser, but I didn't even find that. Mm-hmm. All I was finding was Canadian Club and a lot of the really big names that, and it, it's like that's a real struggle because if somebody wants to get into Canadian whiskey, and there's already a mystery around it because the people haven't been exposed to anything but the big names, how do you get people into other smaller distilleries like 40 Creek, which is what I have here, to taste and really get to explore Canadian whiskey without driving across the border and going to buy a bottle.
Well, let me say that last year at the Canadian Whiskey Awards, which is a blind competition, judged by 10 people who really know Canadian whiskey, the winning whiskey was Crown Royal Winter Wheat, and it's a wonderful, wonderful whiskey. It really is. And it beat some fabulous whiskeys to win that. Mm-hmm. The year before that, it was Canadian Club, 43 year old Canadian club, 43 year old is just, again it, it's an elegant whiskey as well as just very broad in its flavors. So they're Canadian Club and Crown Royal are both really top end producers and they're, they're also, of course, as you've mentioned, the best selling Canadian whiskeys. 40 Creek has won a couple of times with their Confederation Oak 40 Creek Confederation Oak. In fact, they won Canadian Whiskey of the decade in 2020. So I think that what's happening there is maybe in America, they associate those brand names with maybe the bottom shelf whiskeys that those brands split out. Although if you go to Texas, I mean, you can get some fabulous Crown Royal Hand Selected Barrel. I did a tasting there once with six different hand selected barrels. Oh my goodness. It was just wonderful. And so it really kind of depends on the stores that you're going to, and it's more of, I think of a pole strategy there. 40 Creek has done remarkably well in the United States. It's huge in Texas. You go to New Orleans, I bet you can't find a bar that doesn't have 40 Creek in
It. Really? Okay.
It's really, really good stuff. Although since Campari bought it, they've put a little bit more focus on Wild Turkey, and maybe, I think it has maybe lost some profile in America, but in Candy, it's still big whiskey. Okay. You 40 Creek, and you said you were tasting 40 Creek and Wiser, so I brought one of each with you.
Oh, nice. Okay.
Yeah. So I bet from that bottle that looks almost like it's Copper Pot or Copper Bowl
Is the Copper Pot Reserve. So 43 A B V, and I saw the Campari thing on there, and I thought, I wonder if that's why maybe in the US it's all about distributors and what states they can get into. And if Campari buys them, this is what the Irish distillers are dealing with. A lot of them are starting to be bought up, and then they start showing up on our shelves because they're associated with a brand that's already got distribution into these markets. So where is 40 Creek?
They're in Grimsby, Ontario, which is not very far from Hamilton, which is not very far from, it's a one hour drive from Toronto.
Go Tigercat. I have this obsession with coming from Detroit, I have this obsession with tiger teams. So when I was in Canada, I got myself a Hamilton Tigercat shirt because I said, all right, there's the tiger team for me.
Yeah. Well, I went to Detroit and saw Tigers as well.
But they were swinging a bat.
Yes, <laugh>. Actually, it's funny because if you go to that stadium, it's like an homage to tigers. There are tiger headss all over that ballpark. Oh, really? Yeah.
What do you smell in this?
So this one is really interesting because it has, I mean, I get rye, but I get butterscotch and that butterscotch, that SCO like crazy. Yeah. Very strong on the nose on this one. Yeah.
Well, those are oak caramels. If you don't overcharge the oak, when the oak is made up of long chain carbohydrates and they caramelize and they add a lot of sweetness to whiskey, and I mean, that's where most of the sweetness comes from. That's why bourbon is so sweet, because they use brand new oaks. So it hasn't even had a chance to wash out. Yeah, that's where that's getting that from.
So talk about this whiskey as much as in terms of what do we talk about with the grains that they're probably using in here? Is this a blend of something that came out of a pot still and also grain? Or was it distilled in both?
Yeah, was it's a blend of something that came from a pot still and something that came from a column still? Well, it's quite a few different components. In Canada, we tend to blend quite a few different components into a whiskey, because that way every year, of course, the flavor of the grain changes, so you just adjust the component so you can keep a consistent profile from one year to the next. So yeah, this is a blended whiskey.
And you're talking about a area that some areas in Canada, and I'm trying to wondering now where the northern most distillery is and how they would handle barrels. Because one of the advantages to a Kentucky is that you're going to get the temperature swings. It's going to age a lot faster. In Canada, I would imagine three years is the rule, because if you're getting it under three years, you're probably not getting,
Don't jump to conclusions.
There you go. Conclusions,
The aging law was put in strictly to facilitate collection of taxes because people were selling white whiskey and not paying their taxes on it. So the revenuers knew if they found somebody with white spirits, they hadn't paid their taxes because they had
Barrel for two years and now then they upped it to three years. And also think about what happened, what happened what at Heaven Hill a few years ago, didn't it catch fire? Yeah.
Well, we have fire suppression systems in our distilleries and water freezes, so they have to keep the distilleries above the freezing point so that they don't burst the pipes in the water, in the fire suppression system. Okay. Some of them are starting to go to dry fire suppression, and they use chemicals rather than water, but most of the warehouses are heated and they're kept it between four and 10 degrees south Celsius. By the way, we have metric up here. <laugh> not a fan, but anyway so you do get some movement of the whiskey in the barrels as well. Whiskey a warehouse full of whiskey is a huge heat sink, so it takes months and months and months for it to get cold enough in there that the whiskey's not maturing. And in the summertime it takes, again, time for it to go up, but of course in the summer you get big changes between day and night, so you get breathing and so I'm going on. Yeah. We do have a distillery in Canada that has a Dun warehouse that's unheated and yeah, it takes 10 years to get five year old whiskey.
Is that a Nova Scotia? I would imagine that that climate would be, would it? Is it?
Yeah. Yes, it is. Yeah.
Okay. I'm just guessing because I've been to Nova Scotia, I love Nova Scotia, and I'm thinking it's very it feels very Scottish, Irish to me in terms of its climate.
There's a large area of Nova Scotia where the road signs are in Gaelic.
Oh, okay. I not
English and Gaelic in Gaelic.
Okay, interesting. I had done a trip many, many years ago where I took the ferry across to Newfoundland and drove all the way up to St. Anthony. And oh boy do, I mean, it was a great trip, but it was short because I basically had one day up and one day back down. But driving through Nova Scotia on that trip to get up to that area. And then once I was in Newfoundland, I thought I was in Scotland because <laugh> the accents and just kind of the personality. But then this quirkiness that everything is a half hour off because they're for some reason, and I don't know to this day why they, Newfoundland is a half hour off from the rest of the world
And they can't figure out why we're a half hour off. I know. It's really funny, isn't it?
Yeah, it is. Because it's like the bottom. You hear the news come on at the bottom of the hour and you're thinking it's the top of the hour and you're like, oh, no, wait, I'm in Newfoundland. <laugh> different here.
So they've used some new barrels, mostly barrels that have been used before. And they've also finished some of the whiskey in Sherry barrels, barrels that have held Sherry, and it's actually not really Sherry wine from the Niagara region. So that's why you're getting those fruity notes in this as well.
Wow. There is a really nice grain note in this that comes out with all the sweetness of the butterscotch, and then I get some of that, what I call maple in there, but it's really a woody note that's coming in, but it's a sweet woody note that I'm pulling in.
I have to say that I think that this kind of goes a little bit in the maple direction, unless say, I would call it maple, but it's more than butterscotch for sure.
And then it's got this peppery note at the end. It's a very strong peppery note that hit me, especially the first time I drink it. After you've had a couple of sips of it, it kind of tamps down a bit, but initially it's almost like a shock at that peppery note that comes in. Yeah,
I generally find that the first sip of whiskey kind of gets your mouth ready for the second sip, and I find that I can taste more on the second sip. And I think that when you're tasting, see there, I'm getting it now. When you're tasting Canadian whiskey, there were kind of three touchstones. There are 10,000 different flavors you can find in Canadian whiskey, but most of them start off very sweet with that oat, those oat caramels, a whole bunch of things happen and then they get really peppery and hot. You really get that spiciness. Some of that comes from rye, and some of that just comes from the alcohol in the whiskey stimulating your trigeminal nerve in your tongue. And those are pain sensors, the same it's sensation that makes Mexican food enjoyable or
Cajun food, that kind of thing. Yeah,
Cajun, whatever. And then at the end you tend to get kind of a bitter pithy. It's the white pith of a grapefruit if had your grapefruit take, or you can even just pull out the sections and just eat the pulp of the grapefruit. And it's got, it's just slightly bitter and pithy and it kind of just dries your mouth out and it kind of gets you ready for the next one. That is the typical profile of Canadian whiskey. But as I say, there are 10,000 other things to taste in between.
This is the fun part about whiskey. We get an opportunity to taste different regions and different experiences with it. Absolutely. Yeah.
Yeah, I think this is a very nice whiskey
And it's affordable. I mean, it's not a high priced whiskey. I don't remember how much I paid. I think I paid 40 US dollars for it. So somewhere in that range. Very nice. And then jumping back a little bit into the history and talking about things, talking about a situation where we make assumptions. When I was doing some research on Sam Broman and interesting to note for people that don't know who he is and that his ties to Seagrams, especially after I guess he bought into Seagrams in 1928, and then once prohibition was over, he started buying up American distilleries. And this is where we get four roses with their five yeast strains because they all came during the time that Ruffman was buying up Henry McKenna Distillery and the Atherton Distillery and the Apprentice Distillery, which is where they make four roses now. And so really interesting to learn that bit of a history. But I stumbled into something where I don't know if I'd where I'd read this or heard this, that prior to that they were doing bootlegging and that it was legal to make whiskey in Canada, but Canada was in prohibition at the same time and actually earlier than the United States was in prohibition. But then Canada sort of slowly, there were pockets, maybe different provinces that broke out of prohibition earlier. This is all fuzzy to me.
Can you kind of break that down a little bit? When did Canada go into prohibition and how did it break out?
Yeah. Canada never went into prohibition as a country,
Because it's, the regulations up here are different. The federal government regulates the shipping and transport of and sale of alcohol, pardon me, shipping and transport of alcohol, manufacturing of alcohol. But the provinces are responsible for sales. So what happened is individual provinces introduced prohibition. It didn't last very long in any of them. It was partly because the Fed feds controlled the distribution. So people would buy whiskey or make whiskey in Alberta, in Saskatchewan legally, and then they would sell it in Alberta where it was not legal or sell it in Manitoba or it was not legal to make it. So what happened, and when Ontario went dry it, all that happened is that the people who would move to Quebec would buy Ontario whiskey that was manufactured in Ontario, have it shipped to them in Montreal, and then they would ship it back to Ontario to people through a mail order business because the manufacturer and sale are controlled by two different arms of government, which didn't agree.
And it was never very popular in Canada in any case, except in Prince Edward Island where it lasted for decades. But it was never very popular. It was very short-lived here. It was pretty violent for a while in the Toronto Hamilton area, but for most people, it didn't stop them from getting booze and legally it didn't stop 'em from getting booze. Legally, they couldn't be arrested for owning booze or for buying booze or if they bought it out province. And so it really was I think, the best way to do prohibition because it's very ineffective. And Bronfman started a, yeah, Bronfman. It was really a compounding unit in Saskatchewan where they would buy alcohol and add some flavoring, add some imported whiskey like imported Ry or imported scotch, mix it all together, slap labels on it, and then they take it down to the border to the states and the people come to Canada. In Canada, we could legally sell this whiskey to those people. It, it's not our job to monitor what they do with it afterwards, then they would drive across the border and sell it in the States. It was really everything was completely, totally legal
In Canada. In
Canada, this guy said mean. Yeah, yeah. But it was illegal from the sell to the Americans. There's no law against that.
So I read this thing that said that in 1930 the American or the US government had just gotten fed up with this whiskey coming across the border and had lobbied the Canadian government to make a law that said that you cannot ship whiskey to a prohibition to a country that is in prohibition. Now, I don't know if that's true or not, but that is the story that is told when we talk about Broman sending his whiskey to Samia the little French island off of Newfoundland to ship it there so that it could get to the RO runners through France instead of through Canada, so that it would be legal for the Canadians to sell it to the French, but then the French would basically turn around and sell it to the Americans through the us, through New York.
Yeah, I think that's a bit of a myth. The Canadians could sell it to anybody they wanted to, but very often they would would say they were going to commute Cuba from go from Windsor to Cuba or go to The Bahamas or go to some other place like that, and then they would just go across the river. It's only a mile drop off their whiskey, come back and get another load. And the next one, as long as they had the paperwork, that was fine. And as long as they had somebody in Cuba sign that they received it, it was no problem. And of course, that was all set up in advance, but the Canadian government and the American government wasn't a law. They made a friendly agreement that Canada would stop, would inhibit the sales or the shipment of whiskey into the United States. Okay. Because it was really kind getting kind of bloody.
And he had the American Coast Guard in the Great Lakes and so on, and they were shooting people and blowing 'em up, things like this. And so what they did is they closed down the export docks so you could no longer operate an export dock. And that essentially, and it would be around 19 three that essentially ended the shipment of Canadian whiskey easily into the States. But on the east coast and the west coast, they would fill up huge boats with whiskey and they would anchor outside of the American waters and American boats would come out, load up and go back in, and it was their problem. They was legal to sell whiskey on the high seas. So yeah, the Canadian government tried to cooperate with the American government but they didn't put an end to it. Saner was a good staging point for selling whiskey down the coast because you could load up boats there.
They had strong merchant Marine and you could sail down the coast and just boats could come out and get the whiskey, and it was really easy to do that. They did the same thing on the West coast as well, sailing out of Vancouver or out of Victoria, down the west coast. Boats had come out and by the whiskey but yeah, I mean Canadian, the Canadian government, no, Canadians try to be good neighbors with the Americans, and if I think that the Americans lobbied successfully, but there was never a law saying you couldn't sell whiskey to the States. They just closed the facilities that were doing it most of the facilities.
So I have brought out my JP Wiser now this when I walked into the store and I bought the 40 Creek, the store owner came over to me and he said, oh, well if you're looking for Canadian whiskey, you should try this because this is a special one that they only had a certain lot of it that they made and they were offering it in large quantities, but just to certain stores. So if you had a chain of stores, they would offer it as a barrel pick, basically kind of a situation. So this one's called Signature series. It's a blended Canadian whiskey. It's 86.6 proof. Talk a little about JP Weiser. JP Weiser is a historic brand. That was one of the early ones. In fact, it's kind of interesting, maybe we talk about j JP Weiser and Molsen because Molsen I think was the first big distiller. Was he a distiller before he was a brewer, or was he No,
They were brewers for ages before they started making whiskey. It was the second generation that made whiskey and they made malt whiskey because they were a brewery, so they had malt, so they made malt whiskey and they also made whiskey using a mash bill as well. And they used the sour mash process to make their whiskey, because back then was sanitation was terrible, so to prevent infection, they used sour mash because with sour mash, the pH is low, so bacteria can't grow very quickly. So that's how they were doing that. They really became a massively huge distillery in Montreal and they were shipping whiskey like crazy overseas, and they were shipping whiskey into Canada, the rest of Canada and into the states and so on. But they kind of just lost interest in 1867, it was the biggest profit center in the business, and yet when Thomas Molson died it was kind of inevitable that they were going to go broke, go on a business, and they just went back to making beer. And they're still one of the biggest beer makers in Canada, still one of the biggest breweries quite by far. Yeah,
It was mind blowing when I read, they made whiskey because they are so known for making beer that their whiskey history is kind of faded into the distant past. I was going to say this, JP Weiser is a fore grain, so it's corn, wheat, rye, and barley.
Okay. And it has been
Aged, I dunno what that is then.
And it's been aged in bourbon casks in new oak blended for a unique rye profile. It says, and on the nose there is definitely an herbally rye, and it's not sweet on the nose, it's just that very nice herbal character that I love in rye. And then there's a little toasted caramel note as well.
Well, I brought up JP Weiser's, 15 year old, but now that you ta tell me about that whiskey, I'm pretty sure I know what it is, and it's not sold as wiser in Canada.
Oh, is it not just
If it's the same whiskey. I think it is a four grain whiskey that doesn't have that sweetness at the beginning. And it's, by the way, one of my favorite whiskeys for just Seon.
Yeah. Mean the rye is the star of the show on this. It is okay. It does have some nice sweetness to it, but unlike the other that was really almost that syrupy butterscotch note coming through. This one has a sweetness, but it's the rye sweetness that I taste coming, and it's like that toffee is just off in the corners saying, Hey, I'm here. <laugh> really interesting because again, it's challenging my opinions on Canadian whiskey and giving me two different whiskeys here that have their own personalities to them and that I can sort of relate to some American whiskeys, but not actually, when I think of the butterscotch in the first one, I think of more of the Johnny Walker Red Butterscotch. That really comes out sweet in front for me for Johnny Walker Red's, one of those whiskeys that it's like, okay, I mean, if I wanted butterscotch flavor, I will drink that. It's not my favorite whiskey in the world, but it's one of those that brings a particular note. And I love those whiskeys that I go, if I'm in the mood for this flavor, which one do I go grab? What's going to bring that to me? So I now have my 40 creek for my butterscotch cravings.
The thing with the big distilleries is bad whiskey just doesn't get out because there are so many quality control points in the process. At any point they can just say, you know what? We're going to distill this and make it in into vodka
In Canada with the growth, because this has happened in Ireland and it's happened in Kentucky, and it's happened. It's happened in a lot of places, especially Tennessee, where as the industry has grown so quickly, you talked about some of the distilleries doing gin and vodkas and maybe even rum but is there a distillery that is providing a lot of juice to these, an MGP or great Northern distillery does in Ireland that this growth of Canadian whiskey, a lot of it is maybe tied to a source that is providing a lot of the whiskey for these as startups?
Well, I think that most of the large distilleries will sell bulk whiskey. Most of them sell bulk whiskey, and some brands buy that. Maybe not distillers, but some brands will buy that bulk whiskey. What's interesting is that they don't always buy it from the same place. They'll buy it, they buy from a broker, first of all, and they'll buy for a flavor profile. So it may not always come to from all of it from the same place. And because Canadian whiskey is blended, they can adjust the ratios of the different components so they can get the same flavor. Even if one batch comes from a part of one batch comes from this distillery, the next time that part comes from a different distillery. But I think most of the large distilleries do there's whiskey out there on the market that is whiskey, that is brilliantly great whiskey that just didn't meet the specs for the brands that a particular large distillery makes.
And so they sell it and somebody else releases it under their name. And one of the reasons that people don't put the name of the distillery on there is because the distilleries tell them that, I don't want you putting my name on your whiskey because if you take it and you screw it up, I don't want it coming back on me. Yeah. Once it leaves my door, you finish it the way you want, you mature it the way you want, you blend it the way you want. But don't put my name on it. People think that the producers are trying to hide that they bought the whiskey, but it's really the distillers who are saying will sell you. Macallan does this or used to do this. They used to sell Macallan, wasn't it? You could buy Macallan from different places, but it never had a mention of Macallan. Oh, okay. Because Macallan wanted to protect their host style and their brand and the Canadian distillers do the same. And I imagine a lot of Americans distillers do the same as well.
Yeah, because it's interesting, it says Product of Canada on the label, and there's this real drive in the US now to say, well, if it came from a particular state, it should say what state it came from so that we can guess if it says product of Indiana, that it might likely come from MG P. and to build that kind of transparency in it. And it is interesting. I don't
Think, I don't see that as transparency because there are a billion other things that you don't think to ask about. Yeah, I think it's, people know about this, and so everybody wa jumps on that bandwagon. Just like years ago they jumped on the cardinal coloring bandwagon and they jumped on the sulfur bandwagon until they realize that every grain of corn is loaded with sulfur. They jump on these. And I think that people that they get something to fixate on. I honestly don't understand why people are so bent out of shape about people buying whiskey from somebody else and then bottling it themselves, particularly if they add value to that whiskey they've purchased, be it flavor or even marketing in a different way. I don't understand that, but I know there's a paper written recently that talks about what Americans think of when they think about authentic whiskey is that the whiskey was distilled, every drop of whiskey was distilled by the people who are selling it. And I think that 99.999% of those people don't realize that those distillers are also allowed to add flavoring to their whiskey because they don't have to report that. They don't have to tell you that they're doing that. Yeah. So I think there's so many things there that you don't know about to get bent out of shape of sourcing. It's just like, great. Then the distillers must love it because they can do the 1001 other things that they're not transparent about.
It's so funny because people would talk about Jack Daniels and say, Jack Daniels, and they have this vision of Jack and his hat and his beard, and that here's this guy. Every drop of whiskey he was making was his own or whatever he sold was his own. But that wasn't the case in Lincoln County when he got started. The distillers, if one was short of this or whatever, they were trading whiskey between them. So it was like you sometimes knew where the best quality stuff came from, and so you would have particular trading partners, but they were all trading whiskey back and forth. And I laugh about how George Dickel and Jack Daniels have this rivalry or that there's this tension I feel in the air sometimes when I'm down in that area. Yet the bonders who were blending the whiskeys, the grocers up in Nashville were likely blending together Jack Daniels whiskey and George Dickel whiskey into the same bottle. So it just wasn't as important back then as we've now gotten to this need for excess information because we have the ability to get it, I guess is probably the primary reason.
And also remember that for a long time, they weren't selling it in bottles, they were selling it in barrels or other containers. Yeah. Because bottles were just too expensive.
I think that was something, I read this, and I'm not sure if this is that you, the Canada had a bottled in bond act actually prior in the 1880s rather than the 1890s.
Yeah, I remember. Yeah, we did have a bottled in bond act, but really that was just a way for distillers to avoid paying taxes until they actually sold their whiskey. So you could put it in a government warehouse of government warehouse. You built the warehouse and the government put a little sign on the door. Right. And yeah, we had a bottle in bond act. It probably doesn't mean the same thing as yours.
Okay. Drew, final
Question. Yeah, I was going to say,
My stomach start. My stomach is starting to call to dinner.
I was going to say we could probably chat on and on and on for hours, but I appreciate you, Dave, and taking the time and talking through this and giving people really more of a sense of Canadian whiskey and maybe dispelling a few of those myths that are out there. And I am all about that. So I look forward to further conversations with you about it down the road. But if people want to find your book and find out more information about you, what's the best way for them to seek you out on the web?
Well, I hate to say it, but the best way to find my book, it's called Canadian Whiskey, the New Portable Expert. The best way to find out is Amazon. You can find it online in virtually any country around the world. The same with the Definitive Guide to Canadian Distilleries, which I wrote with Blair Phillips. By the way find them online. My website is canadian whiskey.org. I very rarely update it these days. Okay. I'm on Instagram, but more reading than writing I
You have enough time to write.
I have less public exposure than I used to.
Very, very nice. All right. Very good. Well, again, thank you so much and I appreciate you spending the time, and hopefully people will get an inkling to go find that Canadian shelf in their store and do some dabbling around and see what they can find. I appreciate you taking the time and cheers
To you too, drew. Take care,
And thanks to Daven for being on the show and hope you learned a bunch about Canadian whiskey. Go out and grab one of his books. Just a reminder that I'm starting to add a whole lot more exclusive whiskey history content at patreon.com/whiskey, especially some extra stories that may or may not be in my up and coming Tennessee whiskey history book, as well as extended tastings with a little history for club level members and much, much more love to have you on board, and it's a great way to show your appreciation and support for whiskey education. That's patreon.com/whiskey. And don't forget about whiskey history, including Irish whiskey history going on in season six at Whiskey lore stories that is on your favorite podcast app. I'm your host, Drew Hannush. Thanks for listening, and until next time, cheers and slung of a whiskey lores of production of travel fuel's life, L L C.