This Tuesday isn’t actually so terse.
In honour of Canada Day — today — and my abiding love of whiskies, I wanted to take a moment to highlight a couple of the Canadian whiskies I’ve been enjoying lately. And no, none of them ends in “club”!
Though there’s currently no bottle of Spicebox in my whisky collection, I’d be remiss to talk about Canadian whiskies I love without mentioning the blend that started me on my whisky love affair. At only 34.8% alcohol, this Montreal-distilled spirit isn’t so much a whisky as a liqueur, but what a lovely liqueur it is! I’ve described it as having notes of caramelized sugar and allspice, but what I didn’t note is how well-balanced it is. Make no mistake, it is sweet, but it’s not cloying, and I’d highly recommend it as a gateway to anyone looking to transition from bourbon to Irish, Canadian, and even Scottish whiskies, which makes sense, I suppose, since the easy-drinking Spice Box is aged in bourbon barrels.
More interesting than it is easy-drinking, Toronto Distillery Co.‘s Organic Ontario Wheat is an unaged whisky that’s heavy on the cereal. The distillery’s own web copy describes this spirit as “a pure expression of the grain it was distilled from” and “a must for whisky enthusiasts who want to understand what various grains bring to the drink on their own merits,” and I’d agree. But if you’re looking for something smoother or more complex, this might not be the whisky for you. This whisky never lets you forget that you’re sipping alcohol.
What a treat, then, to discover by chance Still Waters Distillery‘s unforgettable Stalk & Barrel 1+11 Special Blend! I stumbled upon this whisky while looking for Canada Day-themed spirits in the LCBO yesterday. I don’t usually buy full bottles of unknown whisky, but this one came highly recommended, prominently displaying on its accompanying tag tasting notes by Canada’s whisky guru Davin de Kergommeaux:
“A tingling effervescence turns initially buttery and mouth-filling, toffee indulgences into clear, clean refreshment. Ever-present hot pepper buttresses a richness of body and crisp cleansing pith.”
I can’t describe it any better myself. Truly. The toffee notes are prominent, though never over-powering, and the lovely mouthfeel — a mild, prickly heat akin to the sensation of eating an orange peel, though not so lingering — can only be called effervescent, which is unexpected but entirely pleasant in a non-carbonated beverage.
During a recent conversation on Twitter, Fred Minnick — bourbon expert and the author of Whiskey Women — opined that Canada’s whisky-makers don’t market themselves properly, and perhaps there’s truth in that. Because I wouldn’t have known about Spice Box, Toronto Distillery Co., or Still Waters — let alone their spirits, which I’ve so enjoyed — had it not been for placement at the LCBO. And I think that’s sad. There’s far more to Canadian whisky than Canadian Club and Crown Royal. It’s high time to celebrate that.