So my quest while I’m in Canada is to see, smell, taste, and experience as much as possible, and being into scotch, this includes the local spirits of course! Whilst I’ve been here I’ve been keeping an eye out for interesting whiskies from local producers to get a flavour for what the best Canadian whisky is like.
The quintessential Canadian whisky is Rye. Grown in the sprawling plains of Canada, rye is a cereal crop used mostly to make rye bread, but also whisky and vodka. Alberta is the world’s biggest producer of rye whisky and exports quite a bit to the US to be mixed with Bourbon or sold as 100% ryes. A 90% rye – Crown Royal’s Harvest Rye, was declared the best whisky in the world for 2016!
Obviously then, I’m keen to try as many ryes as possible, and bring a bottle or two home. But how do I make my souvenirs special, make them mean something? A lot of the trinkets I’ve collected have meaning, tickets from ball games, my paddle from Algonquin, etc. Well why not age my own rye!? “Impossible!” you say, “whisky takes years to age and you’re only in Canada for another 12 months”. Well that’s with a big barrel, I’ve procured a tiny little 1L one. And that means I can fast age my spirit of choice over the summer!
To acquire my little summer project, I travelled up to the Toronto Distillery Company and got to hand pick my barrel in their distillery, and try some of the things I could put in it. There was a wheat spirit and a corn one (the corn had a real “blow your face off” moonshine feel to it), but I wanted the pure rye experience and picked up 3 small bottles to age in my apartment over the summer.
I heard on a distillery tour a few years back that 98% of a whisky’s flavour comes from the ingredients and 2% comes from the marketing spiel from the distillery: The waves crashing on the distillery, the sheep itching their bums on the barrels stored outside, the earth of the riverbank where they collected the water, etc. This is the bit that most people clutch at in those tasting notes you read around. I’m hoping my 2% will be a flavour of time here in Toronto, perhaps there really is something in the air on Queen Street West.