December 10, 2015

Why Canadian Whisky Should Be On Your Bar Cart

House & Home Food Editor Kristen EppichIt’s been all over the news that Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest is the first Canadian Whisky to be named “Whisky Of The Year” by revered connoisseur Jim Murray. With a Canadian product like this getting such acclaim, I figured it was time to get to the bottom of this whisky phenomena. So who better to speak to than Davin deKergommeaux, author of Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert.

KE: Crown Royal’s Manitoba-made Northern Harvest has just been announced as best whisky in the world. What is so special about this product?

DK: It’s the quintessential Canadian whisky. Unlike robust bourbons, smoky “peat Monster” scotches or “sherry bomb” single malts, Northern Harvest Rye displays a refined elegance, long on nuance and subtlety, yet rich in flavor. It is also a very complex whisky in that it reveals a wide range of different flavors – fruits, spices, grains, oak, caramels and so on. The flavor evolves or changes in your mouth, again, an element of complexity. At the same time none of these individual distinct flavors or aromas dominates. Rather, they are woven or integrated into a single flavor and olfactory experience that is unique to this whisky. This whisky is the height of the blender’s art.

KE: What is it that makes Canadian whiskey unique from other whiskys?

DK: Blending is where Canada really leads the field, and especially making single distillery blends. Scotch blends are made using whisky from many distilleries, American blends use whiskies from several distilleries, but only in Canada does a single distiller make all the parts.

KE: What are some tips and tricks people should keep in mind when serving whisky? Should you or should you not add water to ‘cut’ your whisky?

DK: I am a fan of adding ice and/or water to whisky. Ice cools the whisky and dulls all the flavors, especially the burning alcohol flavors. Water releases certain flavors that are trapped inside little spheres of alcohol in the whisky. Adding water shrinks these spheres and releases more flavor, which is why whisky aficionados say water “opens up” the drink.

KE: What is the right type of glass to serve whisky in?

DK: This depends on the occasion. For analytical nosing, you need something with a narrower opening so that the aromas will congregate in the glass and it’s easier to smell them. The Glencairn whisky glass is well liked and difficult to break! If you’re drinking whisky for enjoyment, I like a rocks glass or a highball glass. It doesn’t conserve the aromas as an ISO glass does, but whisky is a social lubricant and we shouldn’t get all bent out of shape over what glass we enjoy it from!

KE: If you could give one tip to people wanting to gift a bottle of whisky over the holidays, what would it be?

Don’t buy the least expensive but also don’t overspend. There are many great whiskies in the $30 to $50 range.

DK: What is your favorite whisky cocktail?

I like a whisky sour because it is refreshing, mixes sweet and sour and is easy to make. And I do like whisky in cocktails as much as I enjoy whisky straight.


Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye image courtesy of LCBO