Their is only a small number of distilleries in Canada, majority of production occurs at 8. Canadian whisky is a diverse category because distillers focus on blends.
Almost all distillers rely on their own production, in order to meet the needs of the blenders the distilleries are set up to create a number of flavour streams.
Largely speaking the blending components are be divided into 2 types.
There is no restriction on the grains that can be used
Corn > nearly all base whisky
Wheat > sometimes used in base whisky
Rye > flavouring whisky, Canada produces the most whisky made from rye
Barley > flavouring whisky
Mashing and Fermenting
Canada uses more rye than any other country. Canadian whisky has been defined by the flavours resulting from the addition of small quantities of rye flavouring whisky to base whiskies.
Rye, even in small quantities has a defining impact. Due to this long continous tradition of using rye, whisky can be labelled
Canadian rye Whisky
Grains are processed separetly, come together in the blending stage
Barley mashes are created by:
Grain starts to germinate artificially by creating ideals levels of moisture and temperature.
For 2-3 days the barley is placed into water, then stepped, then drained.
The moisture level is raised to the level needed for germination w/o drowning.
When the barley starts to grow it is called GREEN MALT.
Green malt must not dry out and the temperature has to be controlled. Too high (kill and stop germination)
Whilst the grains are modifying the starches into soluble sugar the grains are constantly turned to avoids roots knotting together.
Green malt (once modification is complete) is placed into a kiln.
Kiln > heated and dried to stop germination w/o damaging the enzymes.
At this point peat can be introduced. Peat will be used as fuel. As peat burns it gives off a perfumed smoke that is rich in flavour compounds(phenolics). For the peat to impart a flavour the temperature of the kiln must not be too hot, lowering the temperature of the kiln will have a greater effect.
Corn, wheat, rye
Cooked in pressure cookers at a high temperature 144c, to hydrolyse the starch. Conversion is completed by using a small amount of barley or added enzymes.
Commercial Yeast > Base whisky
Proprietary Yeast > Flavour whisky to generate specific flavours
Base Whisky - either column or pot stills. Relatively lightly flavoured.
Flavouring Whisky - pot stills
New and old ex-bourbon barrels > 200L heavily charred american oak
European sources > Port and Cognac used to finish whiskies
Wide range of styles and blends.
Less expensive, large brands eg. Canadian Club have a soft character due to the high percentage of corn-base whiskies used.
Caramel and 9.09% of the blend can come from a non-whisky source.
Law was brought in to help Canadian whisky be more competitive in the US market.
Spirits that are minimum 2 years old
HRS - 95% or more are NOT allowed
Wine - of any age
Some distillers use a small amount of rye for an extra spicy touch. Sherry used in small amounts lift out the fruity notes that are naturally present.