Why you need to drink Canadian rye whiskey now - and which ones (2023)

Buy it now at Caskers $70

Last spring, I had the opportunity to experience the strongestWhiskeyI already tasted. It wasn't a safer high octane kegBourbon, or newScottishfresh from the still or even one of the recent ABV pumpsJack Danielsreleased upon the masses. No, it was a 23 year old single cylinderCanadianryeWhiskey, as unlikely as it seems a suspect. And while this liquid clocked in at an impressive 84% ABV (168 proof), it was actually kind of weirdly drinkable. Of course, I wouldn't recommend more than a sip or two, but surprisingly my tongue didn't catch fire and I could even detect some hints of spice, caramel and a hint of dextrose.

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The setting was one of the Calgary warehouses of Alberta Distillers Limited (ADL), part of the Beam Suntory conglomerate and one of the country's largest distilleries and most prolific producer of Canadian rye.Whiskey🇧🇷 Many people think of our northern neighbor's whiskey as a blended product and this is generally correct as some of the most popular bottles fall into this category.real crown, Black Velvet andcanadian club, for example. And "rye" is often used as a substitute for Canadian whiskey, even when only a small percentage of this grain is included in the wort (or none at all). But there are distilleries that focus on producing 100% Canadian rye, such as ADL.

Why you need to drink Canadian rye whiskey now - and which ones (1)

alberta distilleriesalberta distilleries

(Video) Whiskey: What you Need to Know, explaining various styles of Whiskey and tasting them | How to Drink

Canadian and American rye whiskey and whiskey are very different, so here's a brief introduction: American rye whiskey must be made from a blend of at least 51 percent rye, with the balance usually being corn and malted barley (although producers like MGP in Indiana are also 95 percent or 100 percent rye). American rye must be aged in new charred oak containers and contains no additives if labeled "pure". However, Canadian rye can be aged in different types of barrels (for a minimum of three years), and there is an old rule that allows 9.09% of another barrel-aged flavor to be added to the mix. Caramel color is often, though not always, added to whiskey for a whiskey-like consistency.

Even if you're not familiar with the name Alberta Distillers, chances are you've tasted the whiskey before. Some brands that bottle ADL rye includepig whistling, Mastersons,and Pendleton. There are 21 warehouses on site storing nearly half a million barrels, so there's more than enough whiskey for other brands to buy (although ADL reps don't really talk about this due to NDAs).ADL claims to have the largest column in existenceYou have, and indeed it is a beast that spans a few floors from top to bottom. The rye whiskey is made in this still and in a large still at the distillery, each giving the whiskey its own unique character and flavour. Three different types of barrels are used for aging - multi-purpose barrels that previously held Canadian whiskey, ex-bourbon and burnt new oak.

Alberta Premium, the distillery's core expression, is matured in a combination of three barrels. This whiskey is very popular in Canada and around the world, but it has only recently made its way to the United States. TThe cask version (aged exclusively in new wood) was launched here for the first time in 2020 and has proven to be a favorite with critics and consumers alike. This appears to be a calculated move, first introducing American whiskey drinkers to a slightly more complex and flavorful product and then hoping that the sweeter, smoother, lower alcohol version will catch on - something that remains to be seen.

About the jet fuel strength rye whiskey I tasted - at 23 you would expect the ABV to have mellowed out rather than rocketing to such high altitudes. But distillery manager George Teichroeb attributes that to Alberta's unique climate. "What sets us apart is that we're 3,200 feet above sea level," he said. “We have the dry mountain air, we don't have the humidity to deal with. We don't have to deal with moisture issues except rain. In fact, we get stronger as we age our products. Moisture and water escape as part of the angel portion instead of ethanol, which is quite different from other parts of the country. Does it add flavor? We can't prove it scientifically, but you don't get the same profile in Ontario, for example."

So even if you wouldn't deign to crack open a bottle of cheap Canadian blended whisky, you might consider trying 100% Canadian rye. There's a wide variety of styles, ages and taste profiles to choose from, so here's an introduction to some of the best ones you can find.

Alberta premium barrel strength

Why you need to drink Canadian rye whiskey now - and which ones (2)

alberta distilleries

(Video) Are these 6 Canadian Whiskeys worth buying?


There have been two launches of this full strength rye whiskey from the ADL in the last two years (the third coming this autumn) and the response has generally been quite positive. The ABV is right up there and ranges from around 65 to 66% depending on the bottle. Still, it's surprisingly drinkable and really worth a try for a head-to-head comparison to regular Alberta Premium now that it's also available in the US.

Buy it now at Drizly $65

Buy it now at Caskers $70

Pendleton 1910

Why you need to drink Canadian rye whiskey now - and which ones (3)


(Video) Canadian Whisky: Blended Whisky and Rye Whisk(e)y

Pendleton is a whiskey brand based in Oregon, but the liquid itself hails from Canada - and while the source isn't disclosed, it's safe to assume the distillery is ADL. This expression is aged for 12 years and while it's nice to experience it with an ABV greater than 40% ABV, this is a fine sip of whiskey with notes of leather, caramel, fruit and cinnamon on the palate.

Buy it now at Drizly $28

Buy Now at Wine.com $37

Centeio WhistlePig Piggyback

Why you need to drink Canadian rye whiskey now - and which ones (4)

drew veterans

This is a younger rye whiskey than WhistlePig's flagship expressions, which start at 10 years old, but it's still a tasty bottle and definitely worth using in cocktails. It is bottled at 95.56 proof to honor the late Dave Pickerell (born 1956), whose last project with WhistlePig was this whiskey before his death. The palate is spicy with hints of pepper and vanilla and a bit of oak.

Buy Now at Total Wine $50

Buy it now at Drizly $46

Lock Stock & Barrel 20 Years Rye

Why you need to drink Canadian rye whiskey now - and which ones (5)

(Video) The Basics of Rye Whisky: Drink Pro Fundamentals

Stock and lock barrel

While Lock Stock & Barrel recently released a 21-year-old Rye, which is probably one of the oldest you can find right now, last year's 20-year-old is a little easier to find. Aged in charred new American oak barrels for at least two decades, it is an excellent example of how good Canadian rye can be, with deep notes of stone fruit, apple, banana and spice.

Buy Now at Total Wine $310

Buy Now at Mission Wine & Spirits $250

Canadian Club 100% Roggen

Why you need to drink Canadian rye whiskey now - and which ones (6)

canadian club

Here's another brand of whiskey made at ADL but bottled in Ontario. Inexpensive but very enjoyable, this whiskey makes a fantastic cocktail component due to its balance of spice, sweetness and fruit on the palate. And this is another product that can be compared to Alberta Premium - same distillery, but whiskeys with very different flavors.

Buy it now at Caskers $23

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(Video) Pendleton 1910 Canadian Rye Whiskey


1. What's The Best Rye Whiskey American or Canadian
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