In Europe, Canadian whisky does not attempt to sell itself in the same way as Irish whiskey or bourbon does. It has a proud whisky tradition of its own and knows which side its bread is buttered on - and that side is known as the United States. Canadian whisky sells by the oceanload in the United States, and much of it is owned by international companies with large U.S. interests. Beyond some key brands such as Canadian Club and Crown Royal, there is simply not that much incentive for Canadian brands to seek out markets elsewhere.
Canada's whiskies have a light, easy-drinking, easy-mixing style made through a complex process of combining many different whiskies, which are produced using an array of grains. Most Canadian whisky is blended, although there are a few grains and a notable exception at Glen Breton in Nova Scotia where, unsurprisingly, the local folk look to Scotland's single-malt whisky for inspiration.
There are other reasons that Canada stands alone. It's liquor sales are controlled by the state, and it's whisky-making industry, once characterised by hundreds of small distilleries, has in recent years been the story of drinks giants such as Seagram, Schenley and Hiram Walker. Some Canadian brands are owned by Kentucky bourbon producers, and some even include bourbon in their recipe due to a somewhat bizarre law that permits a fraction of a Canadian blend to be made up with another liquid, which can often include fruit juice or foreign whisky.
So it should come as no surprise that some parts of the Canadian whisky industry have an identity crisis and other bits appear complacent, satisfied, and smug.
The final part of the picture, however, is made up by the small number of innovators and trendsetters within the country. Unfortunately for many of us, they are too small to make too much of a mark internationally, but they provide enough evidence that Canada as a whisky market is not finished quite yet. It just needs to get better at opening its doors to the world and telling us its story.
Glenora distillery in Nova Scotia has been making whisky on and off for about 20 years and their whisky brand is Glen Breton. Lack of funds threatened to unseat them, and they also attracted the ire of the Scotch Whisky Association. Despite this, thankfully, the whisky is still flowing.
The dominant style of Canadian whisky is a combination of several different whisky styles, including a number of different rye recipes, often from the same distillery and mainly produced in column stills. Sometimes Kentucky bourbon is used in the mix.