As a result, many Americans assume that Canadian whisky is boring and poorly made, a misconception that the industry’s leaders are only now pushing back against.
“I think we’ve been apologizing for it too long, and haven’t gone out to tell our story,” said Don Livermore, the master blender at the Hiram Walker & Sons distillery in Windsor, Ontario. “Canadians have been doing themselves a disservice for 80 years.”
Canadian whisky has done well in America; Crown Royal, made by Diageo at a plant in Manitoba, is the second-best-selling whiskey in the United States, behind Jack Daniel’s.
Still, for decades Canadian whisky has been stereotyped the same way Canada has been: as unassuming, a bit bland and averse to change. But these days the country is challenging those preconceptions, celebrating its diversity, its youthful spirit and its embrace of innovation. The same is happening with its whisky.
Distilleries are sending their master blenders around the world to promote their product, and inviting tourists into their plants with new visitor centers. And they are creating flavorful and exciting new expressions: peppery whiskys made with 100 percent rye grain, like Lot 40; whiskys finished in port or rum barrels, like Pike Creek; and weird but delicious blends like Alberta Dark Batch, which combines 6- and 12-year-old Canadian rye with bourbon and sherry.
“People are looking for heavier, bolder styles of whiskey,” Mr. Livermore said. “I grew up on meat and potatoes, my kids are growing up on sushi. What I like about Canadian whisky is that we can adapt easily to changing tastes.”
Though he is probably too modest to claim credit, Mr. de Kergommeaux is part of Canadian whisky’s success story. His book quickly became required reading for whiskey fans, and he became both prophet and proselytizer for the spirit’s resurgence at seminars and festivals around the world.
“I didn’t understand Canadian whisky…