Stop writing me to tell me that I just don't understand Canadian and Irish. I do. These are different styles to the Scotch, bourbon and rye that I most enjoy. The problem is that so many that are sold in America are not different but inferior, and the only reason that many people think otherwise is that add-supported softball review blogs say otherwise. Here is my case:
I love all well-distilled whiskies, whether they be from Japan or Kentucky, and made out of rye, corn or barley. The best examples show craft in distillation that displays the true flavor of the grain, as well as in aging that displays the depth of secondary flavors that aging in wood can bring. This is almost guaranteed in "straight" American whiskey, due to legal limits on distillation and entry proof, as well as the mandate to age in fresh barrels. Single malts similarly have pretty stringent parameters that dictate at least some minimal quality. However, the regulations on Irish and Canadian are less stringent, and so companies that would like to make more profit have used the following maneuvers that uncritical fans have accepted as "the style," such
- Large proportions of relatively flavorless, but cheap high proof grain whisky = less or off-putting flavor
- Terribly re-used, but cheap oak = makes the age statements nearly meaningless, especially in cold climates, ending very little barrel character or age notes
- Low ABV, because water is cheap = less flavor
What these all have in common are that they are cost-saving measures, not "part of the style." I say there are very nice Irish and Canadian whiskies, but almost to a one the better they are, the more likely they are use more malt (or rye/corn if Canadian), fresher barrels and to be presented at higher proof.
The issue, for me, is that these good ones are hard to find and expensive in the Northeast US, whereas the cheap ones cannot usually compete with straight American whiskey which has no neutral spirits, or caramel color. Many good, cheap options are also to be had at reasonable proof.
An exception to this would be the Alberta-sourced Jefferson's 10 year rye which is $35, new oak, 94 proof and 100% rye: more like this is what distillers could do in Canada. In Ireland, more single malts or pure pot still whiskies (Redbreast, Green Spot) , or at least more reasonable blending (Middleton).
Shitty Canadian or Irish whiskeys would be acceptable if they were at least cheap, but as it stands, the US market is full of over-marketed, whisky-flavored vodka. I think that buying a 750ml bottle of Jameson is like buying 250ml of decent whisky and 250 each of Everclear and water. But rather than being angry about this, consumers have become so convinced by advertising above urinals that they actually defend the stuff and send me hatemail.
Anyway, as I responded to a recent commenter, you can all rest easy: as I buy all the whisky for this blog myself, and work pretty hard to make it, I'll not be spending any of it on this stuff in the forseeable future.
On to more positive thougts and reviews: I have some Wild Turkey American Spirit, Talisker DE/10/18, and Hirsch 25 rye open, so I think we should have some pleasant reviews coming.