What is the difference between bourbon and Canadian whisky?

Answered by Ian Ramirez

and Whisky are two distinct types of whiskies that have their own set of characteristics and production methods. As an expert sommelier and brewer, I have had the opportunity to delve into the world of whiskies and explore the nuances that differentiate these two .

1. Aging Process:
– Bourbon: One of the key requirements for bourbon is that it must be aged in new charred oak . This imparts a rich, smoky flavor to the spirit. The use of new barrels ensures that the bourbon takes on the distinct vanilla and caramel notes from the charred wood.
– Canadian Whisky: In contrast, Canadian Whisky can be aged in used barrels. This allows for a wider range of flavors to develop as the whisky interacts with the remnants of previously aged spirits. The use of used barrels brings more complexity and depth to the Canadian Whisky.

2. Flavor Profile:
– Bourbon: The aging process in new charred oak barrels gives bourbon a sweeter and smoother flavor profile. The notes of vanilla, caramel, and butterscotch are often prominent. The use of corn as the primary grain in bourbon production also contributes to its sweeter taste.
– Canadian Whisky: Canadian Whisky is known for its intense and rugged flavor. The use of different grains, such as , barley, and corn, in the production process adds complexity and spiciness to the whisky. Canadian Whisky often exhibits flavors of rye spice, oak, and sometimes a hint of fruitiness.

3. Legal Requirements:
– Bourbon: To be legally classified as bourbon, the spirit must be made in the United States and meet specific criteria. It must be made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn and distilled to no more than 160 proof. Bourbon must enter the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof and be bottled at a minimum of 80 proof.
– Canadian Whisky: Canadian Whisky, on the other hand, must be produced in Canada and meet the requirements set by the Canadian Food and Drug Regulations. It usually has a higher percentage of rye grain, but there are no specific rules regarding the grain composition. Canadian Whisky must be aged for at least three years in wooden barrels.

4. Production Techniques:
– Bourbon: The production of bourbon involves a sour mash process, where a portion of the previously fermented mash is used to start the fermentation of a new batch. This helps to maintain consistency in flavor and acidity. The distillation process typically involves using a column still, which results in a higher proof spirit.
– Canadian Whisky: Canadian Whisky is often made using a blend of grains and different distillation techniques. Column stills, pot stills, or a combination of both may be used. The production process allows for a variety of flavors to be captured and blended to create a unique Canadian Whisky.

In my personal experience, I have found that bourbon tends to be a popular choice for those who prefer a smoother and sweeter . It pairs well with desserts and can be enjoyed neat or in classic like Old Fashioned or . Canadian Whisky, on the other hand, has a bolder and more robust flavor profile that appeals to those seeking a stronger and spicier spirit. It can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails like a Canadian Club and ginger .

The difference between bourbon and Canadian Whisky lies in their aging process, flavor profile, legal requirements, and production techniques. Bourbon is aged in new charred oak barrels, resulting in a sweeter and smoother taste, while Canadian Whisky can be aged in used barrels, allowing for varied flavors to develop. The choice between these two whiskies ultimately comes down to personal preference and the desired flavor experience.