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Mar 18, 2018
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Drink This Weekend Edition: How aboot some Canadian whiskey, eh?

January 4th 03:01am, 2013

Dan Tullio, Master Ambassador of Canadian whiskey for Beam Global, will be in St. Louis in the days ahead to spread the good word about his country’s native spirit. Tullio, who has worked for Beam for more than 30 years, chatted with Sauce about “lighter than Scotch, smoother than bourbon” Canadian whiskey; about Canadian Club – the largest whiskey brand in Canada; and about ways that Canada’s prized spirit can warm your heart this winter despite the country’s beloved puck not dropping on the ice these days.

Interested in meeting the gent from up north? You can shake Tullio’s hand, poke fun at his accent, and sample a jigger or two of Canadian whiskey at a complementary tasting next Thursday, January 10, at 7 p.m., at Llwelyn’s Pub located at 17 W. Moody Ave., in Webster Groves.

You’re a brand ambassador, so give the 30-second spiel on Canadian whiskey.
It started with early settlers over 300 years ago. It was the Americans – not the Scots – all the Loyalists that went north. Many landed in southwestern Ontario. The most important, I think, was Hiram Walker. During Prohibition, what a bit of a maverick our founding father was! He located the distillery on the Canadian side of the river. We quenched the thirst of our American friends for 13 long years … Canadian whiskey in the U.S., outsells American bourbon. We attribute this to the fact that our American friends like the taste of our product: It’s easy, fun and enjoyable.

Let’s talk about the grains in Canadian whiskey.
In eastern Canada it’s predominately corn. Out west, because of the highlands and the dry arid climate, the grain that grows abundantly is rye. For Canadian Club, corn gives it that neutral grain spirit. Rye, rye malt and barley malt – those grains produce the blenders, the flavoring. Canadian whiskey is a lot of corn and smidgeons of these other grains. It’s a master distiller’s talent, craftsmanship and knowledge on how to properly blend those liquids and science of the wood and the length of time in the wood that brings it all together

Unlike in the U.S., Canadian whiskies don’t have a constraint on the mash bill.
Here in Canada we don’t have mash bills, per se. We each produce our whiskies a different way. Typically, the distiller will grab a lot of corn, mill it, put it into a tank, cook it and ferment it. Others produce alcohol from corn, grab the liquid and barrel it. Then [do the same] for rye, wheat, barley – and barrel it. After three years of aging, they’ll drain it, blend it and put it in the bottle. We at Canadian Club Whiskey produce alcohol from corn, rye, rye malt and barley malt – separately. Then we blend those distillates according to recipe. Each marquee in our portfolio has a different ratio of distillates. Canadian Club Reserve 10-year has higher amounts of rye and rye malt, which contributes to the whiskey’s more spicy/peppery taste. Canadian Club Classic 12-year has [a] substantial[ly] higher amount of barley malt, which contributes to the whiskey’s softer, creamy, velvety profile. During the time spent in the barrel, the various liquids have an opportunity to marry, creating a smoother, well-rounded whiskey, rich in flavor and character. It’s like if we were making a stew: If we were cooking the meat separately from the parsley, celery and potatoes, that would taste so much different than if we were cooking everything together.

Compare Canadian whiskey to other whiskies around the world.
Canadian whiskey is lighter than Scotch, smoother than bourbon. An oaky, spicy, woody character: that’s the style of American whiskey. Scottish whisky: smoky, peaty, salty. And Canadian is perfect.

Canadian whiskey is often described as rye whiskey, but there doesn’t have to be rye in it. What gives?
Canadian whiskey has been made this way for many years. When it comes to standards, the government says we must use a variety of cereal grains. Rye whiskey, rye and Canadian whiskey [are] synonymous. They say, “You can’t call it rye whiskey when it doesn’t have rye in it.” Yes, we can. We’re a strong, gentle giant up here.

Canadian whiskies are typically lighter and smoother than other whiskey styles. What do you recommend for someone looking for a more complex, heavy hitter?
Dark Horse by Albert Premium. It’s very robust in character, very rich in flavor. It’s like no other Canadian whiskey. It hit the market in June. We’re working with regulatory folks, so we can launch it in the U.S. in 2013.

With Canadian whiskey, do you see the same movement toward small-batch craft distilling that’s exploding in the U.S.?
Yes. Canadian Club Sherry Cask, it’s part of our small-batch series. We bring in barrels from Jerez, Spain, and put Canadian Club in there for 12 to 16 months. We’re on batch 23. Every batch tastes a little different. That’s the uniqueness of it.

Can you give me some suggestions for mixing with Canadian whiskey?
A Manhattan: take an elegant lowball glass, jam it up with ice, add a couple measures of Classic 12 and consider using a measure of Harvey’s Bristol [Cream] Sherry instead of sweet vermouth. Add one dash of bitters – orange bitters are the best for this drink. Add an orange rind. Twist it over the glass. Really zest that orange peel! Rim the glass real quick with the orange peel. It’s perfect. Now, it’s the holiday season and a lot of us drink eggnog. The spirit that goes in there is rum. The problem with rum: It’s very sweet. You add it to eggnog; it’s overpowering. So consider putting in Dock 57 Blackberry. It amps up the flavor. To make it pretty, put blueberries or blackberries on top.

You are known as the Godfather of Canadian Whiskey because your last name sounds gangsta. Who do you consider to be the Godfather of American Whiskey?
Fred Noe. He’s the man. Seventh-generation Beam family. He knows the ins and outs of American bourbon. And he’s taking on this craze on small batch.

There’s no Hockey Night in Canada with the NHL on strike. Are Canadians just sitting around drinking whiskey? Oh, yeah. We’re quite upset about the whole thing. This is our native sport. Of course we’re watching American football, but hockey and Canadian whiskey go hand in hand. They both warm up our hearts in different ways.

By Ligaya Figueras

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