Canada’s 9.09% RuleEdit Post
Contributed by on Sep 24, 2018
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DrinkWire is Liquor.com’s showcase for the best articles, recipes and reviews from the web’s top writers and bloggers. In this post, The Whiskey Muse talks Canadian whiskey.
Canada is known for their blended whiskies and in fact are some of the best selling whisky brands in the world. But, did you know that Canada has unique blending rules which are unlike any other countries'? Certain Canadian legislations allow 50 year old Scotches, wines, bourbons and other spirits to be blended into a Canadian whisky.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, this rule has become infamous. This legislation allows whisky producers to add up to 9.09% of non-whisky into their blend (or 1/11th of the composition of the whiskey) and still label and sell it as Canadian Whisky.
There are two stipulations in Canada’s Food + Drug Regulations for Canadian Whisky, Canadian Rye Whisky or Rye Whisky which state that whisky:
- It shall possess the aroma, taste and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky; and
- Can contain caramel colouring or flavouring
What this means is that flavouring can be added as long as the whisky still tastes like whisky. In terms of "flavouring", there is additional legislation in Canada called the “Certificates of Age and Origin for Distilled Spirits Produced or Packaged in Canada Order” which is pursuant to the Department of Agriculture in Canada and was enacted on July 1, 2009. This legislation states that whisky that is exported as a blend can contain up to 9.090 per cent imported spirits in it, and still be labelled as a Canadian Whisky, Canadian Rye Whiskey or Rye Whiskey.
Say what? Now, before your mind starts racing with ideas of blending chocolate milk, slurpees or mushroom soup into the mix, there is a lot more to this rule than meets the eye.
This "flavouring" which was noted above is defined as “… any spirit or wine, domestic or imported…” and a spirit must be distilled and bottled at no less than 40% ABV. Legislation further notes for whisky in which an imported spirit is added as "flavouring", the added imported spirit must be aged for a minimum of two years. In other words, while straight bourbon or cognac could be added, vodka, gin or blanco tequila could not.
Take that America! Our blended whiskies must still have imported spirits that are a minimum of two years old in our blends whereas in the US, under their law, their blended whiskies can have up to 80% of the mash bill be a neutral grain spirits like vodka. Don’t even get me started about their Light Whiskey or Spirit Whiskey.
So if you’re still thinking, but Reece, regardless of that, you can still add Port from Portugal, or Sherry from Spain or an aged Rum from Bermuda right into the mix and still call it a Canadian blended whiskey? That seems whack.
Well, I had an opportunity to talk to Davin De Kergommeaux (author of Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert), a bit about this regulation to get some clarification. He noted that most whisky styles around the world except for bourbon, actually add other spirits to them - they just do it in different ways. Any cask finished whiskies (so Port, Sherry, Rum, Beer etc.) has about 6–7 litres of that wine/spirit in the cask when the whiskey is put in because as the spirit ages, the liquid is absorbed by the oak. In fact, it’s actually the whole crux of finishing a whisky. Canada, however, is just one country that permits the direct addition of spirits or wine into their blends instead of having to purchase expensive casks to do the same thing via extraction from the wood.
Now two great examples of whiskies from Canada that take advantage of this 9.09% rule are Wisers Union 52 and Alberta Premium’s Dark Horse or Dark Batch as it’s called in the United States.
Wiser’s Union 52 was a special release which includes a 15 year old Canadian whisky that makes up 96% of the mix, with a 52-year old peated Scotch which makes up 4% of the mix. Heavy, sweet, leathery, if you’re a Canadian Whisky fan this one will really be a treat for your palate.
Alberta Premium’s Dark Horse Rye is made up of 91ish% a mingling of 6 and 12 year old rye whiskey, 8% bourbon / corn whiskey from the US and a small amount of sherry added directly in. Some call it a bottled cocktail, others see it as an innovative approach to blended whiskey in Canada.
Now I don’t know if you’ve had the chance to try Union 52 or Dark Horse rye but I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments. Are you team bottled cocktail or innovative whisky blend? Have you tried any other whiskies that take advantage of the 9.09% rule?
Let me know in the comments below!