The Whisky Explorer Magazine | Issue 2 - Winter 2024

Welcome to the second edition of The Whisky Explorer Magazine, where we embark on a journey that celebrates the vibrant and passionate whisky community. Toasting the spirit of exploration, we invite you to join us in honoring the remarkable individuals, distilleries, and trends that shape our shared love for whisky.

Alberta vs New Brunswick Head to Head Blind Tasting

Spotlight: Whisky 101 Club Hudson, Quebec

The Whisky Explorer Award Winners

Whisky and the Love of Tattoos


Contents ISSUE 2 | WINTER 2024



Why Are You Shitting On The Big Names

A Journey of Exploration & Excellence

06 Contributors 09


What’s Happening Across Canada

Two Drummers Walk Into a Bar


Wooden Stills of Guyana



Whisky and the Love of Tattoos

Coming to Canada this Winter

Whisky and the Love of Tattoos 14



Biodynamics - Is Common Sense the New Science

Stop Judging Women



A Dark Cloud Over Ireland

The New Whisky Frontier - Why You Should Be Trying European Rye


Robbie Burns Dinners 67

The Whisky Explorer Awards 32

Sowing the Seeds Through Love



I Think it’s Turning Japanese, I Really Think So

Head to Head Blind Tasting Alberta VS New Brunswick


Ask Bry 72

Bottling Empowerment and Respect


74 The Last Sip 76

The Whisky Explorer Awards

Disaster Seen As Catastrophe


Head to Head Blind Tasting Alberta VS New Brunswick 32

An Interview with Robin Morton


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A Journey of Exploration & Excellence

Our vision is simple yet profound: to unite whisky enthusiasts from around the world in a quest for discovery and appreciation.


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A Journey of Exploration and Excellence – A word from Mike Brisebois, The Whisky Explorer

Welcome to the second edition of The Whisky Explorer Magazine, where we embark on a journey that celebrates the vibrant and passionate whisky community. Toasting the spirit of exploration, we invite you to join us in honoring the remarkable individuals, distilleries, and trends that shape our shared love for whisky. Our vision is simple yet profound: to unite whisky enthusiasts from around the world in a quest for discovery and appreciation. We believe that whisky is more than just a beverage; it is a cultural phenomenon that brings people together, sparks conversations, and ignites a sense of curiosity and wonder.

But our exploration doesn’t stop there. In the pages that follow, we invite you to delve into a treasure trove of articles that showcase the diverse and dynamic landscape of the whisky world. There is something for every whisky aficionado to savor and enjoy. Dare to venture beyond the confines of whisky and come discover the world of rum—a spirit also rich in history, flavor, and tradition. Davin explores the parallels and distinctions between whisky and rum, celebrating the boundless possibilities that await those who dare to push the boundaries of taste and tradition. As we raise our glasses to our beloved whisky community, let us remember that our journey is not just about the liquid in our glasses, but the stories we share, the friendships we forge, and the memories we create along the way. So, here’s to the trailblazers, enthusiasts, and the connoisseurs who continue to inspire and enrich our shared passion for whisky. Get ready to read, maybe sip a great whisky and let the journey begin.

We are thrilled to unveil the results of The Whisky Explorer Awards in this edition – where we celebrate excellence in craftsmanship, innovation, and dedication to the art of whisky making.

Cheers to the whisky explorer in all of us!

We proudly reveal the prestigious Whisky of The Year for Canada, The People’s Choice Awards and Category Winners, each award reflects the passion and expertise of those who pour their heart and soul into every bottle.

Mike Brisebois, Founder The Whisky Explorer Magazine Mike Brisebois


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What’s Happening Across Canada: Whisky Event Itinerary

Canada has coast to coast whisky events happening again and the only way to influence change or demonstrate that we should get more allocations is to prove how serious we are about whisky so show your support: attend local whisky events, get out to the pubs and of course shop at the establishments.


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February 2024

Whisky Wonderland

Feb 22-24th

Hammond, ON

March 2024

11th Annual Winnipeg Whisky Festival

Mar 1-2nd

Winnipeg, MB

Vancouver Cocktail Week

Mar 3-10th

Vancouver, BC

April 3rd Scotch Malt Whisky Society Outturn Tasting

Vancouver, BC

April 2024

MAY 2024

May 4th

Spirit of Toronto Toronto, ON

May 23rd WhiskyFête

Montréal, QC

If you’d like to send us any festival dates you feel should be included, please email with the details and we will ensure it’s listed in the proper edition.


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Contributors Our contributors come from all walks of life as well as levels of experience. From coast to coast and sometimes beyond, they will bring you stories, experiences or simply the joy of reading about all things whisky (and sometimes maybe more...)

Adam Donnelly @adamtisfortravel | Adam is a 30’s something with plenty of wanderlust who emulates: “Don’t stay still, move with the world around you”. He escapes the every day realities by travelling as though he is the main character in his own movie. A self-imposed and busy hairstylist who lives, works and operates his business in Saint John New Brunswick. Adam also regularly lends a volunteering hand to many events in his community as well as being a passionate advocate for local businesses.

Alex Hendry @drinksdistilled

Alex comes to us as a “Come from away” living on beautiful Prince Edward Island. Over the last 20 years, he’s been a barback, doorman, bartender, menu consultant as well as a passionate spirits consumer. His love for sharing whisky and cocktail knowledge fits in perfectly with the vibe of his chosen island. No matter if it’s drinking a peaty scotch at an Islay distillery, relaxing in a NYC hotel cocktail bar or a shot and beer at a dive in rural Ontario he’s happiest surrounded by good conversation and enthusiasm. Fun fact: Alex once crashed a scooter in Fort Lauderdale Florida, bandaged himself up at a veterinarian clinic and headed straight to the legendary Elbo Room.


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Bry Simpson @whiskybry

Bry agrees he’s a lot! Not only is he a full time brand ambassador and education manager for a well known whisky brand, but also a photographer and a top notch Fortnite player. Bry is most commonly recognized as one of North America’s top passionate and knowledgeable whisky professionals who strives to grow the whisky community by encouraging new people to our dramming world.

Davin deKergommeaux @davindek | | Books: The definitive guide to Canadian distilleries, Canadian whisky – The new portable expert Davin’s dedication to all things Canadian whisky is but one aspect of his worldwide recognition. His explorations have taken him to four continents where he visits local distilleries, shares and pours Canadian whisky. He’s a renowned spirits judge, public speaker and freelance writer with three award-winning whisky books to his credit. In 2016, the Globe and Mail named him one of the 50 most influential Canadians in food and drink and soon thereafter the New York Times stated that his significance in the revival of Canadian whisky could not be overstated. Davin is Canada’s whisky expert.

Evan Eckersley @sagelikefool

Evan has spent most of his adulthood either thinking, reading about or admiring whisky bottles. He even tastes the golden liquid from time to time. After finally coming to the realization that his spouse was tired of hearing him talk about whisky most of the time, he really had no choice but to go work in a shop that sells the stuff (and other adult potables occasionally). Believe it or not, he does have hobbies outside of whisky like using big words that he doesn’t actually grasp the meaning of (or pronounce to our editor’s dismay) and speaking about himself in the third person.


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Harry Brennan @eurowhisky |

Harry joins us as one of our international contributors. For him, it all started in 2014 with a bottle of Glenmorangie but the journey truly began after a visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh. Despite leaving the UK to complete his PhD in History, he couldn’t stay away from whisky very long and found himself behind the bar at renowned Scotch Malt Whisky Society Vaults. In 2022, he migrated to the Netherlands where he continues to collaborate with the SMWS. So far Harry has explored drams from over 800 distilleries and founded/hosts the Euro Whisky Podcast together with fellow SWE alumni and warehouse manager Stuart Ripper.

Johanne McInnis @whiskylassie | Books: Malt Whisky Yearbook 2023 & 2024, Contributor By day a civil servant, mom, sailor and fantastic cook but with one quick trip to her walk in closet she turns into the Whiskylassie. She has worn out many business cards: Tasting society president, story teller, master class presenter, judge and published writer and now she proudly adds Contributing Editor. She is a passionate whisky enthusiast, teacher, mentor and friend. Fun fact: Johanne sometimes experiences synaesthesia when nosing/tasting spirits.

Josh Ward @knowyourwhisky | @WhiskyHeathens

Josh is our resident whisky troubadour who loves to scamper his way through a world that’s full of tasty pleasures. Surrounded by tobacco smoke and peated scotch he’s a tall bottle of Ledaig or perhaps a Famous Grouse. Sitting in the pews while he stands at the pulpit are many a malt fanatic or bourbon drinker alike who all gather in fellowship. Don’t mistake his sermons for the rambling of a madman (although his look sort of fits the part) because this whisky heathen has a devotion worth noting through the golden stories he shares.


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Lew Bryson @LewBryson | Podcast: Seen Through A Glass Books: Whiskey master class: The ultimate guide to understanding Scotch, Bourbon, Rye and more, Tasting Whiskey: An insider’s guide to the unique pleasures of the world’s finest spirit Lew Bryson started writing about whisky back when you could get a bottle of Macallan for under $30 (bourbon was essentially free in those days). As an editor and writer, he’s helped shape and mentor whisky writing for almost 30 years, and he’s had some influence on beer as well. Now he reckons it’s time to sit back, yell at clouds, and keep people off his yard.

Mike Brisebois @thewhiskyexplorer | Mike Brisebois, Canada’s premier whisky expert, is renowned for his expertise, educational prowess, and captivating tasting events, enriching whisky enthusiasts’ experiences and forging connections between brands and top consumers nationwide. As a consultant for emerging brands and whisky festivals, Mike possesses a unique talent for catapulting products to new heights in the Canadian market, driven by his vision to create unforgettable experiences that spotlight brand stories, craftsmanship, and the remarkable individuals behind each bottle. For brands seeking an immersive journey into Canadian and global whisky culture, Mike is the unparalleled guide, a committed storyteller ensuring brands not only stand out but become integral to the whisky narrative, leaving an enduring mark in Canada and beyond.

Olga Varvarova @olgatasteswhisky7 | Olga Tastes Whisky Olga emigrated from the Ukraine to Scotland - Land of the Brave. She fully admits she was completely indifferent to whisky until her visit to the Johnnie Walker Experience in Edinburgh which ignited her obsessive fascination with the spirit. Now, she’s quickly ticking off her list of Scottish distilleries. She has also earned a diploma from the Edinburgh Whisky Academy, writes the Olga Tastes Whisky blog and contributed for Scottish Field and Scotch Malt Whisky Society websites. Olga recently graduated from the Our Whisky Mentorship Program and hopes to distill her passion as a distinguished whisky writer.


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Sean Kincaid @darkcloudwhisky | He is DarkCloud = Whisky consumer, podcast host, writer, smile maker and thought provoker. But it doesn’t end there. Sean, as his spouse calls him, makes no bones as to how opinionated he is while still listening and examining all sides because it enhances constant exploration. He welcomed the whisky world unabashedly with a vigor hardly matched and is proud to share his knowledge and journey with others.

Sarah Renau-Céré @sarahmarinesila | @theweeclan_whiskyclub

Native des Alpes, c’est après ses études d’œnologie que Sarah s’est jetée tête la première dans le royaume d’Écosse où le whisky est roi. Élevée au biberon par Glenfarclas puis Gordon & MacPhail, elle n’a ensuite pas pu résister à l’appel du Grand Nord canadien où on lui a confié l’élaboration du whisky de la distillerie Menaud au Québec. C’est dans ces contrées plus sauvages qu’un carcajou grognon que vous la croiserez, crapahutant sur les hauts sommets avec toujours sa flasque de whisky prête à être dégainée si d’aventure, elle rencontre d’autres épicuriens.

Terri Lam @unbottlingwithterri

Terri comes to us from Vancouver and is a freelance distiller who spends her time traveling the globe, absorbing a wide spectrum of production methods that continually enhance her craft and techniques. Her ability to delve deep into the symbiotic relationship between wine casks and whisky has led to her a relentless passion for exploring the Pacific Northwest terrain, cask influences during wood maturation and the establishment of her whisky company, T Lam & Sons, dedicated to the art of flavor creation.


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Whisky and... the love of tattoos

Artist: Alan Beveridge @alan_beveridge


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Whisky and… the Love of Tattoos

From our series that highlights great whisky pairings comes a piece from our favourite scotchtrotter – Terri Lam, who decided to investigate the intense love whisky enthusiasts and industry people have for getting their favourite tattoos. BY TERRI LAM

This doesn’t involve drunken nights of poor decisions filled with regret nor is an episode of Ink Master or Bad Ink. This focuses on the motivation behind the tattoos among those whose love for whisky outweighs the discomfort of going under a needle. The journeys are personal and inspiring. They are the stories that bind, keep us connected, and build our community. Brands that recognize their loyal fans are embracing creativity, innovation, and continue to encourage the freedom of expression. But what is it about whisky and tattoos that brings people together? Have you ever found yourself captivated by a stranger’s tattoo, curious about its significance? For those unfamiliar with the process, let me explain: Using a handheld device known as a tattoo gun, its needle penetrates the top two dermal layers of skin (2mm) at 50 cycle/ second. Think of this as a glorified road rash - a time stamp that includes bits and bobs of shrapnel embedded into your skin. Appreciating the craft - The lifelong learning journey and dedication to mastering any skill is put into daily practice. In doing so, each preserve heritage and craftsmanship over time. Tattoos artists, dedicated to mastering the craft, adopt new innovations and techniques for applying ink which

requires years of experience. Whisky production is a delicate balance of problem solving, chemistry and art where constant refining and adaptation is also learned through experience. Tattoo artists may apprentice under a master artist or travel the world to immerse themselves in different cultures and discover lost traditional techniques used on our ancestors centuries ago. Master distillers blenders or coopers all invest years refining their craft for a deeper understanding of the spirit, aiming to create exceptional flavours and results. Today, some of the most popular reasons people get tattoos is to express themselves, commemorate meaningful events, or symbolise something deeply personal. Whisky, on a sensory level, can also be intricately linked to specific moments by transporting us back in time and evoking our most cherished memories.

The Bond - Otis Graham, Assistant Blender and Rack House Manager of Westward Distillery in Oregon, shares the significance of the Graham clan family crest tattoo honouring his heritage and preserving the memory of his grandfather. “Ne Oublie” means


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‘do not forget’ in Scottish/Gaelic and is a powerful testament to this connection.

the amulet inked on his chest by a late Copenhagen artist who was a huge HP fan. When asked about the inspiration behind it, his response delves beyond his deep Highland Park passion and extends to a profound affection for the North, the Orcadian people and heritage. This famous picture featuring him has since become a feature in today’s marketing and branding.

Geeky and passionate whisky enthusiast Heather Storgaard dreamt of transforming a distillery into a home and jokingly mentioned this to her husband. Astonishingly, fate aligned

and three days later he stumbled upon the last remaining parts of the once- destroyed Kirkliston Distillery which they immediately purchased. Her tattoo is based on an 1887 Alfred Barnard book illustration. After all, who wouldn’t want to live in a lost distillery? Personal milestones and commemorating special events are ingrained in our culture. In 2019 Kingsbarns Distillery founder, Douglas Clement, began planning the

In 2019, Highland Park collaborated to create a whisky label for the release of Twisted Tattoo. This distinctive whisky underwent full maturation in first fill bourbon and Rioja wine casks whereas the creative genius behind the intricate label artwork is none other than Canadian born tattoo artist Colin Dale, currently residing in Copenhagen. This innovative project aimed to spark conversations about art and challenge stereotypes. The tattoo design itself employs a traditional hand poke technique which Martin had inked onto his chest and was filmed in a four hour live session. In total, Martin now boasts an impressive collection of fifty tattoos which has garnered him the title of “the Highland Park Distillery Living Archive”. The connection between whiskies and tattoos mirrors the connection among individuals sharing drams and stories which are not only inspiring but also deeply personal, vulnerable and diverse. Joining that community is a declaration of our shared love for whisky and self-expression through body art. That bond truly holds a significance in a world where genuine human connections are increasingly rare. Maybe, perhaps by now, this has sparked your desire to share your whisky journey by etching it into your skin through the enduring and time honoured art of tattoos.

conversion of a derelict farmhouse into a working distillery and visitor centre. Ten years later and inspired by the release

of their first flagship single malt, his tattoo narrates his whisky journey – “Dream to Dram”. The attention to detail and dynamic layers within the artwork transformed his vision and demonstrates how close collaboration with the artist is crucial to achieving the desired magical result. Tattoos making an impact on Marketing and Branding - Highland Park Distillery

seventeen year Senior Brand Ambassador, Martin Markvardsen is still flying high and relishing every moment of his journey with this iconic brand. From an early age this Dane had a deep fascination for Scotland then twenty five years ago while on Orkney, he noticed street names resembled Norway’s and observed that Orcadian names bore more likeness to Nordic origins then those of Scotland. Remarkably, 35% of Orcadians can trace their lineage back to the Vikings. In his fifth year at Highland Park, he had

1. The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom, Alfred Barnard (1887)


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Biodynamics – Is Common Sense The New Science?


According to agricultural biodynamic pioneer, Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, healthy biodynamic soil should contain between 3-10% organic matter depending on the nature of the earth and crops. 1 In recent decades, European soils have lost between 1-2%. With the industrial revolution, increased use of pesticides and soil depletion it’s no wonder biodynamics gained popularity in the wine industry in the early 2000’s.

Now, the whisky industry is dipping its toes into this new world.

Biodynamics is a recognised practice that provides much more flavourful products than conventional ones. Moreover it respects the environment by prohibiting pesticides, use of chemical and minimizing pollution making it is easy to


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understand many farmers’ choice. Although popular with some, biodynamics still remains highly criticised and poorly understood. Let’s consider using concrete terms and a simple definition: A farm is one and the same ecosystem. The goal is to seek maximum biodiversity and achieve balance, bringing a certain autonomy to the crop. Farmers work on strengthening the immune system of the cereal, optimising its growth and health of the soil and there are several parts of the process which include:

Cow horn manure (500) - Improves the physical characteristics and biological activity of soil struc- ture. During winter, a cow horn is filled with manure and buried. The end result is a humus-like substance where bacteria proliferation takes place and creates an intensity of microorganisms that is 7X more concentrated than before. From a science perspec- tive - it improves earthworm activity, seed germina- tion and mineral dissolution deepness. This allows barley’s root system to extend, becoming denser,

better distributed, and more resilient during drought periods. Since the roots are deeper and capable of obtaining more nutrients, it lends to why the final prod - uct could contain more aromatic compounds.

Horn silica (501) - Silica is a solid quartz crystal but when mixed with rainwater and sprayed, it impacts the aerial aspect of the soil. Like rocks, it also has the ability of storing and redistributing heat but since silica main- tains angle conformation, it can project the sun’s rays in different directions and simulate 3 more days of sunshine = Photosynthesis promotion.

Medicinal plant-based preparations are designed to nourish soil and further enhance crop immune systems.

Dandelion Preparation (506) – Brings an important silicic acid supply to plant health and tissue strength whereas Valerian Preparation (507) – Promotes phosphorous transportation to the soil and conducts heat by creating a protec- tive coating around the compost. 2 In order to keep the plants at their optimal, the work must be consistent. Trevor Harris, farmer providing barley to the first worldwide biodynamic distillery of Waterford, explains what biodynamic work is: “If organic is defined by what you don’t do = no chemicals, pesticides and so on; then biodynamics is a case of what you do.” It is also demanding and he specifies: “If you don’t see results,

1. Biodynamic Agriculture - Principles, Practice and Results (Gables Farm 2015) 2. The Bio Bros: Preparations. Trevor Harris on the Nuts and Bolts of Biodynamic Preps (Waterford Distillery 2022) 3. Pour la Suite du Monde - Pierre Perrault movie (1962)


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there simply is no argument for such a painstaking approach”.

Example: Trevor Harris encountered a dilemma during the last harvest: “I wanted to pick the perfect time to cut the barley and needed a number of dry days in a row. From the holistic perspective, I would have to start on September 12th because there would have been 3 fruit days in a row, but unfortunately we were hit with heavy rains so didn’t.” This highlights the importance of weather and its precedence over holistic influences at his farm. Biological diversity is stringent but by respecting the land and promoting healthier crops, biodynamics allows a farm to become more sustainable for decades. If the soil is nutrient rich, worms look pinker and fruit taste better, what matters the most = continuing to close our minds or adding a more common sense approach? Science analysis may not prove it

Biodynamic also has a holistic approach that considers the farm as a single organism where everything has an impact on the plants and living beings, including the global forces gravitating around us. Scientifically it has been proven that lunar rhythms influence the movement of masses such as oceans and seas because the pull of the moon is 2.17X greater than that of the sun. Could it also be possible that it affects plants since they are made up of water and sap? Biodynamic farmers take into account the agronomic and meteorological conditions but also consider cosmic rhythms when it comes to decision-making.

Waxing/waning moon phases The waxing phase is the new moon to full moon period which stimulates the aerial part of plants, giving them vitality and better fruit conservation. Full to new moon is the waning phase which is the most favourable time for activating chlorophyll organs such as leaves. Only if the working conditions are favourable and met will the farmer study the astral influences in order to refine his work.

but a farmer can by facts while the whisky geek can by flavours. For thousands of years, farmers have taken into account natural methods, the moon and its rhythms. So biodynamics is not a brand-new concept made up by Rudolf Steiner. He just theorised it. As the islanders from L’Isle-aux- Coudres expressed their convictions so well in Pour la suite du Monde (1962) : “In matters of nature, everything works with the moon which is food for the Earth”. 3

The fact remains: Humanity, from the very beginning, has always been helped by observing nature, considering astral forces and a common sense approach. I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon.

Constellations Rudolf Steiner, the pioneering father of biodynamics, believes when the moon passes in front of a constellation it could transfer some of that energy to the Earth and living organisms could benefit from the constellation’s characteristics.


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The New Whisky Frontier – Why You Should Be Trying European Rye BY HARRY BRENNAN

Don’t get me wrong - North America has its fair share of quality rye whiskey but if you didn’t already know, the Dutch also know a thing or two. Their Millstone 100 recently won 2023’s best rye whisky at the World Whiskies Awards. Personally, having visited the source myself and talking to rye experts in Canada and the US, I want to share with classic North American rye whisky fans what they can expect from the new European challengers. Canada, the US, and the Netherlands all have diverging histories which explain some of the many differences between their styles. Rye grain has been cultivated in the Netherlands dates back to the Roman times. Its enduring popularity owes to the same qualities which later made it popular in North America. It’s a hardy grain that grows in much colder weather and poor sandy soil such as those around Zuidam (ZAUW-dom) Distillery which only uses local rye. Until recently, this was all milled the traditional way in a local windmill, hence the brand name Millstone. Talk about a Dutch way of making whisky! Historically, what little wheat and barley could be grown was largely preserved for bread and beer respectively. Rye became a key part of traditional jenever-making, and Patrick Van Zuidam carried that experience forward with a laid- back and very characteristically Dutch “why not?” approach. By comparison, early Canadian distillers introduced rye specifically to add flavour and depth to their wheat or corn based spirits.

Millstone is by far younger than the big brands making rye whiskey in North America, only starting production in 1994. That said, it’s still the Netherlands’ largest whisky distillery and arguably at the forefront of European rye. One stand-out difference between Millstone and its North American counterparts is the 100% rye mash bill which provides a heavier grainy punch of flavour. This grain has a reputation for misbehaving badly.

Distilling it is a huge challenge because it loves to seize up, turning into an intractable pipe-clogging paste. Patrick tells of vivid stories of wading through overflowed rye mash but unhesitatingly declares that the results are worth it. Zuidam releases Millstone rye in two forms: 100 and the 92 (named after their respective alcohol proofs) and both made with 100% rye. Neither has an age statement, but the 100 is roughly nine to ten years old while the 92 is around five. Tasting both of them under Patrick’s watchful gaze, I found the 100 full of red fruit aromas, a light bready note, and a spicy palate of cloves, orange, and pepper. By contrast, the 92 was immediately fruity and smooth with a surprising greater depth of fruit opening up with the lower age and ABV.


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Zuidam’s choice to use 100% rye isn’t an obvious one for most North American distilleries. The rules regarding rye whisky (and indeed all whisky) vary between countries, with US guidelines being clearest. Theirs must include at least 51% rye and be aged in charred new oak. There is no 100% rye category. The Netherlands doesn’t have its own whisky regulations, instead deferring to those of the EU and oddly, you won’t find the word ‘rye’ anywhere. The only actual grain mentioned is barley, specified for single malt production. Canadian whisky laws are even more relaxed about ingredients and percentages. They need some rye of course but the regulations mainly state that distillers produce the aroma[s], taste and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky. As Canadian whisky writer Davin deKergommeaux puts it, Canadian rye makers aim for something elegant and balanced. Their whiskey doesn’t hit you in the face like American rye or (in my opinion) Millstone, whose sweet punch should immediately entice fans of US rye whiskies”. While all these regulations provide structure, distillers still have to make many choices before their rye is poured into your glass. Beyond the overall percentage, malted compared to unmalted rye is more spicy and intense and pot distillation preserves heavier fruit and grain aromas while column distillation strips these away. The US even has distinct ‘rye malts’, though examples such as Old Maysville Club and Old Potrero are rare. Wherever they come from, navigating all these methods is key to finding new and exciting rye whiskies. Canadian Master Blender Don Livermore stresses this when explaining the approach behind his own pot-distilled rye whisky - Lot 40. Canadian distillers normally distil each grain separately before blending them, so: “Don’t ask a Canadian distiller the mash bill”, Livermore warns. The answer you are looking for is how is it distilled and what is the overall percentage of rye, and Lot 40 is a great example. Unlike the other Canadian brands it’s made from 100% unmalted rye. Even at 40% ABV, it ends up notably spicy, with pot distillation concentrating

the fruity, grainy rye notes which Livermore believes truly make Lot 40 special.

Let’s apply this mindset to European rye to help you better understand and explore them. While Millstone is arguably the vanguard of European ryes, it’s certainly not alone. Besides many small, local producers across the continent, big names are emerging. Worth noting – Denmark’s Stauning and Kyrö in Finland.

All three distilleries age their rye in new American oak. The rich vanilla, caramel sweetness this wood provides just can’t be beaten for balancing the rich flavours of European rye and despite all starting with local rye these three distilleries subsequently diverge. • Zuidam - 49% malted and 51% unmalted rye grains = Bold fruit and spicy undertones • Stauning – Blends barley into its US style mash bill = Light and approachable pot-distilled rye • Kyrö - 100% malted rye = Earthy, spicy, and completely unique profile This is simply the entry to a rabbit hole of rye whisky, a world which keeps expanding exponentially every day. Classic American and Canadian ryes are clearly not going anywhere, so take the time to start with some European ryes and taste this new frontier.

Millstone, Stauning and Kyrö are all available in Canada (Alberta or Ontario, $100 apx.)


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As part of our spotlight series, we are proud to showcase some of the great whisky clubs across Canada. In this edition, we introduce you to a small but mighty group from Hudson Quebec. Whisky 101 Club - Sowing the Seeds Through Love BY JOHANNE MCINNIS

It all started with one man, Doug Onions. After his son Larry became interested in whisky, they shared that passion and truly became “whisky explorers” building up their whisky collection whenever and wherever the opportunities arose. Larry was already doing informal gatherings with friends but the true expansion of interested folks really began on Friday afternoons in his father’s office. They would invite a few people, bring a bottle or two for what Doug liked to call the “bull session”. This tradition continued for years and led to tastings alternating at


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informal group members’ homes. Larry’s McGill Young Alumni group enjoyed the tastings so much that they encouraged him to host a formal one for their Montreal based alumni. As all the various groups gained popularity, this was when Doug first planted the seed of creating a club. In 2010 Larry discovered Ian Buxton’s book “101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die”, which he thought would make a great roadmap for a club but never mentioned it to his dad because he didn’t feel comfortable talking to a man in his 80’s about something with that type of book title. Sadly two years later, Doug passed away leaving a huge void in Larry’s life. At his dad’s funeral was the first time many different people from the various whisky tasting groups met and came together to celebrate Doug Onions’ life by sharing stories over drams of Lagavulin, Balvenie and Glenfiddich. This was where the idea of the “101 Club” began to really germinate. Larry purchased copies of the book, etched Glencairn glasses and monogrammed pens with the name of the club and by December 2012, the first official club meeting took place in Hudson, Quebec. The bottle that night = The Arran Robert Burns Single Malt 250 Years Anniversary Edition 1998 Vintage. When I asked several of the members what drew them to being part of the club, they all mostly blamed Larry Onions whereas others jokingly took credit, such as Ray Anderson: “I’ve known Larry since we were teenagers and introduced him to whisky some time after I moved to Ottawa in 1990. That’s truly where our whisky journey began. Our first festival was Whisky Live in Toronto”. Other members such as Alex Grecoff and Perry Loyello ended up as coworkers/ good friends with Larry & Doug at Investors Group and took part in the infamous bull sessions as well as many fishing trips. For some, it was a family affair. McGill Alumni Sridar Narayanan told his brother about the club and invited him to a meeting, Sriram joined on the spot. Some of their most memorable moments were shared with me. For Julie Danztigian, it was during the club’s first trip to Scotland. Towards the end of the trip, half of the club were headed back home where they made an impromptu stop at Tomintoul. At first they were advised that the distillery was closed for maintenance but when staff found out the

group were Canadian whisky enthusiasts, not only were they welcomed in for a dram, they shared their whisky with some of the Hillman family (distiller owner). Julie will never forget the stories told that day or the warm hospitality that was extended. For Larry it was a full circle moment made possible by Igor Kossov, club friend and independent bottler (Heads & Tails Spirits Co.) In 2022, when the Whisky 101 Club celebrated its 10th anniversary, Larry wanted to pay tribute to his dad because without him the club may never have existed. He asked Igor if he could possibly find a bottle of Highland Park and for those that know Igor, the answer was: “ABSOLUTELY!” The label was designed based on a photo taken of Doug when they had visited the Orkneys and the result was a Whisky 101 club bottling of a Highland Park 22 year old called Doug’s Choice. Larry opened the bottle at the 2022 New Brunswick Spirits Festival, which was the first time many friends had seen each other since

the pandemic. Larry spoke lovingly about his dad, what this special bottle meant and why it was so important that it be opened with extraordinary friends. I can tell you from personal experience, there was not a word spoken or a dry eye in the room when we imbibed this beautifully dedicated dram and moment.

There have also been some very funny moments treasured at this club. Ray Anderson recalled the “Bubblicious and cheese” incident. One of the whiskies listed in Ian Buxton’s book was from the Netherlands and Ray’s in-laws offered to purchase the bottle while they were on a trip there. In January of 2017, as the bottle was being poured and sampled Ray noticed members reacting in a fashion like nothing he had ever seen before. When his pour came and he gave it a sniff that’s when he dubbed it: Bubblicious gum and cheese. To this day, Ray holds the record for most unappealing whisky at a club tasting. The whisky = Frysk Hynder.

In 2024, the club still has most of its Alumni core, but with a few new faces that don’t even live in the province.


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New members are welcomed with open arms, and taken in as though they always belonged. Which led me to ask why they felt it was important to be part of a whisky club. For Julie who didn’t really know much about whisky before she joined – it’s about the people and the memories that are created. For Patrick Liew it’s the journey of learning for yourself but also from others all the things that make whisky so unique and interesting. For Ray and Perry, they highly recommend joining a whisky club because it allows people to taste drams they would likely never buy on their own. For Larry, it’s the fact that people come from all different walks of life but end up building rich relationships and memorable moments based on one shared passion.

colleagues, fellow university alumni or friends from across the country, everyone gets along as if they have known each other for years”. Clubs are truly a great way to learn, share and of course create a lifetime of memories. Congratulations to the Whisky 101 Club, may you celebrate another fantastic 10 years into the future. And as the members clearly demonstrate = A seed planted with love, not only grows but flourishes in the place we call the whiskyfabric. Do you want your club to be featured in the next Whisky Explorer Magazine? Email us at and let us help you share your story.

I always love to ask people what their favourite whisky words are or which bottle stands out as the best (so far)… Favourite word for many – Dirty dram. As for a whisky that stood out, each member had a very distinct one that was linked to a specific moment or memory. • The first club bottling – Igor’s independent bottling of a Ledaig • Roch Comeau’s Hibiki 30 year old • Tasting AncNocs with Gordon Bruce in Cornwall Ontario • Glenfarclas Single Sherry Cask 1973 (27 years old), a gift from a friend (NICE FRIEND) I’ll finish this article with something Larry mentioned during the interview: “The membership may have changed a little bit as we now have members from 3 other provinces. What still strikes me the most about this club is how the rapport between all of these very different individuals is almost immediate, it doesn’t matter if they were my friends, work


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I Think It’s Turning Japanese, I Really Think So…

BY EVAN ECKERSLEY But firstly - poetry:

There once was a man named Taketsuru, who dreamed of being a whisky guru He made a plan to journey to Scotland from Japan, and learn everything there that they knew

His knowledge quickly compounded, making whisky was easier than it sounded He returned to his country and life along with Rita Cowan his new wife, then Yamazaki Distillery was founded

It’s not possible to tell the Yamazaki story without citing the owners; House of Suntory But then Taketsuru left and with balls of some heft, he established Nikka and brought it to glory

Well, that confirms it: I may suck at poetry but if you want to learn more about Japan’s first whisky making century

bottling. I mean, everyone loves whisky sporting a fake tan, am I right? Thankfully, a few countries like Germany mandate this additive be listed on labels. I wish Canada did! Canada: The 9.090% rule allows adding other “spirit” - aged for at least two years, but if it’s a blended whisky being exported and it contains more than 9.090% of other spirits, it requires a certificate of Age and Origin that specifies the percentages of spirits AND the label cannot say Canadian whisky, Rye whisky or Canadian Rye whisky. Clear as mud, right? USA: Whiskey is aged in wooden vessels but has no minimum time listed in regulations. So… Pabst Blue Ribbon Whiskey proudly states that it is aged in wood for an entire 5 seconds before bottling. Assuming it’s because PBR-loving hipsters don’t have time to wait for something to age and potentially taste good. Wait - that explains a lot now that I think about it. But I digress…

use the Google machine and find a few reliable websites. In 2024, Japanese whisky is thriving with new distilleries starting production all over the country in addition the IDEA of Japanese Whisky is booming globally. It is not only foreign and unknown but also undefinable and difficult to find, which makes it all the

more enticing to try. Everybody wants it, but yet most don’t know what “it” is. So what makes Japanese Whisky, umm… Japanese?

Let’s examine some whisky-producing

country differing regulations and quirks.

Scotland & Ireland: No requirement to disclose the addition of E150A (spirit caramel colour enhancement) before

India: Sugar and/or molasses spirit can be blended with a small portion of grain whisky and still be called whisky.


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These cannot be sold on the international market as whisky, but that is a tremendous amount of rum/whisky hybrids available in that country so when there, be careful if you are looking to buy actual Indian whisky. Japan: Welcome to the wild wild east where spirit sourced from anywhere on this planet and “bottled” in Japan = Japanese Whisky! • Current definition includes fermented and aged rice, sweet potato, sugarcane or other grain spirits classified as Shōchū, when released within Japan. • No minimum age rule: neutral/unaged spirit can also be blended in with Japanese Whisky and still be called whisky. • Some of Japan’s spirits conglomerates own/distill elsewhere but then ship to Japan for ageing/bottling.

Fermentation, and Distillation - must be carried out at a distillery in Japan, and the distillate must be less than 95% ABV. • Aging: In wooden casks (maximum 700 litres capacity) and matured in Japan for at least 3 years. • Bottling: In Japan, 40% ABV minimum. • E150A can be used. • Article 6 for labelling - prevents phrases, images or names that evoke Japanese influence on any products not adhering to the regulations. However – this is not law, only rules that association members must abide by and there are no penalties should regulations be broken, unlike the Scotch Whisky Association which is well-known for court battles against anyone trying to mimic “Scotch” in any way or form.

The Whisky interpretations are so wide and loose, you could drive ten tanker-trailers filled with spirits through it! There are plenty of bottles of mysterious provenance labelled Japanese whisky available right now on the worldwide market and likely on personal shelves at home. Some companies are importing whisky/spirit into Japan from countries like Japanese

Luckily, most of the big players in Japanese Whisky are involved. Nikka, for instance, has started using printed disclosures. Their “From the Barrel” doesn’t meet the new regulations but the “Taketsuru Pure Malt” does. How will the Japanese Whisky industry police itself? Will it have the strength to protect consumers from the companies hiding their mystery bottles behind pretty labels? Will they irreversibly damage their integrity because we know some whiskies are bogus? We will have to wait and see…

Scotland or Canada, bottling it, slapping on a label with Kanji characters, a fanciful name or maybe something Japanesque to make it seem authentic and BAM = There you have it - Japanese Whisky! But that’s all about to change on April 1, 2024 when new regulations from the Japanese Spirits & Liqueurs Makers Association (JSLMA) go into effect. • Raw ingredients: Limited to malted grains, other cereal grains, and water extracted in Japan. Malted grains must always be used. • Production: Saccharification (breaking down complex carbohydrates into its component sugar molecules),

In the meantime, it’s your money so buy what you like and if it’s important that a Japanese Whisky meets the regulations then go to its website, hit the translation button and see if they do. If you can’t even find basic information about the whisky, chances are it does not. Either way, let the whisky be judged on its own merit.

Until next time, cheers!

Evan Full transparency: This may or may not have been written from an undisclosed part of the country that may or may not be Canada.


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Bottling Empowerment and Respect

“I’m more and more struck with a surprising notion – it’s evolving with fresh faces, new leaders and visionaries stepping up no matter the gender, race or back ground”


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Bottling Empowerment and Respect with Shaylyn Gammon BY OLGA VARVAROVA

Soon after starting my blog, my thoughts were hijacked by: “No one will read this, why would they, and you know nothing about whisky” and like a colony of bees buzzing and stinging they prevented me from simply hitting PUBLISH. I’m not only an immigrant but more importantly a woman who wants to make her name in an industry that’s traditionally led by and caters to men. Yet, I’m more and more struck with a surprising notion – it’s evolving with fresh faces, new leaders and visionaries stepping up no matter the gender, race or background. I recently interviewed Shaylyn Gammon, Coors Spirits Co. Head of Innovation and Development for Whiskies, spearheading that new wave in the USA. Shaylyn hadn’t decided on a college major but when she found Food Science, a relatively unknown degree covering food microbiology, engineering, sensory science, and everything in between, and being a curious foodie - she went for it. It’s given her a unique perspective within the alcohol industry. She started in the fundamental role of Research & Development Specialist at Wild Turkey (Campari group) in Kentucky where she learned a great deal from Norm Matella, Eddie and Jimmy Russell. Unlike most behind-the- scenes food and beverage scientists, Shaylyn worked closely with the respective brand marketing teams. Thus began speaking a very specific language that fell squarely between the technical spirits innovation and consumer-driven brand marketing worlds. When the dream-like Whisky Director position became available at Blue Run, it was the lifetime opportunity to apply everything she’d learned so far. It’s one thing to be allowed the freedom to realize whiskey creation visions but to have all five of the Blue Run founders cheering and encouraging her from the get-go played a big part in her confidence level of to jump into a less familiar startup

culture. Her role is to not only assess the direction of the spirits but also the company, understand inventory, gaps, and how to fill them through sourcing and distilling. She attacks this from a flavor and story-telling perspective plus the technical and quality perspective. Shaylyn is heavily involved in: Grain selection, distilling with the esteemed Jim Rutledge and all the way to bottling. The exciting part is the prospect of creating a whiskey the world hasn’t experienced yet and since Blue Run doesn’t solely produce their own product yet and still sourcing, she ensures that the spirit offers its best version through blending. Shaylyn is considered to be a super-taster, technically, someone with more tastebuds than an average person. She considers it a superpower whereas her family thinks it’s annoying because she notices everything, good and bad! This has proven invaluable as a whisky blender because she is able to sense and identify tiny nuances, then manipulate them to create the exact flavors she is looking. To the opposite end when inspecting whiskeys from other producers, finding something off is critically important.


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