Canada’s whisky regulations are stricter than they look
A story in this morning’s edition of The Spirits Business draws the misleading and inaccurate conclusion that Canada’s regulations for making whisky are looser than those in the U.S.
Comparing regulations for Canadian whisky to U.S. regulations for bourbon may suit marketing purposes, but is disingenuous. Bourbon is just one of dozens of whisky styles approved by the American TTB.
Because Canada’s whisky regulations are succinct, some people believe they are looser than those of other countries. However, taken together, U.S. regulations offer significantly more options for whisky makers than Canadian regulations do.
Let’s compare Canada’s whisky rules to those of our much-loved cousin to the south:
1. Can Canadian distillers make whisky from pure sorghum juice? Absolutely not, yet American whisky made from the juice squeezed from the sugar cane-like sorghum plant qualifies as whisky under American TTB regulations.
3. Must American whisky be matured in new barrels only? No, new and used of barrels are both permitted under TTB regulations.
4. Must all American whisky follow specified “mash bills?” Certainly not. There is no restriction on what grains American distillers can use or their proportions. Yes, there are rules that apply to bourbon only, but bourbon is just one part of the American whisky spectrum.
5. Can Canadian distillers include up to 95% neutral spirits in their blends and still call them whisky? No! But according to American TTB regulations it is perfectly fine to do so in the US.
6. Can American distillers add artificial flavouring to their whiskies and still call them whisky? Yes they can, as long as it is “harmless.”
7. Must Canadian whisky taste like whisky? Yes, it must, but there is no such requirement in the US.
Canada’s whisky regulations are short, but don’t be misled. They are much more restrictive than whisky regulations in the US. A close read of the full TTB American whisky regulations shows that they provide almost no restrictions on what distillers can do when making American whisky.
America makes some of the best tasting and best selling whiskies in the world, so let’s not quibble over which country’s rules are the strictest. Rules don’t make whisky, people do, and thank goodness they don’t all do it the same way.
The award winning book, Canadian Whisky The New Portable Expert won the Gourmand Award for Canadian wine and spirts and the Association of Culinary Professionals award for best book about wine, beer and spirits, and was shortlisted for the Taste Canada Awards. It was recently an Amazon No. 1 best seller.
Order your copy here.