By Andy Young
One of the largest whisky brands in Canada is finally making the move to Australia.
JP Wiser's, which is owned by Pernod Ricard, is a double distilled and generally lighter style of whisky and two expressions will be available in Australia. The Triple Barrel and 18-Year-Old are all now here in both on- and off-premise. Also being released by Pernod Ricard at the same time are two other Canadian whiskies, Pkie Creek and Lot 40 Rye Whisky.
TheShout sat down with master distiller Don Livermore to talk about the brand and about Canadian whisky, which Livermore described as "the most innovative whisky category there is".
He justified that comment by explaining: "They give us latitude on a number of things; there are some concrete rules but that's it. We've got a minimum of 40 per cent alcohol; made of grain; fermented, aged and distilled in Canada; aged in a wooden barrel of less than 700 litres and a minimum of three years.
"So in other words they don't tell us a percentage of grain, they don't tell us the strength we distil at, the way we distil it, or the types of wood and barrels. So when you look at it as a blender, I call it my painter's palate because I'm not constrained, which makes it fun."
With a PhD in Brewing and Distilling, Livermore's passion for the science and the brand is evident when you speak to him.
He took TheShout through the four whiskies that have been brought to this country.
The first whiskey in the range is the JP Wiser's Triple Barrel, which uses three different types of barrels: virgin oak, once used American Bourbon barrels and Canadian whisky barrels.
Livermore said: "What I did with this whisky is I went to an 1869 tax manual. They were taxed on the grain they purchased back then, so I went back to the manual and looked to see what JP Wiser was putting into his whiskies in that time period and that's what I have developed here. I blended in the corn, the rye and the barley that he used in this style of whisky.
"When we nose it you get that peppery, that spiciness that you normally get with a rye whisky. You also get a sweetness to it and that's because of the barrels we use.
"So you've got a complex whisky here, aged five to nine years and this whisky is really designed for versatility. You can make cocktails, neat, ice and that's the design and this is what a Canadian whisky would have looked like in the 1860s."
Next up is the Lot 40 Single Copper Pot Rye Whisky, Livermore said: "This is column and pot distilled and it's 100 per cent rye. So you're going to get the spiciness and fruity-floral; this is the most concentrated form of a whisky that we make. It is aged five to nine years in virgin oak barrels. It is as complex a whisky as you're going to get in Canada, it's almost like our single malt Scotch, but it's rye.
"Bartenders love it because there is a spice to it for their cocktails, Old Fashioneds and Manhattans. Bartenders in New York, Chicago and San Francisco can't get enough of this whisky right now."
Moving on to the JP Wiser's 18-year-old Livermore said: "It is double distilled through two column stills, so that makes a light-style whisky and then it’s aged for 18 years.
"This is the taste and smell of the Angels' Share."
And for the last in the range, Pike Creek, Livermore said that this "really demonstrates the innovativeness of Canadian whisky."
He added: "It is a 10-year-old, double distilled whisky. Then after 10 years of aging we put it into a Port barrel for 100 days. So we end up with this very smooth whisky, if people want smooth this is the whisky I point them towards. It's almost dangerously smooth.
"It's very rich and that is what the Port does to it."
Livermore concluded by saying: "My hope is: we make really good whisky, Canadians know it, but it's getting out there and telling that story."
The JP Wiser's range is now available through the three Coles Liquor outlets and will be going into a small number of key on-premise establishments, which will be built on slowly.