Accounts of distillation in Canada trace back to the 18th century. However, in those days it wasn’t Canadian Club Whisky running hot off the still. The spirit of choice at the time was rum! As the settlers expanded westward inland, molasses (needed to make rum) was less accessible.
As a hub for communal grain exchange, flourmills became a source and lifeline for new distillery growth. Wheat was the dominant grain of the time and quickly became the common grain source for most whisky (often called Common Whisky at time). Rye, the grain Canadian Whisky is well known for was adapted much later.
…and then arrives the 6 icons responsible for shaping Canadian whisky…
1830 to 1860 altered the course of Canada’s spirit with the country arrival of James Gooderham Worts, William Gooderham (Gooderham & Worts Distillery), Henry Corby (H Corby Distillery Co Limited), Joseph Seagram (Seagram), JP Wiser (JP Wiser Whisky is Canada’s oldest continuous produced whisky), and Hiram Walker (Hiram Walker & Sons Distillery – production site for Canadian Club).
Side shot! Worts was never part of a distillery, rather (surprise!) a flourmill. His nephew, William Gooderham, continued the business and expanded into distillation after Worts committed suicide (due to heart break – he lost his wife in child birth!).
Taxation has a massive impact in how the present-day whisky came to market. Canada was the first (1890) to pass legislation (and taxation!) requiring whisky to be aged. This basically ran every small distillery operation out of business at the time. The big producers survived.
The U.S. provides tax incentives for foreign spirits that include a portion of U.S. spirits in the final product. Considering 75% of all exports arrive on U.S. soil this is a big deal! To take advantage of the incentive, many Canadian Whisky blends include a U.S.-produced spirit that is aged in Canada. Since the incentive only applies to the U.S., the Canadian Whisky available to American enthusiasts is different from the product available in Canada or other parts of the world.
Boom! Another shot of knowledge!