Many whiskey drinkers turn up their noses at Canadian whisky, which is often viewed as inferior to Scotch or bourbon. But the fact is, our neighbors to the north have also been distilling for a long time, and that history has yielded a distinctive style.

Most Canadian whiskies contain a lot of corn, just like bourbon. However, that’s about where the similarities end. For one thing, Canadian whisky has to be aged at least three years, a requirement that doesn’t exist for bourbon. There are also no restrictions on the type of barrel that can be used—they can be new or used, charred or uncharred. In general, Canadian whisky is lighter, smoother, and less flavorful than American whiskey, which is the source of the snobbery around this spirit.

Finally, it should be noted that Canadians commonly refer to all Canadian whisky as “rye,” for historical reasons. Canadian rye is not the same as American rye—it often doesn’t contain any actual rye grain.

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