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The rebirth of Canadian rye whisky has been one of the most welcome spirit revivals of the past decade. Historically, Canadian whisky was made with fermented rye in place of, or in addition to, corn, barley and wheat. In modern practice, however, most brands only contain a small fraction because of lax regulations. (In the U.S., rye whiskey — it’s spelled with an “e” south of the border — must be distilled from at least 51 per cent rye mash). Until recently, many premium Canadian ryes weren’t even available here.
There have, however, been exceptions. Alberta Premium, sold only in Canada, has always been made 100 per cent rye grain. And the distiller’s super-premium Dark Horse, a barrel-aged blend of six- and 12-year-old ryes, is a robustly oaky standout with rich notes of vanilla and caramel.
“And it’s slightly over-proof,” enthuses Scott Barber, bar manager at the Bearfoot Bistro. He lassoes the dark-golden beauty into a Manhattan-style cocktail with Sortilège (a maple-syrup whisky made in Quebec), Wayward Order Depth Charge (an espresso-and-cacao-bean liqueur made in B.C.) and a dash of black walnut bitters.
Stirred with ice, a squeeze of orange zest and a grating of toasted cinnamon, it’s a smooth and boozy sipper that makes you want to kick off your leather slippers à la Mad Men’s Don Draper — or perhaps his French-Canadian father-in-law.