The Gift of Rye

Here’s a very last-minute idea on this busiest shopping day of the year: rye whiskey. No longer a drink for your parents, these premium versions really can’t fail as presents.

Corn, not rye, is the main grain used to produce the mash that ferments to produce the “beer” that is then distilled into the pure white grain alcohol. Rye is used to produce smaller quantities that go into the final blend for flavouring. Much of the flavour, however, comes from the ageing process in oak barrels previously used for bourbon, or in some cases, sherry.

“Char”, or the burning of the barrel’s interior, lend variety to the taste and the qualities of the finished whiskies. The three recommendations below will boost any cocktail.

The iconic Canadian Club is here suggested in its Reserve form. Aged in white oak for 10 years, its notes of charred oak and fruit dominate the nose and palate. Somewhat longer and more complex is Forty Creek Whisky. The great whisky and beer connoisseur, Michael Jackson, who has just died, rated it first among all the Canadian whiskies he tasted. He won’t have had a chance to taste Wiser’s Red Letter Whisky, a super-premium limited edition of 6,000 bottles made in honour of Wiser’s 150th anniversary, and that’s too bad because it’s stunningly good.

Extraordinarily smooth, and with a lift of delicious apricot fruit and freshness that gives it real distinction, this has a lovely finish of over 30 seconds. You won’t regret splurging $150, especially if you drink it with those who’ll appreciate it.

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