(n.) Legally, Canadian whisky must be distilled from fermented grains, aged for three years in wood casks and bottled at 80 proof or higher. The fermented grain mash—usually made of corn—is often distilled at alcohol levels much higher than bourbon, which means flavor from the grains is largely neutralized. Producers are allowed to mix in a small amount of flavoring alcohol, usually distilled from rye, as well as coloring for additional character. Labeling laws allow bottles to bear the name “Canadian Rye Whisky” regardless of how much rye is used.
Though distilling has been a part of Canadian history since the late-18th century, Canadian whisky only really rose to prominence during Prohibition—as bootleggers funneled the product across the porous Canadian-United States border—and then after, when stores of legally-made liquor flooded the then-open U.S. market.
On account of its stripped-down, light character, Canadian whisky generally has a poor reputation among whisky and cocktail-lovers. There are some signs of life though: In 2010, Buffalo Trace invested significantly in the product in a bid to bring a higher standard to the category.