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Flavoured whisky gains momentum

But people continue to order the old classics

Jan 2, 2014

by Alberta Venture Staff

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Brendan Brewster, bar manager at Woodwork in Edmonton, pours an old fashioned. Click here for the recipe
Photograph Ryan Girard

Blame Don Draper. Thanks to his ever-present bottle of rye whisky on AMC’s Mad Men, the brown liquor has surged in popularity, and that’s ushered in a whole new product category: flavoured whisky.

It’s targeted at both Millennials, who are, apparently, more open-minded about how to enjoy the elixir than their parents might be, and women, who have traditionally eschewed whiskey. And while the notion of cherry-flavoured whisky (like Red Stag, one of the fastest growing products on the market) might remind a veteran drinker of cough syrup, some of that new liquid is actually pretty darn good. Better still, most of it comes from Canada.

Davin de Kergommeaux, a certified “malt maniac” and the author of Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert (hardly a trend chaser, in other words), thinks products like Lethbridge-based distiller Black Velvet’s Toasted Caramel whisky, and Tap 357, a product that combines western Canadian rye and Quebec maple syrup, are among the best flavoured whiskies on the market. “When you add maple syrup to Canadian whisky, you amplify some of the woody notes,” he says. “If you add spice and vanilla, there’s already tons of it in there from the barrels and the grain. These are not discordant flavours – these are flavours that really work well with the whisky.”

Whisky drinkers may be experimenting with new ways of enjoying the drink, but they’re also rediscovering some very traditional ones as well. Witness the return of the Old Fashioned cocktail to bar menus and lounges. In order to find out what separates a good Old Fashioned from a great one and why brown liquor is back, we talked to Brendan Brewster, the bar manager and cocktail impresario at Woodwork, Edmonton’s newest culinary hotspot. Go to cocktails to find out why he loves working with whisky, and what makes his riff on the classic cocktail so popular with customers.

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