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Monday, January 9, 2023

The Style That Must Not Be Named

Stillhead B-Word is a bourbon-inspired Canadian whisky.  If they used the word “bourbon,” a lawsuit would most certainly be coming their way.  In 1964, bourbon became a distinctive product of the United States.  Only American distilleries can call their products bourbon (assuming they’ve met the criteria for the style), but that wasn’t always the case.

Prior to 1964, any distillery on the planet could make bourbon.”  After the Second World War, Schenley made Ancient Age 8 in Canada.  Schenley would frequently promote the 8 with Ancient Age 5, a Kentucky straight bourbon, so customers would think both products were from Kentucky.  The only Kentucky thing you’ll find in Canada is Kentucky Fried Chicken, and that didn’t show up until the mid-1950s.  Schenley was one of the largest spirits producers in the world for a healthy chunk of the 20th century.  Perennial bad boy (in my work) Guinness bought them in 1987.  Schenley Golden Wedding, an expression that’s been around since the 1800s, is still available, and made at a facility in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.  I would strongly recommend Golden Wedding to absolutely no one.

During Prohibition, American distillers were left with few options after the federal government issued just 6 licenses for the distribution of “medicinal” whiskey.  Sadly, Mary Dowling’s Waterfill & Frazier didn’t make the cut.  Undeterred, she bootlegged for a while, then moved her operation, piece by piece, to Mexico.  With the help of master distiller Joseph “Mr. Joe” Beam and some clever marketing, her “bourbon” thrived in Central and South America.  It was also loved by American “tourists.”  Mary conveniently set up shop in Juarez, Mexico, a mere 10 kilometres away from the US border.

Stillhead was quite forthcoming when I enquired about this expression a while back.  B-Word is (or at least was) matured in American and Hungarian new oak barrels.  The barrel entry proof is 63%, and all the grains used for this 3 year old were grown in British Columbia, Canada.  It’s on the grassy side, which isn’t unusual for a BC corn-distilled product.  Candied mint, cinnamon, caramel.  Solid mouthfeel and warming finish.  This is, in my opinion, one of the best whiskies made on Vancouver Island, Canada.

Happy dramming,


Instead of dying she shall merely fall into a profound slumber that will last a hundred years. -  Charles Perrault,  The Sleeping Beauty in ...