Whisky Police

Back in May, in a post titled, “How Canadian is Your Canadian Whisky?” I introduced you not only to Barry and Barry of Still Waters Distillery, but also to some of our province’s and our country’s liquor laws.

In particular, you may recall that Barry and Barry started distilling their award-winning vodka only as a means to raise a little capital while they waited for their whiskies to age, owing to the fact that Canadian laws dictate that whisky in this country needs to be aged at least three years.

Well shortly after writing that article, it was brought to my attention that the LCBO was offering a product that actually breaks that law. A tipster, whom I’ll keep nameless because it’s more dramatic, sent me an e-mail notifying me that the LCBO was selling “Rogue Oregon Single Malt Whiskey,” a whiskey which is aged for just 3 months, defying

“the Canada Food and Drug Regulations, section B.02.023(1) which says Subject to sections B.02.022 and B.02.022.1, no person shall sell for consumption in Canada any whisky that has not been aged for a period of at least three years in small wood. (The exceptions are for Bourbon and Tennessee whisky which, by American law, must be matured for two years minimum). This means that even foreign produced whiskies must be matured for three years minimum.”

The tipster went on to say that they “have notified the Canada Food Inspection Agency and they have started an investigation” given that the presence of this liquor on LCBO shelves does much to not only hurt consumers (probably literally–aged 3 months?! Can you say moonshine?) but also hurts the smaller distilleries who are playing by the rules and trying to bring us quality products.

Well, by way of follow-up, this tipster e-mailed me back a couple weeks ago to let me know that, in response to the tipster’s email, the product has been pulled from LCBO shelves and, apparently, the LCBO even “acknowledg[ed] that they made a mistake in accepting the product in the first place. ”

So, you can have a little faith. The LCBO is doing their part to make sure that Ontario consumers are only getting quality whiskies and, the odd time they slip up, you can rest-assured that anonymous whisky police are also looking out for your best interests.

Drink up, friends.

BUT WAIT: After I wrote this post, because I was bored, I decided to check out the LCBO product finder for this product and discovered that four stores in Ontario still list this product as being on the shelf. In fact, the inventory date appears to be just yesterday. So, either the LCBO is lying to my anonymous tipster or something is wacky with the LCBO’s inventory.

I noted that their website allowed me to talk live to an LCBO representative, so I decided to ask “Grace” what was up.

 Grace: Hello, my name is Grace. How may I help you?
 Ben Johnson: Hi Grace. I just have a question about one of your products.
 Grace: how can I help
 Ben Johnson: Well, I know that Canada Food and Drug Regulations stipulate that whisky has to be aged 3 years before it can be sold in Canada
 Ben Johnson: But the LCBO product finder shows 4 stores carrying Rogue Oregon Single Malt Whiskey, which is only aged 3 months.
 Ben Johnson:  http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo-ear/lcbo/product/inventory/searchResults.do?language=EN&itemNumber=272302
 Grace: I am not entirely sure of the regulations you mentioned, however, if you specifically inquiring about Rouge Oregon Single Malt, we suggest you speak directly to one of our Product Consultants in our stores
 Ben Johnson: OK. I was referring to Canada Food and Drug Regulations, section B.02.023(1) which says Subject to sections B.02.022 and B.02.022.1, no person shall sell for consumption in Canada any whisky that has not been aged for a period of at least three years in small wood.
 Ben Johnson: I’ll talk to the consultant in my local store about this.
 Ben Johnson: Thanks!
 Grace: Is there perhaps anything else we can help with today?
 Ben Johnson: No, I think that’s it. Thanks Grace.

It seemed clear Grace wasn’t the right person to talk to so I emailed my tipster to see if he or she could shed any light on the situation. Stay tuned…AND BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU’RE DRINKING! Who knows how deep this thing goes?!

6 thoughts on “Whisky Police

  1. Why would we not want the consumer to have the choice? Unaged whiskey should be available, there is no reason to think that it is not a quality product, and even if it is low quality, we can buy plenty of shit beer in Ontario. The LCBO doens’t mind selling that.

    1. I guess this comes down to an argument about what you think the role of government is. Some people think the government should stay out of our business as much as possible and some people think it’s the government’s role to protect the public when it can. And while it’s true there is shitty beer on store shelves, unaged whisky (aka moonshine) is a little more dangerous in that its high potency can actually be harmful to your health and, obviously, can get you dangerously intoxicated in a hurry.

    2. “unaged whiskey” is called Unaged Rye, or clear. Rye aged in barrels becomes whiskey, rye aged in oak for less then 3 yrs is called aged rye, You have choice. The issue is that unless distilled rye is aged in barrels for 3 or more years it is not to be called whiskey. This is not a Canada only law.

  2. Rogue Oregon is 40%. Even if it were higher, how is it a danger to your health?? If it says an accurate alcohol percentage on the bottle, is it up to the consumer to drink responsibly.

    Are you under the (false) impression that oak aging removes toxins from the distillate?

    This whole article stinks of tattletaling.

    1. It’s law. I don’t care if people sell unaged whiskey, in fact I like new make, but it’s illegal to call it whiskey. It might be a dumb law, but if you’re going to enforce it for one guy, you have to enforce it for everyone.

      This post is totally tattletaling.

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