I first met the author of this book, Davin De Kergommeaux, at the Bourbon Affair in 2016. We shared a table, signing books in the tasting room of the Marriott East Hotel. I was impressed with his knowledge of Canadian Whisky and his very approachable manner to the people at the event. I believe that Davin, like myself, realizes that a whisky does not grow in isolation and what happens to other styles of whisky will have an effect on your style of whisky. That is why I think that this book is a necessary addition to any spirits library. To really understand the heritage and history of Bourbon Whiskey, you need to understand the history and heritage of Canadian Whisky.

Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert, Davin De Kergommeaux, Toronto, Onterio: McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 2012. Contents, Introduction, Glossary, Bibliography, Index, Illustrated, 336pp.

Davin De Kergommeaux has written a very good book about Canadian Whisky. It is not a history book, even though there is a huge section telling the history of Canadian Whisky. It is not a tasting book, even though there are tasting notes spread throughout the book. It is not a technical manual or a tour guide either, but there is a section describing the distilleries in Canada and other sections on the production of Canadian whisky. It is a little bit of all of these and more. It lives up to its subtitle as “The Portable Expert”.

The book is very well organized. The first section includes chapters discussing grains, water and wood – three essential ingredients to any whiskey. This section is followed by a section on the production of Canadian Whisky that has chapters on yeast, distillation and blending. The next section deals with tasting whisky and includes chapters on “Flavour, Taste, Aroma and Texture” and a chapter on techniques for tasting whisky.

The next two sections make up the largest part of the book. The first is the history section with chapters dealing with each of the major Canadian distilleries and their history. De Kergommeaux has done his leg work and gathered his information from many sources. He does not depend upon the marketing departments of the distilleries to give him his history. The history focuses mostly upon the people who founded the distilleries in the history section. De Kergommeaux uses the final section to discuss the history of the distilleries and brands. The book ends with a glossary of terms, not one but two indices with a general index and an index for tasting notes, and bibliography.

The book is filled with many sepia toned photographs. These photographs cover many subjects such as individual people including distillery founders and workers. There are many distillery photographs and bottle images. The book also uses blocks of yellow background to distinguish the tasting notes. The notes themselves are in black print, but the name of the whiskey being tasted is in white print and that is my only complaint about this book – the names are hard to read for my old eyes. I would have preferred all of the print in black ink.

Davin De Kergommeaux has written an excellent book on Canadian Whisky. He has done his research well and his book is more than just fluff put together by the marketing departments of the Canadian distilleries. I believe it is a valuable addition to any spirits library and that there is a lot of material in the book that will be useful to those researching any style of whiskey, including American Whiskeys. 

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller