A First Peek at my Canadian Whisky Book

October 25, 2012


It’s not been done before. Canadian whisky has never been covered in this depth. Yet in a matter of weeks, McClelland and Stewart, Canada’s major publisher, will release Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert, my A to Z guide to Canadian whisky. The stars must have aligned. The moon almost certainly is blue. And surely, Canada’s early spring comes from Hell itself, having taken our numbing cold and frozen over. But now, along with the promise of the warmth of spring and long, lazy summer nights, a completely new book is waiting in the wings to make its entrance.

My book is the result of seven years of research with visits to every operating Canadian whisky distillery – along with several ghostly relics as well. I inhaled book dust in obscure local, provincial, and national archives. I sat down with long-retired whisky men who had made Canada’s rye whisky their lives, and I read everything on the subject that I could get my hands on. Then I took all of that research and worked it into the contents for a first-of-its kind book manuscript.

I am thrilled to report that, in spite of all the stories of spending years struggling to get a publisher interested, within weeks of hearing about the book Canada’s longest-established publisher signed-up my manuscript. The result? They have turned it into a genuine piece of Canadiana. I’m exhausted, but it’s mine and, I can tell you, I’m proud of it. And I’m thankful for all the creative and enthusiastic folks at McClelland and Stewart who got behind the project and who worked with me to transform messy manuscript pages into a beautifully designed and crafted book.

To write and publish a book is a labour of love, for sure. As I dug deeper and deeper into our national potation my fascination grew even deeper. My thirst for information was not so much quenched as my appetite was whetted in the course of this enormous project. Canada makes great whiskies and there are tasting notes for no fewer than 100 of them in the book. The history of Canadian whisky is a story of family feuds, of fortunes made, and of legacies lost. The heart-wrenching and sometimes utterly bizarre details of this history are all there in the book. It also shows readers the characteristic processes of whisky making and how the distinguishing flavours of Canadian whisky are developed. And finally, I narrate the unique story of each Canadian distillery and, for the first time in a book of this kind, show their unique approaches to making Canadian whisky.

Coming soon to a bookstore near you! Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert will be released on May 8. And for those for whom patience is not a virtue and who can’t wait, it is available now for advance order on Amazon, Chapters/Indigo, McNallyRobinson, and several other on-line booksellers. I sincerely hope that the readers of this site will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Cheers! And don’t forget that extra copy for a friend or relative…


48 Responses to “A First Peek at my Canadian Whisky Book”

  1. Piers:

    This is great, congratulations again! Personally, I will be picking up 2 copies, one to read, lend & re-read, and another to keep pristine for the autograph of the author on his next oft-promised public visit to Calgary :)

    I don’t see advanced copies on the online stores however, only pre-orders for May 8. I’m one of those you mention lacking patience and would love to have the books sooner than a month, and in my experience, the pre-orders ship on the release date, and the orders arrive several days after.

    • Davin:

      Thanks Piers. I’ll be sure to let you know when I am in Calgary.

  2. Davin,
    Have just ordered a copy and am looking forward to reading it. Another reason to be a proud Canadian. Well done.

    FYI, I am particularly interested in any comments you may have about Mike Urban’s distillery in Kelowna BC.


    PS: The WhiskyScores website is going in to beta testing – should be live in the next month or so.

    • Davin:

      Thanks Emmett!

  3. Curt:

    Congrats, Davin.

    Sincerely looking forward to a great read. Well done.


    • Davin:

      Thanks Curt. Much appreciated.

  4. Tim:

    Congrats Davin! I’ve just pre-ordered my copy, and I can’t wait to browse through this Canadian treasure.


    • Davin:

      Thanks Tim, I appreciate your support. Now if only I could get your dang Ardbeg song out of my head!

  5. nabil:


    Did you dig anything up on Morton’s family proof whisky distilled in Kingston at the end of the 19th century? Congrats on the book! I’ll expect an autograph!

    • Davin:

      Hi Nabil,
      Yep, Morton’s in there. Delighted to personalize a copy for you.

  6. Yello to Mello:

    Ordering from amazon…just need to see what else to order to get the free shipping…hahaha

    I guess I should tote my copy with me to SofT next month with a Sharpie!

    • Davin:

      I’ll be there and look forward to seeing you.

  7. looking forward to reading the book Davin.

    • Davin:

      Thanks Gal!

  8. David Russo:

    Congrats, Davin! I never realized, all these years, that I was dramming with a “famous author!” Can’t wait to read the book! :)


    • Davin:

      Hi Dave,
      Great to hear from you. I hope you enjoy it.

  9. Darko Vusir:

    Can’t wait to pick this book up.

    hopefully at some point I’ll be able to get an autographed copy.

    My Best

    • Davin:

      Will you be at Spirit of Toronto? I think they’ll have some there.

      • Darko Vusir:

        Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it. However I did order the book from Amazon. Should have it soon.

  10. Hi,

    I’m so excited to see this is finally coming. I am getting a copy that I fully expect I’ll have the pleasure of you signing when we meet!

    Cheers from the east coast


    • Davin:

      Thanks for your support and enthusiasm, Johanne! See you in Saint John, some day, I hope.

  11. I pre-ordered it as I can’t wait to read it! Have you heard of the the microdistillers “Les distillateurs subversifs” who were granted ther Quebec license earlier this year^

    • Davin:

      Thanks for your support!
      No, I did not know about Quebec’s new micro-distillery. Thanks for posting the link to your article about it.

  12. Thomas Chen:

    awesome! I am really looking forward reading the book.

    • Davin:

      Thanks Thomas. Most appreciated.

  13. Great Davin, lot of hard work and dedication. Will buy a copy for sure. Do you plan to have a couple in hands next week at Spirit of Toronto ?

    Take care.

    • Davin:

      Thanks André. There will be some on the Meluki book table. See you next weekend.

  14. thomas mckenzie:

    I will certainly be purchaing a copy. I have always wanted to delve deeper into the production of Canadian whiskey. I will read it while having a little nip of a bottle of Canadian Club I got this week from 1968. The rye just jumps out of the bottle.

    • Davin:

      Hi Thomas. Thanks a lot. How are things at Finger Lakes Distillery? You’d know rye seeing that you are a distiller. I love those old bottles of CC.

      • thomas mckenzie:

        Things are busy here. I am running rye this month and was busy smelling rye white dog. My bottle arrived and I pourde a little out and the rye notes were unmistakable.

  15. The “day” is here and I ended up just a bit disappointed. Not one book store in NB has your book on the shelves?! I had it ordered in, thankfully at no extra cost.

    Very much look forward to getting my copy. I’ve read some of the reviews, looks really good!

    Congrats again Davin.


  16. Congratulations on your new book. The subject is, of course, a worthy one. That said, the elephant in the room – at least from a single malt perspective – is the fact that Canadian regulations allow up to close to 10% of all manner of additives, unlike single malts.

    Such unlabeled additions are considered to be both what defines Canadian whisky and may also its primary flaw, sad to say. This is not to say that pure and unadulterated Canadian whiskeys do not exist, but that such exceptional purity is hard to determine with confidence.

    I do hope your book covers this issue in a way that we may better appreciate and understand the truth and potential of the spirit. At The Rum Project, it is fair to say we face the same issue with rum and to date, the same outcome..

    Lack of knowledge and proper respect.

    • Davin:

      Thanks for your kind words. Yes, I am hoping that my book will finally put these misconceptions to rest.

  17. Hi Davin, wishing all is well. I can’t wait to put my hands on a few copies of your book…one for me & several others as gifts for friends, visiting me, this upcoming Canadian May 24 weekend. Needless to say, we’ll be hoisting a few C.C. Classic 12YR. Best wishes always!! Dan.

    • Davin:

      Hi Dan, Great to hear from you and thanks for all your insights while I was writing it.

  18. Igor Kossov:

    Congrats Davin!!!
    I’m reading Your book now!!!
    See You at SoT!!!

    • Davin:

      Thanks Igor, and yes, I look forward to seeing you and your latest discovery. I still think about that sample of Lark from time to time.

  19. paddockjudge:

    Congratulations Davin.

    A brilliant compilation!

    Canadiana and Whisky, my two favorite topics, cover to cover, in the same great release. Certainly worth the wait. When is the made-for-television version being released? Whisky On Tour, The Portable Expert: Coast to Coast.

    Nice to see national coverage of your work leading up to this weekend’s big event – Spirit of Toronto.
    “Canadian whisky: our home and native hooch” with Beppi Crosariol | Columnist, Globe and Mail.


  20. Marc:

    Hi Davin,
    Congratulations on a project well done. Picked up my copy yesterday at a Chapters in Richmond Hill. Really enjoy the stories of days gone by. Very interesting read.
    Thank you for your passion and insight on such a wonderful subject.

  21. Davin:

    It’s very kind of you to say so Marc. I am glad you’re enjoying it.

  22. Darko Vusir:

    Hi Davin,

    Just wanted to let you know that I finished the book.

    Thouroughly enjoyable. Loved the history and the background of the various distilleries. A great read overall, and I hope you sell a million copies!

    • Davin:

      Thanks a lot Darko! I appreciate your letting me know and I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  23. Eduardo Vela:

    Wonderful book. I especially enjoyed the history of Canada’s distillin families, particularly that of Sam Bronfman, clearly a brilliant man. I do have one question. I now understand that most Canadian whisky seems to be a blend of base spirit whisky, along with some flavoring whiskies to flesh out the profile. My question: in general, what percentage of the blend is typically the base, and what percentage the flavoring whiskies?

    Thanks again…

    • Davin:

      This varies widely and individual recipes are proprietary and not shared.

      • Eduardo Vela:

        I understand the difficulty, but I’m sure you observed the relative outputs of the columns vs the pots, or perhaps noted the relative space alloted in the warehouses. If you had to generalize, at least for the big, big sellers, what do you guess? Are we talking maybe 25% base, 50% base, 75% or 90% base? I’d have to guess that a little flavoring whisky goes a long way. Thanks again…

        • Davin:

          Hi Eduardo,
          It really is very difficult to generalize. One of the Canadian whiskies that connoisseurs rate very highly is 100% base whisky. Another is 100% “flavouring” whisky. It is really an oversimplification to categorize them this way as both can be very flavourful. And besides that, I really don’t know the recipes. One distiller offered to tell me, but he cautioned that he would have to kill me afterwards. ;-) As well, many whiskies use a number of different base whiskies and a number of different flavouring whiskies.

  24. Greg:


    Congratulations! I plan to pick up a copy to enjoy while sipping something tasty. I’m not sure how I missed this over the last number of months.

  25. Tim:

    Just simply…Wow. You have written an amazing book, (just got it yesterday) about Canadian whisky.
    Just reading the first pages made my chest fill up with pride. You have done a great service to the Whisky world as well as to our great Canadian whisky heritage. May this book open the eyes to many who have only considered Canadian Whisky to be a CC Premium and Crown Royal Deluxe.

    You deserve a medal for this Davin. I salute you !!!!

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