By Blair Phillips

New Beginnings

Blair takes on contributing editor for Canada
Sit down to an 80s sitcom and eventually they'll re-enact the classic Cyrano de Bergerac gag.

A clumsy, tongue-tied character enlists a friend to hide nearby and feed him lines to help him charm the love of his life. Eventually the friend says something the would-be lover is not supposed to repeat but the idiot dutifully recites each word verbatim blowing his opportunity.

When it comes to Canadian whisky, Davin de Kergommeaux has been my Cyrano, feeding me all the goods about the category. Luckily, he's also a talented editor, so I never had to worry about repeating lines that would blow a story opportunity.

Which brings us to this contributing editor role. Openings are rare in the whisky world. So when Davin called asking if I'd be interested in taking over his role as Canadian contributing editor, I got worried. Had he lost his mind? I Skyped his wife, Janet, to make sure he hadn't been bit by a rabid squirrel. What else could explain his nonsensical behaviour? She passed the phone back to Davin, who assured me his foaming mouth was a simple coincidence and not rabies induced.

I first met Davin when I reviewed his book, Canadian Whisky: the Portable Expert. We became friends and eventually started writing about our Canadian travels for this magazine. Over the years, his generosity with his extensive Canadian whisky knowledge has been exceptional. Davin was always happy to help if I needed a quick fact check. And just because I have taken on this role, it doesn't mean that Davin has been taken to the back of the barn to re-enact the ending of Old Yeller. Quite the opposite in fact, he's got a new book on the horizon, and though he's busier than ever, he'll continue to appear on these pages. It's Canada's 150th birthday after all and Canadian whisky will be on the menu.

The year started with a bang at the Victoria Whisky Festival. Masterson's 10 Years Old Rye was crowned champion at the Canadian Whisky Awards, announced at the festival. As I drooled over the other whiskies on the podium, I realised it was more than an opportunity to replace my grocery list with glory.

These winners are a testament that Canadian whisky is no one trick rye pony. Instead, Canada's national spirit continues down its diverse and innovative path. I can't wait to tuck into this year's developments on these pages.

Canadian single malts are hitting their stride. While Stillwaters' Stalk & Barrel from Toronto leads the way, in British Columbia, de Vine's Glen Saanich, Central City's Lohin McKinnon and Shelter Point, a Vancouver Island farm to bottle distillery, are making waves. And way up north, the Yukon's Two Brewers have started a single malt flavour gold rush. I'll be telling the story about these single malts and more.

At Hiram Walker, Corby isn't ushering in Canada's 150th birthday with a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey or a stripper jumping out of a cake. Instead they are releasing Lot 40 100% Rye Cask Strength, Pike Creek Speyside Finish 21 Years Old, Wiser's 35 Years Old and finally Gooderham & Worts 17 Years Old.

The standard four grain Gooderham & Worts is a staple in my house, just like eggs and butter. When a neighbour knocks on my door to borrow a cup of something, they're walking away with a glass of Gooderham & Worts in the other hand.

Let me put it this way, if they served Gooderham & Worts in prison, then I'd start stealing cars in broad daylight waiting to be handcuffed and processed. And now there's going to be a 17 Years Old? You bet that Davin and I will be travelling to Windsor for that story.

This is my inaugural issue and this is just the beginning of what's planned. So, if you're out and about and we run into each other, let's have a chat about Canadian whisky.

Just don't be alarmed if you detect my earpiece or see a man hiding in a nearby bush with a microphone. That's Davin and this is how we roll.

I have been working with him for a long time and I miss him as an editor already.