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Canadian Whisky 101: A Guide For Women

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With International Women's Day just behind us, I thought I'd write my inaugural blog post for all of the inspiring, adventurous women in Canada. On a personal note: I'm a woman myself (obviously) and I work in one of our country's oldest industries, Canadian spirits -- an industry quickly being driven by innovation Drinking patterns and consumer preferences are shifting faster than ever before, and are being propelled by more trend-and-taste driven consumers. In my role as Director of Innovation for Corby Spirit and Wine, I'm required to be curious. Experimenting, researching and pushing the boundaries are all part of innovation, which means I have lots of opportunity to play around with new products and flavours.

Lately, I've been into all things whisky, and I know a number of you are with me.

Historically, dark spirits have been geared towards men, but in 2016 we're seeing that change. Four in 10 Canadian women have tried whisky in the past year, favouring whisky-based cocktails to more traditional beverages like fruity drinks, wine and vodka-based cocktails. It's hard to deny -- Canadian whisky is having a moment, and if you haven't tried it, now's your time.

Not sure where to start? In true "101" fashion, here are my five tips for women looking to try whisky:

1. Sip slowly

Great whisky is meant to be savoured--aged in barrels for years on years, it's truly a labour of love and should be enjoyed as such. Through the blending and aging process, whisky also acquires layers of flavours that make it a perfect companion for pairing with foods. New whisky drinkers may find it difficult to distinguish characteristics of the drink beyond the strong scent of alcohol. For this, try adding a few drops of water to your whisky glass to help release aromas that you might not have detect at first sniff and build until you discover the strength, smell and taste you prefer. Grab a group of your best girls to join you as you sip and smell your way through the whisky experience.

Try serving a whisky like J.P. Wiser's Double Still Rye with a charcuterie board, or pair it with some apples and dried fruit.

2. Get social -- join a club or attend an event

I'm of the mindset that everything is better when done in great company. Lots of young women are joining scotch and whisky clubs with friends! This is also a great option if you're looking to educate yourself on Canadian whisky. Check out the different events and groups taking place across the country, like Women Who Whiskey in Toronto, or the Victoria Whisky Festival.

3. Flex your creativity with a cocktail

Traditionally, whisky has been mixed with ginger ale or Coca Cola, but new-wave mixologists are travelling the world and reinventing old classics like Manhattans, Old Fashioneds and Whisky Sours. Sex and the City brought us Cosmos, but Mad Men reintroduced us to the world of whisky. If you're looking to try a new cocktail, check out Dave Mitton's Old Pal.

4. Find a flavour that's right for you

If you're a true beginner looking to start slow, toffee, maple and honey flavoured whiskies are lining shelves across the country and make a tasty entry point. Unlike flavoured vodka, flavoured whiskies build on what's already there. Check out Hiram Walker Master Blender Don Livermore's recommendations for how to kick up the flavour with this latest whisky variety.

5. Reach for a Canadian-made blend

Looking for that true blue whisky taste? Rye grains tend to be the heart of Canadian whisky--it's what gives our blends a distinct taste. Try a small batch whisky like Lot No. 40, recently named 2015's Canadian Whisky of the Year, or Gooderham & Worts, recently awarded the World's Best Canadian Blended Whisky at the World Whiskies Awards, to get a real sense of whisky's earthy qualities. Its enhanced rye spices and velvety vanilla oak finish earned it top marks in blind tastings with Canada's most knowledgeable whisky connoisseurs.

Whisky's renaissance started a few years ago and shows no signs of letting up and women are a major factor in this. We're being touted for breaking down the "boy's club" glass ceiling in whisky. Let these tips empower you to experiment with (or further your love of) dark spirits, because 2016 is the year of women and whisky.

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