Glen Breton Rare is a Canadian single malt whisky made by the Glenora Distillery in Nova Scotia. It is the only Canadian single malt whisky.
Unfortunately, to the extent people have heard of Glen Breton or the Glenora Distillery, it is usually not because of the whisky itself, but because of a dispute they had with the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), the trade organization representing Scotland's distillers. Alleging that the distillery's use of the prefix "Glen" could lead consumers to confuse it with Scotch, the SWA objected to Glenora's attempt to trademark the name Glen Breton for its single malt. Litigation ensued and lasted for years. In the end, the Canadian courts ruled for Glenora; the SWA, meanwhile, became somewhat of a laughing stock among whisky fans, most of whom viewed their claims with skepticism. After all, there are Glens in Canada, particularly in Nova Scotia, which is, of course, Latin for New Scotland (the distillery is located in Glenville on Cape Breton Island, which is where the name Glen Breton comes from). In addition, the possibility of confusion with Scotch seemed rather remote when the Glen Breton bottle and box are prominently labeled as "Canada's Only Single Malt Whisky" and both feature large pictures of a maple leaf.
Now that it's been nearly a year since the final court ruling, we should close the book on this troubled chapter in whisky history and hope that Glenora can be known for its whisky and not simply as the subject of a legal dispute. To that end, let's taste some.
Glen Breton Rare Canadian Single Malt, 10 years old, 43% alcohol ($85)
The nose is sweet and floral, light and perfumed. The flavor is medicinal, soapy, a bit of a chemical taste. If I really concentrate, I get some fruit, maybe apple cider, and some herbal notes, but I keep coming back to soap.
I feel about this whisky the way I do about so many American single malts; I want to root for the distillery and encourage the experimentation, but the flavors just aren't there yet. Hopefully, now that they are free of legal entanglement, they will keep trying.
UPDATE: Demonstrating a good sense of humor, this week Glenora will release Battle of the Glen, a 15 year old single malt to commemorate their legal battle with (and victory over) the SWA.