The Cachet of Port Hope Whisky, Part I

Introduction

Smith’s Canadian Gazetteer chronicled in 1846 the industrial, commercial, and agricultural development of what is now called Ontario at mid-19th century. The territory was then known as Canada West.

In posts to come I will discuss the special reputation the whisky of Port Hope enjoyed despite the town’s bantam size, one that reached far beyond town boundaries.

Port Hope is about 70 miles east of Toronto on Lake Ontario and was then an active port, as the name suggests. The Ganarska river, which flows through the town to the lake, provided water and power for the town’s numerous distilleries, breweries, and tanneries.

An index of this fame was its annual exports of whisky in this period. As the Canadian Gazetteer detailed, a burg of only 1,200 people sent out 429 casks of whiskey in 1844 (see p. 150). This number is very small today but was hardly small for the size of town in question and the number of producing distilleries, five in 1844, according to this source again.

Indeed Port Hope whisky enjoyed an excellent reputation across the British colonies in North America and extending even to the old country, as we shall see.

What was special about this whisky from a locality that never rivalled the importance of, say, a Kingston much less Toronto?  We address these questions in our next posts, see Part II and Part III to continue the discussion.

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