The Cachet of Port Hope Whisky – Part I


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 of Port Hope whisky, a fame that reached far and wide despite the town’s bantam size.

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

An index of Port Hope’s whisky fame was the annual exports of whisky in this period. As the Canadian Gazetteer reported, a burg of just 1,200 people sent out 429 casks of whiskey in 1844, see p. 150. That number sounds minimal today but was impressive for the small population. So was the number of distilleries in town, at least five in that year per the source cited.

Port Hope’s whisky reputation reached across the British colonies in North America and extended even to the old country, as we shall see soon.

What was special about this whisky from a locality that never rivalled, say, a Toronto or even Kingston in commercial importance?  We address these questions in our next posts. Part II and Part III will continue the discussion.