Dr. Don Livermore: “you can quantify your whisky using this wheel”

Master Blender for Pernod Ricard Canada, Dr. Don Livermore has created a flavour wheel for Canadian whisky. Like the previous ones, this one brings a change of size. In the center of the disc, you will find three motors of flavor: yeast, wood, and grain. It is an effective way, according to him, to free himself from dependence on the regionality of the product.


Spirits Hunters: How and why did you create this wheel of flavors? 

Dr. Don Livermore: The Canadian Whisky Flavour Wheel was developed in conversation with the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). They are the largest retailers of wine, spirits, and beer in Canada.  Every Father’s Day in Ontario, we release a rare whisky for the LCBO. One year when selecting our blends of whisky, the Brown Spirits Buyer from the LCBO made the comment that there was not a whisky flavour wheel specific to Canadian Whisky and wondered why no one had ever made one. Canadian Whisky is a diverse style of whisky. The Canadian Whisky Regulations do not restrict on the types of grains that are used, the method of distillation, or the barrel type that is used. This makes Canadian Whisky innovative, adapatable and creative.  There are many different styles of Canadian Whisky. Consumers are becoming more curious about Canadian Whisky, so a practical flavour wheel describing the origin of each of the flavours was long over due. So I took up the challenge to make a flavour wheel, which tells a story of where flavours found in whisky, originate. People in general are becoming more concerned about where their food is sourced and this wheel certainly explains the Canadian Whisky process.

How do you read it?


The wheel reads from the middle to the outside ring. A flavour found in Canadian Whisky comes from three places.  The yeast (fermentation), grain, or wood (barrel). This is the center of the wheel. The second ring of the wheel is what I think about to manipulate flavour profiles in whisky.  Yeast will make fruity, floral, green grass, soapy and sulfur notes.   Yeast can make different levels of each of these flavour compounds by changing parameters in fermentation – such as temperature, pH, oxygen, or nutrient levels. That is what makes brewers or winemakers experts. Fermentation can also be soured intentionally with competing bacteria, which can give some interesting flavours. Also in Canada we are rich in grains and we can choose to use corn, wheat, rye, barley or malts. Each provides it’s own unique flavour profiles, but certainly the most important grain is rye as this inherently adds a spicy nuisance to Canadian Whisky. Unfortunately sometimes grains can spoil and can make off notes in whisky – thus the added column for musty.  For barrels there are three areas that can be manipulated. How the barrels is burned (charred), the type of finishing step, or age. The third ring of the wheel is the standard flavour descriptors found in most flavour wheels.  The outside ring of the wheel is the chemical compound that causes those flavours.

It is only intended for Canadian whisky?

Yes it is intended for Canadian Whisky. I hope someday we will see whisky wheels set up in similar manner for Scotch, Bourbon, Brandy, Tequila, wine, or even beer.

How is it different from other wheels?

It is different than other flavour wheels as it really pins down the origin of what flavours are tasted in whisky.  Other wheels are set up for describing the flavour notes; this literally explains the whisky making process from a Master Blender’s perspective. The build on this wheel is a Polar Histogram (bar graph) can be made around the center of the wheel. You can quantify your whisky using this wheel. A picture can be painted.

Don’t drink and drive. Enjoy responsibly.