Perhaps when you think of Canadian whisky, your mind doesn’t travel beyond the likes of Crown Royal and Don Draper’s favorite brand, Canadian Club. But there’s a whole world of high-quality whiskeys north of the border just waiting to be discovered. This is especially evident in 2020, thanks to one lesser-known brand that’s seen a lot of press of late.
In a move that definitely raised some eyebrows, a Canadian whisky was named “World Whisky of the Year” in the Jim Murray Whisky Bible. Since then, the whisky scribe has come under fire for his allegedly sexist, certainly sexually charged spirit descriptions. Regardless, Murray’s selection of Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye is certainly a testament to the expression’s quality.
“It is a bold and earthy whisky with notes of banana, toffee, and light spice,” says Jackie Keogh, bartender at The Lobby Bar at Four Seasons Resort in Orlando. “Alberta Distillery whisky may not be commonly found in the U.S., but it’s of such high quality that it’s is used in the Whistle Pig 10 year. If you are seeking a new and bold adventure for your palate, then this is the whisky to try.”
After you try the Alberta rye, you’re sure to crave more suggestions from our northern neighbors. To help in that aim, we asked a few bartenders for help. Check their picks for the best Canadian whiskeys to discover this fall below.
Gooderham & Worts Four Grain Whisky
Peter Fielder, bartender at Wingtip Club in San Francisco
Gooderham & Worts Four Grain Whisky. Because it has been recently released in the U.S., the mash bill includes rye and wheat (rarely seen together) and the higher 88 proof gives it substance.
Black Velvet 8 Year
Karla Green, bartender at ON3 in Louisville, Kentucky
Black Velvet 8 year is an aged Canadian whisky worth checking out.
Black Velvet is a household name in the whisky world, but even I, a two-decade veteran in hospitality, was shocked to learn they had an aged expression. This blended whisky is surprisingly smooth, and, yes, velvety. As I’ve expanded my taste buds, I’ve become more curious and also impressed at the quality of “priced-right” labels.
Forty Creek Barrel Select
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Opened up the Forty Creek Barrel Select this past Saturday during a live stream with the @alberta_scotch_society and @davindek for his book Canadian Whisky. A great time and a very interesting bottle. In all honesty all I can say is the peach flavor comes through very well. Cheers my friends 🥃 . . . #whisky #canadianwhisky #🇨🇦🥃 #fortycreek #fortycreekwhisky #fortycreekbarrelselect #barrelselect #whiskyphotography #WhiskeyDive #letsdivein #cheersfriends
Jarred Craven, founder of Craven Cocktails and USBG bartender in Los Angeles
There are many quality Canadian whiskies available, but if you want one a little off the beaten path you should check out Forty Creek Barrel Select. The flavor profile isn’t going to blow your mind, but you can find it for around $20. That makes it a great way to explore some other Canadian whisky options to see if it’s an area you’d like to dig into further.
Alberta Dark Batch Rye
Jackie Keogh, bartender at The Lobby Bar at Four Seasons Resort in Orlando
Alberta Distillery is the oldest distillery in Western Canada and produces some of the finest 100% rye whisky around. Their philosophy starts with the quality of ingredients and the belief that ranch hands deserve to drink great whisky at a great price. The prairie grains are sourced by local farmers and blended with the highest quality water from the snow-capped Rocky Mountains.
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This has grown on me. It isn't what I expected originally, it's way subtler than I prefer, and it's fairly low proof, but it works in its own way. Its particularly good as an easy drinker and maybe a good intro for new whisky drinkers. — #cariboucrossing #canadianwhisky #whisky #whiskygram #whiskylover
Carlos Lopez, bar manager at Stiltsville Fish Bar in Miami
Caribou Crossing, a Sazerac brand product. It’s pricier than your average Canadian whisky but worth every drop. This award-winning, single barrel whisky is rich, smooth, and highlighted by hints of honey and vanilla.
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Some smooth Canadian Whiskey to relax into the night. . . . #canadianwhisky #collingwoodwhiskey #nightcap #instawine #instadrink #redwine #whitewine #instagrape #wines #drinking #vineyard #winelover #wineporn #instagood #vino #winelife #drinkup #winebottle #cellardoor #winestagram #aussiewine #cheers #winesofinstagram #winetime #followwine #instagoodwine #winepassion
Jess Thorson, bartender at TORO Kitchen & Lounge in Snowmass, Colorado
Collingwood. It is great for any cocktail and is affordable compared to other whiskies of similar quality. This blended whisky is first aged in oak barrels before being rested in a vat with Maplewood staves. The result of an extremely mellow, rich whisky with hints of maple syrup, caramel, and vanilla.
J.P. Wiser’s Deluxe
Zach Wilks, bartender at Anthony’s Chophouse in Carmel, Indiana
J.P. Wiser’s Deluxe is a killer bottle that is made at the old Hiram Walker distillery in Windsor. Canadian whiskey is interesting to me as often all of the grains are mashed, fermented, and distilled separately and that gives the blender a lot of control over the final flavor profile in the bottle.
Lot 40 Rye
Frederic Yarm, USBG bartender in Boston
Lot 40 is an amazing whisky made with 100% rye in the mash bill for plenty of grain-derived spice that is balanced by toffee, vanilla, and dark fruit notes from the long aging in wood.
Andy Printy, beverage director at Chao Baan in St. Louis
Pendleton Canadian Whisky should be more known than it is. Light body and hints of vanilla and custard give way to a more robust finish of oak and baking spice. Light and clean, with just enough barrel to finish like an American style whiskey.
This complex whisky is first aged in Hiram Walker’s Canadian Club barrels before being rested in ex-port casks. The result is a sweet, rich whisky with hints of dried fruits, caramel, and vanilla.