This Thursday is the 4th of July, a day for celebrating the birth of our nation by eating ribs, drinking American whiskeys, and filling the skies with rippling blooms of exploding sparks. But before we celebrate our independence from England, we should pay tribute to our friendly neighbors to the north. Get hyped, because it’s Canada Day!
Canada Day is a celebration of everything Canadian. From Ryan Reynolds to maple syrup, toques to Tim Horton’s, and Nanaimo Bars to Don Cherry, everything gets its due on Canada Day. Technically, the holiday was created to celebrate the anniversary of the date in 1867 when the three British colonies of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia Voltron-ed into one British Dominion that we all lovingly refer to as Canada.
To celebrate this important date, we decided the time is right to embrace Canadian whiskies — so we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their most-beloved bottles from north of the border.
Crown Royal Whisky
Jarhn Blutstein, beverage director at Gurney’s Star Island Resort & Marina in Montauk, New York
I always have and always will have a very special place in my heart for Crown Royal. It brings me back to a great story on a steamy summer night spent at the oldest watering hole in New Orleans, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. It involves a knife, a homeless veteran, Crown Royal, and ends with an emotional embrace. It is too long a story to tell in this forum but if you come to see me on a slow night at Gurney’s Star Island I will take you back to that fateful first eve I spent on Bourbon Street.
Fireball Cinnamon Whisky
Justin Monell, General Manager of BLVD & MAIN Taphouse in Las Vegas
I’d have to pick Fireball. A lot of people don’t even realize this brand is Canadian and it’s exploded in the last decade. Why do I like Fireball? It’s a classic and I love the heat.
Forty Creek Barrel Select
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This is Forty Creek Canadian Whisky. A mix of 3 different whiskys – one a corn, one a barley and another a rye. On the nose I'm finding cream & corn notes, with a slight orange or citrus and maybe even butter cream. The flavors are quite muted – at 80 proof this is easy going and the taste is sweet candy, a bit of corn and the slightest hint of caramel. The short finish is surprisingly delicious – easy going with a minimally oily finish, almost nutty/waxy. While not too complex, for the price this is certainly one of the better whisky's from up north that I've tried! #FortyCreek #BarrelSelect #FortyCreekBarrelSelect #CanadianWhisky #Premium #Canadian #Whisky #WhiskyCanadien #Canadien #Rye #Barley #Corn #Blend #FortyCreekDistillery #Grimsby #Ontario #Canada
Josh Cameron, head bartender of Boulton & Watt in New York City
Forty Creek is so good. It stands out in the whisky category almost in that it’s hard to place, especially if you put it next to the other Canadian whiskeys. Forty Creek stands out with its boldness of flavor, that comes from the aging and use of ex-bourbon barrels.
It’s high proof and directness gives it a character that is well needed in a great whisky.
Caribou Crossing Single Barrel
Daniel Condliffe, bartender at JSix in downtown San Diego
Although Canadian whisky doesn’t get the best rep as a whole for their lack of transparency when distilling, there are always going to be brands that do things properly. For myself “Caribou Crossing” is at the top of Canadian whisky ladder. The first Canadian brand to advertise a single barrel style whisky and actually sent down to Kentucky to be bottled at Buffalo Trace, this whisky is progressive and quality.
A bit lower in proof but still has some layers and a ton of oak and caramel flavor.
Melissa Carroll, head bartender at Fisk & Co. in Chicago
It is probably Canadian Club. Hilariously, for no reason other than pop culture. I saw it being drunk on ‘Mad Men’ one day and thought I’d try a Manhattan with it. It still isn’t my favorite, the last time I reached for a bottle was probably about two years ago. I’m really a bourbon drinker at the end of the day.
Tap 8 Rye
Sean Stangle, bartender at Estiatorio Milos in Las Vegas
When it comes to Canadian Whisky, rye always springs to mind for me — a recent find I’ve been fortunate to cross paths with is Tap Rye Finished 8-Year-Old. This is super unique as it is an eight-year-old rye whisky blended with Spanish Amontillado Sherry. It is made in small batches at the oldest distillery in Western Canada and finished in Quebec by Master Blender Michel Marcel.
Crown Royal Reserve
Alyssa Miller, bartender at Hazel, Ravines & Downtown in Birmingham, Michigan
Crown Royal Reserve for its soft oak-y flavor. It’s not too caramel-y, and has a good bite at the end. That good old Canadian taste. You can’t beat it.