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Bartenders Tell Us The Best Canadian Whisky To Drink This Winter

Canada doesn’t get as much respect as it deserves when it comes to whisky. Besides Crown Royal or Don Draper’s go-to whisky, Canadian Club, the country didn’t really make much of an impact on the world whisky scene — at least not in the U.S. But, times have changed and Canada is beginning to be known for its whisky.

In order to fully understand Canadian whisky, you need to know a few things. First, “Canadian” whisky is made in Canada (obviously). Second, it’s likely a blend of different whiskies made from various grains, the most prevalent of which is corn (like bourbon) and then rye (also like bourbon). In fact, due to the addition of rye grains back in the day, the terms “rye” and “Canadian whisky” have become interchangeable whether or not the whisky is made with rye in the mash bill or not. We understand this is truly confusing. But Canada plays by its own rules. And, yes, our friendly neighbors to the north don’t use the “e” since their whisky-making history aligns with Scotch whisky while the U.S. whiskey-making history aligns with Irish whiskey.

Jef Tate, bartender at Janitor’s Closet in Chicago enjoys the smooth, complexity of Canadian whisky. “The aroma of warm bread on a cold day is magical,” Tate tells to UPROXX and then continues, “it’s sweet and spicy with a little citrus zest makes it a joy to sip neat or enjoy in a cocktail.”

Since we’re pretty new the Canadian whisky game, we thought it would only be fair to get the scoop from the experts. That’s why we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their go-to Canadian whisky to drink this winter.

Seagram’s VO

Style: Canadian Blended Whisky
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $11.99

Alli Torres, head bartender at Refinery Rooftop in New York City

Seagram’s has always had a special place in my heart when it comes to Canadian whisky and the VO is top of the list for this. Seagram’s and ginger was my grandmother’s go-to drink and the first cocktail I ever had, so it’s hard to argue anything else.

Lot 40 Rye

Style: Canadian Rye Whisky
ABV: 43%
Average Price: $39.99

Kala Ellis, bar manager at O-Ku Bar in Nashville

I love Lot 40. It has a lot of layers and nuances. Its spice profile is strong but not overwhelming. You can get great orange citrus undertones with higher notes of butterscotch. Its best feature is a long, warming, and herbal finish. It both plays great in cocktails and straight. It’s perfect for a cold day.

WhistlePig 10-Year-Old Rye

Style: Straight Rye Whiskey
ABV: 58.5%
Average Price: $71.99

Brandon Lockman, lead bartender at Red Star Tavern in Portland, Oregon

If I’m drinking Canadian whisky, it’s going to be WhistlePig 10. It brings honor to the Canadian whisky category as a delightful sipping whisky.

Pendleton 1910

Style: Canadian Rye Whisky
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $32.99

Jonni Montgomery, bartender at Tulio in Seattle

My favorite winter-time Canadian whisky is Pendleton 1910. It’s no coincidence that this whisky shares a name with the popular wool-goods maker as they both keep you warm. Its richness and heat is only surpassed by its quality.

Pike Creek 10-Year-Old Port Finish

Style: Canadian Whisky
ABV: 42%
Average Price: $22.99

Patrick Turner, bartender at B & O Brasserie in Baltimore

Pike Creek 10-Year-Old Port Finish is phenomenal. The sweet notes and sharp rye spice make this whisky almost taste like a Manhattan in a bottle. It’s one of the best ways to get acquainted with Canadian whisky.

WhistlePig 12-Year-Old Rye

Style: Straight Rye Whiskey
ABV: 43%
Average Price: $129.99

Emmanuel “Manny” Pressley, bartender at Brabo Brasserie in Alexandria, Virginia

I absolutely love Canada. I lived in Yorkville as a child, go back to Toronto fairly often, and celebrated my 19th and 21st birthdays in the Maple Leaf nation. I am familiar with Canadian whisky, and if I had to choose just one, then I’d go with WhistlePig 12-Year-Old Straight Rye Whiskey. It’s smooth with hints of caramel and vanilla. It offers a top-tier taste.

Lock, Stock & Barrel Aged 13 Years Rye

Style: Straight Rye Whiskey
ABV: 50.65%
Average Price: $229.99

Drew Hairston, beverage manager at Dirty Habit in Washington, DC

Lock, Stock & Barrel 13 Year Rye is an excellent choice that has a super intense mouthfeel. There are notes of banana bread, vanilla, and cinnamon. This is one whiskey that can keep you warm all season long.

WhistlePig Piggyback Rye

Style: Rye Whiskey
ABV: 48.2%
Average Price: $49.99

Jason Werth, bartender at Motif in Seattle

I’m a big fan of WhistlePig’s Rye whiskeys. I get a nice winter spice finish from it. Plus, its 96 proof, so it will keep you toasty if you need to go shirtless to a football game or a hockey match in this case.

Crown Royal

Style: Blended Canadian Whisky
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $18.99

Will Witherow, beverage director at Live Oak in Alexandria, Virginia

My go-to Canadian whisky is Crown Royal. Crown Royal was the staff choice of drink at the first bar I worked at in Pittsburgh. We would get done with a long shift and throw back a few shots. Whenever I get a chance, I love to raise a glass to the staff that taught me a lot about this industry.

WhistlePig The Boss Hog

Style: Straight Rye Whiskey
ABV: 62%
Average Price: $459.99

Alejandro Dieguez, head bartender at J. Bespoke in New York City

My go-to Canadian whisky is WhistlePig The Boss Hog. It’s a rye that’s made in Canada but aged and bottled in Vermont. I could drink this all winter long since it’s around 120 proof — perfect for keeping you warm during a cold winter. The rye shows notes of clove, nutmeg, and vanilla — all of which are typically used in winter cocktails and dishes.

Writer’s Pick: JP Wiser’s 18-Year-Old Rye

Style: Blended Canadian Whisky
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $56.99

The only reason we can understand why this whisky is so reasonably-priced is that Canada just doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Even though this is labeled a “rye” whisky. The name is actually a reference to the fact that all whisky is called “rye” by many Canadians. This bottle is actually made up of a blend of corn, wheat, rye, and barley-based whiskeys that were matured in Canadian whisky casks. The result is smooth, balanced whisky with subtle, pleasing rye spice.

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