Ahh, there’s nothing like a good whisky to keep you warm on those cold Canadian nights.
And let’s be honest, there are A LOT of cold nights in Canada!
Whether you’re curling up in front of the fire, lounging on the couch with that special someone in your life, having a snowed-in night with friends, or sipping from a flask around a campfire, whisky is the truly Canadian drink of choice.
Sure, we Canucks love what the Irish and Scottish have made, and we’ll never turn away a shot of Kentucky bourbon or American rye. But we’re truly fond of our own whiskies and will always come back to anything made in Canada.
Below, we’ve collected a list of the best Canadian whiskies for you to enjoy. These bottles meet all the Canadian standards (see below for an explanation of what that really means) and will be a popular choice for any Canadian drinker—or any drinker around the world, really.
If you’re looking for some new additions to your liquor cabinet, these are the whiskies you’ll want to try.
But first, I want to take a moment to talk a little about Canadian whisky and what separates it from the other whiskies and whiskeys around…
What is a “Canadian Whisky”?
First off, you need to know that it’s not “whiskey” with an “ey” in Canada, but “whisky” with just the “y”.
That already tells you a lot about Canadian whisky: it shares a lot of similarities with Scottish whisky (also the same spelling), and a lot of the whisky-making traditions were inherited from the Scots.
If you’re a whisky or whiskey drinker, you’ll probably be familiar with the many rules and regulations that the liquor needs to follow. For example, a straight Kentucky bourbon has to be distilled in Kentucky and contain at least 51% corn in the mash bill. Or Japanese whisky has to be aged at least three years in wooden casks stored in Japan.
Canadian whisky has a few of their own requirements, too, though thankfully not as many as in other parts of the world.
In order to be classified as a “Canadian whisky”, the liquor must:
- Be distilled in Canada for at least three years
- Be aged in wooden barrels no larger than 700 liters (be they charred, uncharred, old, or new, size is all that matters)
- Be mashed and distilled within Canada
- Be at least 40% ABV once it’s finally bottled
Notice there’s no mention of the mash bill content. Unlike other whiskeys and whiskies, Canadian whisky can be made with any grain content—rye, corn, wheat, barley, or any others. There’s also no specification as to which type of barrel has to be used, nor the alcohol content of the spirit pre-blending.
Canadian whiskies are also allowed to add artificial flavorings and colorings, which is why they tend to look so much more varied in color and offer such a wide range of flavors compared to the more “staunch traditionalist” whiskeys and whiskies.
Canadian whisky tends to be very drinkable and approachable compared to other whiskeys and whiskies. They tend to be gentler on the palate, come in a wide range of flavors, and, best of all, are some of the more affordable options.
But don’t think a lower price tag means lower quality—those are fighting words in Canada! We’ll proudly serve our whiskies against any other whiskey or whisky in the world, and know it’s still a vintage worth enjoying, as you’ll see once you get a taste of the Canadian whiskies on our list below.
The 13 Best Canadian Whiskies
- The 13 Best Canadian Whiskies
- CROWN ROYAL NOBLE COLLECTION
- Forty Creek Confederation Oak
- J.P. WISER’S RED LETTER DISTILLERY EDITION
- Lot 40
- Pike Creek 10 Year Old Rum Barrel Finished
- BLACK VELVET Original
- Lock Stock & Barrel 16 Year Old
- Canadian Club 100% Rye
- Last Mountain Single Cask Wheat Whisky
- BearFace Triple Oak
- Shelter Point Smoke Point
- Crown Royal Canadian Maple
- SORTILEGE WILD BLUEBERRY
Crown Royal is probably the most Canadian whisky on the planet. It’s no exaggeration to say that every Canadian guy has tried Crown Royal at some point in their life, given that it’s one of the oldest whisky-makers in Canada—in fact, it was created by a Canadian distiller in honor of King George and Queen Elizabeth’s 1939 royal tour.
The Noble Collection is a cut far above the standard Crown Royal, a limited-edition release that elevates the usual Canadian whisky to something worth of standing on the international stage. It’s made by blending Crown Royal’s three staple whiskies, and the result is a rich, heady liquor that gives you strong notes of caramel and toasted grains with autumn-evoking aromas of ripe fallen apples. It’s definitely to be found in the “luxury” section, but it’s a splurge worth trying for sure.
- ABV: 40.3%
- Tasting Notes: Sweet Caramel and rich toasted grains, subtle oak character with orchard and tropical fruit essences.
- Barrel: Unspecified
- Age: 16 years
The Ontario-based Forty Creek distillery is well-known around Canada for producing truly fine whiskies, many of which have made their way into the U.S. and beyond the borders of North America. This particular whisky, made to celebrate Canada’s confederation in 1867, is blended for greater complexity and smoother flavor. Spending two years in new Canadian oak barrels gives it a depth of character you can’t help but love with every sip.
The palate is prominent with notes of vanilla, butter cream, and peppery spice, and it’s an eminently drinkable liquor on its own or in cocktails. You’ll particularly love it in an Old Fashioned, where its sweetness holds its own against the bitters. Thanks to its mash bill of rye, corn, and barley, it’s a truly versatile blend that just gets better with every bottling.
- ABV: 40%
- Tasting Notes: Full bodied with vanilla, butter cream, pepper spice and framed with oak, walnut, and smoke
- Barrel: New Canadian oak
- Age: Minimum of 2 years
J.P. Wiser is another Canadian distillery that has been around for more than a century—all the way back to 1857, in fact, when it was founded in Windsor, Ontario. It’s a whisky drunk around the world, but few bring the elegance and luxurious flavor of Canadian whisky quite like the Red Letter Distillery Edition. In fact, it’s believed that the Red Letter Rye was actually the favored whisky of the distillery’s founder, and its recipe is an homage to the very first liquors ever barreled here.
The whisky is finished in new oak barrels, but its 15-year aging process gives it a truly fascinating interplay of flavors and aromas that sing with every sip. You’ll get notes of vanilla and toffee with fresh green apples, along with flavors of toasted oak and wood spice. It’s delightful to sip alone while still being complex enough to stand up to mixers. Crack open this bottle around the fire for a truly memorable night!
- ABV: 45%
- Tasting Notes: French vanilla, wood spice, clove, toasted oak, dried fruit, pear skin
- Barrel: Unspecified, but finished in new oak barrels
- Age: 15 years
For those who like their rye whisky, Lot 40 is definitely a Canadian rye worth sampling. It’s made using a mash bill that’s 100% rye, so there’s more spice and aggressive flavors than your standard mixed mash bill blend. But don’t think that you’ll lose the sweetness beneath the spice—you get notes of vanilla and fruit that pair perfectly with the buttery mouthfeel.
One fascinatingly unique thing about this whisky: it’s distilled in a copper pot distillery, just one batch at a time. That helps to preserve the depth of flavor characteristic of rye whisky, and the finished product is something far tastier than you’ve ever tried from Kentucky ryes. It’s particularly tasty when made into a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned, but it’s versatile enough to be mixed into pretty much any whisky-based cocktail. Plus, at 48% ABV—or 96 proof—it’s got a great kick to it.
- ABV: 48%
- Tasting Notes: Deep mature oak with faint hints of dried apples and raisin, complemented with a touch of vanilla and coffee
- Barrel: New oak barrels
- Age: At least 3 years
There are few whiskies quite as intriguing to your palate as a rum-finished whisky—a.k.a. a whisky that has spent the last few months or years aging in an ex-rum barrel. The sweetness of the rum sugars soaked into the wood creates an interesting interplay of flavors that you wouldn’t get with whisky finished in your usual oak barrels.
The fact that this whisky has spent 10 years aging gives it an excellent depth and complexity, and it blends in just enough corn whisky with the rye to ensure it’s sweet and spicy both. It’s the kind of whisky you want to have stored in your winter cabin for those cozy nights before the fireplace, when it’s just you and that special someone curled up with a stiff drink.
- ABV: 42%
- Tasting Notes: Rich brown sugar, vanilla, dark fruits, honeycomb, toffee, and molasses
- Barrel: New oak barrels, finished in ex-bourbon casks and ex-rum barrels
- Age: At least three years
Black Velvet has had a truly storied history. Based in Lethbridge, Alberta, the formerly Quebec-based distillery proudly produced the only liquor available to the submarine officers who fought at the battle of Midway during WWII. Then, in 1999, it was bought by Heaven’s Hill, one of the best-known whiskey-makers in the U.S., and the entire system was overhauled to produce just four whiskies—including the “Original”.
Black Velvet Original brings balanced flavors, without too much complexity but just enough to keep your palate interested. It’s definitely a mid-shelf whisky that won’t break the bank, and is worth keeping stocked in your home for guys’ nights or just to enjoy after a long day’s work.
- ABV: 40%
- Tasting Notes: Caramel, vanilla, coconut and, rye spiciness
- Barrel: Unspecified
- Age: 3 years
If you’re looking for a truly premium-quality whisky and don’t mind paying a luxury price, this 16-year whisky is absolutely the one you want. Made from a 100% rye mash bill, it’s packed with robust flavors and enough spice to set your palate sizzling. The time it spends aging in cold weather (in new American oak barrels) enhances its natural sweetness, adding another layer of depth atop rye’s natural spiciness. By the time it pours into your glass, it’s a riot of flavors and aromas—including sour grass, wild cherries, and sassafras—that will keep you coming back to the bottle time and again.
Fair warning: it’s not the easiest whisky to find. Given that it’s made in only limited quantities and so popular among Canadian whisky connoisseurs, you might have to do a bit of hunting to get your hands on a bottle. But it’s well worth the price if you want a splurge that will bring you true enjoyment any way you drink it.
- ABV: 53.5%
- Tasting Notes: Roasted acorns, sour grass, wild cherries, stewed blackberry, dried pear and sassafras
- Barrel: New charred American Oak
- Age: 16 years
Looking to enjoy some drinks on a tight budget? The Canadian Club 100% Rye is absolutely your best budget-friendly choice! Though it’s priced like a bottom-shelf bottle, the quality is better than expected, with a full richness and spiciness that makes rye such a popular grain for whisky. The color, too, is luxurious, an eye-catching amber gold that will sparkle in your cup, especially when you add a couple of ice cubes.
It’s definitely the better choice to use in cocktails, because it can stand up to stronger, bolder flavors. However, it’s cheap enough you can keep a bottle on hand to refill your flask for every hockey game, concert, or camping trip. It’s the classic taste of Canada in a bottle, one you’ll love coming back to time and again.
- ABV: 40%
- Tasting Notes: Complex balance of rye spiciness, caramel and oak notes, warm and creamy
- Barrel: White American oak barrels
- Age: Minimum of 3 years
If you prefer a whisky that doesn’t have quite as much kick, you’ll want to give the Last Mountain Single Cask Wheat Whisky a try. It’s made using primarily wheat in the mash bill, so none of the innate spiciness of rye and none of the excessive sweetness of corn. You’ll find it’s a simple, easily drinkable whisky that doesn’t get too fancy, but still delivers quality and a range of flavor on your palate.
The whisky is 100% made in Saskatchewan, the pride of the province, and once one of the most widely available of the central Canadian whiskies. Outside the province, however, you may have a bit of trouble tracking a bottle down due to limited supplies. But if you can find one, it’s well worth getting your hands on it to at least give this unique wheat whisky a try. It’s a drinking experience you’ll want to have once—or, more likely, as often as you can.
- ABV: 45%
- Tasting Notes: Freshly sawn white oak, fruit gummies, black currant, cherries, rising cinnamon buns, and light toffee – but underneath, light sweet wheat and some clean oak.
- Barrel: Age:
- First-fill bourbon cask 3.5 years
If you’re all about those oaky flavors in your whisky, rum, and chardonnay, you’ll love the BearFace Triple Oak. It starts off its life in American oak ex-bourbon barrels, where it spends 7 years maturing and developing interesting flavors. From there, it spends another period (unspecified) in French oak barrels that were used to store British Columbia-made Bordeaux-style red wines. Finally, it’s got one last stop in air-dried virgin Hungarian oak barrels. The result is a whisky that feels like a warm bear hug, with heavy notes of oak and wood spice that will make the perfect stiff drink on a cold Canadian winter night.
You’ll find it’s particularly tasty when mixed into a whisky-forward cocktail, like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan, or it’s perfect for whipping up a Hot Toddy when the temperature plummets. Keep a dram or two in your favorite flask for sipping when snowshoeing, or order it for the ideal apres-ski drink after a day spent on the slopes. Guaranteed to warm you from head to toe!
- ABV: 42.5%
- Tasting Notes: Spicy oak, caramel, sweet corn, maple, toasted corn, and dry peppery spices
- Barrel: American oak ex-bourbon casks, French oak ex-wine casks, and virgin air-dried Hungarian oak
- Age: 7 years at minimum
You’ve never tasted a whisky quite like the Shelter Point Smoke Point, guaranteed! The distillery is located on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, sitting close enough to the coast that the very air is heavy with the briny, salty tang of seawater. But the taste of the sea is also infused into the whisky thanks to the driftwood that’s used to smoke the barrels the whisky is stored in. Even the copper wash still and 100% malted British Columbia barley mash bill serve to enhance the flavors that make this whisky so unique.
For those who love a good peaty Scotch, this is a New World whisky you’ll absolutely have to try. It combines a sweet, creamy mouthfeel with the iodine from the driftwood and saltwater, producing a truly unique experience that will dance across your palate. It’s best enjoyed around a roaring campfire when the nights are cold and long—even better if you’ve got friends or loved ones to share it with. Thanks to its 53% ABV, it’s got a real kick to it!
- ABV: 53%
- Tasting Notes: Chocolate, fruit, and toffee, finishing with creme brulée and salty graham cracker
- Barrel: Oak barrels smoked with driftwood gathered on the coast of Vancouver Island
- Age: At least 5 years
One truly wonderful thing about Canadian whiskies is that they can be blended not only with other whiskies, but also artificial colors and flavors. Thus, you get a wide range of flavored whiskies—most notable among them Crown Royal’s Vanilla, Green Apple, and Maple whisky.
The Crown Royal Canadian Maple is the better of the flavored selection by a wide margin, and the most Canadian. From the moment you pop the top, you’ll be hit with that delightfully sweet scent of maple syrup, which continues as you pour it into your glass and swirl it around your mouth. But it’s not overly sweet like you’d expect, but remains a solid, well-balanced blended whisky with complex flavors that are enhanced rather than drowned out by the maple syrup aromas. The fact that the whiskey is finished in maple-toasted oak barrels just adds another hit of flavor and richness that brings out the true Canadian flavor with every sip.
Sadly, it’s among Crown Royal’s “Retired” whiskies, meaning it’s not as widely available as it once was. But if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a bottle, it’s guaranteed to delight and please.
- ABV: 40%
- Tasting Notes: Warm, woody caramelization, with authentic light maple flavor
- Barrel: Maple-toasted oak barrels
- Age: Minimum of 3 years
Canada isn’t just a land of cold and snow; it’s also home to a breathtaking variety of berries that grow all spring and summer long. Blueberries, in particular, are characteristic of Western Canada, where 90% of the country’s blueberries are grown to be exported to the U.S. and around the world. You’ll find its prevalence makes it a popular choice for mixing into local wines, beers, and, of course, whiskies.
The Sortilege Wild Blueberry whisky is made using Canadian blended whisky (unspecified origin) with a dash of blueberry syrup and maple syrup added in for sweetness. It’s a truly amazing whisky to mix with just a splash of soda water and serve on ice, or just sip it on its own for a syrupy richness that will taste like a liqueur but drink like a whisky. The alcohol volume is fairly low—just 23% ABV—but that makes it the ideal option to add into lighter summer cocktails.
Most hardcore whisky-drinkers will never touch the stuff, but for those with an adventurous palate, it’s a truly unique Canadian whisky that you’ll find nowhere else in the world.
- ABV: 23%
- Tasting Notes: Blueberry, with subtle hints of maple syrup
- Barrel: Unspecified
- Age: Minimum of 2 years