The vast world of Canadian whisky brands is full of passionate endeavors. Some distilleries stick to the classic recipes from a rich tradition, while others forge a new path by bravely experimenting without concerns for set standards.
Regardless of your desire, there’s something for you with Canadian whisky brands. And after reading this list, you’ll know exactly where you want to start.
Here’s the full lineup of the top 12 Canadian Whisky brands that need to be in your life:
1. Shelter Point Whisky
2. Danfield’s Whisky
3. Pendleton Whisky
4. J.P. Wiser’s Whisky
5. Lock Stock & Barrel Whisky
6. Forty Creek Whisky
7. Crown Royal Whisky
8. Lot 40 Whisky
9. Alberta Premium
10. Canadian Club Whisky
11. Caribou Crossing Whisky
12. Pike Creek Whisky
Founded in 2011, Shelter Point Whisky is taking Canadian spirits to new heights. Patrick Evans comes from multiple generations of farmers in British Columbia’s Comox Valley, and his vision was to create a way for farming to coexist with the environment.
The barley from this farm is what makes Shelter Point what it is today. Although the ownership has now shifted to Nelson Investments, the focus remains on producing the premium quality single malt whisky around.
The distillery uses local artisan-produced equipment in a stunning setting with coastal views. Located on Vancouver Island, Shelter Point brings together the surrounding nature and whisky passion into every bottle.
Although Canadian Whisky has a distinct place in the world of spirits, this brand takes its roots in Ireland, another top market and whiskey producer. Way back in 1856, Irish-born John Gibson started a Pennsylvania-based distillery to make wheat, malt, and rye whiskey.
As you might have noticed, this wasn’t in Canada. But as prohibition swept the United States, Schenley Industries purchased Gibson’s and sent it north of the border to Valleyfield, Quebec, where it went from US whiskey to Canadian whisky. It is now in Windsor, Ontario.
Gibson’s is a premium brand with a rye focus that delivers a standout taste. Aged anywhere from 12 to 18 years or more, the complex profile comes through on your palette with a taste that will leave you wanting more.
Another company blurring the line between US and Canada is Pendleton Whisky. It is whole-heartedly Canadian whisky with distillation done in the northern country. Yet It is imported, bottled, and sold by Hood River Distillers out of Hood River, Oregon.
In 2003, Pendleton was formed to celebrate the Pendleton Round-Up annual rodeo and cowboy festival. What better way to complement the rough rides than with an incredible whisky to take the edge off?
Their premium choice is Pendleton Directors’ Reserve Whisky, aged for 20 years and offering warm notes of oak, cinnamon, and rye. The 1910 Rye, aged 12 years, is another popular choice.
It’s hard to find a more Canadian whisky brand than J.P. Wiser’s, which began production before Canada formed as a country. Started in 1857 in Prescott, Ontario, Mr. Wiser was distilling and barrelling whisky and was well on his way to becoming an international producer.
He gained a competitive edge by refusing to bend to the whims of others. Instead, he aged his longer than anyone else at the time, creating a more complex profile that would win over the world with its incredible flavor.
Today’s selection of J.P. Wiser’s Whisky has something for everyone. Long-aged ryes, classic blends, and modern flavors for the ultimate cocktail solution.
Started by the Cooper Spirits Company, this Canadian whisky brand’s main offering is a 20-year aged old rye from copper pot stills. The 100% koji-fermented rye grain spirit is aged in cold weather using newly charred American oak barrels.
The results are spectacular, winning the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition Double Gold from the 13-year, 16-year, 18-year, and 20-year expressions.
Although this is one of the newest Canadian whisky brands, it’s also one of the most noteworthy. The passion flows through every drop.
The distillery first opened in 1972 under Otto Rieder’s leadership. Then in 1992, John Hall joined and founded Forty Creek Distillery with an eye on creating a world-class product. The master blender role has been handled by Bill Ashburn since that start. He remains on the team despite its sale to Italy’s Campari Group.
Forty Creek is produced in Grimsby, Ontario, and focuses on small-batch whiskies using copper pot stills. The Barrel Select offerings age six to ten years in white oak barrels. The Special Reserves are limited-edition bottles that vary with each lot.
Forty Creek was named Whisky Maker of the Decade at the 2020 Canadian Whisky Awards, showcasing its leadership position in the industry.
As one of the most recognized names in Canadian whisky, Crown Royal has a big following. It was started in 1939 by Samuel Bronfman, president of Seagram.
The company’s name reflects its origin story. It was inspired by the historic visit of King George VI and his consort, Queen Elizabeth, to Canada in 1939.
The Crown Royal liquors are made only at its plant in Manitoba, Canada. It is located near the shores of Lake Winnipeg, where nature is abundant and provides a large amount of grain the company uses.
When the conversation of award-winning Canadian whiskies starts, it’s a certainty that Lot 40 will come up. It is one of the most notable brands in the Canadian whisky industry and for good reason.
Lot 40 was ahead of its time by using exclusively rye without malted barley or corn. Despite the current popularity of this tactic, it did terribly when first released in 1998.
But Lot 40 stuck around, made it through the challenging times, and continues to push toward greatness with each batch. It now uses unmalted rye and strives to remain well ahead of the pack.
Taking water from the snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains, Alberta Premium Whisky comes with a refreshing touch that can’t be replicated. Starting in 1946 in the outskirts of Calgary, Alberta, this brand leverages a rich history and experience.
Since then, Alberta Premium has grown beyond expectations, producing whisky from unmalted Canadian prairie rye. It is aged in bourbon and white oak charred barrels and blended for the final product.
The taste is bold and spicy, but chill-filtering provides a smoothness like nothing else. Alberta Premium is a taste of the cold winters that can only come from this area.
When it comes down to the most iconic Canadian whisky, Canadian Club is high on the list. It was founded in 1958 by Hiram Walker, although that was in Detroit, and he first started by distilling cider vinegar.
He began experimenting with whisky. As prohibition concerns grew in the US, the distillation moved to Windsor, Ontario. His whisky product grew in popularity, especially at gentlemen’s clubs throughout the US and Canada, eventually leading to it being known as “Club Whisky.”
As Canadian Club has evolved over the years, it’s maintained a balance between creating a quality product at an affordable price. It is now part of the Jim Beam portfolio and is one of their top-selling products.
Nearly every Canadian whisky is blended after barrel aging, but not this. Caribou Crossing is heading in a new direction by blending before going into the barrel, creating an entirely new segment of single-barrel Canadian whisky.
Made by Sazerac, Caribou Crossing carefully selected the best barrels from their 200,000-barrel collection to drive toward this new endeavor. It also created an incredible bottle topped with a caribou figurine to help stand out on the shelves.
The flavors are pleasing and delicate, with chocolate and caramel punching through before a light fruity tone finishes with a cedar touch.
This premium Canadian whisky launched in 1998 but failed to catch on. But it came back for vengeance in 2012 under Corby’s leadership, and this time hit the target.
It was originally aged in Port barrels before finishing in Rum barrels starting in 2016, then continuing experimentation with other European oaks. The results were a hit, and Pike Creek became a notable stop on the Canadian whisky map.
Pike Creek takes another unique step by aging in a non-climate-controlled warehouse. The hot summers and frigid winters provide a unique profile that brings the outdoors in.
With a rich history and a willingness to try new things, Canadian whisky brands have something for everyone. Premium brands and everyday spirits give you an endless supply of choices.
If there’s one thing certain about Canadian whisky, it’s the relentless spirit to infuse the country’s roots and passion into every drop.