One of my hopes ever since I started the blog was to release a list of my favourite budget Canadian whiskies, for a number of reasons:
- There are a number of quite decent budget Canadian whiskies
- It is a great way to start appreciating Canadian whiskies, and there are certainly some budget Canadian whiskies that are not very good, and won’t bring you back wanting much more from Canada
- For those just learning to appreciate whisky in general, there is no need to break the bank – there are good, complex whiskies that cost less per serving than a decent beer or glass of wine
Over all my tastings of Canadian whiskies i selected my top 20 generally available (in Ontario) “budget” whiskies , defining “budget” to be less than 30 Canadian dollars in Ontario in 2014. All 20 are listed at the bottom of this post. I created this list by a series of head-to-head tastings involving 2 of each of these whiskies (a lengthy project!). Listed below are my top 10, listed with the Ontario price per 750 ml. As a reference for those not in Ontario, the cheapest 750 ml bottles you can get here are $24.
Top Budget Canadian Whiskies
- Spicy, Fruity, Complex, and even at 43%. I can’t really recommend this whisky highly enough, particularly because of the price. It has all the elegance of Forty Creek Barrel Select, but with added complexity and boldness. This is the Canadian whisky I offer to guests – and it is just good drinking.
- A wonderful spice-loaded, but not too heavy, rye coming from Hiram Walker distillery – forgive the tacky bottle and you’ll find some pretty great stuff inside.
- This dark, fruity whisky comes in at 45% and has some controversy associated with it due to the small amounts of sherry added to the whisky during production- regardless, it tastes pretty good.
- A 12 year old “small batch” offering from Canadian Club, it has a wonderful combination of earthiness and spice.
- Wiser’s Small Batch, $30
- A wonderful spicy offering with a bit lacking on the nose and finish, which it well makes up for in its delivery on the palate.
- A “marriage” of three whiskies of different ages to capture the characteristics of each. They’ve been making this one a long time (since 1856!)
- Seagram’s VO, $25
- Also a whisky that has been in production a long time, since its initial production for a wedding in the early 20th century and a key illicit whisky during American prohibition.
- Centenniel 10 year old., $27
- A wheat whisky from highwood distillers in High River, Alberta, consisting of wheat and rye – from the Canadian distillery which specializes in production of wheat whisky.
- A nine year old offering from Canadian Club with more rye grain in the recipe than other Canadian Club offerings, resulting in a bit of a spicier character in places.
10. Forty Creek Barrel Select, $27
- This whisky is fabulous, accessible, with a brilliant nose. It’s the bottom of the lineup at Forty Creek, but it’s a good one.
*It should be noted that if the “budget” threshold were $33, then Century Reserve Lot 15/25 would have been the number 2 whisky on this list.
I recommend all of the whiskies on the list, though I don’t think they’re all equally approachable. The distribution of Canadian whiskies isn’t great to countries beyond the US (and even that is limited), so if you are from elsewhere and are looking into Canadian whisky hopefully you can find one or two bottlings to help you start.
The whiskies evaluated in this tasting series were: Alberta Premium, Alberta Premium Dark Horse, Alberta Springs 10 Y.O., Canada Gold, Canadian 83, Canadian Club Premium, Canadian Club Reserve, Canadian Club Small Batch Classic, Centenniel 10 Year Old, Crown Royal Deluxe, Forty Creek Barrel Select, Forty Creek Copper Pot, Gibson’s 12 Year Old, Gibson’s Sterling, Hiram Walker Special Old, Schenley Golden Wedding, Schenley OFC, Seagram’s V.O., Wiser’s Deluxe, and Wiser’s Small Batch.
I also included whiskies up to 40$ in my tasting competitions, and I will post a “mid-range” list soon. For a non-cost constrained opinion, see my report card.
***As I have tasted other whiskies in this category since, here is a list, which I will try to keep updating, of ones that likely would have made the list if they were available at the time:
- Canadian Club Chairman’s Select, $25
- Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye (~30$) and would top this list
- Wiser’s Double Still Rye ($30)