I recently posted a list of my top 10 Canadian budget whiskies, so now begs the question – what happens if you find 10 dollars on your way to the liquor store and have $40 to spend? Of course, the definition of “mid-range” could be widely varied, but, because at this point there aren’t too many whiskies over $50, if I increase the price much more the list will start to look like my report card. I spent much of the summer doing head to head tastings of my top 31 Canadian whiskies available in Ontario costing less than $40. Here are the top 15, of whiskies which were available in Ontario in 2013:
Top “Mid-range” Canadian Whiskies
Fruit and spice, juxtaposed together brilliantly – this is Pike Creek – a spicy rye finished in port barrels. To be honest, whether this or Lot no. 40 hits the top of this list is likely more dependent on my mood than anything else. If I want a slightly sweeter, more overtly fruity whisky still with some good rye spice bite- I take Pike Creek. If I want a more broadly spicy, bolder whisky – I pick Lot no. 40. In fact, some days, I might arrange my top 3 as lot no. 40, forty creek copper pot, and then pike creek. But, today, I give it to Pike Creek.
- Lot no. 40, $40
A 100% malted rye whisky full of complexity, spice, and fruit.
Spicy, Fruity, Complex, Elegant…much like the ones above. This was number one on my budget list, and you can see that even with an extra 10$ added to the cap, this whisky still holds its own very well.
A 100% corn whisky from Highwood Distillers which includes stocks between 15 and 25 years old – yet it’s still surprisingly spicy and reminiscent of rye.
A wonderful spicy 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 blending – regardless, it tastes pretty good.
This whisky is light and elegant, and packed with fruit. It’s always one I often introduce to people just starting with Canadian whisky, and I quite like it, though it’s quite a bit lighter than the previous 6 whiskies on this list.
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.
10. Schenley Golden Wedding $25
Serving you good rye since 1856.
11. Stalk and Barrel Special 1+11 Blend, $40
This whisky comes out of the Still Waters craft distillery near Toronto, Ontario – a true “blended” Canadian whisky from different distillery sources, bottled without added colour or chill-filtration in the truest craft sense. It’s in great demand and they can’t keep up with it at Still Waters.
12. Royal Canadian Small Batch, $40
A whisky made from a blending of barrels from a large stock bought by Sazerac a few years ago. Well done, complex, and subtle – done in line with the Canadian style.
13. 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.
14. Crown Royal Black, $33
A bit of a “bolder” Crown Royal, though still holding to their elegant and rich style. Though not that much larger in body than the usual Crown Royals, it treads the line between bold and delicate pretty well.
15. 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.
*it should be noted that $40 is an arbitrary number and there are some fabulous whiskies just a few dollars more than this, including Danfield’s 21 Year Old ($45, which would easily top this list if $45 were the mark), and Century Reserve 21 Year old at $48. But, then, it’s a unforgiving cycle and we’re fast approaching the even better Wiser’s Legacy ($50), and Crown Royal Reserve ($53).
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, Canadian Club Reserve, Canadian Club Small Batch Classic, Canadian Club Small Batch Sherry Cask, Centenniel 10 Year Old, Century Reserve Lot 15/25, Crown Royal Deluxe, Crown Royal Black, Crown Royal Limited Edition, Forty Creek Barrel Select, Forty Creek Copper Pot, Gibson’s 12 Year Old, Gibson’s Sterling, Hiram Walker Special Old, Lot no. 40, Pike Creek 10 Y.O., Proof, Royal Canadian Small Batch, Schenley Golden Wedding, Schenley OFC, Seagram’s V.O., Stalk & Barrel 1+11, White Owl, Wiser’s Deluxe, and Wiser’s Small Batch.
***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, $25
- Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye (~30$)
- Wiser’s Double Still Rye ($30)