Note that the Canadians chose to adopt the spelling of "whisky" (without the "e") that is used in the making of Scotch in Scotland, whereas most bourbon makers choose to use the Irish spelling (with the "e"). Just an interesting factoid. You can find more about the different kinds of whisk(e)y in the world at our Whiskey Glossary page.
Why would I buy Canadian whisky?
Canadian whisky is popular mostly because of its cost. Since all Canadian whiskies are blended (meaning they are taken from the barrels and combined with other barrels before bottling), they usually don't cost you an arm and a leg. Even the "premium" Canadian whiskies available in the states don't rival the cost of premium bourbons or (especially) Scotch. To put it bluntly, Canadian whisky is usually the paint-peeling stuff you mix with cola at a party...not stuff to put on the rocks to curl up in front of the fire and enjoy the soothing taste. There are exceptions, however, as there are some fine Canadian whiskies.
What's the difference in taste between Canadian whisky and Scotch or bourbon?
In taste, I find Canadians to be an interesting hybrid between Scotch and bourbon. Probably closer to bourbon, but with the same flavor of Scotch in its "finish." It is certainly a lighter-bodied whisky than bourbon. Although that may be, in part, due to the regulations set by the Canadian government that allows the addition of new whisky into the aged whisky to compensate for the natural evaporation that takes place over time. This process is not allowed by government regulation in the making of Scotch, Bourbon, and Irish whiskies.
It is purely my opinion that most Canadian whiskies (even at their best) don't rival bourbon or Scotch in taste. But, remember, that's just my opinion. Your taste buds may think my taste buds need to go to a freakin' therapist.
What Canadian whisky should I buy?
Depending on what you're using it for, Canadian whisky is a good alternative to the "harsher" whisky that is the American blended whisky. There are some premium-brand Canadians out there, even though not many.
So, below I have listed the brands of Canadian whisky into three categories: Top Shelf, Middle Class, and Budget Models. If you would like to drink Canadian whisky neat, on the rocks, or in a Manhattan, I would recommend those brands listed under the Top Shelf category. If you're mixing the whiskey with something else (cola, soda water, 7up, etc.) you would be fine using something from the Middle Class category. And, lastly, if you've just had a horrible week, you're low on funds, and you want to get tanked...the Budget Models will get you where you want to go (at least, think you want to go). The prices listed are the range you will find a 750mL bottle to sell in the state of Oregon. Prices will vary greatly around the country.
There is, also, what is known as a Canadian whisky liqueur. This is known as Yukon Jack. It is a 100-proof liqueur with a Canadian whisky base. You will sometimes find it in the Canadian whisky section...or in the liqueurs and cordials section.
Also see our list of THE BEST BOURBON WHISKIES.
Happy drinking! -Eric Morris
Crown Royal Special Reserve (age not known) $40-42
A combination of Crown Royal's finest whiskies, set aside especially for this product.
Tangle Ridge (10 yrs.) $20-22
Double-casked whisky, meaning they age the first batch for 10 yrs. then pull it
out and blend it with other whiskies. Then, they put it back in the barrels for further aging.
Wiser's De Luxe (10 yrs.) $15
Pendleton (10 yrs.) $24.95
Imported and bottled by Hood River Distillers in Oregon.
Crown Royal (age not known) $23-24
Canadian Club Reserve (10 yrs.) $14-16
Canadian Club (6 yrs.) $12-15
Seagram's VO Gold (8 yrs.) $16-18
Seagram's VO (age not known) $12-14
Black Velvet Reserve (8 yrs.) $12-14
Canadian Mist (3 yrs.) $10
Rich & Rare (3 yrs.) $9-10
MacNaughton (3 yrs.) $10
Black Velvet (3 yrs.) $10
Windsor (3 yrs.) $8
Campbell & Cooper (N/A) $9-10
Lord Calvert (3 yrs.) $8-9
Canadian LTD (3 yrs.) $7-8
Northern Light (3 yrs.) $7-8
Seagram's Canadian Hunter (3 yrs.) $10