Might Canadian whisky become the next collector’s item for American spirits connoisseurs? It could happen. In recent months, a small-but-steady number of limited-edition whiskies from Canada have sparked the interest of whisky fans in the U.S.
Some of these were available only in Canada at first, like Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye and Canadian Club 43 Year and then were brought to the U.S. in limited quantities. Others, such as Forty Creek Resolve, are still difficult, but not impossible, to procure here—the kind of bottle you’d ask a friend to smuggle back from a trip, if cross-border visits were permitted.
Then again, that might not be necessary. After all, it’s an out-in-the-open secret that many American whiskeys are made using Canadian distillate. For example, see WhistlePig and its latest addition to the high-end Boss Hog lineup. Although the distillery is located in Vermont, where it has been inching closer to local grain-to-glass bottlings over the years, Canada is still a key part of the supply chain. Lock Stock & Barrel also uses Canadian rye sourced from Alberta Distillers. And a new “world whiskey” from Beam Suntory also incorporates a measure of Canadian whisky within its far-flung blend.
In between hefty barrel-strength offerings and experiments with unusual wood finishes, Canadian whisky offers plenty these days for collectors and casual drinkers alike.
Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye ($70)
Alberta Distillers supplies its distillate to a great many whisky-makers across Canada and the U.S., and this particular bottling has been racking up accolades. Following runaway sales in Canada, the producers finally brought limited quantities to the U.S. in December 2020. The liquid is a 100% rye grain whisky, aged at least five years and bottled at a whopping 132 proof (66% ABV). "We wanted to release a cask-strength rye so our whisky fans can experience a 100% rye whisky in its purest form: straight from the barrel,” according to its producer.
Black Velvet Apple ($11)
Part of a growing range of flavored whiskies for the Black Velvet brand, this apple-flavored newcomer, released in February 2021, is smooth and lightly sweet. Its producer describes the flavor as “a burst of tart green apple followed by a bright, crisp finish.”
The Boss Hog VII Magellan’s Atlantic ($500)
Although WhistlePig is technically located in Vermont, the distillery sources a lot of its ingredients from Alberta, so this single-barrel rye whiskey bottled at proof, released in September 2002, squeaks onto this list. It’s aged for 17 years in American oak, then finished for three days in Spanish oak, followed by a second three-day finish in South American teak wood casks. You don’t see those latter two very often, if at all. That barrel journey is meant to evoke that of the explorer Magellan’s crew, who embarked from Spain in 1519, eventually landing in what is now Brazil. This is a particularly aromatic special-occasion pour, topped with a pewter pig in Magellan-style Spanish dress.
Canadian Club 43 Year ($245)
How to follow the banner launch of a 42-year-old Canadian whisky? With a 43-year-old, of course. In December 2020, Canadian Club rolled out a four-decades-plus bottling dubbed The Speakeasy, bottled at 90 proof. Billed as Canada’s oldest aged whisky, the producer describes the flavor profile as rich leather, dried fruit and nutmeg, with a sweet oak finish. Be warned that it has limited availability in the U.S., so grab a bottle if you see one.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
Crown Royal Noble Collection 16 Year Rye ($70)
Released in November 2020, this is the fifth whisky in the Noble collection, an annual release designed to highlight the skills of Crown Royal’s master blenders. It’s a rye whisky aged 16 years and bottled at 90 proof. According to the producer, the end result is a “bold and spicy rye aroma upfront softened by creamy vanilla, sweet caramel and hints of stone fruit.”
Forty Creek Resolve Limited Release 2020 ($70)
This is the final release in a trilogy from Forty Creek master blender Bill Ashburn, each focused on specialty wood treatments. The 2020 bottling features staves selected to add a burst of spice, plus a measure of “starboard wine” (technically not port, but it’s similar in style—get it?) for fruity tones. This one, too, has limited availability in the U.S.
Lock Stock & Barrel 20 Year Rye ($389)
The fourth expression in the Lock Stock & Barrel line from The Cooper Spirits Company is sourced from Alberta Distillers “honey barrels” that were selected by the late Robert J. Cooper. The whiskey, released in January 2021, is made from a rare mash bill of 100% rye grain aged in cold weather in newly charred American oak and bottled at 112 proof. The producer describes the finished result as featuring notes of warm spiced date cake, toffee, baking spice, dried apricot and peppery rye spice.
Suntory World Whisky Ao ($71)
This isn’t strictly a Canadian whisky but rather a “world whisky” blend from Beam Suntory, launched in October 2020 for the global retail travel market, that includes whisky sourced from Alberta, along with distilleries in Japan, Scotland, Ireland and the U.S. “Ao, meaning blue, is named after the oceans that connect these distilleries together,” according to its producer. The finished spirit displays notes of vanilla, tropical fruit and cinnamon.