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Canadian vs. American Whiskey Which one is better

Canadian vs. American Whiskey: Which one is better?

At first glance, your typical American and Canadian whiskeys appear very similar. Both are distilled from grain mash and aged in oak barrels, but that’s where the similarities end. 

On closer inspection, these two types of whiskey can present some very stark differences in their flavour profiles, production methods, and even pricing.

Is American or Canadian Whiskey better?

Is American or Canadian Whiskey better

Canadian whiskey is preferable if you want something that is much less intense without being overly sweet as it contains more barley for a smoother finish compared to American whiskey.

American whiskeys, on the other hand, are preferable if you want a heavier and smokier flavour since it has a high rye content, which gives them more character. 

In fact, much of America’s greatest rye grains come from Canada, which also produces some of the world’s top whiskies.

Read on as we’ll uncover more about these two together in this article! You may already have a favourite style of whiskey in mind while reading this, but prepare to have your opinion swayed by the time you finish it.

What is American Whiskey?

What is American Whiskey

You may have heard of bourbon and rye – those are two classic types of American Whiskey. To be called an American Whiskey, it must be made from a mash of at least 51% corn and aged in charred oak barrels. 

It can also contain ingredients like barley, wheat and rye, as well as added flavourings like sugar or honey. American Whiskeys come in a range of styles starting with Bourbon which is made with at least 51% corn, while rye has to contain at least 51% rye grain. 

Then there’s Tennessee whiskey which is like bourbon but charcoal filtered that gives it a smoother taste with less burn.  You also have Blended American whiskey which is made by mixing different types of whiskeys together to create its unique flavour.

Each state has its own unique regulations when it comes to distilling whiskey, so you can count on interesting variations if you’re travelling around America sampling the different expressions. 

Taste Notes

Taste Notes

When it comes to American whiskeys, you’ll find that a lot of the flavour comes from oak ageing which results in smooth, rich and full-bodied flavours. Depending on the type of whiskey, you might also detect subtle notes of caramel and vanilla from the charring process during barrel ageing.

For rye whiskey, you’ll find that the taste is spicier than other types of whiskey. This is because rye is added when distilling which lends a robust, light and spicy flavour with slight bitterness.

Lastly, bourbon will have sweet notes of corn and nutty caramel tones with a good balance between oak and sweetness. The flavours vary depending on the amount of time each whiskey spends in the barrels —so it pays to try them out to find your favourite.

Popular American Whiskey Brands' Homepage

When it comes to the United States, you might immediately think of Jack Daniel’s or Jim Beam. These two iconic whiskey brands have a long and rich history and you can find their products everywhere in the US. 

But there are a few other popular American whiskey brands that are a must-try and worth mentioning just as much.

Popular American Whiskey Brands
BrandGrainTasting Notes
Woodford ReserveRye, corn, maltCaramel, chocolate, spice notes
Four Roses BourbonRye, barley, cornOak, chocolate, butterscotch
Bulleit BourbonRye, barley, cornSmooth and spicy
Rittenhouse RyeRyeMarmalade and spice
Wild Turkey BourbonRye, barley, cornPepper, oak, smoke

Whether you’re new to whiskey or a long-time connoisseur, these are all great brands to explore when looking for an American spirit. 

Each of these have something special about them that will make them stand out in your collection, or at least make for a nice sipping experience!

What is Canadian Whiskey?

What is Canadian Whiskey

Canadian whiskey is a type of whiskey made in Canada. It’s typically aged in charred wooden oak barrels for a minimum of three years and has a light, smooth flavour compared to Scotch whisky or American bourbon whiskey.

The main differences between Canadian whisky and its more well-known counterparts include:

  • Ingredients: Canadian whisky is a blend of many different grain whiskies, the prominent grains being corn, rye, wheat and barley. 
  • Flavour: Canadian whisky has a light, smooth flavour profile due to its high percentage of corn while bourbon has a more robust flavour and Scotch whisky is much sweeter.
  • Price Point: Canadian whiskey tends to be much cheaper than both American bourbons or Scotches due to the lower quality ingredients used and less stringent ageing requirements.

Taste Notes

Taste Notes' Homepage

Canadian whiskey tends to be sweet and smooth, with caramel or butterscotch tones. Thanks to additional ageing in wood barrels, the flavour of Canadian whiskey may also reflect notes of vanilla, oak, and even fruity or spicy flavours.

Depending on what type of Canadian whiskey you’re drinking — light, rye or blended — the flavour notes may vary. Here are some examples of what you can expect:

  • Light Whiskey

Light whiskey has a sweet and mellow flavour profile, with touches of flowers and spices like orange peel. It can be served with tonic water for a lighter drink experience.

  • Rye Whiskey

Rye whiskey offers more complexity in flavour and aroma than light whiskey does. Aromas range from honey and caramel to tobacco and leather aromas, while flavours tend to focus on herbs such as cinnamon and nutmeg as well as green apple. You can sip rye on its own or mix it into classic cocktails like an Old-Fashioned or Manhattan.

  • Blended Whiskey

Blended whiskey is made by blending two different types of whiskeys (usually light and rye). 

Its flavour profile is usually in the middle between light and rye whiskeys — rich but not too harsh—with notes of caramel, fruit, spice and vanilla combined together for a smooth finish. Blended whisky is perfect for mixing into almost any kind of cocktail.

Popular Canadian Whiskey Brands' Homepage

When it comes to Canadian whiskey, no one has a longer and more storied history than Canadian Club. The brand has been around since 1858, so it’s no surprise that it’s so popular with Canadians and Americans alike.

Canadians especially love the taste of Canadian Club: its smooth yet rich flavour is perfect for sipping neat or on the rocks. And with its numerous varieties — like the award-winning Canadian Club Reserve 10-Year and Canadian Club 43 Rye — there are plenty of options to choose from.

Popular Canadian Whiskey Brands
BrandGrainTasting Notes
J.P. Wiser’sBlendEarth, smoke, rye
Canadian ClubRyeSpice, caramel, oak
Crown RoyalBlendOak, sweet vanilla
Forty Creek BarrelRye, barley, cornPraline, honey, dark fruits
Caribou Crossing Single BarrelCorn, ryeVanilla, honey, spice

The Differences of American and Canadian Whiskey

The Differences of American and Canadian Whiskey

When it comes to Canadian vs. American whiskey, you’ll notice that the two are like night and day. The differences between the two are numerous, from the type of grains used to the flavour profile.

1. Grains

Grains' Homepage

In American whiskey, the mash bill must contain at least 51% corn, while Canadian whisky uses different grains in their mash bills. Also, Canadian whiskey is typically blended with a higher percentage of corn than American whiskey. 

Corn gives off a sweet taste and aroma, making it a popular grain for Canadian whiskey producers. On the flip side, American whiskeys use more rye and malted barley, giving them more of a spicy kick.

2. Flavouring Agents

Flavouring Agents' Homepage

In addition to grains, another factor that affects the taste of Whiskey is whether or not flavouring agents have been added. 

While both American and Canadian whiskeys can have flavouring agents added during production, this is much more common practice among American producers than their Canadian counterparts. 

Flavouring agents are typically added to alter flavour profiles or enhance consistency from batch-to-batch production.

3. Ageing Process

Ageing Process' Homepage

Another major difference between these two types of whiskeys is their ageing process. U.S.-produced whiskeys must be aged for at least two years in new charred oak barrels before they can be called “whiskey.” 

However, Canadian whiskeys don’t have this requirement; they can be aged in used barrels or even charred oak barrels — though most quality blends will still use charred wood barrels for ageing purposes anyway.

To get down to the nitty gritty on which one is better — well, that ultimately comes down to personal preference! Understanding all aspects of each whiskey’s production method can help give you an insight into which style best suits your palate.

Our Final Verdict: American vs. Canadian Whiskey

The question of “Which is better, American or Canadian whiskey?” has been hotly debated for years, and there’s no clear answer. However, if you went strictly by taste, then Canadian whiskey would come out on top. 

Canadian whiskey is sweeter than its American counterpart and is made with a blend of grains that produce a smoother finish. 

The grains used in making Canadian whiskey include a higher percentage of corn, which adds a sweet taste and aroma producing a flavour like no other that can’t truly be replicated in any other type of whiskey.

In general, the individual batches can vary quite a bit when it comes to flavour and smell in either bourbon or Canadian whiskey, but overall the Canadian variants tend to be more aromatic and flavorful than the American version. 

Our Final Verdict American vs. Canadian Whiskey

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