Canadian Whiskey vs Bourbon (With Top Brand Recommendations!)

When it comes to the world of alcohol in particular whiskey and bourbon, there are some key differences that you must understand. While whiskey and bourbon have been closely associated, they are essentially different forms of the same liquor. Canada produces its own form of whiskey known as Canadian whiskey and bourbon is largely manufactured in the US given the fact that in order for a liquor type to be considered a bourbon it must be cultivated inside of the United States.

When it comes to Canadian whiskey, there are significantly fewer requirements for Canadian whiskey which makes the options you can choose from a lot more robust than it’s US counterpart. One of the main requirements for producing bourbon in the United States is that it cannot exceed a proof rating of 80 and it also must meet certain aging requirements. Canada has a pretty interesting history in terms of its relationship with American whiskey, especially during the prohibition era.


Depending on your preferred taste preferences, Canadian whiskey and Bourbon have differing tastes however they are quite similar especially due to the fact that they are fermented and aged in much of the same ways however there are a few key differences. One of the main things that make Canadian whiskey different from standard whiskey is that it is spelled and labeled without the “e” in the name of whiskey.

This means that a Canadian whiskey labeled as “straight bourbon” may not actually be a “straight bourbon” mix which is significantly different from the strict labeling and fermenting guidelines that US whiskey must undergo.

Canadian whiskey varieties also tend to be distilled at very neutral proof values so the flavor of is typically a lot more general and not as powerful as other whiskey options out on the market. With American whiskey, there are very strict regulations and guidelines on the amount of alcoholic content that you can add to the overall mixture whereas Canadian whiskey gives you the ability to add virtually any type of alcoholic content that you want in order to create the final mix of bourbon that you choose.

If you’re someone who is interested in learning more about the key differences between Canadian whiskey and bourbon, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’re going to go over all of the key details regarding the differences between Canadian whiskey and bourbon so that you can understand which option will fit your particular taste preferences and desired drinking style.

To begin, let’s look at the history behind Canadian whiskey and how it differs mainly from the type of whiskey that you’ll find in the United States.

The Main Differences Between Canadian Whiskey vs Bourbon

The main differences between Canadian Whiskey vs Bourbon are:

  • Canadian Whiskey has a spicier taste, whereas Bourbon has a more mellow and softer taste.
  • Canadian Whiskey can be aged in charred or uncharred wooden barrels, whereas bourbon is aged in new oak barrels only.
  • Canadian Whiskey must be aged for a minimum of 3 years, whereas Bourbon must be aged for a minimum of 2 years before considered a straight bourbon.

On the other hand, you’ll find that Canadian whiskey options are distilled using a mixture of molasses, maple syrup, butterscotch, clove, nutmeg, and brown sugar. Most Canadian whiskey options come from one distiller house as opposed to many US bourbon options that come from different distillers around the country.

Canada also has some very strict laws referencing what can be considered as bourbon or whiskey in their country, Canada is a very large producer of corn in the world and given the fact that corn mash makes up about 51% of bourbon all around, it’s a really important factor when considering the overall quality of any bourbon or whiskey option that you may choose.

Canada whiskey cannot be labeled as bourbon due to the fact that most of the mixtures contain less than 51% corn. There are several different mixtures of Canadian whiskey that you will find on shelves and it’s important to know the difference between all of them before you go out to select which bourbon or whiskey option is suited for your particular taste buds.

Top Canada Whiskey Selection

66 Gilead Crimson Rye Whisky


66 Gilead Crimson Rye Whisky is made up of real rye and other powerful ingredients like oak and chocolate which provide a smooth and rich flavor to the whiskey overall.

This whisky has hints of earthy tones that are infused in the bottle thanks to the fact that it’s aged in red wine barrels.

66 Gilead Crimson Rye Whisky is the perfect blend of ingredients for those people who typically don’t like rye whiskey options but want to try something new.

History Behind Canadian Whiskey & Bourbon

alcohol bar

Bourbon and Canadian whiskey have very intertwined however very different histories in terms of how they came about and how they are sold on the market. In the following section, we’re going to go over all of the main differences between the history of Canadian whiskey and Bourbon so that you can decide on which liquor option is best for you.

Canadian Whiskey History

Canadian whiskey has its origins in the farming industry where wheat is very plentiful in certain areas of Canada. Canadian whiskey starts it’s fermenting process by being left to sit and distill in the mill once it is ground into fine particles and turned into flour.

The entire creation of Canadian whiskey came about largely due to creativity and the need to produce a proprietary whiskey option that Canadians didn’t need to depend on being imported from the United States. German and Dutch farmers would then migrate into Canada where they then took the existing wheat grains and byproducts of whiskey and made them into a mixture of premium rye.

To this day Canada does not add rye to its whiskey mixtures off the top however some distillers will add rye into their mixtures for the flavor aspect only. Prohibition was one of the large catalysts for the production of Canadian whiskey however Canadian whiskey has a very rich history that extends way before the prohibition era.

When the American civil war started, the United States was forced to get its whiskey supply from their neighboring partners in Canada which is what caused the boom for the rise in production of Canadian whiskey.

One interesting fact to note about Canadian whiskey is that it is one of the most popular selling whiskey blends in the United States as of right now. Whiskey made in Canada also differs greatly from American whiskey in the sense that the regulations surrounding its production are much more relaxed when compared to bourbon produced and manufactured in the United States.

In order for Canada whiskey selections to be classified as whiskey in the Canadian legal system, it must contain barley, corn, wheat, and rye that are fermented in separated barrels before it’s added to the distillation pot when the flavor of the mixture is at its peak.

Canadian vs. American Whiskey Difference

whisky glass

While American whiskey must contain at least 51% of rye in order to be classified as a rye mixture, Canadian bourbon options can be labeled as rye without containing any rye at all. In order for a

Canadian whiskey to be classified as a whiskey selection, it must be created using cereal grain mash, be stored in small barrels for no less than about 3yrs, it must be made and fermented in Canada throughout the entire process and it cannot contain anything less than 40% alcoholic content.

After the distillation process is complete, the final Canadian whiskey mixture must have an alcoholic content level of 90% or more. Some distillers will even reduce the amount of alcohol contained in their final whiskey mixtures to about 40%, this is accomplished by combining the whiskey mixed with either water or less powerful spirits which can also reduce the overall color and flavor of the whiskey mixture. In order for it to be considered a whiskey selection, the final mixture must be aged in barrels made of wood for at least two years before the entire fermentation process is complete.

Bourbon History

Bourbon produced in the United States has severely more strict regulations and restrictions in terms of how the mixture can be made and bottled when compared to Canadian whiskey selections. In order for a bourbon to be legally considered a bourbon in the United States, it must meet a certain alcoholic content and be made from very specific grains of wheat.

United States bourbon is made using a specialized mixture known as “mash bill” which consists of corn, rye, barley, and wheat. Another really important factor that must be considered when making US bourbon selections is the fact that the final mix contains at least 51% alcoholic content derived solely from corn.

United States bourbon whiskey selections must also be made using 80% neutral spirits which consist of any type distillation produces made from corn, beets, or molasses which should then be added to the final mix in addition to up to 2% of flavors which can include lab-produced chemicals however Canadian whiskey cannot contain either element.

Some other really important factors to remember when looking at US whiskey is the fact that is must be distilled to at 80% ABV or 160 proof of alcohol. The barrels used in the distillation process of United States bourbon varieties must be either made of used charred white oak or new charred white oak.

Depending on the distiller and the type of whiskey being produced, all of these factors and variables can vary significantly so it’s important to remember this before making your final purchase decision about which whiskey selection is best for you.

The history of bourbon and whiskey around the world is one of richness and versatility so you’ll be able to find the exact match for your specific taste needs and flavor interests without any issues pretty much anywhere you go. The history of whiskey and bourbon is important because it allows you to get a picture of how the drink came about adding to the overall experience of a drinking glass.

Now that we’ve covered all of the important elements to consider when selecting a bourbon option, it’s time to look at some of the distinctive differences that you’ll find between US bourbon options and Canada whiskey options.

Types of Canadian Whiskey Options

canadian whisky

Much like whiskey produced and sold in the US, Canadian whiskey selections come in a variety of different forms and mixture types. Below, we’re going to go over all of the various types of Canadian whiskey options that are out on the market right now for you to choose from so that you can ensure you’re making the right decision about which Canadian whiskey selection is right for you. Canada produces a wide variety of different whiskey selections all of which range in different tastes, flavors, and mixture combinations.

Let’s take a look into all of the various types of Canadian whiskey selections that are out on the market right now so that you can decide on which Canadian whiskey mix is perfect for you.

Old Fashioned

Old fashioned Canadian whiskey mix contains a slew of sugar, bitters, water over ice, and whiskey. Old fashioned whiskey can also be created using bourbon which gives it a deep and robust flavor profile that is quite common with many whiskey options that are out on the market right now.

Mint Julep

Mint julep whiskey is made using the same formula as US-based mint julep bourbon whiskey options however the entire mixture is made with Canadian whiskey as opposed to traditional whiskey combinations.

Whiskey Sour

Whiskey sour Canadian whiskey uses a combination of lemon, whiskey, lime juice, and simple syrup in order to create a robust flavor profile that virtually anyone can enjoy. Whiskey sour is as the name implies generally sour and very tangy so it’s one of the more powerful whiskey options out on the market as of right now.


Highball whiskey is a mixture of ginger ale and bourbon or whiskey and ginger ale however regardless of the mixture that you use, highball whisky is typically a very complex and full-featured bourbon option that comes with a lot of punch.

The Manhattan

The Manhattan Canadian whisky selection is typically made of sweet and bitter tones that come from rye whisky derived from an old-time recipe used back in the day to cultivate and produce most of the popular whisky and bourbon varieties that you find on shelves to this day.

Distilling & Bottling Process

whisky destillery

The distillation and bottling process of Canadian whisky is vastly different which is what distinguishes them from one another. Canadian whisky is typically made using rye whereas US whiskey is made using bourbon and Tennessee whiskey.

The process of distillation and bottling is also vastly different from Canadian whisky and US bourbon because US bourbon must be aged for at least 2yrs before it can be sold however Canadian whiskey does not have any specific aging requirements.

These are just some of the whisky options out on the market however there are more out there that you can choose from so you always want to keep your options open.

Top Canadian Whisky Recommendations

1. Pike Creek Port Barrel Finish Canadian Whisky

pike creek

Pike Creek Port Barrel Finish Canadian Whisky is made using all of the natural elements and it uses pre-modern distilling methods in addition to climate-controlled warehouses to bring out the robust flavor profile. This whisky has a very creamy texture to it in addition to being very thick in its composition so it will leave your mouth with a slightly dry feeling after consuming a drink of the whisky.

Pike Creek Port Barrel Finish Canadian Whisky has hints of white pepper in the flavor profile and it also contains a lot of spice elements which add a nice overall base to the whiskey. Pike Creek Port Barrel Finish Canadian Whisky dry sherry is a wonderfully crafted whiskey option that has a lot to offer in the flavor department.

2. Crown Royal Reserve

crown royal

Crown Royal Reserve is made using a special blend of maple syrup and brown sugar which adds a very nice subtle taste to the overall whiskey. The whisky also has small hints of sweetness sprinkled throughout which mellow out some of the more robust and complex flavors that you’ll find in the whiskey overall. This whisky is also crafted using citrus tones and it has a traditional rye style so it will be very smooth and consistent throughout. Crown Royal Reserve is great by itself or over the rocks and you can even mix it with other popular drinks.

3. Proof Two Grain Whisky


Proof Two Grain Whisky follows more of a Japanese style when it comes to the overall creation of the whiskey. Proof Two Grain Whisky also has hints of lemon and cinnamon throughout which gives the whiskey a very robust and full flavor profile. Proof Two Grain Whisky uses cloves and honey to simmer out some of the bolder flavors contained in the mix. Proof Two Grain Whisky uses a combination of wheat and rye to add that classic taste of whiskey to the bottle in general. Proof Two Grain Whisky is a smooth and robust whiskey selection that is perfect for the average drinker or someone who wants to throw a party with a very neutral whiskey.

Proof Canadian Whisky | Drizly

Whiskey /41% ABV / Canada

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4. Gibson’s Finest Rare Aged 18-Year-Old


Gibson’s Finest Rare 18 Year | Drizly

Whiskey / Canada

Deep amber colour; vanilla and dried apricot aromas; smooth and mellow palate with a warm finish.

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Gibson’s Finest Rare Aged 18-Year-Old contains flavors of tobacco and maple which give the whiskey a very rich and robust taste. This whisky is very smooth and original in the sense that it uses rye and caramel in order to provide a neutral and simple taste that is backed by a lot of punch with the spice in the mix. Gibson’s Finest Rare Aged 18-Year-Old also has flavors of oak and pepper in the mixture which makes it a bit spicy and powerful in terms of how it hits the throat when drinking. Gibson’s Finest Rare Aged 18-Year-Old is great for anyone that is interested in drinking a smooth yet robust whiskey selection.

Top Bourbon Recommendations

1. Stillhouse Black Bourbon 

still house black bourbon

Stillhouse Black Bourbon is a premium whiskey option that comes in a classic looking can that resembles a gas can however it contains a well-balanced and deep flavored whiskey option packed with tons of flavor and other notes of robust taste that even the most experienced whiskey drinker will love and enjoy. Stillhouse Black Bourbon contains hints of is finished using coffee beans which adds a very deep and robust flavor profile to the overall whiskey.

2. Heaven Hill Green Label

heaven hill

Heaven Hill Green Label is a very old-fashioned whiskey option that is cultivated using proven brewing methods that deliver a solid tasting whiskey selection that you can enjoy with virtually any type of food selection you choose. Heaven Hill Green Label is brewed using traditional charred oak barrels and hints of Kentucky barley and wheat that adds robust flavors throughout the entire the whiskey which will fill your entire pallet with bursting pallets of intriguing flavors that you’ll love.

FAQs About Canadian Whiskey vs Bourbon

What is different about Canadian whiskey?

Canadian whiskey is produced with different mashes which are blended together to create the final product, unlike the traditional American whiskey which is made with corn, rye, and malter barley.

What is a good Canadian whiskey?

If you are trying Canadian whiskey for the first time, and you want to try the best there is, you should try Crown Royal’s Canadian whiskey which has vanilla and cherry notes with brown sugar and deep oaky flavor.

Which is the best Canadian whiskey for this year?

Forty Creek Port Wood Reserve is rated as the number 1 Canadian whiskey for this year thanks to plenty of its consumers who put it on the scale of 90.


By following all of the tips and information listed in this guide, you’ll be able to find the right whiskey selection for your taste buds in no time.

We’ve covered all of the most important facts that you need to know about whiskey and how it differs from Canada to the US so that you can make an educated decision about which brand or variety is best for your particular needs.

As long as you follow this entire guide, you should have no issues finding the right whiskey selection for your particular needs in no time. Decide on which flavors and tastes interest you the most so that you can choose the perfect whiskey selection for your next event or night in the house.

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