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The 2013 Rum Howler – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies

rum_howler_badge- 25WHISKYDuring the run up to Christmas (2013) I decided it would be fun to publish a list of the Top 25 Canadian Whiskies which were currently available in the marketplace. In keeping with the holiday spirit, the list was published ‘countdown style’ beginning with a review of what my tasting group (The Rum Chums) has determined to be the 25th best Canadian Whisky and continuing with one review per day as I counted down to the best Canadian Whisky in the World.

To compile this list, I began by examining all of my Whisky Reviews and by referring to all of my scoring and tasting notes from each year that I served as juror for the Canadian Whisky Awards. In all, I examined tasting notes and scores for close to 100 different Canadian whiskies as I compiled my list. I had to make a few decisions along the way, as some of the whiskies which I have reviewed and scored were no longer in production, and I wasn’t sure whether they should be included or not. After mulling it over, I came to the decision that if a whisky had been discontinued or was from a limited bottling, then I would only include it if it was still generally available in the retail marketplace. Thus, some great whiskies like Alberta Premium 30 Year Old Limited Edition and Canadian Club 30-Year-Old were excluded from my list even though these are two of the highest scoring whiskies on my website. There was no way I could account for every Canadian Whisky in existence; however, I feel confident that my examination was as thorough as was reasonably possible, and that this list represents the best effort possible at this time.

Based upon my examinations, I narrowed the list of almost 100 whiskies to 40 Canadian Whisky contenders. At this point I set out to acquire samples of each of these whiskies for my Tasting Group’s analysis. Although some of these whiskies were already in my possession, I sent a call out to industry and acquired just about every other sample bottle I needed for the task. (In fact, I was sent extra samples by some producers who wanted to ensure I left no stone unturned.) I chose to place some of those extra samples into the tasting flights, and my friends and I judged 45 Canadian Whiskies over a time period from October 1 to November 15 in side by side blind tasting flights.

I instructed each of my Judges (four including myself) to base their numerical scores for each whisky upon the following  criteria:


0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74   Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79   You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84   We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89   Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94   Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97   The Cream of the Crop
98+      I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.


And so, through the month of December, I counted down the World’s Best 25 Canadian Whiskies revealing the whisky which my group and I felt is Canada’s Best on Christmas Day:

Here is the final list: The 2013 Rum Howler – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies (as judged by my Rum Chums and I). In brackets beside each whisky is the Average Score each spirit received in the competition from the four judges.

25)  Forty Creek Copper Pot Reserve   (Judges Average score = 88)
24)  Forty Creek Heart of Gold   (Judges Average score = 88.25)
23)  Highwood Canadian Rye Whisky   (Judges Average score = 88.25)
22)  Wiser’s 18 Year Old Limited Release (2013)   (Judges Average score = 88.5)
21)  Coyote Ugly Canadian Whisky   (Judges Average score = 88.5)
20)  Danfield’s Limited Edition 21 Year Old    (Judges Average score = 88.75)
19)  Wiser’s Small Batch  (Judges Average score = 89)
18)  Century Reserve 21 Year Old   (Judges Average score = 89)
17)  Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve Whisky    (Judges Average score = 89.25)
16)  Wiser’s Legacy Canadian Whisky   (Judges Average score = 89.5)
15)  Canadian Club 20 Year Old   (Judges Average score = 89.75)
14)  Crown Royal Reserve  (Judges Average score = 90)
13)  Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve Whisky   (Judges Average score = 90)
12)  Lot No. 40 Single Copper Pot Still Canadian Whisky (2012 Edition)   (Judges Average score = 90.25)
11)  Century Reserve (Lot 1525)  (Judges Average score = 90.5)
10)  Forty Creek Portwood Reserve – 2012  (Judges Average score = 90.75)
09)  Ninety (Premium cask Aged) 5 Year Old (Judges Average score = 90.75)
08)  Centennial 10 Year Old Canadian Whisky  (Judges Average score = 91)
07)  Pendleton 1910 Canadian Whisky  (Judges Average score = 91.25)
06)  Crown Royal Cask No. 16   (Judges Average score = 91.75)
05)  Gibson’s Finest Rare 18 Years Old  (Judges Average score = 92)
04)  Alberta Springs Canadian Whisky  (Judges Average score =92.5)
03)  Ninety “Decades of Richness” 20 Year Old  (Judges Average score = 93)
02)  Canadian Club Small Batch Classic 12   (Judges Average score = 93)
01)  Calgary Stampede (Commemorative) 25 Year Old Whisky   (Judges Average score = 94.75)


Each day until Christmas, one more great Canadian Whisky will be revealed!

Note: Hera are a few other fun (and more current) Countdown lists:




8 Responses to “The 2013 Rum Howler – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies”

  1. dave said

    very interesting list. I too was surprised that CC small batch 12 was so high. I much prefer the CC 20 year old.

    Glad to see Lot 40 with a good ranking. one of my top 3 whisky’s is the Wisers 18, so I thought it would be higher on this list. Alberta springs 10 year old have to be up there as the best whisky values in Canada. such a low price and such amazing taste.

    glad to see the Ninety 20 year old as a top 3. It’s a shame that for the last year or so I haven’t been able to find the Ninety 20 year old anywhere in BC. it’s a delicious whisky that’s quickly become one of my favourites

  2. Robbie said

    I very much like your approach to tasting and appreciate your including some very affordable Canadian Whiskies in your selection process. I note that even tho you are an Albertan that Jim Murrays’ “National Treasure” does not make the top 25, nor does Dark Horse. Nice to see that their older brother Alberta Springs 10 still rates highly at #4. They are still all very good “inexpensive drams” I have today purchased a bottle of Centennial 10 year old and have highriver hopes for it come happy hour. Would never have selected it till I saw it weigh in at # 8 on this list. Have not tasted all the drams on your list but the ones I have tasted are bang on. As I say I really enjoy your reviews and put a lot of stock in the notion that you say it like it is and do not necessarily gush over everything with the word “Canadian” on it. I hope that the whisky industry here realizes that the Whisky buying public is looking for higher bottling strengths (at least 46% ABV),some cask strength offerings, non-chill filtration and bottlings that are not blended to the point of mediocrity. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks for the kind words Robbie.

      I feel compelled to point out that when I developed my review system, I was heavily influence by Jim Murray who I believe does an excellent job describing whisky when he writes a review. Having said that, I admit I find myself in disagreement with his assessment of our “Nation treasure” Alberta Premium, which I find to be a very good whisky, but not nearly at the top of the ladder when it comes to our Canadian Spirit. Although both Alberta Premium and AP Dark Horse were part of my considerations, neither whisky manged to make it into the top 25.

      (And I quite agree that higher proof bottlings are much to be desired!)

      All the Best

  3. Greg said

    I’m curious, were high rated whiskies such as Masterson’s or Whistlepig even considered for this list? Or were they excluded due to be bottled in the USA?

    I really enjoyed this list and actually agree with most of it. The one thing I strongly disagree with is your #2 choice, CCC12, which I feel is one of the worst whiskies I’ve ever tasted. Otherwise, you’ve got some great choices on there.

    • Hi Greg

      I guess I am pleased that you only disagree with one of these selections. That indicates to me that my judges did a good job!

      You can be assured that many of the USA bottled whiskies (including Mastersons and Whistle Pig) were included for consideration. Some, of those USA bottled whiskies such as Pendlton 1910 did extremely well in side by side tastings, some others just did not appeal as strongly to the judges as those whiskies which made the Top 25 list.

      As for CC12, making the list, I admit that one surprised me when I totaled the scores. However, as indicated in my review, there seems to be a new barrel selection process for that particular whisky which (in the opinion of the judges) has elevated that particular brand. All scoring was done blind to ensure that no preconceptions affected the scores, whether those preconceptions were from previous experiences with a brand or from a fantastic bottle presentation.

      BTW: I am curious, have you tried the CC12 since it was released in the “Small Batch” format, or are you basing your comment on the older version of CC12 which I would suggest is inferior to the new blend?

      • Greg said


        I thought the list was a lot of fun. Most of my favorites made the cut, but there were a few on there such as Centennial 10 and Ninety 5/20 that weren’t even on my radar until now and I plan to try them ASAP. It makes me sad that the #1 choice is currently not available to me in Ontario.

        As for the CC12, I never got around to trying it in its old format. I bought a bottle of the Small Batch a few months ago and I really didn’t care for it. It’s nice to mix with ginger ale but I’ve tried many times to sip it and it just did not agree with me. This was actually a USA bottle picked up at Duty Free, so I wonder if the imported product differs from the Canadian product.

        • Thanks for getting back to me Greg. I, as well, am unsure whether there are differences in the Canadian vs USA version, so I am reluctant to speak on that. I do suspect however, that in the new ‘Small Batch” format the batch variation for this whisky will be larger than it was before.

          In final analysis, it is perfectly acceptable for everyone to have differences of opinion regarding any entry on this list. ( I was probably unreasonably defensive towards your first comment.) My judges and I had a fairly wide margin of disagreement as well, and I think that is par for the course in an exercise like this. In the end, I am very happy that everyone who has commented whether in this thread, or in the threads for the individual whisky reviews has been very enthusiastic about the exercise I undertook (which I believe is the one of the very first comprehensive rankings of Canadian Whisky published in this format). Like all such lists, mine will have a short shelf life as already new whiskies like the re-release of Wiser’s Red letter have been unaccounted for.

          Something that I found very interesting (and somewhat unexpected) was how my panel of judges showed a very high preference for the whiskies from the two small to midsized distilleries (Forty Creek and Highwood). Those two companies dominated the countdown and perhaps this is a harbinger of things to come as more small distillers come online. (At least I hope these smaller guys keep pushing the envelope and making great whisky.)

  4. jeanlevac said

    Awesome stuff. Love the lot 40! I didn’t even know that we had 100 Canadian whiskies in Canada.

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