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Seagram’s Canadian Five Star Whisky

Review: Seagram’s Canadian Five Star Whisky   70/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published August 20, 2013

Seagram’s has a rich and storied history which can be dated back to 1857 when the Granite Mills and Waterloo Distillery Company was formed. About seven years later, Joseph Seagram joined the company and by 1911 the company was known as Joseph E. Seagram & Sons. Today, over 100 years later, the Seagram name is still in use as a brand, but ownership of this whisky has been passed on to Diageo who now use the aged stocks at their Valleyfield Distillery in Quebec to produce the whisky.

SAM_0860 Five StarIn the Bottle 3.5/5

Seagram’s Canadian Five Star Whisky has been around for quite a while. In my locale, it arrives a tall bar-room style bottle or in a 200 ml flask. I remember seeing the brand when I started my whisky adventures over 30 years ago. But even as a kid, I was suspicious of that Five Star label. It just looked gimmicky to me like it belonged in those old spaghetti westerns I watched on TV. Every time I saw a bottle in the store, I was sure that if this was the whisky of choice in those old westerns, then it couldn’t be much good. Heck those cowboys always grimaced after a shot, then most of the time they did stupid things that got them shot. As I result I avoided the Five Star and traveled to other brands.

Thirty years later, the whisky label still looks like a gimmick to me. If ever a whisky brand needed a facelift, this is the one that needs it the most.

In the Glass 7.5/10

Believe it or not, even though Five Star has been around as long as I have been drinking whisky, this is the first time I have actually poured myself a glass. It is a very pale whisky with a light but fruity rye and corn based nose.

There are hints of sugary sweetness rising up which remind me of Corn Pops cereal. As well, the air above the glass seems somewhat effervescent with intense sweet and sour citrus zest. The longer the glass sits the more the sugared corn and the sweet and sour citrus zest take over. After a few minutes the rye I noticed earlier is almost lost in the breezes. Fortunately a kernel of bitter spicy rye still fights to survive.

In the Mouth 42/60

The flavour is all sugared corn, citrus zest, sour fruit juice, and peppery spice. There is not much else except an astringent harshness and some indications of bitter white fruit pith. That kernel of rye trying to survive in the breezes appears to have been swallowed whole by sweet and sour fruit juice.

Maybe as a mixer this will work, but not as a sipper …..

I mixed a little of the Five Star with ginger-ale and was disappointed with the lightly bitter, pithy drink that resulted. Then I tried some cola with somewhat better results. (Cola always seems like a better mixer when I taste this much corn.) However, I would be disingenuous if I declared I was happy even with cola in my tall bar drinks. This seems to be an odd duck of a whisky seemingly with no point to its construction.

In the Throat 10.5/15

The Five Star whisky started out sweet, sour, and peppery. As it traversed the palate and plunged down the throat it turned bitter and pithy with that kernel of rye finally reappearing in a spicy burst. For good measure the whisky left an indignant burn at the back of my throat, and kicked my tonsils a bit just to make sure I got the message. I guess the Seagram’s Canadian Five Star Whisky likes me about as much as I like it.

The Afterburn 6.5/10

It seems my instincts were sound when I avoided this whisky all those years.  In fact my feeling is that this dram must be the one that other whisky critics have been tasting when they describe what is wrong with Canadian Whisky. The Five Star is sickly sweet and sour with no depth of flavour or character to be found. Thank heavens the Canadian Whisky I love is nothing like this!

I suspect the Seagram Canadian Five Star Whisky was better than this in the past, and I openly wonder whether the current brand owner even cares about this particular whisky anymore.

(I think I’ll save the rest of my bottle for some acquaintances of mine which I would like to see less of.)

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

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.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping an


2 Responses to “Seagram’s Canadian Five Star Whisky”

  1. Cary said

    This one may be a particularly bad example but the sad thing is that this kind of whisky makes up the majority of the Canadian whisky market. Old stalwarts like Canadian Club, Crown Royal and Seagrams represent what Canadian whisky is to most people: sickly sweet, lacking in complexity and refinement and often only suitable for mixing. It’s really only some of the recent entrants to the market such as Forty Creek and Lot No. 40 that have started to move the bar but these still represent a small share of the overall market. Let’s see more like these!

    • We will agree to disagree.

      Saying those brands make up the majority of the Canadian Whisky market is just plain misleading. In Scotland, the vast majority of the whisky sold is cheap blends making up a full 70 to 80 % of the market share, yet we rarely see commentators saying the majority of Scotch whisky is bottom shelf. In the USA, it is a similar story.

      I have tasted almost 100 different Canadian Whiskies in the past four years. Of those, only a small fraction of brands are bottom shelf. And of those bottom shelf blends only a few are similar in quality to Five Star. Rather I have found the overwhelming majority of Canadian Whiskies can stand up to any other countries best whiskies.

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