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Seagram’s VO

Review: Seagram’s VO Canadian Whisky  77/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Revised and Re-scored September 21, 2017

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 it was known as Joseph E. Seagram & Sons.

The Seagram’s VO was, according to legend, created by Joseph Seagram 100 years ago when he blended some of his finest whiskies into a spirit designed especially for the wedding celebration for his son Thomas. 100 years later, the Seagram name is still on the VO bottle, but ownership of this brand has been passed on to Diageo who now use their wide variety of stocks to produce this whisky at the Valleyfield Distillery in Quebec.

The Seagram’s VO is one of the oldest continuously selling brands of Canadian Whisky in the market today, blended in the old-fashioned way to be enjoyed in those short and tall cocktails we Canadians enjoy so much. It is not by any stretch of the imagination a sipper, but then again, I doubt many ‘sipping whiskies’ were being crafted 100 years ago when this blend (bottled at 40 % abv.) was created. In honour of the 100 years of Seagram’s VO, I thought I would publish my review of this venerable Canadian Whisky.

(Incidentally, The initials “VO” on the bottle are thought to mean “Very Own” in a link back to the fact that this blend was Joseph Seagram’s very own blend made specifically for a family wedding.)


In the Bottle 3/5

I tried to take a nice picture of my Seagram’s VO bottle, but a combination of dreary skies full of rain and cold sleet (and its only September) flummoxed my efforts. Not that this stock bottle shot showcases the bottle and label much better than my dismal photograph. The presentation for this spirit is terrible. It’s as if the brand owner’s don’t care that they have besmirched a  classic Canadian Whisky. The PET bottle and the uninspired label do nothing whatsoever to promote the whisky.

At least the bottle doesn’t leak.

In the Glass 7.5/10

The Seagram’s VO whisky has a light golden straw colour in the glass, and when I tilt and twirl that glass, it deposits a rather thin sheen of liquid on the inside. The initial nose brings forth notes of oak and rye spice, vanilla and butterscotch, and light impressions of tobacco into the air above the glass. As the whisky breathes, I notice that there is something penetrating about the aroma. It reminds me of a combination of light incense and a freshly snuffed out cigarette. Rounding things out is a light corn accent and an impression of soft canned fruit (peaches perhaps). Somewhere in the background a field of tall dry grass is gently swaying in the breezes.

Unfortunately the penetrating quality the aroma is vaguely unsettling and has caused the score to flounder.

In the Mouth  46.5/60

The initial taste is full of butterscotch which fades revealing hot rye spices and a pleasant mild woodiness. This is just a little buttery with lots of rye spice building as you sip. I taste ginger, cardamom and allspice with a little white pepper thrown in to heat things up just a bit. Some corn flavour is evident as are a few hints of fresh tobacco. The penetrating quality I noticed in the breezes manifests itself as a penetrating sweet and spicy grass-like flavour. There is a fair amount of astringency as well, and I am not really inclined to go further tasting the whisky neat.

The Seagram’s seems to beg me to mix it with ginger ale or cola, and once I do, I find myself quite at home with the whisky. I would suggest that if you had a few guests over, and you were just killing time on the back deck waiting for the barbeque to heat up, a tall rye and ginger with this VO would not be out-of-place.

In the Throat 11.5/15

The finish is all at once sweet, sour and spicy with wood and rye spices mingling with caramel corn, sweet butterscotch and sour fruit. Some spicy heat is left upon the palate along with that strangely penetrating grassy flavour in an exit which is rather short-lived. (That short exit is probably for the best.)

The Afterburn 8/10

Throughout the review my scores were in the sub 80 range; however, here in the ‘Afterburn’ I have brought things up a bit. No, the whisky has not suddenly kindled an urge for me to race out and buy another bottle; but it is what it is, if that makes sense. And what it is, is a fine mixing whisky. There is a place in my bar for whiskies such as this, not overly complex, not tremendously exciting, just a solid mixer for those lazy afternoons or evenings when all you really want to do is quench your thirst with a nice tall rye and ginger style cocktail.

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


Suggested Recipe

This is just a bit fancier than the regular Rye and Ginger bar drink.

The Canadian Mammy

2 oz Seagram’s VO Whisky
1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 oz of Sugar Syrup
1/2 cup cracked ice
Ginger Ale
Lime zest

Remove thin strips of lime peel from a fresh lime
Fill a tall highball glass half full of chipped ice
Add the lime juice and the Canadian Whisky
Top with ginger ale
Add a few threads of lime peel and stir gently.

As Always I want to remind everyone that my aim is not to help you drink more…it is to help you drink better!


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 and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)


One Response to “Seagram’s VO”

  1. I make Manhattans with the VO. I got to try the whisky by chance, because the relatives who bought the libations for our wedding bought 2 bottles of it. Definitely a mixing whisky only…

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