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Canadian Whiskey vs Bourbon

Rebecca Hanlon
Last Updated: February 28th, 2023

Bourbon and Canadian whisky are two of the most popular types of whiskey in the world. Both are made from a grain mash, typically corn, and aged in oak barrels.

However, just because the two are whiskey does not mean they are the same. In fact, there are plenty of differences when looking at comparing Canadian whiskey vs Bourbon.

Despite this, both bourbon and Canadian whisky are enjoyed by millions of people worldwide.

Brief History of Bourbon

Bourbon has been distilled since the 18th century, and it remains a popular spirit to this day. Although bourbon may be made anywhere in the United States, it is strongly associated with the American South and Kentucky in particular.

According to, North America was settled on the east coast with its large immigration destinations Boston, New York (formerly New Amsterdam), and Philadelphia.

Since rye and wheat thrived on the soil, there was soon a surplus of grain, which farmers made more durable and easier to transport with the help of distillation.

The first rural distilleries were established in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. With this grain refinement, farmers could earn extra income.

The average American farmer in the 18th century was able to produce about 500 gallons of distilled spirits per year.

brief history of bourbon

This number increased rapidly in the early years of the 19th century, as distilling became more efficient and large-scale production began to take place in cities like New Orleans and Philadelphia. By 1830, American distillers were producing over 10 million gallons of spirits per year.

The majority of these distilled spirits were consumed in the form of hard cider and applejack, which were popular among rural Americans.

However, whisky quickly became the most popular spirit in the country, thanks in part to its popularity among frontiersmen like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett.

Brief History of Canadian Whiskey

Whiskey making has a long and storied history in Canada, dating back to the early days of European settlement.

Immigrants from America and Europe brought over their distilling methods and technologies and began producing whisky from wheat and rye. This early whiskey was often made in improvised stills, using the grains that were closest to spoilage.

This resulted in the proof and quality of the whiskey varying greatly. The whiskey was consumed unaged by the local market. In 1801, John Molson purchased a copper pot still in Montreal, which he used to produce rum. He later partnered with James Morton, and the two men operated a distillery in Montreal.

The Molsons were responsible for the first commercial-scale production of whiskey in Canada. While the early days of Canadian whiskey-making were somewhat chaotic, today’s producers have perfected the art of distilling high-quality spirits.

brief history of canadian whisky

What is Bourbon

You may have heard that all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. So what is it exactly that makes a whiskey a bourbon? There are a few regulations that a distiller needs to follow to use the title on their product.

First, the mash (the mix of grains used to make the whisky) must be at least 51% corn. Second, the spirit must be distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% alcohol by volume). Third, it must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. And finally, the finished spirit must be bottled at no less than 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume).

While there are multiple types of whiskey, bourbon is unique in its high corn content and its use of new oak barrels. These two factors give bourbon its characteristic sweetness and complex flavor profile.

Popular Bourbon Brands

There are many bourbon brands, and some of the most famous include Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, and Wild Turkey. These bourbons have their own distinctive flavor, making them popular choices for both casual drinkers and connoisseurs alike.

Jim Beam is known for its smooth, mellow taste, while Maker’s Mark is known for its unique sweetness. On the other hand, Wild Turkey is known for its bold, intense flavor.

Regardless of their flavors, all three of these bourbons are recognized as being among the best in the world.


Bourbon Cocktails

Several popular bourbon cocktails are perfect for any occasion. For example, the classic Manhattan is one of the most well-known bourbon drinks and is made with sweet vermouth and bitters.

The Old Fashioned is another classic made with bourbon, sugar, Angostura bitters, and water. Or, for those who prefer a fruity cocktail, the Kentucky Mule is a refreshing mix of bourbon whiskey, lime juice, and ginger beer.

What is Canadian Whiskey

Canadian whiskey is a type of whiskey that is exclusively produced in Canada. Generally speaking, it is lighter and smoother than other whiskey styles. Most Canadian whiskies are blended multi-grain liquors that contain a large percentage of corn.

When Canadian distillers began adding small amounts of rye grain to their mashes, it became in high demand, and people started referring to it simply as rye. For the past two centuries, rye and Canadian whiskey have been used interchangeably in Canada and refer to exactly the same product per Canadian law.

Canadian whiskey is a versatile spirit that can be enjoyed on its neat or over ice. Lastly, it is typically lighter and smoother than other whiskies, making it especially well suited for mixing.

Popular Canadian Whiskey Brands

Many Canadian whiskey brands have gained international recognition. Some of the most well-known brands include Crown Royal, Canadian Club, and Wiser’s.

These brands are known for their smooth taste and high quality. Crown Royal is the most popular Canadian whiskey brand in the United States, and it is expensive.

Canadian Club is another popular brand known for its unique flavor. Wiser’s is a less expensive option that is popular with whiskey drinkers.

Canadian Whiskey Cocktails

A few popular Canadian whiskey cocktails are worth trying. The classic Canadian whisky and ginger is always a great choice, and for something a little different, try the Canadian rye and cola.

For a truly unique drink, mix Canadian old-fashioned made with maple syrup and serve over ice. Or If you’re looking for something a bit more indulgent, try the Canadian whiskey sour, made with lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg white.

Lastly, no list of Canadian whisky cocktails would be complete without the Caesar, Canada’s national drink. Made with Clamato juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and while it’s typically made with vodka, Canadian whiskey is a good substitute for the cocktail.

canadian whisky

Key Differences Between Bourbon and Canadian Whisky

It’s been established that bourbon and Canadian whiskey are both types of whiskey, but there are some distinct differences between the two.

For one, bourbon must be made in the United States, while Canadian whiskey can be produced anywhere in Canada. This is likely due to the fact that bourbon must be made from at least 51% corn, while Canadian whisky often includes a higher proportion of rye.

Bourbon tends to be sweeter and smoother, while Canadian whiskey is often described as being more intense and rugged. Additionally, bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels, while Canadian whiskey can be aged in used barrels. This results in a bolder flavor for Bourbon.

Another difference between the two is the spelling. One of the main things that make Canadian whiskey different from standard whisky is that it is spelled and labeled without the “e” in the name of whisky. This is because Canadian distillers want to be able to differentiate their products from others on the market.

So, while the two share some similarities, they are still quite different.

Canadian Whiskey vs Bourbon Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a smooth and flavorful whiskey that can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks, both bourbon and Canadian whisky are great options.

However, if you want to explore the unique flavors of each type of whiskey, it’s important to try them both for yourself.

About The Author

Rebecca Hanlon

Rebecca has been a blogger for over 5 years, before that enjoying a number of jobs to fund her passion for travel. She's taught English as a foreign language, a part-time Barista, a waitress, and a tour guide.

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