Canadian Whisky Riding Segment’s Surge, Enjoying Growth


Just as the overall whisk(e)y segment has enjoyed growth in recent years, Canadian whisky is holding up its end of the bargain, recording 2.2 percent growth in 2015, according to Distilled Spirits Council data.

Compare that to sales of vodka, says Hood River Distillers Senior Brand Manager Tia Bledsoe. During the same period, the clear spirit logged only half a percentage point of growth.

“I believe Canadian whisky fares well in a bar’s hierarchy,” Bledsoe said. “Recent reports indicate a steady upward trend for Canadian whiskies.”

She credits Hood River’s Pendleton products — blended Canadian whiskies featuring an “exceptionally smooth finish,” making for an easily enjoyable and drinkable spirit — for some of the segment’s success. It can be sipped neat, on the rocks or integrated into any classic whisky cocktail.

“Or really mix it up and use in place of vodka,” she suggested.

Another influence on the segment’s success is the ongoing cocktail craze that has no end in sight with mixologists bound by only basic elements.

“The effects of the cocktail craze are nothing but positive,” Bledsoe said. “Bartenders continue to defy the traditional norms of cocktail making by exploring new recipes with new spirits — like Canadian whisky.

“These cocktails are just another avenue for consumers to experience and enjoy the taste and complexities of Canadian whisky.”

Especially for those who might be intimidated by the idea of trying a new spirit either neat or on the rocks.

“For Canadian whisky, it’s really about education and trial: Find local spirits tastings, research tasting notes and the product’s history,” she suggested. “The whisky segment, in general, offers a wide variety of options.

“It takes spending time with the products and understanding the different noses and flavors that really helps beginners understand and appreciate what they are consuming.”

Bledsoe said the seasoned connoisseurs of the spirit are well acquainted with the smooth finish of their favorite Canadian whisky on the rocks, neat or with a splash of water.

“People are drinking Canadian whisky in all forms and fashions,” she said. “One hot trend that seems to be making an impact in the cocktail-making industry is replacing bourbon in traditional cocktails — like the Kentucky Mule, Old Fashioned, or Sazerac — with Canadian whisky.

Bledsoe said she has just put away her Canadian Mule mug now that chillier fall temperatures have become the norm.

“Now that the weather is changing, I’m back to my go-to Pendleton on the rocks with a splash of water and a lime,” she said.

As for what the future holds for Canadian whiskey, Bledsoe said she expects to see a continuation of the good times.

“The growth of whisky continues to dominate formerly leading spirits, like vodka,” she said. “We’re definitely excited about the potential for premium whiskies based on the current trends.”