Review: Seagram's VO Canadian Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Distillers Gimli (Gimli, Manitoba) & Valleyfield (Valleyfield, Quebec)

According to Davin De Kergommeaux’s book Canadian Whisky, in 1914 Thomas Seagram (the son of Joseph Seagram, one of the big pioneers of Canadian Whisky) asked the distiller in the now defunct Waterloo Distillery to provide him with a good barrel of whisky to celebrate his marriage, and it was liked so much that it was decided to be brought to market – and this became Seagram’s VO. The meaning of VO, apparently, is still unclear. It was a key illicit whisky for thirsty Americans during prohibition, and continues in production today, though a few flavour nuances have changed. The crest of Seagram’s shows horses, which is fitting because Joseph Seagram loved horses and had award winning stables alongside his whisky interests.

Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Light, with some rye spice and light oak drifting in and out of the background. It’s a bit sour, with some light fruitiness. I find as the nose opens it improves, with some custard, bourbon aromas, and vanilla. This one noses a bit better in a wide glass.

Taste: Nice viscosity, with some light, rye-tinged vanilla, and some slight bitterness. There’s some light, sweet white grape-like fruitiness along with some bourbon notes fit in very nicely in the background. Quite easy to sip – it’s light and pleasant, though the bits here and there of bitterness detract from the experience. There’s even a light touch of acidity which is nicely balanced with the rest.

Finish: Some pretty good weight and substance to the finish. At first, it feels quite “clean” as the whole taste brightens up and gets lighter and some more sweetness emerges, along with some white grape and light fresh banana flavours and generic fruitiness. Eventually, we are left with some dusty rye, light spices, and light fruitiness, and, from time to time, nutty and almond-like notes.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). From a taste perspective, it doesn’t quite earn this ranking - but this is cheap stuff and represents a historic style of Canadian whisky and a large portion of what Canadian whisky continues to be - a light, slightly sweet, slightly spicy, style of whisky. For that reason, I think people who want to know what Canadian whisky is like, and where it came from, need to try it. Would I rank it in the best Canadian whiskies? No. But that’s not the point here.

Value: Average to high. that being said, it’s hard to do better with only $26 in Ontario.