Pendleton Canadian Whisky

As whisky consumers in the United States, we are at a serious Canadian whisky disadvantage, and most of us don’t know it. The largest proportion of Canadian whisky available for purchase in the United States (both by volume, and by number of brands) is adulterated slop imported via tanker truck and bottled for sale in plants in the US. Think of it this way: Imagine if the only scotch available to you in bars or liquor stores was Johnnie Walker Red Label and Cutty Sark. Want a single-malt or a well-crafted blend? Better go to Europe to buy it. That’s the situation with Canadian whisky. The few quality spirits that emigrate from Canada (such as Forty Creek products) are relatively hard to find in stores, especially the limited edition whiskies.

The reason I bring this up is not to criticize the Canadian Whisky industry, but rather to highlight the reason that whisky drinkers in the US have a hard bias against Canadian whisky, and thus have a strong misconception that all Canadian whisky is both “light” in flavor and low in quality.

Is Pendleton Blended Canadian Whisky, imported and bottled by Hood River Distillers in Oregon, here to save US drinkers from a fate of tepid grain-heavy adulterated brown vodka? (Note that Hood River Distillers recently purchased craft spirits hero Clear Creek Distillery, makers of McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt Whisky). Alas, no. Pendleton, like Canadian whisky “8 Seconds”, is riding a curious wave of Canadian whisky popularity among rodeo fans. Their marketing materials, website, and bottle iconography are rife with references to cowboys, bucking broncos, and “life on the trail.” Why is Canadian whisky filling the apparent void in Western-appropriate whisky? I have no earthly clue.

As befits a product that puts demographic over quality, the whisky is a largely undisclosed blend of bulk Canadian whisky, brought to bottling proof (40% ABV) using “glacier-fed” spring water from Mt. Hood in Oregon. Under “facts” on the companies web page, you can find out that the whisky was aged in oak (really?) and “Each bottle prominently features the rodeo’s famous bucking horse symbol and Let’er Buck slogan.” Oh. Well, now I’m sold!

Nose: A lot of rye spice, almost too much. Heavy caramel, slightly chemical.

Palate: Very thick, creamy. Indeed, syrupy. Maple syrup (Seriously? Way to stereotype, Noob), a veneer of cinnamon and clove, and a dose of high-fructose corn syrup.

Finish: Medium length. Sweet and syrupy again, like allspice-infused corn syrup. Unfortunate chemical twist at the end, like aerosol.

With Water: Water adds some vanilla, but the nose becomes cloying. Thins the body somewhat. Makes the rye spices clearer on the finish.

Overall: Well. This is about 200% better than Ellington Reserve 8 year, but it’s still very sweet, and has a chemical aftertaste that I’m not fond of. Of course, it’s intended for mixing, but wouldn’t you prefer to mix your cocktails with something that tastes good on its own? I wouldn’t buy it. It’s not as wholly bad as many of the other bulk Canadian whisky products sold in the US, but it’s not a reason to warm to the market segment.

Pendleton Canadian Whisky
40% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $21 - $27
Acquired: 50ml miniature glass sample bottle

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23 thoughts on “Pendleton Canadian Whisky

  1. Two things my good sir: First. An excellent website I enjoy your reviews, relatively similar tastes you and I at least on your favorites list. Secondly, I must have gotten a worse bottle then you did of the Pendleton Whisky. A pint (375ml)bottle. It was basically caramel flavored rubbing alcohol, similar nose. Im not new to the tasting procedure of whisk(e)y but it was atrocious to say the least. I’ve been told the Pendleton 1912 12 year Rye is a big step up.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Erich! I was surprised too, since we all know that whiskies like Ellington Reserve and Pendleton all come from the same type of factory, and are basically commodity spirit with a label slapped on the bottle. I still don’t recommend this stuff, as there are at least a few “real” Canadian whiskies on the US market that are worth the price of the glass they come in. Lot 40 is a great example of a quality Canadian whisky actually available in the US – look for a review of that coming up soon.

    1. Bars. You ask for a “shot of whisky” or any well drink containing whisky in a lot of bars, you get this kind of stuff. Especially, apparently, rodeo bars. It’s more-or-less the same reason that a vast majority (80 to 90 percent, depending on the source) of the scotch whisky market is blends, and the majority of that is sold in bars.

      1. Damn college kids and rodeo bars. That’s it though, you hit the nail on the head. I thought maybe it was from gifts people give to people they don’t like, which is probably a close second to bar consumption.

        1. Hehe. If I wanted to give a “white elephant” gift that would really consternate a group of whisky aficionados, a bottle of Ellington Reserve or Pendleton would probably fit the bill. 😉

  2. I just recently stumbled across your blog, and I love it so far! I’ve been a time to time scotch enthusiast and am looking forward to getting back to it more often. Your site will definitely be a help in that and already has!

    I couldn’t agree more about Pendleton. A friend of mine recently requested that I bring this to a game night when I asked what to bring. Once I tasted it, I was unpleasantly surprised, and I’m a Jack Daniels drinker!

    Just wanted to say thanks, and keep up the great blogging!

  3. Everyone has a right to their own opinion but I think you are all wrong! Pendleton is a fantastic sipping whisky. The only thing I would ever consider to mix with it would be a couple of ice cubes. I enjoy a lot of different types whiskys (I’m not a fan of scotch though) and Pendleton is one of my favorite. Maybe I just haven’t turned into a whisky snob yet, but for my hard earned money, you can’t beat Pendleton for an affordable everyday sipping whisky!

  4. As it claims the. Canadian river it is the Canadian river it Texas I verv much enjoy this wiskey I find it has a hint of pecan wood an enjoy it meet I find it smooth

  5. Pendleton finds its place among novice whiskey drinkers who wish to transition to a heartier beverage but haven’t quite made the leap. The caramelly and syrupy flavors are more drinkable to the less educated palate. These same characteristics after experience with a more complex whiskey become less desirable.

    I still have great fondness for Pendleton because it was really the first whiskey I enjoyed. I still think it’s a great bottle to buy if you’re looking for something to sip and haven’t yet developed your own taste for whiskey yet.

  6. I’m a die-hard Maker’s fan, but decided to try a bottle of Pendleton on a whim. Not a good idea. I like my whiskey with just a couple ice cubes, and this stuff simply doesn’t taste good or smooth like that. I’ll try it in a manhattan to see if I can salvage my investment; otherwise, it’s going right down the drain.

  7. I love this whiskey. Slight taste of molasses which I liked better than the overpowered flavored bourbons. NH State liquor stores closed it out at $15.99 per 750 ml and I bought all the bottles at my local store.

  8. I’m a photographer, and I enjoy single malt scotch. My father, grandfather, and stepmother all engrained in me the love for a good scotch. Recently I was shopping for a bottle for a photoshoot. I wanted the bottle to have certain characteristics so I ended up with a bottle of Pendleton. Mostly for the bottle, but comparing the price to similar brands I knew I thought it would also be a decent sipper or at very least a decent mixer. To my utter dismay, once I popped the cork and smelled it I knew this was pure swill. It reminded me of the worst bottle of vodka I ha ever overloaded with caramel color and flavor. I have both buyers and drinkers remorse.
    Hats off to their marketing division the label, bottle, and cork all say, “decent booze,” but the booze says, “horrible booze.”

  9. Really not a bad whiskey. At first I thought your website was called scotch snob. I think that’s right. How about something positive?

    1. Clearly you haven’t looked at the rest of my site. Most of my reviews are positive. When I taste something that I very much don’t like, I don’t sugar-coat it. Read the other comments on this page – I’m not alone in thinking that this is sub-par whisky… at least the sample I tried was.

  10. I am looking for a good bottle that I can buy as a gift for a friend of mine. He absolutely loves Pendleton.. says it’s one of the smoothest whiskeys he has ever tried and it is his absolute favorite. But from what I am reading here, it looks like he might just be talking like a newbie. What would maybe be a step up from Pendleton that I could give him? He really can and will drink absolutely anything from Jack Daniels to Black Velvet (he’s an alcoholic with a tight wallet) except Jameson, but what would you recommend I get him as a treat? I’ve given him Pendleton a couple times but I want to move a step up.

    1. Hi Mac,
      If you want to stick to Canadian, you could try Lot 40, which is an excellent 100% rye. It’s quite a bit pricier though. If you wanted to try scotch, the cheap option would be Bank Note 5-year blended scotch (if you can find it), or the better option would be a single malt like Balvenie DoubleWood 12 year or the slightly cheaper Glenmorangie 10 year “Original”. For inexpensive bourbon, try to find 1792 Ridgemont Reserve (west coast) or Very Old Barton Bottled in Bond (east coast). For the absolutely “smoothest” (Smooth doesn’t always mean better. Any whisky with a ton of water is smooth.) whisky I’ve ever tried, look for Cut Spike 2 year Nebraska Single Malt. It’s unreal how smooth that is, but it’s not cheap either. Cheers!

  11. I was looking for some reviews on Pendleton’s and stumbled across this website. I haven’t yet tried this whiskey, but I do appreciate a finely crafted whiskey. I am also a fan of Scotch, and I don’t care for either when they are blended. I tend to appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into getting it right the first time, not needing to blend. My preference is bourbon, and I must recommend the Four Roses Single Barrel as probably the smoothest bourbon I have ever tasted. While I do not care for their Small Batch, the Single Barrel is exceptional. Bottled at 100 proof, it still goes down smooth. Jack Daniels Single Barrel is also extremely smooth. For a smooth Scotch, I happen to like the Lagavulin 16 year Single Malt. Many dismiss it because, being an Islay Scotch, it has an extremely smoky/peaty nose/taste. However, I find that I enjoy that aspect of the drink.

  12. As a Canadian whisky lover who’s lived in the UK and is now in California, I find myself very bothered by this product. The pricepoint (and a T-Mobile dead-zone in Nugget, Davis) suggested I might find something approaching Forty Creek quality (listed a good $7 above the swill that is Crown Royal). Alas, I found syrup. Not even my Nana’s maple syrup fudge, or even maple syrup. Just sugary sludge. It’s not the absolute worst whisky I’ve had (that can be found in Sarajevo, Bosnia. DON’T try the ‘local’ stuff!), but it’s not worth any premium above the local crap you folks have. Shame on Oregon for besmirching the decent name of Canadian whisky.

  13. I found your blog after making the mistake of buying a 5th of this “Whiskey” I could barely get a sip of this down, as the medicine-like burn was a huge shock. I thought for certain that my bottle was from a bad batch… but after reading your review, and the feedback from others.. It looks like I’m stuck with a full bottle. What a waste. I suppose it could be poured into the lawnmower.

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