Ellington Reserve (8 year) Canadian Whisky

Lately I’ve been thinking about Canadian whisky. Other than Crown Royal, there isn’t really a lot of Canadian whisky available to US drinkers, and most of what’s available is… uhm… not very highly-regarded. That’s all changing with imports of products from Forty Creek, Lot 40, and others. But to put that into perspective, I felt a need to sample some of the existing “blended” Canadian whisky products already available here.

I should know by now that a plastic 50ml sample bottle is a bad sign. A $15 price tag on a 750ml bottle? Equally bad sign. But hey, the bottle says the whisky is 8 years old! An age statement on a cheap blended whisky? Maybe things are looking up! I can’t find a website, or ANY information about the whisky, other than its age. Like most blended Canadian whisky sold in the US, it’s almost certainly bulk aged spirit imported by tanker truck into the US and then proofed down and bottled.

Nose: A blast of young grain, a wave of artificial vanilla, and something vegetal, like fresh-cut cabbage. There is also a cloying sweetness attached to the vanilla.

Palate: Eughh. Chemical solvent, and a very fake taste, like concentrated food dye. The melted-ice-cream vanilla flavor tastes like it was added in by the bag. I don’t want to swallow it, but onward, in the name of Science!

Finish: Extremely (mercifully?) short, although it leaves behind a coating in your mouth like someone’s been spraying RoundUp weed killer nearby and you got some in your mouth. Truly wretched.

With Water: Didn’t even try.

Overall: Please, please don’t buy this. If one person, somewhere, reads this review in a BevMo and puts the bottle back on the shelf, then I have done my duty as a whisky blogger, and I can die contented. Buy anything – literally anything – instead. You’re better off with vodka “aged” overnight in a coffee cup.

OK, yes, it’s possible this sample was contaminated by being in a plastic miniature bottle (I’ve certainly had bad luck before with miniatures, especially plastic ones). However, you’d have a hard time convincing me that this stuff could be improved by ANY amount of careful storage. Also, any company that cares so little about repeat business that it allows miniatures (which many people use to “try before buying”) with this amount of degradation to represent their product deserves the bad press.

Ellington Reserve (8 year) Canadian Whisky
40% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $14 - $17
Acquired: 50ml miniature plastic sample bottle

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  • Interesting experiment SN. Do they ever turn out a surprise to the good side? Someone at my local store was trying to tell hoe good canadian whisky was and i almost had to laugh. I simply dont trust it because as far as i am aware can add any colorant or even additional flavoring, which is probably what you were tasting. Of course i know canadians can make a mean rye so im always on the lookout for that stuff, but am always treading carefully. Thanks for the heads up on this one.

  • Sounds like a contender for the worst of the worst award. I think the Canadiens keep the good stuff to themselves a bit and send the rest down here.

  • Canadian ryes tend to go from good straight to shite. Try some Alberta Premium Dark Horse if you find it. It’s got a mild spice, a bit of fire, and a hint of vanilla. That said, I don’t even close to the experience you do with whiskies, so you could easily hate it.

    • Thanks for the note – I’ll keep an eye out for it. As a side not – I also had a Canadian Whisky (a straight rye) called “Lot 40” which is a whole different ballgame – expect a review of that in a few weeks.

  • Hello, I have been reading your site here for the last while. Really enjoy your reviews. Being from Canada I have to say that if you get a chance to try Gibson’s rye whiskey. My personal favorite is the Gibson’s rare 18 year whiskey. But that stuff is hard to come by even here. As I have just started into the scotch world I really used your site to open my horizons and I thank you for that. Been a great help. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Rob! Finding good Canadian whisky is a big challenge here in the States, as very little of the good stuff is exported here. I’ll certainly keep my eye out for Gibson’s. Luckily, we do get some Forty Creek, so I’ll be trying to nail down some of that to review as well. Cheers!

  • Same here! I bought some based on a Total Wine recommendation; I thought it smelled like rubbing alcohol, and lacked everything that should be the taste of whiskey. Well… Then again, I did taste the alcohol. I tried it again (maybe because I’m a glutton for punishment), but I let it aerate for about seven minutes, and the taste definitely changed, but to an over-powering taste of hazelnut, ginger, and toffee (kind of like going to Starbucks or Gloria Jeans and asking for a seasonal flavored coffee with whiskey in it). They were obviously flavors that were added after the fact.

  • Personally I really like Ellington Reserve. It is one of the few less expensive whiskeys I have tried that I love to sip on ice. For my taste it is a very good value for a daily “sipping”. So if someone offers a taste I suggest you give it try before turning up your nose based on the above review. TomB.

  • I think you got a bad sample. I’ve been very impressed with the brand. Maybe sampling out of little plastic containers is not conducive to a good tasting experience… Just throwing it out there. 🙂

    • Hi Will, I’ve had the same thought before. But consider this – a company makes a product. It puts that product in small bottles, partially for hotel minibars and airplanes, but also so that people can sample the product before buying a full bottle (which explains the large displays of miniatures in most liquor stores). It therefore follows that those samples should represent the product. If they cause a negative reaction, that’s on the company that chose plastic bottles, not so much on me. If I could afford to purchase a full 750ml (glass) bottle of everything I reviewed, I’m sure I’d have a better blog. I cannot, and thus do not. I get along with what I can – that’s also the reason I’m always up-front about the sources of my samples. For what it’s worth, I’ve had excellent whiskies out of plastic miniatures before, and I’ve had obviously cheap slop from full-sized glass bottles before as well. Cheers! – Nathan

  • I wish I had read this before I bought it a year ago. Tastes like lighter fluid. I literally couldn’t give it away to my roommate.

  • I bought a 750ml bottle, based upon a TotalWine recommendation (like some others here). I don’t have much experience with Canadian Whisky, but as soon as I opened it, I was turned off by the smell – rubbing alcohol, mouthwash, or something. This one will get shuffled to the back of the liquor cabinet, only to end up down the drain some day.

  • I like a variety of different whiskeys and enjoy (and respect) the differences in there flavors and style. I like Ellington Reserve very much.

  • On my second bottle, and just finished a small glass. My wife and I both love it. I have to think that the reviewer had a tainted sample due to the plastic bottle.

  • Like most liquors you get what you pay for. If you want to spend more then my recommendation is 40 Creek but be aware that product might decrease in quality. It already has from the first several years batches and I am concerned that this will accelerate now that Campari Group has acquired them. Gibsons is a good choice if you can find the 12 year and also I like Wisers for sipping.

    Ellington is equal if not superior to the likes of Seagram VO, Canadian club and Crown Royal. especially if mixing with anything other than water.

    Gibsons is a good choice if you can find the 12 year and also I like Wisers

  • I have been drinking Canadian whiskey for 40 of my 68 years….I do not understand the negative comments about this whiskey…I drink it with crushed ice and a little water…my oldest son is a die hard CR advocate….without knowing what I had pouredhim…he had no clue….was amazed when I showed him the bottle…just did the same thing with my high rent nephew….he really liked it….maybe my taste buds are going south….but since I live in the south…can’t really go far….buy this and enjoy…save some $$$$…I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.

  • I actually have a bottle of this, bought before this review. My opinion is that it’s okay, not really special but all right for the price ($15). Definitely had a woody-vanilla thing going on, but not in the overtly offensive way described by the reviewer. To each their own…

  • I’ve been drinking Manhattans made with Canadian and Martini & Rossi, with a little bitters, for the last ten years or so, maybe one or twice a week. Mixed two to one, on a LOT of ice, and shaken very vigorously. And strained into a martini glass right outta the freezer. I tried various whiskies to start with (rye, etc.), then decided I liked Canadian Royale the best. Went through a couple of bottles (1.5 litres) of it over the years. Then was at my local Total Wine about four months ago and one of the guys I was talking to told me that Ellington was better than CR. So I bought a bottle. And used it only for Manhattans. As far as I can tell, it’s excellent in them. Maybe it’s terrible if sipped straight-up in a tasting against CR and other Canadians. I’ll never know. Right now I’ve just begun making Manhattans with my SECOND bottle of the stuff. And I’m sipping it as I type this. It sure tastes better than three SCOTCH Manhattans I made last week (my mother used to order them in a old Santa Monica steakhouse a gazillion years ago & I was curious) — so who the hell knows? As one of the earlier Commenters said: My palate has gone WAY downhill as the years pass….

    Bref, I think it’s EXCELLENT for Manhattans! And don’t forget the TWO cherries — maybe THEY are what make them taste so good!

  • I have never tasted anything this god awful HORRIFIC in my entire life! I too fell for the Total Wine and More lure while looking to experiment. My thought was Round Up blended with Lamp Oil and Paint Remover and finished with the Urine from the Foulest Beasts in the Darkest Corners of Hell! Other than that….I won’t even pour this down the drain for fear of corroding my pipes.

  • Wow! I’m surprised to see such a bad review. Ellington Reserve is actually my favorite whiskey. I ran across this post while googling to see where I could find it now that I’ve moved to North Carolina. I learned of it at Total Wine when I lived in Florida, where they suggested it as an alternative to Crown. I like it better and it’s cheaper too. I drink it straight, or on the rocks, depending on mood.
    Total Wine in NC doesn’t do liquor, so I’m trying to find it elsewhere. I guess taste, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder (or the tongue, in this case). Some guys think Rooney Mara is scary looking…I think she’s hot. Some think this whiskey is nasty…I love it. Go figure! To each his own.

    • Just read your comments about Ellington Reserve. I had the identical experience in Total Wines in Fort Myers FL. a few years ago. I have to agree with you. One point I should make is that the Crown Royal you buy in the U.S., is or was, different than what is sold here in Canada. I good friend drank American “Crown Royal”, but preferred what was brought down to him from Canada. I am unable to find any information to confirm it is different, but, my friend was convinced it is.

  • I tried a glass bottle of Ellington reserve a few weeks ago. I am a bourbon drinker, but really enjoyed this stuff and just bought another. Recently tried another Canadian Whiskey called Forty Creek also excellent. I like what tastes good to me and both products have my bill of approval. Move over Kentucky bourbon!

    • Still no luck finding an Ellington Reserve anywhere here in NC (although I haven’t tried all that hard…was just getting online again to see if it can order it anywhere, if that’s even legal?).
      That Lot 40 sounds interesting, yet also sounds hard to find. Thus, I’m always resorting to the trusty Crown.
      I’ll have to give 40 creek a try…. Thanks for the tip, Rob! 🙂
      (I wonder if Scotch Noob got the non-reserve Ellington in the airport bottle. The Reserve version costs less than Crown, which was the original draw. I’ve shared it with numerous straight whiskey drinkers and all liked it. The non-reserve is super cheap and I’ll bet it’s nasty…never have tried it).

  • Ok, well….went down to the ABC store and I did find both; Lot 40 and Forty Creek. Lot 40 did cost a lot! (see what I did there?). The Forty Creek was half that, so I gave it a try. Me likes! I guess now I have a new fave. Thanks again, Rob!

    @ ABC in North Carolina, for a 750ml:
    Lot 40-$42
    Forty Creek-$21

  • Canadians can be a little on the lighter side. I feel this is a decent, well-rounded example of that and I don’t find it intolerable at all. ER is smooth and unoffending. I find it reasonably balanced all the way through except a lingering sour tartness at the end. It stands not too far behind regular Crown Royal somewhere near regular J.P. Wisers. My favorite Canadians (of the dozen? or so I’ve tried) from first to last: Wiser’s Legacy, Canadian Club 9-year Reserve, regular CR, CR Northern Harvest Rye, Canadian Club 8-year small batch, CR Special Reserve, Ellington Reserve, regular J.P., CR Black.

    Evan Williams Single Barrel is to bourbon as the Ellington Reserve is to canadian. That is to say, really not bad for the $15 street price.

    • I am near the end of my first bottle and I’m very impressed. The characteristics in the very negative reviews simply do not match up with my experience.

  • I have to agree with the other comments here. I keep a bottle on my bar regularly. It’s nothing overly flashy, but definitely a good whiskey, especially at this price point.

  • I’m 100 percent Canadain and you are 100 percent wrong,this is a very Good Wiskey and sadly not available in Canada