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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  • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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. 😉

  • 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!

  • 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!

    • I’m no “whisky snob”, but I agree 100% with the review. I have a couple of friends that love Pendleton, they also think Jack Daniels Honey is whisky. Also, a person’s opinion is not wrong just because you don’t agree.

    • Here- here to Pendleton whiskey. It’s an everyday sippin drink. Sure I like all
      types and at bars I will sip something else but these mar-tard “experts” piss me off. Who says they know it all. Drink what u like, I bet they still live at home with mommy !!

    • I agree Normally I’m a Crown Royal fan. While traveling in the West I had to substitute because they only had the flavored Crown.
      I am not a whisky snob but I like the taste and the fact that it’s a few dollars cheaper than Crown. As a retired working man every dollar I save is another dollar I have.

      • In Australia you can’t get Pendleton Whisky for love or money.Crown Royal Peach is a good one,some American friends have told me,but the bad drought has nuked the supply of Peaches.If you

    • No offense to you, but 2 things: 1. Taking a serious interest in quality whisky is not snobbery, it’s experience and palate development. 2. This stuff is not a sipping whisky lol… it’s sweetness (cloying and gross) doesn’t come from great distilling and aging, it comes from sweeteners and its disgusting. Some people think fireball is “killer whisky”… pendleton is in that group.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.”

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

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • So I haven’t tried this but I heard that Pendleton tastes better after it oxidizes a little bit. Maybe store it in a decanter with the lid off? (Or wine decanter then back to whisky decanter to speed the process). Or maybe that’s just way too much effort to put into rescuing it when there’s so much awesomeness out there. Just a whim based on a passing thought derived from a rumor.. so maybe just ignore everything I said..

  • Thanks for the informative review. I’ve been growing a beer-belly and finally bought some whisky thinking it might be better to drink than beer late in the evening. I had a bad experience with whiskey in high school (probably Jack Daniels or Jim Beam) and have disliked even the smell of Whiskey ever since. But I tried some Pendleton Whiskey a few years ago and pleasantly found it to taste totally differently than what I thought Whiskey tasted like. I couldn’t remember the name but recognized the logo when I went to the liquor store yesterday, and I’m currently enjoying some nice Pendleton relaxation. As I sipped I was searching for reviews of this new whiskey find, and now feel like a real whiskey-amature realizing that it isn’t really very good stuff according to review after review. Nevertheless, I’m thankful for it tonight, and I may try some higher quality whiskey after having enjoyed this reintroduction to the whiskey world. Any other suggestions for someone who likes the Pendleton caramel taste and doesn’t like the Jack Daniels & Jim Beam taste?

    • Hi Drew. Try Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye. It’s quite cheap, and is similar to Pendleton. You might also try single-malt scotch… The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 year is a good place to start, or check this list. If you want to give Bourbon another shot, look for Four Roses (even the cheap Yellow Label is better than Jim/Jack), Buffalo Trace or (even better) Eagle Rare. Cheers!

  • A customer at our store asked us to order some of the Pendleton. He only picked up one bottle, so I brought a bottle of it home to try out. The bottle itself is nice, has the bucking cowboy on the cork and a star with eagle in the background. Beneath it says, “to all that served”
    Opened the bottle and poured some in a glass, extremely heavy rubbing alcohol smell as well as a caramel smell. Taste doesn’t have the alcohol taste, but does have the caramel taste which to me is nasty and it leaves a crappy aftertaste in my mouth.

    I’ve tried a lot of the blended Canadian whisky so far even some of the cheapest. This Whisky runs around $27.49 some of the $17-20 Canadian taste a lot better than Pendleton.

  • This is from an article in Wyoming . About how greedy and pathetic this company is! I hope you all rot in hell!!! “There’s a tactic used by some larger companies with big pockets called “Trademark Bullying,” through which these larger entities legally harass smaller ones for purported violations of trademark law, and with a vision to extract hard earned dollars. Such action is not rare in America, and one such incident recently took place in our own back yard. In April, Buffalo, Wyoming’s Clear Creek Brewing Company owners Robert and Mary McCorkle and Chris and Michelle Jones received a cease and desist letter from Hood River Distillers (Pendleton Whiskey). In their claim, Clear Creek Brewing was said to be using a form of the name the distiller owned, Clear Creek Distillery, even though the name was purchased by Hood River in 2014, well after the formation of Wyoming’s Clear Creek Brewing Company in 2012.”

  • First, great blog. I know I’m coming to this party a bit late in the game. I agree with many of your reviews but I’ve got to say, I disagree with this one. I’ve had quite a bit of whisk(e)y in my day and Pendleton is very high on my list for a blended Canadian. It’s a very palatable whisky, and its flavor opens up with a drop of water really well. I would say it could be a “beginner’s” whiskey given the price and easy flavor, but it will probably always remain in my top 10.

  • I live here in Oregon where the Pendleton Roundup is one of the most anticipated annual rodeos in the western US. Rightly so, most people around here are keen to want to appreciate this as a local Oregon-made whiskey. When they find out (or at least if I tell them) that it’s Canadian there is a sort of denial that seems to occur because the label associates itself so closely with such a beloved local institution. I think it’s kind of sad, really. I personally don’t care for the stuff, but I feel bad that people almost seem to feel swindled by the fact of it.

  • Hey, I am looking for suggestions. I actually like the caramel taste of Pendleton. It has been a couple years since I’ve drank it, so i’m going to go see if I can procure one of their smaller bottles to see if it is how I remember it. Anyhow, I do like, in fact cannot stand Jack Daniels, or any of the other wisemen. I have tried Johnnie walker Blue, and thought the flavor was terrible myself. I do not care for the distinctive flavor of Crown Royal present in all its forms (I just feel it gets less sting, but exact same flavor with price) .
    SO…… Does anyone have a recommendation for a caramelly flavored whisky You feel I might enjoy?

    • I suggest Cut Spike from Nebraska (although I’ve heard rumors that the more recent batches aren’t as good), or Lot 40 Canadian whiskey. The Lot 40 is everything you like about Pendleton, plus it’s polished and has more depth. You might also try Monkey Shoulder blended malt scotch, which I find to be very caramel-like (much more than any of the Johnnie Walkers). I know you said you didn’t care for Crown Royal, but the Northern Harvest Rye is quite excellent, and not like any of the other CRs, in my opinion… it’s kind of like a cheaper Lot 40. You might also look for Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or (12 year), which doesn’t have caramel so much, but is very dessert-like. Hope that helps. Cheers!

  • First off this is not a scotch and there is only one single malt whisky brand in Canada. It is from the Glen Breton from Nova Scotia. It is also understandable that you would not like it as most Canadian Liquor is stronger then the US. It’s not my favorite but it is better tasting in the North then In the South but we all know we have a sweet tooth up here, eh? ?

    • Sorry – where did I say this is scotch? It’s obviously not scotch, because it’s from Canada, not Scotland. Also, I never said it was single malt. It’s blended Canadian whisky. Lastly, what exactly do you mean by “stronger”? It’s 40% ABV, which is the legal minimum for spirits in most countries. It’s also not nearly as “strongly flavored” (in terms of oak) as most Bourbons, which are aged exclusively in new charred oak barrels (unlike scotch, which is usually “lighter” in flavor due to the use of previously-filled barrels).

  • Stop promoting rodeos in your commercials. Don’t you know the animal cruelty at those events. Therefore I will never buy your product & will let others know about this commercial.

    • Hi, this is not an advertisement, in fact I pretty solidly panned the whisky in question. I also didn’t print a single word to promote rodeos. I understand your cause, but I implore you to direct your anger in the right places… or at least skim the article before you assume its contents.

  • My late husband was gifted a bottle of Pendleton a few years back. I don’t drink and was wanting to gift it to a family member. After reading the reviews I’m not sure if I should. What do you all think ?

    • I would consider it to be fine enough for cocktails, which is what most people would use it for. If you know your intended giftee is a whisky snob (like me, according to the comments!), they’ll probably just do that. If they normally drink Jim Beam or Jack Daniels or Crown Royal, I think you’d be fine to gift this.