Six Best Alberta Whisky Spots
By Twyla Campbell and Linda Garson
Now in its 29th year, this Calgary staple is run by the second generation of Buchanans. Its strength – and pride – is sticking with tradition. It has one of the largest whisky selections in North America, and a lengthy reputation for first class steaks and acclaimed burgers. The focus is on single malt Scotch, and you can count more than 400 whiskies here. The list is so long that you can wet your whistle with a “Waiting Whisky,” a daily changing half-ounce of premium whisky for $4 to sip while you choose your tipple! \
Whisky Wednesday is for both novices and seasoned drinkers to learn new whiskies – and bonus, the topically themed weekly flight saves you more than 25% off buying them individually. There’s also a daily featured whisky at discount, too. The oldest whisky here is Strathisla 1960, but it’s not the priciest – that spot is reserved for Glen Albyn 1966 at $300 per ounce.
738 3 Avenue SW, Calgary
A bothy is a small hut or cottage in Scotland. When you walk through the doors of The Bothy in south Edmonton, you feel like you’re stepping into the warm confines of someone’s cozy dining room. The space is dark and comfortable, and crammed with Edmonton’s largest selection of whisky with more than 260 different bottles, the vast majority from Scotland.
The Bothy is also one of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s 24 worldwide locations; explore the different regions of the country or go for an Around the World tasting flight. Feeling flush? The 1954 Mortlach is the oldest whisky in the house, and the most expensive at $220 for an ounce. If you prefer a heavily peated Scotch, go for the Octomore, a smoke bomb-in-a-bottle. The perfect accompaniment to those Scottish sippers is the creamy mac ‘n cheese, overloaded with tangy, oven-dried tomatoes, Irvings Farm Fresh bacon, and cheddar cheese.
5482 Calgary Trail, Edmonton
Paying homage to local history, the site of One18 Empire was a regular stop for Americans during the U.S. prohibition. Fast forward nearly 100 years, and you’ll find 240 different whiskies here from 10 countries, with Scotch and Bourbon taking pride of place. One18 is also a Scotch Malt Whisky Society location, and many of the locally inspired share plates on the menu are cooked with whisky, too.
Story-telling and flavours are the name of the game here, so play with the OFC program (Old Fashioned Central) to build your own Old Fashioned with five types of wood, three types of sugars, 12 bitters, and 22 bourbons to mix and match – that’s 1,800 different combinations! Experimentation is encouraged by all staff here, resulting in creations like “A Whisky A Day,” an apple cinnamon pie whisky cocktail named for prohibition times when only doctors were allowed to distill alcohol for medicinal purposes.
820 Centre Street SE, Calgary
Hayden Block Smoke & Whiskey
Calgary’s newest whiskey joint is known in equal parts for its house-smoked Texas barbecue meats and its range of American whiskies –102 at the last count from more than 120 whiskies on the bar. You’ll be spoiled for choice here with more than 100 whiskey cocktails on the menu. Most popular is Smoky Old Fashioned smoked off a Jim Beam barrel. The Whiskey Sour gets a lot of love here, too.
Hayden’s whisky happy hour is from 3:00-6:00 p.m., when all whiskies are half price (except the very limited Pappy Van Winkle, as they only get a couple of bottles a year!) as well as the smoked wings. There’s $4 off all whiskey cocktails, making it the perfect time to try a signature Whisky Smash of Elijah Craig, lemon, mint leaves, sugar cube, and Angostura bitters, or a Lynchberg Lemonade with Jack Daniels, Cointreau, simple syrup, lemon juice and bitters.
1136 Kensington Road NW, Calgary
Where the Buffalo Roam
The Wild Plains Bison roamed the Bow Valley until they were rendered extinct in the 19th century. The owners of this softly lit, long and narrow saloon in Canmore do their part to bring attention to the “Bison Belong” initiative by paying homage to the majestic animal. Pull up a chair at Where the Buffalo Roam and get acquainted with a Midnight Cowboy. This drink is three fingers of Blanton’s bourbon, Matusalum rum, D.O.M. Benedictine, and Cocchi red, garnished with a boozeinfused cherry.
If you’re looking for something else to light your fire, ask for a whisky (or mezcal) Old Fashioned. At the Buffalo, it’s stirred up with Sailor Jerry spiced rum, agave syrup, Fire and Damnation bitters, poured into a hickory smoke-infused vintage bottle. A bowl of hearty chorizo stout chili and you’ll be set until the cows come home — or maybe the buffalo, in this case.
626 Main Street, Canmore
A seat at North 53’s long bar is prime cocktail real estate. The flashy Smoke & Oak Fashioned featuring Victoria Spirit’s Oaken Gin gets all the press at this lux lounge, but if you favour a whisky mixture, ask for the Nihon Sun or the Meathook. The Nihon Sun features Suntory Toki, a bold and oaky Japanese blended whisky combined with wood-fired Lapsang Souchong and plum wine.
The Meathook features Alberta Premium Rye, the “the secret weapon” of bartender Riley Maggs, who loves to extol the virtues of this spicy, locally made whisky. A skiff of maraschino liqueur and Punt e Mes complements the rye, and a measure of smoldering Laphroaig Scotch adds some heft. A more appropriate name for this drink might be the Righthook because this potion packs a punch. Those spirits will stoke your appetite. North’s famous crispy, fried chicken is the perfect counterweight to the whiskies.
10240 – 124 Street, Edmonton