Who Actually Makes Kirkland Whisky?

The Kirkland Signature line of Costco private-label liquors are generally held to be pretty decent buys for the price, although they have their hits and their misses. What makes Costco booze bargains even more fun is the fact that the internet abounds in rumors of which big-label bottles the Kirkland brands are supposedly exact dupes for.

While the major distillers who produce these big labels may also be supplying liquor to a number of private labels, including Costco's, the truth behind who makes what isn't exactly public knowledge. Consulting the official COLA (Certificate of Label Approval) database of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau only yields the info that Costco's bourbon comes from Tennessee Distilling Ltd. in Columbia, Tennessee, while its Canadian whisky is sourced via Sazerac North America, Inc. in Louisville, Kentucky. No word on the Scotch, and no actual names of distillers, just distributors.

Luckily, Punch was able to uncover the fact that Kirkland's Canadian whisky is made by Crown Royal and their bourbon by George Dickel (although it had previously been manufactured by Jim Beam). And according to Market Watch, Kirkland's Scotch whiskies come from private-label bottler Alexander Murray & Co., a company that works with about 12 different Scottish distilleries.

What big-name brands do Kirkland whiskies most resemble?

Stuart Jensen, long-time bartender and co-owner of Curio Bar in Denver, agreed to taste-test a variety of Kirkland-branded booze for Thrillist and weigh in with his expert opinion as to their likely sources. He thinks the Kirkland Signature Blended Scotch Whisky is likely distilled either by Diageo (who owns Johnnie Walker) or Bacardi (who produce Dewar's, according to The Whiskey Wash). In Jensen's opinion, the Kirkland Scotch is most reminiscent of Dewar's White Label. Jensen thinks the stuff should be okay in a mixed drink, but doesn't recommend drinking it straight.

While Kirkland Signature Premium Small Batch Bourbon is definitely sourced from George Dickel, Jensen says "It doesn't taste all that much like Dickel — I don't get that much spice on it." The Crown Royal-sourced Kirkland Signature Blended Canadian Whisky, on the other hand, "has a little more spice than in a Crown Royal," but Jensen finds it to be "thin, dry, and high pitched," whatever that means. Still, he considers it a better deal than any other similarly-priced Canadian whisky (which he admits to not being a fan of).

If you do decide to save a few bucks buying Kirkland whisky instead of a name brand, but you don't want your guests to know, here's a helpful hint: although it's not necessary to decant whisky, decanting is a great way to get rid of that telltale Costco bottle and make your bargain booze look super-fancy to boot.