11 Facts About Costco Whiskey You Should Know

Kirkland single malt whisky bottles
Kirkland single malt whisky bottles - The Image Party/Shutterstock

If you love whisky, you're gonna love what Costco offers. The retail giant is as well-known for its extensive booze offerings as it is for its rotisserie chickens and massive cakes, and whisky sits front and center on its shelves. Costco sells a huge range of whiskies, with a host of top name brands and its own Kirkland brand (which was almost called something way different) having an impressive selection of expressions. Maker's Mark, Jack Daniel's, Jameson, and Crown Royal are just a few of the brands you might find in its cavernous stores, alongside its own Scotch, bourbon, and Irish whiskies.

Although these famous names might come at attractive prices, they may not be as good of a deal as some of Costco's other whiskey offerings. Additionally, Costco stocks a few whiskey varieties that you might never have expected, like the elusive Pappy Van Winkle, which requires specific knowledge of when it's released and how to procure it from the employees to nab a bottle. If you ever wanted to get the lowdown on the secret behind Costco whisky, we've got the facts you need to know right here. Pour yourself a glass, and let's dive in.

Read more: All The Benefits Of A Costco Membership

Costco Kirkland Whiskey Comes In A Variety Of Regular Expressions

Kirkland signature Irish whiskey
Kirkland signature Irish whiskey - The Image Party/Shutterstock

Costco doesn't do anything by halves -- and that includes its whiskies. The store stocks a large selection of whiskies under its Kirkland brand name, pointing towards the level of demand. As of December 2023, there are seven individual Kirkland Signature Scotch whisky expressions on regular offer in the store. Its blended Scotch whiskies are a permanent feature, with various Speyside, Islay, and regular Single Malt scotches also available on rotation.

Additionally, Costco offers three different Kirkland Signature bourbon expressions, which tend to be released and stocked during the summer months. Irish and Canadian whiskies round out the pack, with Costco often offering limited-edition Kirkland whiskey and whiskey products. This amount also doesn't cover drinks or liqueurs based on whiskies, like Irish cream, which Costco also stocks under its Kirkland brand name.

It's worth remembering that like all big stores, Costco can change up its product selection without warning, and some of its items have changed over the years -- meaning that if you last shopped at Costco a decade ago, you may find a different selection or flavor of whiskey than the one you found last time. Given the beverage's eternal popularity, though, we don't think the store will stop stocking it any time soon.

Costco Sells More Alcohol Every Year Than You Probably Realize

liquor aisle in Costco store
liquor aisle in Costco store - ZikG/Shutterstock

It's probably no surprise that Costco makes a lot of money, and a significant proportion of its sales revenue comes from its whisky. The store sold approximately $6.5 to $7 billion worth of alcohol in 2023 (per Forbes), making it not just the biggest seller of alcoholic beverages in the United States, but in the entire world. Of these alcohol sales, roughly 25% are made up of spirits -- and when you consider that a significant proportion of the Kirkland booze line is made up of its various whiskies, it's clear that a lot of bottles are being sold.

So what's Costco's secret behind shifting so much booze? It's a combination of lower prices, good quality, larger bottles (which give the sense that you get more for your money), and its all-important subscription model. Because Costco charges people to shop in its stores, it creates a sense of customer loyalty, where people feel as though they have to get their money's worth and make the most of their subscriptions. As a result, they stock up on whisky and other alcohol while they're there, filling their baskets with big, non-perishable items that seem to be a bargain.

You Don't Always Have To Be A Member To Buy Whisky At Costco

person holding Costco membership cards
person holding Costco membership cards - Sadi-Santos/Shutterstock

Costco's subscription model can create a real sense of exclusivity, and those who don't have a membership can often feel as though they're missing out. Luckily, in some places, you don't have to be a member at all to get your whiskey fix. There are standalone Costco liquor stores that only exist in a few places, where you can enter without being a full Costco member and purchase whiskey, vodka, and other spirits.

However, you'll have to be somewhere fairly specific to visit these fabled stores. Costco Liquor is currently only located in Alberta, Canada, a province where you're only able to buy alcohol in designated liquor outlets. As such, these stores are located right next to the regular Costco locations, but with a separate entrance, so you'll have to go next door to get your Canadian whisky. If you're in the United States, though, you'll likely still have to get a Costco membership to purchase its range of whiskies. While the stores in some states, like Florida, separate the booze selection from the regular selection of products, you still have to flash your card to gain access.

Kirkland Canadian Whisky Might Be Made Alongside Crown Royal

kirkland canadian whisky
kirkland canadian whisky - The Image Party/Shutterstock

Costco's Kirkland alcohol products are frequently subject to rumors about where they come from. The question of whether Kirkland Signature vodka is actually Grey Goose, for example, has been raised for years, due to the two drinks' flavor similarities. While both Costco and Grey Goose have refuted this claim, though, the retailer is less willing to squash the rumor that continually swirls about its Blended Canadian Whisky, which many folks believe is made by prominent Canadian whisky brand Crown Royal.

We've gotta say, we can see why the two are compared so often. Kirkland Signature Blended Canadian Whisky tastes and smells very similar to Crown Royal, albeit with minor differences and a hint of extra spice. Given that both whiskies are blended, it could well be the case that the Kirkland product simply has a slightly different recipe to other Crown Royal expressions, as there doesn't seem to be an exact comparison. Its flavor difference could also be due to its six-year aging process, with Crown Royal generally not including aging information on the bottles of its whisky line.‌

Its Scotch Is Rumored To Come From One Specific Company

kirkland blended scotch whisky
kirkland blended scotch whisky - The Image Party/Shutterstock

Costco does Scotch well. The store has a range of Scotch options available under its Kirkland brand name, with blended and single-malt expressions found on its shelves. These expressions, which are most diverse in Costco's US stores, can be aged for up to 25 years, giving you serious complexity in each bottle. As with all Kirkland products, however, Costco doesn't make these itself. Instead, the company behind Costco's Kirkland brand Scotch since 2007 is widely assumed to be Alexander Murray & Co., a Scottish-born outfit that operates in the United States.

The company is named after owner Steve Lipp's great uncle, a malt whisky aficionado. Lipp learned his trade in Scotland before establishing Alexander Murray & Co. in 2004 in California, where the business began supplying its Scotch to the American alcohol market. While you can find Alexander Murray & Co. products in lots of liquor stores around the country, heading to Costco to pick up one of its expressions will allow you to sample the company's smooth, peaty whiskies without having to pay top dollar for its name-brand items.

Kirkland Bourbon Whiskey Is Made By Barton 1792 Distillery

bottles of Kirkland Signature bourbon
bottles of Kirkland Signature bourbon - The Image Party/Shutterstock

It's pretty easy to find bourbon in Costco, but there's no need to spend the big bucks to get it: The store has its own line of Kirkland bourbon, with several different expressions under the brand name. Unlike some other Kirkland product producers, however, it's fairly easy to solve the mystery behind what brand supplies Costco's Kirkland bourbon. The retailer decided to put the manufacturer, Barton 1792 Distillery, right on the label.

Barton 1792 Distillery has a long lineage in bourbon making. The outfit started making bourbon in Kentucky way back in 1879 (the date in its name, 1792, refers to the year Kentucky joined the United States) and specializes in small-batch whiskies. Interestingly, though, it seems that Costco has only started using Barton's whiskey in the last few years. Records from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau reveal that Jim Beam was the manufacturer behind Costco's Straight Bourbon Whiskey back in 2011. Later, it's believed that Tennessee-based distillery George Dickel took over production of its Tennessee whiskey before the retailer landed on Barton 1792 Distillery as its provider of choice. ‌

Costco Kirkland Irish Whiskey Might Be Made In Partnership With One Distillery

bottles of Kirkland Irish whiskey
bottles of Kirkland Irish whiskey - The Image Party/Shutterstock

If you like Irish whiskey, Costco has you covered. The warehouse giant's Kirkland Signature version allows you to enjoy the expression's barley-based flavor and longer aging periods. Luckily, too, it looks as though its production is in good hands. Costco Irish whiskey is rumored to be made by Irish Distillers Ltd., a major producer owned by Pernod Ricard. Somewhat curiously, Irish Distillers Ltd. also makes Jameson, an Irish whiskey that is also available at Costco (for way more than its Kirkland whiskey costs).

In typical fashion, Costco has never been explicit about using Irish Distillers Ltd. as the supplier for its Kirkland beverage, but it all looks pretty clear to us. The main reason Irish Distillers Ltd. seem to be the likely culprit is thanks to its sheer size, which gives it the capacity to supply Costco in the large quantities it needs. Luckily, you can breathe safely knowing that this company produces a good drink. As well as Jameson, Irish Distillers Ltd. is also responsible for Middleton Very Rare, Redbreast Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, and Powers Irish Whiskey, to name but a few.

You Can Stock Up On Johnnie Walker And (If You're Lucky) Pappy Van Winkle At Costco

Pappy Van Winkle whiskey
Pappy Van Winkle whiskey - Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

It's important to remember that the Costco stocks far more alcohol options than just its Kirkland brands. The retailer sells more bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue and The Macallan than any other store in the world, and a quick trip around its aisles will have you finding even more whiskies.

If you're looking for an Irish whisky, you can pick up a bottle of Jameson, going for either its Black Label or its standard expression. Just bear in mind that you'll likely pay around $20 more if you go for the name-brand version. If bourbon is your thing, you have a mind-boggling selection. Costco stocks Bulleit, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden's, and Woodford Reserve, among other choices. As well as the previously-mentioned Johnnie Walker Blue, you can also grab a bottle of Glenlivet 14-Year-Old Single Scotch Malt Whiskey.

Just remember that these whiskeys may not always be a standard feature in Costco stores -- and some of them can be extremely hard to find. On occasion, you can find a bottle of ultra-rare Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon on its shelves, at a slightly lower price than it's sold elsewhere. These "drops" of Pappy Van Winkle only happen sporadically, though, and you'll either have to be in the right place at the right time or be one of the lucky few that employees hand a ticket out to for a chance to purchase it.

Costco Kirkland Whiskies Are Way Cheaper Than Other Versions

bottles of Johnnie Walker Black Label
bottles of Johnnie Walker Black Label - Erman Gunes/Shutterstock

Although you have to pay for a membership to Costco, you're rewarded with a cavernous warehouse full of low-price items, including whisky. Costco whiskies are consistently cheaper than name-brand versions, and given that they're made by reputable companies, you shouldn't worry too much about their cheaper price point.

Take Costco Kirkland Blended Canadian Whisky, for example. A 1.75-liter bottle will generally cost you between $20 and 30, depending on which state you buy it in. A bottle of its closest name-brand competitor, Crown Royal (which may manufacture the Kirkland product), will come in closer to the $50 mark. Costco's Kirkland Signature Blended Scotch Whisky may have a lower price difference, but buying it can still save you valuable dollars. Its 12-Year expression comes in at roughly $46 and is praised for its excellent, layered taste, with hints of cinnamon, prune, smoke, and brown sugar. Johnnie Walker Black Label usually comes in at over $50 per bottle for the same size, and while it will give you a similarly smooth experience, every penny counts. ‌

Costco Kirkland Whiskies Are Similar To More Expensive Labels

bottles of Dewar White Label
bottles of Dewar White Label - FotograFFF/Shutterstock

It can feel like going for Kirkland whiskies over a name-brand version can leave you with an inferior product. If you're smart, though, you can get a whiskey that tastes pretty similar to a more expensive option, saving you money and the hassle of going to a different store to get your liquor. Scotch pros have noted the similarity between Kirkland Signature Blended Scotch Whisky and Dewar's White Label, although the Kirkland version may be a little darker. As such, if you're using the Kirkland product in a cocktail instead of Dewar's, you're unlikely to tell the difference.

Costco's Kirkland Signature Canadian whisky has also been frequently compared to Crown Royal, and it's got more than just the taste going for it. It doesn't take a genius to notice that the bottle's shape is reminiscent of Crown Royal's squat design. This similarity is somewhat of an homage to the more expensive brand and allows you to feel like you're engaging in a little luxury for a more reasonable price -- and getting a near-identical flavor, too.

Costco Sometimes Sells Limited-Edition Kirkland Whiskies

kirkland signature limited-edition scotch whisky
kirkland signature limited-edition scotch whisky - Costco

It's easy to think of Kirkland products as unchanging and consistent, given the emphasis on providing the basics at a low price. While this may be the case, that doesn't mean that Costco doesn't have some fun with them. The warehouse occasionally offers limited-edition versions of its whiskies, designed to show off a new flavor or honor an event.

In early 2024, for example, the retailer offered a blended Scotch whisky, aged for eight years, to mark the Lunar New Year. The bottle's design reflected the upcoming Year of the Dragon and was adorned with a fierce-looking serpent, and packed in a limited-edition box. The drink itself had familiar taste notes to Costco's other Scotches, which seemed to point towards it coming from the same producer, with a spice-heavy top note and a woody, peaty finish. The year before, Costco also offered its customers a limited-edition 15-year-old single malt Scotch. It went even further in 2022, with a 20-year-old Speyside Scotch. It's definitely worth keeping an eye on what Costco's offering.

Read the original article on Daily Meal