Canadian Club Chronicles Issue No. 1 Water of Windsor 41 year old, 45%
Canadian | $300
Recently, a new “oldest Canadian whisky ever,” appears every year. In 2018, the honor goes to Canadian Club. Cedar lumber, fresh apricots, hints of bonfire, and sweet applewood on the nose. On the palate it’s butter tarts with vanilla, waves of pepper, pears, peaches, bonfire notes, and hints of pipe tobacco. Crisp, clean, and slightly bigger than Canadian Club 40 year old, the 41 is woodsy, silky, and mouth filling. (2,472 bottles for U.S.)
After 40 years in barrels, the trademark Canadian Club dark fruit is as rich as ever. Reminiscent of raisin tarts with sprinkles of sweet baking spices, then strawberries and black pepper. Warming but never hot. No tannins, no woodiness; silky barrel tones are the only hint of oak, while soaring floral esters speak loudly of time in the barrel. The glowing, never-ending finish is spectacular. Canada’s Sesquicentennial Celebratory Release. C$250
Bottled to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of Canadian Club whisky. An amazingly fresh and vibrant whisky given its age and delicateness. I feared that, given how light in body traditional Canadian whiskies are, this whisky would be old, tired, and show too much oak (which was true for Crown Royal’s ultra-premium offering, XR). But this isn’t the case. There’s an excellent balance of silky caramel, vanilla icing, dried spice (cinnamon, spearmint), and berried fruit, along with more subtle notes of toffee apple, corn oil, and soft dried oak on the finish. Not as luxurious as Crown Royal’s Cask No. 16, but it shines with its polish and purity.
Fifty years on, the standard Canadian Club becomes very complex and in-your-face delicious. Barley sugar sweetness blossoms into creamy caramel in a dark, heavy, full-bodied whisky with cinnamon, hot chewing tobacco, and sizzling spice. Acetone, dry wood, and peaches on the nose give way to musty perfumed sandalwood and fresh crisp oak, with glowing embers in the throat. Floral, sweet, and a bit nutty, it finishes slowly in leather and furniture polish. (Australia only) A$164
Although this whisky was distilled at CC’s sister plant in Alberta, the dried dark fruit signature of Canadian Club is evident as soon as you open the cap. Elegant, but never subdued; cloves, nutmeg, and allspice play off the fruit and underlying notes of clean grain dust. Vanilla and rich woody tones indicate at least some virgin oak barrels were used for its 7 year maturation. Rich caramels soften a gently glowing heat. Complex and beautifully balanced. (Canada only) Value Pick.
Sometimes, when whisky is batched, a few leftover barrels are returned to the warehouse. Canadian Club recently pulled and vatted several of these from the 1970s. Acetone, Granny Smith apples, and fresh-cut white cedar showcase this long age. Complex and spicy, yet reserved, this dram is ripe with strawberries, canned pears, cloves, pepper, and faint flowers, then slightly pulling oak tannins. Distinct, elegant, and remarkably vibrant, this ancient Canadian Club is anything but tired. (Australia only) A$133
Every now and then, Canadian Club dips into its massive reserves to release a longer-aged version of its core 1858 edition. After an initial hit of toffee, a well-defined woody framework supports signature Canadian Club pruney notes, clean grain, and peppery rye. Brown sugar, unsweetened cereal, and hints of barn boards in the middle follow an inviting crispness, enhanced by mild oak tannins and accented by floral top notes. (Canada only) $60 CAD
After more than 60 years in cask this dignified, old-time Canadian Club flaunts its age with wood and faintly bitter oak tannins. Initially, the nose is closed, then opens into cedar with slightly musty wet paper and just hints of fruit. The fruit is big but undefined on the palate with overtones of brisk Epsom salts, sweet sandalwood, and blistering spices. Teasing hints of varnish, clean wood, and oat flakes linger long into the finish. (Australia only) A$195
Since Canadian Club refined its batching process, this 12 year old whisky has begun to show pleasing differences among batches. And though a batch is exactly that, a batch, bottling codes reveal that different bottle sizes of a single batch can be filled weeks apart. Caramel, dark fruits, and luscious sweetness jump out of the glass to fill the room. Behind that, the classic Canadian Club pruniness, butterscotch, and hot pepper ride on a wagonload of dried oak timber.
In the 1980s, when white spirits elbowed whisky aside in the marketplace, unneeded barrels of Canadian Club continued aging. Japanese whisky lovers delighted by the resulting flavor boost demanded a new Japan-only CC. Sweet and hot, the classic pruney, figgy fruitiness of Canadian Club interweaves with new cedar fence posts. Vaguely pulling tannins lend a bitter edge that first amplifies blistering hot pepper, then muffles it into the soothing, glowing warmth of bubbly ginger ale. (Japan only) ¥ 3,375
Nose is much more integrated than the others; caramel and light honey tones with an oaky vein. After four CCs that were sequentially innocent, clumsy, eager, and balanced, this one is confident: well-rounded, sweet but not goopy, oaked but not prickly. Well-named: this is a classic Canadian.
A judicious infusion of vanilla and spice bolsters cinnamon, pepper, caramel, and aged oak, while leaving the rye whisky character intact. Prune juice tinged with citrus fruit balances sour black licorice and earthy artist’s canvas. The palate has a creaminess, but with pithy, silky tannins. Burning hot cinnamon hearts and syrupy sweetness take us vaguely into liqueur territory. A complex nose, but a simple palate that soon fades into white grapefruit and a warming peppery glow. (Canada only) C$26
Hard to find Harvey’s Bristol Cream sherry casks are the secret of this big fruity whisky, and also the reason it varies among batches. Rumors that Sherry Cask will be discontinued in the U.S. are true, so stock up now. Otherwise, be prepared for some cross-border shopping in Canada, where it will continue to be available. The sweet sherry influence is obvious in ripe dark currants, golden raisins, and dates. A Brio-like nuttiness gives way to hot pepper.
Oh! The glory of new wood. Even dialed back from 6 years old to 5 this version pushes Canadian Club’s entry level mixing whisky into sippin’ territory. The century-old formula is unchanged, but brand new oak emphasizes the rye grain while injecting soft oak caramels and crispy bright barrel notes into the familiar, peppery, overripe dark fruit of one of the world’s longest continuously produced whiskies. A long gingery finish touches on sweet grapefruit and chili peppers.
A bit of heat, faint nose of putty, light brown sugar, and fully ripe grapes. Stand-up whisky: sweet grain, a bit of rye spice, oak notes, and a good release on the finish. Just a touch of hollow sweetness in the middle, a kind of flat spot.
8 years old and sherry finished, and it shows in the darker color. Sweet dark fruit aromas; a bit sugary. Waxy fruit and caramel, wood spice, and some oaky prickliness on center tongue as the whisky fades. More interesting than the standard, but a bit thick.
Pale, almost peach color. Light aromas of caramel, sweet citrus. Tastes of sweet caramel, faint bite of oak on the end. Simple, but clean and pleasant. You’d have to be careful mixing this — it would get lost easily — but it should be nice on the rocks or with seltzer.
Hot solvents on the nose, reminiscent of Hinkle’s Easter egg dyes. Heavy-handed sweet wash of caramel, very hot, cloying finish. Not easy to see this as related to the clean innocence of the standard expression.
The discontinued 10 year old CC Reserve was typical of the hard-rye genre, with vanilla, caramel, ripe fruit, and hot pepper stitched onto a flinty-firm base. This new 9 year old version, though similar, has obvious differences. Pleasing heat rides an initial surge of toffee, dry grain, and dried dark fruit. A soon-to-arrive pithiness on the shortish finish refreshes, but without the familiar steeliness of its antecedent.
When they say berry, they mean berries: baskets of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, until suddenly the palate veers off into grape popsicles. This is one sweet, unabashedly faux-fruity potation, but other than traces of oak, not much whisky flavor remains. Still, in the right hands it could be a lot of cocktail fun. Rather than serving it in a whisky glass, a dram or two on French vanilla or coconut-milk ice cream is genuinely scrumptious.