Canadian Club

Review: Canadian Club 41 Year Old Chronicles Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

CC41+1.jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
40 Years; Refill American Oak
Recipe
100% Corn
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

The follow up to the remarkable 40-year old bottling of Canadian Club last year, this is a bit different - to the 41 year old corn whisky small amounts of young rye, sherry, and cognac were blended in. To my knowledge, the oldest Canadian whisky ever released to date.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Luscious, mature whisky with all the expected richness: coconut oil, beeswax, honey, oak, and yet – a nice set of spice and dried fruit notes. The palate is aged whisky that is loaded with flavor: berry notes, waxy notes, woody notes, dried fruit notes, and spice notes – it is lightly sweet, with an ethereal aged whisky quality and top notes of blueberry and honey. The nose here is just brilliant, and the spiciness in the middle is just really nice. The finish has a touch of tartness and some dried fruit reminiscent of dark fruit found in red wines.

This is very excellent. However, it falls a bit flat on the palate relative to last year (which was one of my favourite whiskies ever). It’s a bit spicier, and the dried fruit notes are more prominent.

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. My perfect whisky is worth $300, and I haven’t found it yet. A very good whisky, whether $300 is worth spending on a whisky is up to you. I will say, though, that you won’t find any other really good whiskies over 40 years old at this price.


Review: Canadian Club Barley Batch Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
42%
Aging
5-6 Years
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

This whisky was released to celebrate Canadian Club’s 160th anniversary in 2018, and it based on a blend of 5 year old standard Canadian Club (as in Canadian Club premium) from Hiram Walker distillery and 6 year old malt whisky from Alberta Distillers (owned by Beam Suntory, who own Canadian Club). It is bottled at a higher ABV, and is a limited edition.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Interesting almost tropical aromas – coconut water, bamboo, green (unripe) mango – but also familiar applesauce, vanilla, and peach. Also, mulberry – very distinct! The palate shows a bit more grain, leading onto a grainy and spicy finish with a hit of vanilla. The spices come through at the end, particularly, to balance everything out especially with a light grainy richness coming through.

This is quite a departure from most Canadian Clubs, other than perhaps the 100% rye – it is extremely fruity, more in the style of the younger, very fruity micro-distilled single malts which are on the market. However, it still has a grain richness to it that is different than a micro-distilled single malt.

If you want to try something different, and aren’t familiar with the vibrant and very fruity young malt whiskies, it’s a good try for uniqueness. If you have, though, I’d skip this one and go to a CC20 for just about 10$ bit more, or a CC12 for less.

Value: Average, at $60.


Review: Canadian Club Small Batch Classic Aged 12 Years Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
12 Years
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

I wonder how "small" these batches are...I apologize for the blurry image but I figure it's still better than nothing...

This whisky is aged 12 years, and was recently rebranded (I think 2013) to”small batch” with a new bottle (remind anyone of Knob Creek?) and description (in quite small lettering). It is barrel blended, that is, unaged spirit from different batches and perhaps recipes are blended together before being put in a barrel – in line with other Canadian Club whiskies. It is distilled in a pot still, at Hiram Walker Distillery in Windsor.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: C12-054

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Quite a compact, almost dark aroma. Maple, some cedar, slightly creamy, and even touches of light smoke, cola, some oaky earthiness characteristic of Canadian Club which I just love, a bit of light, fresh banana which, in combination with the creaminess, is a bit like a banana split. Dark rye bread, light orange, and some light toffee are also present and vanilla grows in weight as the whisky sits.

Taste: Fairly sweet, with honey, maple, caramel, oak, rye bread, brown sugar, marmelade, malt and some spices on the finish. The palate is very enjoyable, and is a bit creamy and thick. The sweetness slowly builds until there is a lovely vanilla flourish at the end of the palate which leads into the finish very nicely.

Finish: Slightly drying with some touches of dark rye bread, vanilla, a bit of oak, a touch of nutmeg and very light clove, and some light oaky earthiness (like you might expect from mossy and moist oak), with, unfortunately, a touch of slightly nagging bitterness.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, at $28.


Review (2015; Blind)*

  • Batch: C12-014

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Spices come through - nutmeg, clove, ginger, brown sugar, with threads of richness throughout. On the palate, it is somewhat sweet, though over-oaked and consequently tannic and bitter. Notable cinnamon on the finish.

Value: Low, at $28.

*I should note here that this whisky went on to win a silver medal at the Canadian Whisky Awards for this same batch, so, either my palate strongly disagreed with this one in a unique manner or this sample tasted was tainted, which is my suspicion. As such, I trust my previous review from 2014 more than this one.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

I’m posting this review because this whisky is generally pretty good and I think either I had a reuined sample or I botched the blind tasting above.

Dried blueberries, maple, cinnamon, old oak, new oak, vanilla, green, wet fresh and rich wood, and some very appealing spiciness. This is very familiar. The palate is fairly straightforward with some molasses, light pine, and bean sprouts and caramel. Slightly bitter on the finish, but decent.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, at $28.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

A nose dotted with transcendant rye and rich grain, easing into a palate dotted with orange peel, cream of wheat, caramel, cedar, gooseberry, white grape, vanilla, and then a creamy and spicy finish. Really nice rye and the integration is awesome. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a CC12 that’s been so good. The corn essence and dried fruit in the whisky is also quite rich, a nice touch.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, at $30.


Review: Canadian Club Chairman's Select 100% Rye Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

This whisky, it seems, took most people by surprise. I don’t usually get surprised by a new whisky release, but this one I didn’t see until it just about hit the shelves. Though it is Canadian Club, it is not actually distilled at the Hiram Walker plant in Windsor (like the rest of the Canadian Club line) – it is actually distilled and bottled in Alberta, from Alberta Distillers. However, they’re both owned by Beam-Suntory so some stock-swapping isn’t as difficult as it otherwise might be, and it makes sense to sell Alberta rye from a marketing perspective because Canadian Club has a much bigger brand name.

Read More

Review: Canadian Club Premium Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Canadian+Club.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

One of the best selling Canadian Whiskies, Canadian Club is full also of history (and myth). It is sold in more than 150 countries, and is produced out of the Hiram Walker distillery in Windsor, Ontario and originally crafted under Hiram Walker himself. In the 19th century, this whisky was very popular in gentlemen’s clubs, and it hence received the name “Club Whisky”. Eventually, “Canadian” was added to the label, due to pressure from the States in order to tarnish their competition (this part of the story, I believe, may be more legend than truth). Regardless, as it was known for quality, the “Canadian” helped the whisky’s success, resulting in other non-Canadian brandsfalsely putting “Canadian” on their labels. One big reason for the relative quality of Canadian whisky at the time was the institution of aging requirements before they were instituted in any other country (1 year in 1887, 2 years in 1890, and then 3 years in 1974; source: Canadian Whisky, Davin De Kergommeax).

The whisky is “blended at birth”, meaning that different batches of unaged spirit (presumably of different recipes) are blended together to fit a specific flavour profile before being put in a barrel. It is then aged about 6 years in white oak barrels. The Canadian Club whisky is different, I believe, in the States and in Canada. Though I haven’t yet tasted the Canadian Club sold in the States, most opinions seem to favor the Canadian bottling over the American.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Nose: There’s an interesting floral note that jumps out to me initially, like rose water, alongside some cola notes. Fruity rye is definitely present, and, equally as present as the corn alongside it - there is a bit of graininess reminiscent of the alcohol-forward smells of vodkas. I find the corn a little reminiscent of unflavoured corn chips. There’s vanilla and a bit of caramel also in the background….and the nose opens up as the glass sits revealing more vanilla and maple, and, at times, candied orange peel. It’s subtle, but it keeps me interested. There’s almost a bit of sour, almost meaty aroma that comes out in the nose (not that appealing...). I get quite an interesting mix of vegetal notes – such as celery and green bell pepper. The nose, I find, is a bit errant and not particularly well constructed together.

Taste: A bit sweet. The rye comes in and carries much of the flavour, although the corn is also still quite present. There’s a particular earthiness to this whisky as it heats up the mouth at the end of the taste that I really like. I also find just on the exit there’s a faint bit of that floral character that I picked up in the nose. It’s interestingly raw at points, and reminds me of the volatility of some rye new makes– however, I don’t mind the flavour. There is some unbalanced bitterness at times, unfortunately, which detracts from the taste.

Finish: The tannins do a bit of work on the finish, which has a nice touch of acidity and prickly spice and cacao powder. The finish has a touch too much of bitterness which I don’t like, however, I find it interesting juxtaposed with the sweetness. As the finish fades, it becomes more enjoyable after a bit of time as the finish seems to lighten up and “cleanse” itself.

This isn’t a whisky I would choose to take an hour with, but part of me quite enjoys the raw earthiness and spice of this.

Value: Low to Average, at $28.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Loads of pine – pine needles, balsam fir, cedar, pink peppercorn – remarkable. Mandarins, lemon, light spices, and lightly roasted almonds play the supporting cast. Slight creaminess brings things together nicely. Light oils, and nice spices on the finish.

Value: Low to Average, at $28.


On whisky festivals, but, particularly: The Wonderful World of Whisky by Jason Hambrey

I tend not to go to many whisky festivals, largely because I get to see many of my friends in the industry outside of the festivals and I’ve tasted much of what is offered – a basic view to take, yes. If you are new to whisky, it’s terrific exposure. However, if you aren’t, what’s the appeal of festivals? There is one big one – the people. The whisky connoisseur world is not a collection of people who are wanting to drink by themselves – it is a rich community of whisky lovers who find friendship over an enjoyable spirit. For those who go to many festivals, it isn’t about the festival activities themselves – it becomes about what is around them, and, more importantly, who is around them. It’s a great meeting place.

The Wonderful World of Whisky is a terrific whisky show – my favorite this year. What sets it apart is its creativity, unique venue and the crowd that goes is terrific – friendly, energetic, and curious. It has only been running for two years, starting last year with terrific success. It is held at the NAV centre, a training facility for air traffic controllers. Creativity is at the heart of the festival – the masterclasses are well-sized; there is smoke billowing up from the courtyard as an entire pig (among other meat) is being smoked on a spit (Chef Luc’s idea of what a whisky festival needs!); the tasting room is set out with booths set up by category – Canadian along one wall, bourbon on another, scotch in the middle, etc.; the inside of the grand tasting room was set up with a tent and string lights creating a vibe more like an outdoor late-night festival than a dingy room. The food, also, was terrific – from salads to the desserts to the smoked meat.  The show wasn’t dominated by one or two mainstream brands – each brand had its place and allowed for gradual and balanced exploration.

Without caveats, grab a couple friends and go next year – and, believe me, I don’t say this about most whisky festivals. Also, if you can, go to the whisky dinner on Friday – it was awesome food with a terrific blind tasting lead by the owner of perhaps the most famous whisky store in Canada (Kensington Wine Market)….it also featured a 90 day old prime rib aged in Bunnahabhain 12!

You can hear more on the Whisky Topic podcast here!

Also, there’s a beer, bourbon, BBQ, and blues fest at the same venue on July 14….

Review: Canadian Club 40 Year Old Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Canadian Club 40.jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
40 Years; Refill American Oak
Recipe
100% Corn
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

This whisky is remarkable - it showcases all the glory of old Canadian corn whisky. It beats out a pre-prohibition 37 year old Seagram's bottle as the oldest Canadian whisky ever bottled (as of October 2017), even overshadowing the terrific Wiser's 35 year old. This whisky demonstrates what age does to whisky - a relatively light corn spirit, filled into used casks - and after 40 years containing significant complexity and weight.

Notably, I was suspicious if this whisky would sell - would people spend $250 on a Canadian whisky. Yes! The Canadian Whisky bubble is beginning to burst - people lining up outside liqour stores before they open to snatch up a bottle of this. I had the chance to try a cask sample at cask strength, too (~60%), but the blended version at a notable 45% is better. I highly recommend trying to get a taste.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is absolutely full of aged whisky notes – blueberry is how I describe them but others describe them as green apple. Apple seeds, hardwood forest (I was just camping this weekend and it is bringing me back!), blueberry, plum, oaky spice notes, caramel, beeswax, clove, nectarine, white goosberry, and terrific earthy notes round out a nose as rich as you can imagine. The palate follows suit – creamy oak notes, dried corn, corn oil, beeswax, prune, almond, and loads of spices and a slight acidity. There is an ever-so-light spicy bitterness which gives great structure and play to the palate. What a gorgeous whisky. The finish is full of classic Canadian Club dark spices – like an old mix of whole baking spices. But still creamy, with oak, almond, butterscotch, white pepper, citrus pith, and more rich wood. The finnish is tannic and drying, too – but I quite like this. The proof is just about right, too – I had a cask sample at 60% and you don’t get much more out of it (less, in fact – it’s not one of those sort of whiskies –less complexity is revealed – it is just peppery hot). One of the best whiskies i have tasted - what a delight!

Exceptional (less than 5% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation). One of the best whiskies I’ve ever tasted.

Value: Average. I can’t give a $250 whisky a score better than decent, but I also don’t think you’ll find a 40 year old whisky anywhere for this price, let alone one that tastes this good.


Review: Canadian Club 20 Year Old Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
20 Years
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

This whisky, like all Canadian Club products, is “barrel blended” which means that batches of unaged spirit are blended together before being put into white oak barrels. The grain recipe is the same as the standard Canadian Club, only it is aged 20 rather than 6 years. Though it is described as a “limited edition”, it is a regular product of Canadian Club. Each bottle is individually numbered, but it is too bad that it doesn’t say how many bottles there are, or from what batch. This reviewed bottle was number 294870. Like all Canadian Club whiskies, it is distilled at the Hiram Walker Distillery in Windsor, Ontario. Though I haven't reviewed many batches, batch variation can be significant from what others tell me. This is a good one.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A (Bottle 294870)

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Some nice, sharp rye and dry corn (like fresh cornmeal) comes up with classic rye fruitiness. Oak comes up, along with some pencil shavings, with earthiness much like you might expect a slightly damp, mossy oak stave to smell – though not perhaps the most appealing description it is a great smell. Light fruit – white grape and green plum as well as notes of strawberries. It does smell quite dry overall, and underneath the larger aromas there is a rich toffee backdrop, alongside a caramel pudding creaminess. The whisky reminds me very much of a well-aged dark rum, interestingly enough.

Taste: Rich maple and woody flavours start the palate, with some molasses notes leading into a sweeter brown sugar note along with some toasted oak. It is interestingly nutty, and has an almost nutty cookie-dough like feel to it along with a strong orange note like orange liquer. The rye comes through almost right at the end of the palate – overall it’s quite rich and dense. The molasses notes are interestingly strong enough that I wonder if I could be sipping a rum.

Finish: Quite dense, and slowly unfolding, with some interesting flavours that remind me of what cookie dough made with whole wheat flour might taste like. It is still fruity, and consequently feels quite lively. There are still molasses notes, reminiscent of a good dark rum. There is also oak, light orange peel, and a very light touch of vanilla. It is a bit too dry, for the profile, though, and this detracts from the experience.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, for $60.


Revew: Canadian Club Small Batch Sherry Cask Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
41.3%
Aging
Sherry Cask Finished
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

This whisky, along with the Classic, have both been re-branded and are described as “small batch” whiskies – mine is from batch C12-047. Some batch variation can affect this bottling. The whisky is aged 6 years, I believe, and then finished for two years in spanish sherry casks. It comes in at 41.3%, a bit higher than the standard Canadian 40%.

Canadian Club is owned by Beam brands (now Suntory), so I notice the bottle resemblance of this to Knob Creek every time (as the cheaper CCs are very similar to Jim Beam White and Black Label) – it isn’t a bad bottle but I would prefer something a little more unique. I do like the label, however.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: C12-047

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2012

Nose: Distinctly Canadian Club, and yet distinctly different with the impact of the sherry casks. The green graininess of the rye, the cola notes, the earthiness, and the spice are all there in line with the Canadian Club line but with seemingly more grainy notes which are slightly similar to Irish pot still whiskey. However, it is a bit closed and flat, I find. There are some light raisin notes, heavy pine notes, cinnamon, oak, pencil shavings, ginger, rose water, and light vanilla – but it isn’t that well held together.

Taste: Lots of vanilla, cola notes, and some really nice spices on the finish with an underlying caramel throughout. The rye comes through slightly, but, once again, I find a green graininess which reminds me of Irish pot still, interestingly enough. A bit peppery, with even the pencil shavings making a bit of an appearance. However, I am not really sure what the blenders are trying to accomplish here – it’s a bit flat, at times bitter, and it appears that it has lost the best parts that the sherry cask, and the whisky, had to offer. Too bad.

Finish: Really doesn’t meet its potential here, with the tingling of the spices remaining without much definition or flavour. The body is decent, and it is lightly fruity – this eventually shifts from fresh to dried fruits with raisins and a bit of bitterness coming forth, and some of the almond, apple seed (as in fino sherry), and light oxidized fruitiness and caramel found in other sherries.

An interesting take on Canadian Club, but I find that it is a bit flat and seems that the sherry cask in this case has killed the whisky more than make it come alive. It is an interesting pairing, and may appeal to cognac and brandy admirers – but I’m not sure about whisky lovers. I have heard some good things about this bottling, so I hope this is just a bad batch. That being said, I have had another batch of this (which I reviewed, but lost the notes) which was also nothing to speak of.

Value: Low at $33. However, it’s not a lot to pay and some people like this one more than me.


Review: Canadian Club Reserve 9 Years Old Canadian Whisky by Jason Hambrey

CC9.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
9 Years
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hiram Walker (Windsor, Ontario)

Canadian Club Reserve, which comes pretty well in a Jim Beam Black Whisky bottle (Canadian Club is owned by Beam, which is now owned by Suntory), used to be a 10 year old offering, but is now a year younger, following the trend of many distillers nowadays – offering up younger stock to keep up with demand, or else utilizing barrels which are younger but still fit the flavour profile. Many times, it may not matter at all – age is not as good an indicator of taste and quality as many believe - however, it certainly is something. With increasing demand, the quality of many whiskies is trending downwards - though Canada has not been hit that hard, yet.

This whisky has a higher rye content than the other whiskies in Canadian Club’s portfolio, and offers up a bold profile. It is described as “triple aged”, as it is aged three times longer than the legal requirement in Canada of three years.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Nose: The sharpness of the rye does come through! Quite dark, with some notes of cinnamon and a slightly musty earthiness, orange peel, and some toffee and brown sugar. There’s a slight bitterness which manifests itself beside some chalkiness – it’s not as bad as it sounds, but not great. And there is a bit of licorice root, on different levels –  in the licorice flavour, sweetness of the root, and earthiness of the bark. And, after time, I find I distinctly smell those maple cookies you can get here in Ontario. And, there’s a slight bit of that meaty aroma also seen in Canadian Club Premium.

Taste: Rye, toffee, and vanilla…with a close of some more rye. It’s quite juicy and showcases some plum, dates, thompson raisins, a slight nuttiness, and a touch of lemon. The dates are quite prominent and unique – I quite like it. There are also some prominent diluted molasses notes too – much like that of many aged rums. The dates are so prominent and fabulous.

Finish: A bit of sweetness and vanilla, dates, rye , maple and some light berry notes as well. There’s just a touch of bitterness in the finish, but it’s quite slight. I find some cornmeal emerges over time as well.

I like the rye-forward nature of this whisky, and the accompanying fruit. A pretty good winter whisky, I would think.

Value: Average, at $27.