*Thanks to the good folks at Shift Communications and Canadian Club for the sample.
Hiram Walker, the founder of Canadian Club opened his first distillery, not in Canada, but in Detroit in 1858. However, before we get into why and how Canadian Club became Canadian, we need to figure where the hell the name Hiram comes from and what it means. Apparently a name of Hebrew origin with some Phoenician thrown in for good measure (Hiram I, the King Of Tyre…anyone?) Hiram means “my brother is exalted”. I don’t know if Hiram Walker had a brother or not, so I can’t really say if he was exalted, more than likely he was decent enough guy, though.
Ok, now that we have that cleared up, back to Hiram’s Detroit distillery. Walker learned the art of distilling while working for a grocer, first distilling vinegar, then moving on to more thirst-quenching spirits. Unfortunately, Detroit was a bad choice for opening a distillery in those days, the temperance movement was really growing and rural areas of Michigan were already dry. Walker didn’t hesitate, though, he moved quickly, packed up his still and headed east across the Detroit River to what is today Windsor, Ontario where he re-established his booze-making practice. Walker’s ambitious vision not only included the distillery but an entire town, Walkerville as it was later known, built to house and serve his employees. In later years, Walkerville also was also an automotive industry center, housing the Ford Motor Company of Canada.
Canadian Club became very popular in the late 1800’s in the U.S. because of its status as an “import” and easily survived Prohibition by being a supplier to many a bootlegger, perhaps most notably, some guy name Capone. While Canadian Club is now owned by Fortune Brands, home of Jim Beam, the whiskey is still distilled in Windsor, Ontario. Their line is made up of the ubiquitous 6 year old “White Label”, this reserve 10 year old, the Classic 12 year old, a 100 proof, an 8 year old Sherry Cask, and two well matured expressions, the Black 20 year old and 30 year old. As I understand it, Canadian Club is unique among whiskey makers in that they “barrel blend” their spirits rather than blend the grains in the mashbill before distilling. They distill separately a corn spirit, a rye spirit, and a malted barley spirit and then blend the new makes into the barrel to mature together. The Reserve 10 is matured in a combination of re-charred bourbon barrels and new American oak barrels.
The Nose: Vanilla cream soda, sugared vanilla with just a touch of straight from the bean bitterness. The sweetness is rounded out by subtle orange zest and some general fruit juice aromas. Nice rye notes with an herb-y floralness and just a touch of tobacco help to balance things out.
The Palate: Sweetened, brown sugary grain and more vanilla bean on the lightly creamy, syrupy entry. As the sweetness fades a bit, sharp-ish, toasty rye comes through insistently, with salty tones tinged with cinnamon and white pepper. Light tannic oak emerges towards the end.
The Finish: Continued mild saltiness and nice lingering rye and cinnamon notes.
Thoughts: At first, I wasn’t too impressed, this one seemed a little too light, a little too simple, but through the course of a dram, I found myself enjoying it more. While the sweeter notes were a little perfunctory, the crisp presence of the rye was bigger than I expected and lent it an easy-going complexity and drinkability. It’s certainly not the most challenging whiskey out there, but it does strike me as a solid representative of the rye-d Canadian style and for around $20, a good value, too. I can see it being a refreshing summer whisky over ice or used in cocktail.
Canadian Club Reserve 10 Years Old