Canadian Club Classic 12 Year Old – Review

*Thanks to the good folks at Shift Communications and Canadian Club for the sample.

Just off the top of my head, here’s a quick list of Canadians I’d like to see perform in a smaller club: Glenn GouldGil Evans, VoivodGordon Lightfoot, SNFUOscar PetersonNeil Young, Rush, and of course, Aldo Nova. Now that I think of it, I have seen a couple of those listed play in a smallish club, the others, either due to great success or, you know, death, I’ll probably never get to see.

Hiram Walker’s Canadian Club whiskey settled into its name in that no-nonsense, slightly haphazard, and ultimately comically bureaucratic way that only the late 1800’s could afford. Walker had promoted his hooch as a luxury spirit, and accordingly, it had become very popular in “gentlemen’s clubs” throughout the U.S. northeast and Canada (gentlemen have obviously needed clubs of their own throughout history to provide a refuge from the tyranny of their wives and children, as well as a place to tell smutty jokes). It’s popularity was not without reason, Walker was aging his whiskey for 5 years at a time when most whiskey just gave a wood barrel a passing glance of a year or two. In time, Walker’s became known and labeled as Club Whiskey, which tended to piss of American whiskey makers, hoping to cash in on the big gentlemen’s club market. They insisted, in a nice political way, that Walker include the word “Canadian” on the label so people knew where their whiskey was coming from. The hope was that when gentlemen saw the stuff in their glass was coming from The Great White North, they’d recoil in horror and turn to an American made bourbon or rye. Luckily for Walker and Canadian whiskey in general, the reaction was the opposite, gentlemen liked the idea that they were drinking something “exotic”, an import, if you will. By 1890, Walker officially added “Canadian” to his Club Whiskey and its popularity continued to soar.

Canadian Club Classic 12 year old distinguishes itself by being matured mostly in re-charred bourbon barrels, differing from, say, the 10 year old which uses a nearly 50/50 mix of re-charred bourbon and new oak barrels. The re-charring lends an additional sweetness and smoothness to the whiskey.

The Nose:  A sweet, rich nose; caramel, burnt toffee, dark chocolate, and peanut brittle. Behind that, nice notes of baked fruit and rum raisin cake. Slightly herby, slightly vinegar-y rye hovers just in the background balancing those dessert notes.

The Palate:  Opens with caramel sauce and chocolate fudge sweetness and a slightly syrupy mouthfeel. More baked fruit and cinnamon candies sweeten the growing oakey clove-heavy spice. A needed touch of bitterness is provided by the rye, but it’s subtle. There’s a lot of sweetness and spice here, the rye is just enough to keep things interesting.

The Finish:  Oak and baking spices linger, more clove and a decent oak grip with just a touch of that rye greenness.

Thoughts: Fairly delicious stuff, I really enjoyed the Classic 12 Year Old. It’s definitely a whiskey on the sweeter side, but there is balance with the subtle rye and heavily spiced wood notes. While the 10 Year Old reserve has a bit more youthful rye bite, this one is a richer whiskey and fares better on its own as a sipper. For around $25, this is a great value and an excellent intro to smooth, sweet Canadian whiskey.

Canadian Club Classic 12 Year Old

40% ABV

Score: 84

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