Canadian Club Sherry Cask – Review

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

The “cask-finished” thing is mostly a Scotch modus operandi. There has been a great deal of experimentation over the last 20 years, transferring whisky that’s been aging in one type of barrel into another type for a usually shorter period of time to complete the maturation, thereby picking up qualities and (hopefully) complexity from two kinds of casks instead of just one. On many occasions this has led to some fantastic whiskies, on a some other occasions…not so much. While it continues to be a mildly controversial topic, no one can deny that some of the more exciting, innovative whiskies of the last several years have been those “finished” in casks that once held something other than whisky. Over here in the US and Canada, however, there has been only the tiniest fraction of cask-finished whiskies produced. My guess is that this has more to do with the tradition of the process than anything else. In general, Bourbon & Rye makers focus more on the recipe for the distillate whereas Scotch makers focus more on the wood. That’s not to say that either eschews either part, far from it, only that the traditions for each style allow for that kind of experimentation a little more easily in the world of Scotch. There are a few exceptions, however; Lincoln Henderson’s port pipe-finished Angel’s Envy, or Parker’s Heritage Cognac Finished Bourbon for example and this unique Canadian expression.

Canadian Club Sherry Cask starts out as most Canadians do, born on a sheet of ice, wearing a toque,with a hockey stick in one hand and a pound of back bacon in the other. I kid. No, actually, it starts out like the other Canadian Club whiskies start out, with the grains mashed and distilled separately and then vatted together in ex-bourbon casks. They’re then told to sit still and be quiet for 6 – 8 years, after which time they’re emptied into ex-sherry casks for another two years or so of aging. The Sherry Cask expression is bottled as a “batch”, though I’m not sure how small and/or large that batch size is…

The Nose:  At once familiar and yet fairly unique. Faintly reminiscent of a sherried scotch with stewed raisins, plumes and a bit of cherry cola yet the decent hit of sharp rye, soft French Vanilla, and bit of orange pith definitely point to a North American whiskey. The sherry influence gives the rye a sweeter, yet mineral-like, faintly coffee-esque quality.

The Palate:  Pretty sweet, slightly viscous entry. Creamy sherried fruit,…mixed red fruits and white chocolate, mingle with the sharp, slightly pungent rye and is soon countered with unsweetened chocolate and baking spices, especially clove and bright Vietnamese cinnamon. The rye carries on and is joined by a nice dose of drying oak leading to a mouth-watering finish.

The Finish:  A tempting combo of sherried oak, clove, candied cinnamon, and rye fades to a salted nutiness.

Thoughts:  Really enjoyable and interesting stuff. Sherry influence on a rye-d spirit is definitely a rarity in the North American whiskey world but the Canadian Club Sherry Cask pulls it off quite well. The added complexity of the sherried fruit and European oak work well with the expected sweet & rye combo of the Canadian. Of the three Canadian Clubs that I’ve tried, I’d have to say this is my favorite. I enjoy the Classic and the Reserve but think of them both as best used over ice or in cocktails. The Sherry Cask is more one to sip neat and linger over. For around $30-$35, definitely a unique whiskey worth trying.

Canadian Club Sherry Cask, Batch SC-019, Canadian

41.3% ABV

Score:  85

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5 thoughts on “Canadian Club Sherry Cask – Review

  1. I think the main reason that US firms are not using casks this way is due to legal restrictions and market education. The former applies to any “registered names” like “Bourbon” (which are recognized by consumers). You know that all Bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels (in order to qualify to use the legal name “Bourbon”). That is the market aspect…many people wouldn’t recognize American Straight Corn Whiskey or Straight Rye Whiskey as well as they recognize Bourbon or Tennessee Whiskey. With that said, Woodford Reserve and others have experimented with “finishing” in ex-wine barrels. They can’t call these products “Bourbon” even if they start their life in virtually the same way as Bourbon.

    I don’t know why the use of Sherry barrels is uncommon, other than the US is much farther from Spain than Scotland is. Also, historically there was a practice of transporting Sherry to the UK and bottling it there. That is no longer legal (since the 1980s…) but Jerez is still pretty close to Scotland in relative terms, and since the Scotch producers have a LONG history of using these barrels, it’s easy to see why they have continued to do so even though specifically paying to import empty barrels is slightly more inconvenient (and more expensive) than grabbing a newly emptied barrel from a Sherry bottling plant.

    It’s cool to see a Canadian Whisky that is using Sherry finishing and I look forward to trying it. Thanks for sharing the info!

    1. But there aren’t any legal restrictions for finishing a bourbon in a different kind of cask. All it takes to be Bourbon is 51% or more corn in the mashbill, a handful of proofing requirements, and a minimum of 2 years in new American oak casks. As long as those requirements are met, one could finish the stuff in a sherry cask and still call it bourbon. Look at Angel’s Envy…it’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, yet it’s been finished in port pipes.

      I think your point about getting sherry barrels across the ocean is a good one, but these days, but you’d think that more American whiskey makers would be willing to experiment given that the market for such thing is pretty good. Lord knows the US is sending enough barrels that direction, you’d think a few would make it back this direction. In this case, since CC is owned by Beam Global, and Beam Gloabal is a huge company that also owns a sherry brand or two, it’s less difficult to do.

      Thanks for the comment, Thomas!

  2. Has it changed since they changed the bottle? I agree with this review when it was in the bottle shown. But the last two bottles I bought, in the new rectangular bottle, have been very disappointing. Not much nose, not much aroma, just sweet brown alcohol with a Jell-o pudding caramel pudding taste. Very disappointing. Like someone connected the wrong hose to the bottling plant, it’s like a bar mixer rum.

    1. Great question. I haven’t had any of the new Canadian Club bottlings and am not sure if it was just the bottle that changed or if they re-formulated the whisky inside as well. I see if I can find out. It would be a shame as I thought the Sherry Cask was a nice one at a fairly reasonable price.

      Thanks for the comment!

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