*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.