Canadian Club 20 Year Old Whisky
Review: Canadian Club 20 Year Old Whisky 90/100
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published March 27, 2011
(Revised December, 2013)
Canadian Club Whisky (C.C. Whisky) is blended before it is aged, and this process, which has been called ‘Blended at Birth’, is the foundation for the entire portfolio of Canadian Club Whiskies. The particular whisky which is examined in this review is the Canadian Club 20 Year Old Whisky. It is a blend of rye, rye malt, corn, and barley malt spirits which were set down to age together 20 years ago. In fact, I believe that the actual blending formula of base spirits for the 20-year-old Whisky is the same as the blending formula used for Canadian Club’s flagship brand, Canadian Club Premium, which is of course the 6-year-old Whisky which anchors the Canadian Club brand.
Although the 20 Year Old was originally intended to be a specialty bottling when it was first introduced, the whisky became a standard bottling when Beam Global acquired the Canadian Club brand. It remains a Limited Edition whisky with each bottle individually numbered.
In the Bottle 4.5/5
As we move up the ladder in the Canadian Club line-up my standards for the presentation of the whisky become more stringent. It is my belief that a more expensive premium spirit should reflect its price and its higher quality in the bottle presentation. The Canadian Club 20 Year Old is pictured to the right in a tall clear bottle. When I first saw the whisky I was rather disappointed with the look of the bottle, hoping for something that would really set it apart from the rest of the CC line-up. Over time, however, the tall bottle with its classic look and feel has grown on me. So recently, when I revisited this review, I adjusted my scoring to reflect my new-found appreciation for the bottle design and presentation.
(Note: I should point out that I also have become aware of a sleek-looking black cardboard box which sometimes houses the whisky.)
In the Glass 9/10
On my first day of sampling, the temperature outside my house was minus 30 degrees Celsius and my furnace was struggling to keep up. The furnace in my house struggled to keep up, and I was afraid I would not be able to fairly judge the whisky. The cool temperature of my tasting room, (16 degrees instead of the normal 21 degrees), I thought would inhibit the aroma and cause me problems when assessing the whisky. Imagine my surprise when I poured my glass and was greeted with the full aroma of an assertive, wonderful spirit.
Toffee and caramel poured out of the glass with deep oaky accents and rich baking spices. Rye scents followed as did that full dank corn aroma which is so typical of the Canadian Club line-up. The cooler temperature was certainly not inhibiting this whisky. It is when the glass is fully decanted that the aroma becomes sublime. Deep, dark brown sugars and a hint of charred marshmallow become evident as well as mildly sour citrus fruit. Although that final descriptor may not sound lovely, you will have to trust me that it is. (Of course, I also did a few sampling sessions when it was warmer and the nose was even more assertive and lovely.)
In The Mouth 54/60
The entry into the mouth offers a strong combination of dank Canadian Club corn flavour, heavy oak tannins, and rich baking spices. These are the main flavours, and they seem to battle for supremacy with that typically dank and punky Canadian Club corn flavour edging out the others in a well fought battle royal. The oak has not quite melted into the other flavours, and as a result a few mildly bitter tannins are evident beside the sweet baking spice and caramel. The whisky has a nice smoky quality at mid palate with some fruity flavours of half-dried raisins and moist prunes evolving which hold the whisky together beautifully. A peppery rye note bobs up to the surface and somewhere in the mix, and I taste dabs of cinnamon and a dash of Apricot Brandy. I also taste a little nibble of sourness kind of like baked apples wandering around the edges of the flavour.
In the Throat 13.5/15
The Canadian Club 20 Year Old finishes with a nice peppery swat at the tonsils as it goes down. I would not call the exit harsh as the heated finish is welcome, but the finish is not smooth and easy either. Things sit somewhere in between. The smokiness I noticed on the palate finds a home in the finish. As well I sense a few ghostly trails of dry fruit, cocoa, and tea leaves following the peppery heat. The finale includes fading flavours of oak spices and toasted brown sugars which leave my glass smelling wonderful and my throat sated.
The Afterburn 9/10
For myself, this whisky represents a huge step up from the flagship Canadian Club Premium (6-year-old), and is much richer and fuller than the Canadian Club Classic (12-year-old). I enjoy the Canadian Club 20 Year Old immensely, and if you need a special gift for the Canadian Club aficionado this Christmas, this whisky certainly fits the bill.
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)