Canadian Club 30-Year-Old
Review: Canadian Club 30 Year Aged Blended Canadian Whisky (93/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted on January, 13 2011
Canadian Club is the elder statesman of Canadian Whisky brands being the both the oldest, and the most influential, Canadian Whisky brand in the world. Ironically, the originator of the brand was an American grocer hailing from Michigan. Legend has it, that this American, Hiram Walker, correctly foresaw the changing climate of the American attitude towards alcohol consumption and moved his distilling operations across the Detroit River to (what would become) Walkerville, Ontario. Ironically the whisky which would become the standard-bearer for Canadian Whisky, was originally (and still is) intended for the American Palate.
One of the unique aspects of this whisky is that it is blended before barrel aging. This process allows the whisky to fully ‘marry’ in the barrel before bottling. The Canadian Club 30-Year-Old Whisky has thus been married for thirty years in oak, the longest matured Canadian Whisky available on the market today and perhaps the longest ever.
I was determined to get this review right. To that end, my review of the Canadian Club 30-Year-Old Whisky was based upon more than 5 separate tasting sessions in my private tasting room. As well, I also carried out side by side tastings with several other well aged spirits which included two aged Scotch Whiskies (Mosstowie 1979 28 Yr, Cask No.s 12771 & 12772, Bottle No. 162, and Bunnahabhain 1978 29 Yr, Cask No. 2584, Bottle No. 275 of 581); and one 30-year-old Jamaican Rum (Appleton 30 Year). I felt it was important (even though I am a regular consumer of well aged spirits) to compare this 30-year-old spirit with other well aged spirits as part of the review process.
The result of my efforts is detailed below:
In the Bottle 4/5
Pictured to the right is the bottle and the display case which the Canadian Club 30-Year Aged Whisky arrives in. I must admit a certain amount of disappointment with the presentation. The display box looks much nicer in the photograph than it really is. The construction of the display box is of cardboard with a Styrofoam insert for the bottle. The Styrofoam is covered with a single sheet of black satin-like fabric. Unfortunately the fabric separates easily from the styrofoam and, upon examination, it is a rather cheap fabric which frays easily and lacks the softness the picture to the right implies. It’s all window dressing, and once you have opened the display case a few times the cardboard begins to warp, the fabric begins to separate and fray, and the bottle begins to slide a little too easily out of its insert.
Even the bottle chosen to house the whisky leaves me wanting much more. The gold fonts on the clear bottle are not just hard to read; some of the smaller fonts were in fact in fact, impossible for me to read without a great deal of squinting and peering at the bronze letters which faded into the whisky. Another disappointment was the plastic medallion glued to the bottle which gives the impression of someone applying cheap make-up to dress up the presentation instead of caring about the image they are conveying.
I wouldn’t normally be this harsh, but the Canadian Club 30-Year-Old Whisky is a very pricey expenditure. As well, the whisky was bottled to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of Canadian Club Whisky. It seems to me that the marketing department only cared about the initial impression the whisky would have upon the consumer in the store; rather than the final impression the presentation would have on the consumer at home as he (or she) slowly consumed the whisky over time. I felt the whisky inside the bottle deserved better than this.
The final and most damning aspect of the presentation was the corkage. Although I appreciated and liked the black wax seal over the cork, I was amazed (after I removed the wax covering) when the cork literally slid out of the bottle with no resistance as I opened it. The cork it seems was barely large enough to seal the opening. Afraid I would lose whisky if I tipped the bottle upside down by accident, I immediately resealed my bottle with a new cork to preserve the expensive liquid inside. I am left with the impression of an indifferent attitude towards the consumer.
In the Glass 9.5/10
The Canadian Club 30-Year-Old Whisky displays itself as a rich mahogany and copper coloured whisky in the glass. After I tilted the glass and slowly turned it, I observed a nice thick oily sheen upon the sides. Fat droopy droplets of whisky slide slowly back into the whisky, with some of these droplets stubbornly stopping halfway down.
The initial nose is one of a rich oak spices tainted with dark brown sugar and that typical dank Canadian Club aroma. As the whisky decants, the nose deepens into a deep dark rich baking spice aroma with Demerara accents of dark brown sugars, rich toffee, vanilla, wisps of cinnamon, and even a hint of maple. Playing in the merry little breezes is a subtle smokiness with the fleeting aroma of dried fruits and cigar tobacco. This is a wonderfully rich nose which I could enjoy even if I never tasted the whisky. (Although I confess the impulse to begin my tasting is very strong.)
In the Mouth 56/60
As I took my first sip, I found the whisky has a light oily softness which coats my palate with oak spices. These oak spices are the dominant aspect of the whisky, and all of the flavours I encounter are heavily stained with the spicy tannins and flavours associated with the oak. Demerara sugars and toffee are present which each containing a firm accent of treacle and charred marshmallow. I taste a light dank corn flavour, rich with vanilla, cinnamon, and baking spices. At times, it is hard to decide whether I am tasting whisky, or whether I am tasting a rich and yummy oak syrup which has been created from the whisky flavours and the oak cask.
Wandering in and out of these oak stained flavours are other more subtle smoky flavours which remind me of tobacco, leather and dried fruits. This final element seems to provide exactly the contrast in flavour needed to bind everything together and gives a wonderful harmony to the whisky.
In spite of all of the oak spice, and in spite of the smoky elements therein, there is none of the bitterness which I often find in well aged spirits. This whisky is a celebration of oak and aged whisky and embraces rather than ambushes all of the inherent goodness within.
In the Throat 14/15
The finish is a cascade of spicy toffee which dwindles nicely into a soft dank corn with trails of smoke, dry fruit and cocoa. My throat is left with a lingering rum-like sweetness which delights me, and the back of my palate feels the oak spices and the remnants of caramel and toffee long after the glass is consumed. Delightful!
The Afterburn 9.5/10
The Canadian Club 30-Year-Old Whisky is a marvel of long-term oak aging. It is simply an outstanding whisky with rich complexity and it displays a very nice balance between the oak and the whisky flavour. I was disappointed with what I felt was a presentation which seemed like cheap window dressing; however, once I went past the packaging, the whisky spoke loudly and clearly of its craftsmanship.
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
A Note from the Arctic Wolf:
In my side by side tastings with other well aged spirits, which I carried out as part of the review process, it was obvious to me that the oak stained flavour profile I tasted in the Canadian Club 30-Year-Old Whisky was also apparent (in varying degrees) in the other well aged spirits I sampled. When I reviewed the Appleton 30 year Old Rum a few weeks ago as part of this same tasting exercise, I indicated in that particular review that I believed the oak had overwhelmed and perhaps even had broken the spirit. This was not the case with the Canadian Club 30-Year-Old Whisky. Although the oak dominated the flavour profile, in the case of this whisky the oak did not break the other flavours, rather it melted and merged into the other flavours and with them it became something much more… something truly delicious and delightful.
I just cannot resist the impulse to construct a truly decadent cocktail which will probably leave some whisky enthusiasts shaking their heads with bewilderment. My regular readers who know of penchant for expensive cocktails however, will probably just chuckle (I hope so anyway). This is a simple duo style cocktail which merges all of the syrupy, oaky, and whisky goodness of the Canadian Club 30-Year-Old with the creamy, nutty, sweetness of Frangelico.
(Don’t knock it until you try it. This cocktail is simply delightful!)
an Arctic Wolf Cocktail
1 1/2 oz Canadian Club 30 year Old Whisky
1/2 oz Frangelico
Serve over ice with a lime garnish
(And in case you are wondering… this cocktail lengthens beautifully with Ginger-ale!)
Here is a nifty photo provided by Mike, who read the review and tried the cocktail (see comments down below):
For two more points of view regarding this exceptional spirit, here are two links to reviews from persons whom I respect immensely:
Link to Jason’s Scotch Reviews (Jason Debly of Fredericton, New Brunswick)
Link to Canadian Whisky (Davin De Kergommeaux of Ottawa, Ontario)
Each of my review contains a rating or score out of 100 and these scores can be interpreted using the following scale:
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)