...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Clubbin' Canadian: An Intro

No, not him.

Nor him. Sorry.


Inspired by posts from bloggers Arok (bourbonguy) and Joshie (sipology), I've decided to end this run of blend reviews with a Canadian Club Taste Off.  For much of my drinking life Canadian Club was synonymous with "Canadian Whisky".  To me it stood in for the entire category, like Jameson's does for Irish Whiskey for quite a lot of folks.  Over the last three years, I've tried a number of Canadian whiskies (all blends, I'll admit) and I can't say that any have inspired me to buy a full bottle.  But after reading the blog posts by Arok and Joshie, then happening upon a pair of interesting finds, I decided to give Canadian Club another try.

A quick history lesson:  After distilling vinegar for his grocery stores for a number of years, Hiram Walker began distilling whisky in 1854 in Detroit, not Canada.  But since Canada provided cheaper real estate and materials, he invested in building an official distillery across the river, near Windsor, Ontario, a few years later.  A number of years later, his whisky gained the "Club" moniker, since it was being slung in gentleman's clubs.  The word "Canada" made its way onto the front label in 1890, setting the product apart from the Scotches, Irishes, and bourbons on the market.  Once national prohibition hit, Walker merged with Gooderham & Worts to become Hiram Walker - Gooderham & Worts (what a name).  After that, the company became part of the acquisitions game: In 1987 HW-G&W was bought by Allied Lyons (which, itself, was the result of a merger), which later became Allied Domecq after another merger several years later.  After buying out Allied in 2005, Pernod Ricard sold off the Allied brands that conflicted with their own.  Canadian Club would have bumped heads with Seagram's, so CC was sold to Fortune Brands.  Six years later Fortune Brands was split up and Canadian Club went to Beam, Inc.

Over the past decade Canadian Club has wiggled its way back into the public sphere, thanks to the very fictional Don Draper and the occasional cheeky advertising campaign (see pic on the right).  Sadly, drinking Club will not make you look like Jon Hamm.  Hell, it won't even make you look like Harry Crane.  But for this Luddite, seeing the old bottle labels on Mad Men made me wonder what the whisky actually tasted like during (non-fiction) previous decades.

I tried a 2004 bottling two years back and found it to be an awful chemical slurry.  But why stop there, you know?  During recent dusty scouting trips, I found bottles from 1986 (200mL) and 1982 (1L) with fully intact tax seals. (In my travels I've also seen two other labels from the late-'80s-early-'90s, but I decided that a line needed to be drawn for now.) What was actually more difficult was finding a current 200mL. There are plenty of bottles from the Aughts, but rarely something from the teens around here. Luckily(?), I found one from 2013.

That 2004 I'd tried was a plastic bottle and after drinking the whisky inside, I was concerned that something from the brown plastic had leached into the drink.  So I was very happy to find that the '82 and '86 bottles were made of glass and had excellent fill levels.  The current bottle is plastic again.  So it goes.

Since this post is a long enough read as is, I will be posting the full Taste Off results tomorrow.  Tune in, click over, drink up, and enjoy!