During the week preceding this tasting, I'd opened and sampled each one of these in order to make sure I would not be drinking from the top of each bottle. In my personal experience, the first rip from a bottle never shows a whisk(e)y in its best form. Much like wine, it can be its tightest and most austere at first blush. Then on Taste Off Day 1, I sampled each of them neatly starting from the 2013 and working backward, then moved between them comparing and contrasting. On Day 2, I fashioned highballs (1:2, whisky:club soda) from each, comparing and contrasting. As you can probably gauge, I drank a lot of Canadian Club over a short period of time for the sake of this post. You're welcome?
[Please note: The excise stamp actually represents the date of the whisky's youngest distillation. Thus some changes have been made to this post to update this information.]
Canadian Club, bottled in 2013
Color - Reddish bronze
Nose - Vanilla first, then a little bit of rye spice. That's followed by black cherry syrup, orange candy, plaster, and scalp (yes, you read that correctly). All of these notes are very distant.
Palate - Vanilla vodka, mostly. Then some caramel, sugar, a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, and ginger. Not much else going on.
Finish - Grain and heat. Something herbal meets paint fumes. Bland, then off-putting.
Caramel, corn syrup, and sugar. Aside from a strange bitter note in the finish it's inoffensive.
The other two CCs, as you'll note below, are very pale while this one was strangely dark, as if Club had taken a note from Johnnie Walker and dumped in the e150a colorant. The nose was better than I had expected. The palate was not terrible, though it was barely whisky. Then everything went to hell in the finish. Nonetheless, this was a full step better than the hideous 2004 bottling I reviewed two years ago. Best served as a highball.
Canadian Club, DISTILLED in 1986
Color - Amber
Nose - Very dusty and spicy at first. Herbal and floral too. Then some armagnac, lychee, pencil shavings, and tropical fruit flavored candy. Strawberry bubblegum notes emerge after some air.
Palate - Lots of sea salt and caramel. Lemon-lime soda. Hint of chocolate. Slightly bitter, slightly papery. Very good mouthfeel, but watered down flavor.
Finish - Some big cereal grains, followed by chocolate and caramel. Gets a little burnt at the end.
A little grainy, a little woody (tee-hee). Much of the neat palate stays intact. Mild and refreshing.
The palate and finish are decent, and it makes for a good highball. But it's its nose that's a joy and it can take a little air. This pour was actually from just above mid bottle. At the top of the bottle, I thought the whisky was basically Canadian Club, but 10% better (because that's a thing). But after directly comparing it to the current CC, I've discovered that this is a much different whisky...
Canadian Club, DISTILLED in 1982
Color - Light gold
Nose - At first it's orange lollipops and cherry lollipops and rock candy. Then there are fresh peaches and lychee. It's fruity, floral, and spicy -- like a little bit of rye mixed into a Highland malt.
Palate - If I'd tasted this blind, I would have thought this was Powers Gold Label. Thick caramel sauce in front with vanilla trailing. Then peppery rye, mint, and lemons. With some air it does get slightly sour and some sawdust slips in.
Finish - Big and round. Caramel, mint, lemon-lime soda, with a slight bitterness.
A massive vanilla bomb, as if it's carbonated vanilla extract. Some of the rye shines through the club soda. Nice and refreshing.
While the '86's nose was more complex, this one may have been more focused. But the palate was its strongest point, and was the most flavorful of the three. As a highball it's kind of outrageous, so I must test it out further. See more of my conclusions below.
While the 1982 and 1986 are very much related, they must be a very different recipe than the 2013. There's just nothing connecting the current version to its elders other than the name. And even though these may have changed a tiny bit after sitting in the bottle for 20-25 years, they wouldn't have transformed in such an extreme manner. There's a little something extra in the '82's palate and it was slightly darker in color than the '86. Since Whisk(e)y Glutsville was hitting every nation in the 1980s, I wonder if the "1982" has a little bit of older stock in the mix. Otherwise they were including richer barrels in the blend.
I'm going to attempt to get another bottle of the '82. While I wouldn't go as far as saying that it's an A or B+ whisky, its quality-price-ratio appeals to me during these 90+ degree Octobers and Novembers. The '86 is good enough for me to wish that the current version kept its recipe/makeup, but I will probably have had my fill once the 200mL is emptied. The 2013 is better than the truly awful 2004 (whose 59 point rating seems generous in hindsight), but I don't have a whole lotta interest in finishing the bottle. Perhaps I shall blend it.
Availability - The new version will be more available as the previous one sells out
Pricing - 200mL: $4-$7; 750mL: $12-$18