Review: Canadian Club Reserve Canadian Whisky (Aged 9 Years)

CC 9 Canadian Club Reserve, which comes pretty well in a Jim Beam Black Whisky bottle (Canadian Club is owned by Beam, which is now owned by Suntory), used to be a 10 year old offering, but is now a year younger, following the trend of many distillers nowadays – offering up younger stock to keep up with demand, or else utilizing barrels which are younger but still fit the flavour profile. Many times, it may not matter at all – age is not as good an indicator of taste and quality as many believe.

This whisky has a higher rye content than the other whiskies in Canadian Club’s portfolio, and certainly offers up a big and bold profile. It is described as “triple aged”, as it is aged three times longer than the legal requirement in Canada of three years.

Bottle + Presentation: 4/5. Decent, and at this price I can’t criticize it too much.

Nose: The sharpness of the rye does come through! Quite dark, with some notes of cinnamon and a slightly musty earthiness, orange peel, and some toffee and brown sugar. There’s a slight bitterness which manifests itself beside some chalkiness – it’s not as bad as it sounds, but not great. And there is a bit of licorice root, on different levels -  in the licorice flavour, sweetness of the root, and earthiness of the bark. And, after time, I find I distinctly smell those maple cookies you can get here in Ontario. And, there’s a slight bit of that meaty aroma also seen in Canadian Club Premium. 24/30

Taste: Rye, toffee, and vanilla…with a close of some more rye. It’s quite juicy and showcases some plum, dates, thompson raisins, a slight nuttiness, and a touch of lemon. The dates are quite prominent and unique – I quite like it. There are also some prominent diluted molasses notes too – much like that of many aged rums. Quite good! I keep liking it more and more as I sip it! The dates are so prominent and fabulous. 26/30

Finish: A bit of sweetness and vanilla, dates, rye , maple and some light berry notes as well. There’s just a touch of bitterness in the finish, but it’s quite slight. I find some cornmeal emerges over time as well. 12.5/15

CC 9 (2)Conclusion: I like the rye-forward nature of this whisky, and the accompanying fruit. A pretty good winter whisky, I would think. Also, the taste profile begs to be a mixer, and I think it would perform quite well in that category. For sipping…if only the nose were a bit better! It has been a pleasant surprise for me to discover this one. 16.5/20

Overall: 82.5/100

Review: Canadian Club Premium Canadian Whisky

One of the best selling Canadian Whiskies, Canadian Club is full also of history (and myth). It is sold in more than 150 countries, and is produced out of the Hiram Walker distillery in Windsor, Ontario and originally crafted under Hiram Walker himself. In the 19th century, this whisky was very popular in gentlemen’s clubs, and it hence received the name “Club Whisky”. Eventually, “Canadian” was added to the label, due to pressure from the States in order to tarnish their competition (this part of the story, I believe, may be more legend than truth). Regardless, as it was known for quality, the “Canadian” helped the whisky’s success, resulting in other non-Canadian brands  falsely putting “Canadian” on their labels. One big reason for the relative quality of Canadian whisky at the time was the institution of aging requirements before they were instituted in any other country (1 year in 1887, 2 years in 1890, and then 3 years in 1974; source: Canadian Whisky, Davin De Kergommeax).

The whisky is “blended at birth”, meaning that different batches of unaged spirit (presumably of different recipes) are blended together to fit a specific flavour profile before being put in a barrel. It is then aged about 6 years in white oak barrels. The base Canadian Club whisky is different, I believe, in the States and in Canada. Though I haven’t yet tasted the Canadian Club sold in the States, most opinions seem to favour the Canadian bottling over the American.

Bottle + Presentation: 4/5.

Nose: There’s an interesting floral note that jumps out to me initially, like rose water, alongside some cola notes. Fruity rye is definitely present, and, equally as present as the corn alongside it, there is a bit of graininess reminiscent of vodkas. I find the corn a little reminiscent of unflavoured corn chips. There’s vanilla and a bit of caramel also in the background….and the nose opens up as the glass sits revealing more vanilla and maple, and, at times, candied orange peel. It’s subtle, but it keeps me interested. There’s almost a bit of sour, almost meaty aroma that comes out in the nose. I get quite an interesting mix of vegetal notes – such as celery and green bell pepper. The nose, I find, is a bit errant and not particularly well constructed together. 24/30

Taste: A bit sweet. The rye comes in and carries much of the flavour, although the corn is also still quite present. There’s a particular earthiness to this whisky as it heats up the mouth at the end of the taste that I really like. I also find just on the exit there’s a faint bit of that floral character that I picked up in the nose. It’s interestingly raw at points, and reminds me of the volatility of some rye new makes  – however, I don’t mind the flavour. There is some unbalanced bitterness at times, unfortunately, which detracts from the taste. 24/30

Finish: The tannins do a bit of work on the finish, which has a nice touch of acidity and prickly spice and cacao powder. The finish has a touch too much of bitterness which I don’t like, however, I find it interesting juxtaposed with the sweetness. As the finish fades, it becomes more enjoyable after a bit of time as the finish seems to lighten up and “cleanse” itself. 12/15

Conclusion:  This isn’t a whisky I would choose to take an hour with, but it is definitely enjoyable. It’s not perhaps an elegant sipper, it’s a bit too aggressive for that. However, it is good value and sips well and mixes well unless the bitterness comes out too much – and the slight earthiness and the spice are fantastic. 16/20

Overall: 80/100

Review: Royal Reserve Canadian Rye Whisky

Royal ReserveHere’s another whisky from Hiram Walker distillery, and one of the budget brands of Corby (also producers of Pike Creek, Lot no. 40, among others). According to the label, it’s been around since 1881 – which would have been a time when Henry Corby would have been around (though at 75 years of age) and his son, Harry,  was about to take the reigns at the Corby distillery in Corbyville, near Belleville. Henry Corby is one of the founding figures of Canadian whisky, and, among other things, was a member of parliament and, obviously, now has a town named after him. And, of course, he made a lot of whisky.

Bottle + Presentation: 3/5. The same bottle as my previous review, Silk Tassel, though the label is a bit nicer.

Nose: Pine is the first thing I get off the nose. There’s some rye, brown sugar, and light corn oil. There is a bit of a light molasses note I often find with Hiram Walker distillery whiskies. There’s also a bit of a slight bitter aroma, and an aroma which just reminds me of stale grain – which are not that pleasant – but they are slight. There is a bit of spicy pepper on the nose as well, and a light, almost vegetal, fruitiness – like starfruit. 22.5/30

Taste: It takes a while to get going – at first it’s just lightly sweet, with a slight fruity rye and light molasses note. It’s peppery, and nutty (hazlenuts and almonds with the skins on) with some brown sugar and sweetness coming in after some time – but the experience doesn’t last that long. There’s a very interesting sour and spicy note just at the back of the tongue I find – interesting not because of its flavour but it’s effect. After all that was in the nose I’m surprised to find so little of it on the palate. Though simple, and not overly complex, it’s easy to drink and pleasant. 22/30

Royal Reserve (2)Finish: Surprisingly tannic (though not overly so), with light, fruity rye and some vanilla, fresh coconut, and almond. Some sweetness, without a lot of accompanying flavour is present – like white sugar. 11.5/15

Conclusion: It has some pretty good elements – there’s a bit of complexity in the nose but it’s a bit messy, the palate is good but it is a bit simple and speaks in blurred lines, and the finish lacks flavour, despite the medium body. 14.5/20

Overall: 73.5/100

Review: Silk Tassel Canadian Whisky

Silk TasselHere’s another Canadian whisky with histroy. According to Davin De Kergommeax’s fabulous book Canadian Whisky, it was first produced at the McGuinness distillery in Toronto, but in the 1980s production was moved to Corby distillery in Corbyville, near Belleville. When this was closed, moved to Hiram Walker Distillery.

It’s produced by the Sazerac company, and even says “aged in oak” (as opposed to?) , with a pouring top – it is designed for the mixing crowd (and perhaps the mixing crowd that doesn’t know anything about whisky!).

The bottles used to have a tassel on them, which is, I assume, where the name came from. I would doubt if the tassels were silk, however…

Bottle + Presentation: 3/5. A bit of a blurry picture but you get the gist. For bottles that come as cheap as any in Ontario, it’s hard to give it much less of a score than this.

Nose: Sharp rye with some light fresh plums, some brown sugar, some light molasses notes giving a bit of a rum-like feel to the whisky. It’s a bit harsh, and untamed…and some bitterness emerges over some time. There’s a light caramel scent as well, and eventually a bit of pine, light vanilla, and bourbon notes come through. 22/30

Taste: Sweet brown sugar undertones lead to some fruity rye (more plums), prunes,raisins, and dates. Despite a medium body, it doesn’t have a lot of spiciness to it, and there’s a very light tinge of bitterness which doesn’t detract from the whisky but gives it a bit of an edge – as bitterness can to dark chocolate. It’s quite simple, but does its job pretty well. 23.5/30

Finish: Lightly sweet, without much flavour but some light grainy, fruity, almond, and molasses notes. I find after some time the finish dries out a bit and a touch of spices come out, but the feel of this is not altogether wonderful. There’s nothing very negative about what is present in the finish (except the feel of it, slightly), but it isn’t complex, big, or long. 11/15

Silk Tassel (2)Conclusion: This is quite pleasant to sip as it has moderate sweetness and doesn’t have any notes on the taste that are very harsh. It’s simple and not very complex – a simple mixer. However, that said, I don’t mind sipping it (though I certainly wouldn’t stock it to sip!). 14.5/20

Overall: 74/100

Review: Black Velvet Deluxe Canadian Whisky

Black Velvet Deluxe (3)This whisky was first made in 1951, by master distiller Jack Napier. He called in “Black Velvet” after loving the taste. It is distilled in the Black Velvet distillery in Lethbridge, Alberta, even though originally it was distilled at a Toronto distillery where demand caused a new distillery to be built in Alberta. It is “blended at birth”, which involves blending an aged 90% rye whisky (aged 2 years) with corn spirit right off the still before being put into Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels. This whisky is extremely popular in the US – less so in Canada, and can even be hard to find in Ontario.

Bottle + Presentation: 4/5.

Nose: Vanilla, with fruity rye – plum, apricot, and a touch of spicy, grassy rye – though this whisky is corn-based, with light corn aromas in the background and the lightest bit of banana. It’s a touch sour and tart, in the same way prunes can be. After some time, a light bit of bitterness emerges from the nose. The rye is actually interesting – at first I took it to be fruity, then I noticed the spicy and grassy characters…and yet, at times, it also appears to have a dusty sort of rye character. Interesting. 22.5/30

Taste: Quite sweet. Raisins, wine gums, along with some fruitiness much like that found in the liquer Amarula (made from marula fruit), with a good hit of vanilla. However, it dries out with some bitterness which is less than enjoyable – but I only found this some of the time. It’s reasonably easy to sip, but this is much more of a mixer than a sipper. 22.5/30

Black Velvet DeluxeFinish: Light, cleansing, and a bit sweet, with a bit sweet with a bit of amarula, honey, creamed corn, white grape, and some nuttiness. 12.5/15

Conclusion: It’s a bit too sweet, and it lacks depth – but would mix quite well. Fairly sweet…I woudn’t describe this one as “velvet”, but it was enjoyable. 15/20

Overall: 76.5/100

 

Review: Schenley OFC Canadian Whisky

Schenley OFCThis whisky has also been around forever. According to the bottle, OFC stands for “Original Fine Canadian”. The back of the bottle references 25 gold medals in 27 competitions of Monde Selection, dating back all the way to Paris in 1973. Impressive. However, I did wonder what monde selection was – it’s an international quality competition that evaluates everything from wine, spirits, and beer to soft drinks and other food products. Online, it was hard to find exactly how OFC did, and when they last won – and, frankly, how prestigious those awards are as I don’t often see mentions of the competition.

Regardless, Schenley has been making a product that many people have enjoyed over the years, and still today – though, at least in Ontario, it seems to be getting harder to find – no longer, at present, available in regular 750 ml bottles. Originally this was produced at the Valleyfield distillery in Quebec, but now it is produced in Lethbridge at the Black Velvet distillery.

Bottle + Presentation: 4.5/5. Elements of this bottle I really like – the labeling, etc., but the screw cap is quite light and cheap. However, for a bottle at the lowest price range you can buy in Ontario, I think it is one of the better presented.

Nose: Wonderfully bright and fruity, yet still carrying the spiciness of the rye well. There’s a nice bit of cinnamon on the nose, with an underlying light citrus note and some cola aromas. Overall, the nose is a bit light which is interesting because it carries the touch of spice. And, it is a bit shallow. Some vanilla eventually emerges. 23/30

Taste: Slightly syrupy with some fruity rye, some light corn, and sharp grassiness, finishing with a little bit of puckering and warm spice. The sweetness seems a touch too much, but it’s quite sippable, and there aren’t major flaws in what is presented, except perhaps their lightness. I think beyond my preference for bolder whiskies, the subtleties in this one aren’t quite big enough. 24.5/30

Finish: The spice comes in, but eventually gives way to some light almond, vanilla, nutmeg, corn oil, a touch of pineapple, and caramel, after which point it drops off reasonably quickly. 11.5/15

Schenley OFC (2)Conclusion: This is very pleasant, and is nice and light while still showcasing the spice and bite of rye. Perhaps a quintessential Canadian, with the lightness, unaggressiveness, and touch of rye. I think I am often tempted to look at a rating as “low” as this, and interpret it wrong – this is still a good sipper in my opinion and would be a great mixer. It’s too bad OFC appears to be getting harder to find, although I heard they’re upping production again – it is a solid whisky. 16/20

Overall: 79.5/100

Review: Schenley Golden Wedding Canadian Whisky

Schenley GWThis whisky is a marriage of three whiskies, of different ages, to create a whisky which has both the body and complexity of an older whisky and the bite of a younger one. It’s been around for a long time – since 1856. It is made, most likely, at the Valleyfield distillery in Quebec.

Bottle + Presentation: 4/5. Pretty tacky, but they’ve stuck to a lot of the looks which they’ve had for years. At the price I can’t be too critical of this bottle.

Nose: Fruity rye off the bat, with a touch of bitterness. There’s a light bit of apricot, brown sugar, and cinnamon, and a good bit of rye, with a little underlying green grape and earthiness. Vanilla emerges over time, and there’s a spiciness with a bite almost like juniper. There are hints of bourbon throughout the background too. 25/30

Taste: Wonderful! Toasted oak leads the way with a spicy and tangy rye backdrop which is met with some caramel, vanilla, raisins, and maple in the end. It has a nice balance of sweetness and spice, and has a good measure of fruit as well and a beautiful thread of vanilla and light molasses. The rye is quite brilliant in this one, and it is very enjoyable all around, and well balanced. 26.5/30

Schenley GW (3)Finish: The rye, caramel, and nice kick of spice linger for a bit before fading to vanilla, a bit of clove, and a bit of mossiness. The rye also stays with you for some time, with a good fruity nature. 13/15

Conclusion: I do quite like the palate, and it is quite solid. Very easy to sip. It’s too bad about the nose – the palate is good enough that I tend to spend all my time tasting and not nosing. 17/20

Overall: 85.5/100