This whisky, it seems, took most people by surprise. I don’t usually get surprised by a new whisky release, but this one I didn’t see until it just about hit the shelves. Though it is Canadian Club, it is not actually distilled at the Hiram Walker plant in Windsor (like the rest of the Canadian Club line) – it is actually distilled and bottled in Alberta, from Alberta Distillers. However, they’re both owned by Beam-Suntory so some stock-swapping isn’t as difficult as it otherwise might be, and it makes sense to sell Alberta rye from a marketing perspective because Canadian Club has a much bigger brand name.
This whisky is about 7 years old, and is, apparently, targeted to the young crowd to get them interested in high quality whisky. Of course, it is also targeted to be a good mixer and comes with cocktail suggestions as well. Alberta Distillers, it seems, is an ever-ending source of new rye whisky brands when the rest of the world has no rye left to offer. For more on this whisky, check out this excellent article over at whisky advocate. Additionally, this is described as the “Chairman’s Select”, which (perhaps) begs the question – who is the chairman? Check out these clips:
- “The Chairman”
- “First Whisky”
- “All Five Food Groups”
- “Easy Drinking”
- “Muscle Shirt”
- The Chairman Introduces CC100%
Marketing gimmicks, perhaps, but I find it entertaining.
Nose: If you’re familiar with the Canadian Club brand, you’ll know that this doesn’t quite follow suit. Lots of fruit – orange and guava – amidst a rich and slightly sour background of dusty rye and spices. Of all the Alberta rye I’ve had, this seems to have the brightest fruit character. There is a light oak tannin (I say tannin because it gives me the impression/feeling of a very dry characteristic) note as well in the background. At times the fruitiness is a bit too medicinal for my liking – and the orange shifts from a nice candied citrus peel to cough syrup. Interesting, though, in the context of Alberta rye where I often find a very slight medicinal edge – much like you find sometimes with the peaty Islay Scotches. But, in the case of Alberta rye, I have always found it to be more on the spirity medicinal side like turpentine. This time, however, it’s more in the cough-syrup mold. The oak, and in fact the rye, along with vanilla and a slight buttery-ness emerge a bit more as the whisky sits. Also, I find the fruit keeps growing too, such that I can’t really understand how it can get any bigger in magnitude. While, on one hand, this is nice, I find the sweet candied fruit and the dry and spicy rye and oak compete for the spotlight in a matter that is a bit discordant. Nonetheless, a big, complex nose – and very interesting. 25/30 (83%)
Taste: The fruit leads on the palate as well, bringing in some woody notes with a surprising amount of sweetness before the oak and tannins take over, drying the feel slightly before some spices (clove and cinnamon) and, surprisingly, a bit of maltiness remain. It is quite rich – fruity, woody (sometimes with a bit of earthiness integrated), and a bit spicy (in “feel” as well as “flavour”, though more on the flavour side). Additionally, the vanilla is so well integrated into this one I almost missed it! It isn’t so much it’s own flavour but very much part of the background mix. I very much like this one. The oak is nicely judged on this one – it is close to being too bitter – but it is just right so that it has a great edge of tannic oak. 26.5/30 (88%)
Finish: Orange, light oak, a few sour prunes, a touch of mint, cinnamon, almond and some very light arugula (which I often find in 100% ryes) from time to time. The fruitiness finally dies, and a good bit of oak and cinnamon remain with some orange notes from time to time. It has a nice effect of growing as you drink more of it. Fairly tannic and dry as well. 17.5/20 (87%)
Conclusion: A most excellent whisky! Richly woody, with a shocking amount of fruit, and some nice oak and spice to frame the whole thing. I am glad for the release and think it is an excellent addition to the Canadian Club line, and hopefully they can expand it so that more people can have access to it. I am glad that the palate and the finish both balanced the fruitiness, spiciness, and oak unlike on the nose. It is somewhat natural to consider how this one compares to Alberta Premium (AP), both Alberta Distillery 100% Rye, but both very different whiskies – in terms of rye, AP has a dry, rye-flour sort of presentation that is quite grain driven as opposed to the load of fruit in this Canadian Club. In terms of spice, Alberta Premium is more in the mold of a light cayenne spice, whereas Canadian Club is more in a cinnamon and dry ginger mode. In terms of oak, AP has notes of light toasted oak while this Canadian Club has big, caramel-y oak. Beyond that, Alberta Premium is more buttery and toffee driven while Canadian Club is big, driven by fruit and oak. In one sense, Alberta Premium is more traditionally Canadian in its presentation of rye and this Canadian Club has a bit more of an American rye style to it (though it’s hard to find a rye anywhere with so much fruit!!). This would have made it on my budget whiskies list if I had tasted it with the rest – Canadian Club has certainly done an excellent job crafting a good whisky at a great price. 17.5/20 (88%)