Canadian Club is a blended whisky that is made by the Hiram Walker distillery. This is located in the city of Windsor in the Canadian province of Ontario and lies close to the shores of Lake Erie and the American border. Hiram Walker is named after its founder, who set up Canada's first legal whisky distillery on the same site as the current buildings in 1858.
Walker and his family quickly established a good reputation for their whisky and it became extremely popular among the wealthy classes and in gentlemans clubs in late 19th century Canada and the northern states of America. It became known as 'club whisky' and the current recipe was launched in 1884 and became known as Canadian Club in 1889. It was highly sought after because it was aged, as it is now, for six years which was rare in those days when most whisky or bourbon was aged for a year, if you were lucky.
Canadian Club is a blend of rye, malted barley and corn whiskies that are mixed with a neutral base spirit. It is made in a different way to traditional Scottish or Irish blended whiskies, in which the whiskies are matured and then blended and bottled. Canadian Club is blended when the whiskies are fresh off the still and then matured for six years in a combination of new oak and ex bourbon casks. This process is unique in the whisky industry. The current brand name is owned by giant drinks company Beam Global. Canadian Club is the best selling whisky in Canada and the biggest selling Canadian whisky around the world by some distance. Other Canadian whiskies are extremely hard to find outside of Canada but Canadian Club is available in over 150 countries.
The colour is golden and the nose takes time to reveal itself. Initially there is lots of spirit (reminded us of surgical spirit), then after 2-3 minutes more notes start to come through, although they are still somewhat understated. It becomes fresher and softer than before with some vanilla, sweet cereal grains and a hint of woody spice (think of nutmeg). On the palate, this is light, smooth and slightly creamy with a pleasant combination of caramel (imagine slightly burnt sugar), a hint of something oily (think of linseed oil, maybe?), some nuttiness (imagine walnuts) and the vanilla, grains and nutmeg from the nose. The finish quite long, clean and fresh with a pleasant and gentle dry grainy bitterness.
It is easy to see why Canadian Club is popular around the world as it offers something unique but not obscure or too complex for most palates. It is light, fresh, smooth and very easy to drink. The whisky is commonly used, as indeed are most blends, as a mixer or in cocktail. Canadian Club is available from larger supermarkets and independent spirits retailers in the UK and should cost around £20 a bottle.