I know, I know, don’t start… I have been busy and let this site take the hit. Lets just get stuck in. Though I have had plenty of Canadian Club in cocktails over the years it is only recently I have sat down with a glass and really given it the good honest tasting it deserves.
A small bit of history
Canadian Club (or it’s grandaddy) as the name suggests started life in Detroit? No I didn’t misread that… In 1854 wealthy grocer Hiram Walker put the years of experience he had gained distilling vinegar to some actual use and started making the water of life.
With the prohibition movement gaining power however (especially in Michigan) and higher and higher taxes being levied on his trade he knew it was only a matter of time before his profits started suffering. He hitched up his pants and did what any rich man would do. He purchased land across the river in Canada in 1858 and founded a very sizable distillery and (later) town named after himself.
Yes, Walkerville and it’s distillery were much loved both in Canada and back in his homeland where his drink flooded into the newly forming club scene as Walker’s Club Whisky. Unlike his American countrymen he insisted on aging his drink for 5 years, something that was simply unheard of in the states were most whiskies were one year olds.
Over the next decade he managed to step up his production and distribution in Europe and the US. The former were excited to experience the first whisky out of Canada, his reputation with the latter was much more mixed. Rising hostility from distillers and government officials across the border over the popularity of his whisky led them to force new naming laws upon the company. From 1880 onwards Walker Club Whisky would have to have Canadian clearly written on the bottle if it was to continue exporting to the US.
Much to the annoyance of the US, this helped it become a massive hit. What was once an exclusive club drink now also had an exotic foreign feel to it. With money flowing in he managed to build up his local area with houses, schools and a church and linked it to the rest of the world with his own private railway in 1882.
In 1889 Hiram presumably sat down to read through the sales figures of the last ten years, laughed loudly, blew up the type face and moved the word Canadian to the top of the bottle. Seeing sales raise even more he changed it again in 1890, putting Canadian actually into the title and naming it Canadian Club.
The same year he did this Walkerville was acknowledged by the Canadian government officially as a town, with over 600 residents nearly everything and everyone was owned by Walker. Refusing to sell any of the property, he managed to control every aspect of his environment.
At the time of his death in 1890 he had built a business empire both sides of the Detroit river. It included an international scale distilling and distribution operation, railways, ferries and shops. The most notable of these (apart from Canadian Club) was Walkerville Wagon Works which became Ford Motor Company of Canada in 1904.
His sons managed to do a good job ferrying the company through the beginning of prohibition (mostly by selling to Al Capone who smuggled thousands of cases over the river) and sold the company to Gooderham and Worts in 1926. Under their leadership they continued to build the business up as a whisky powerhouse and created the second best whisky advertising campaign I have ever heard of (MirrorBall Man still takes first) with their Hide-a-Case campaign, a tactic they tried several times. Excitingly Fortune Brands who now own the company as part of Jim Beam brought the campaign back in 2010 but with a slightly more ‘social media hype’ twist.
- 2012 Silver Medal by IWSC
The smell of this dram is sugary sweet with hints of liquorice and slight floral touches. Taking a few sips you will be pleasantly surprised by a chard oaky caramel taste with a slight spiciness that grows as the evening goes on. The finish is longer than you might expect but is very friendly with an orange taste.
When I suggest drinking it
Without a doubt this is a cocktail drink, what would you expect from a product that has club right in the title. The sweetness lends itself nicely to most situations and (at less than £20 a bottle) it is a good choice for coke mixing too! I am not going to go out my way to drink it neat again but it is worth doing for nothing more than knowing what it tastes without the rest of the cocktail.