Canadian Club Premium

A bottle of Canadian Club Premium

A bottle of Canadian Club Premium

Intro

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.

Noteworthy awards

  • 2012 Silver Medal by IWSC

Taste notes

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.

Hibiki 17yo

A bottle of Hibiki 17yo

A bottle of Hibiki 17yo

Intro

Happened to notice this cute little thing behind the bar in Artisan (Douglas, Isle of Man… keep up!). I shared a very expensive glass with GrandMasterJohn if memory serves me. It was the first Japanese whisky I have tasted and it will be the first Japanese whisky reviewed on this site… how exciting.

A small bit of history

Suntory Holdings Limited was opened by Torii Shinjiro as Torii Shoten in 1899. Like many of the companies I have looked at previously, this one started life as a wine merchant. Unlike any of the other companies though, this one undisputedly opened the first ever whisky distillery (Yamazaki Distillery) in it’s country in 1923/24.

Using knowledge gained creating sweet grape wine many years previously, Torii had long planned on adding whisky to his repertoire and was no doubt thrilled when Shirofuda (white label) came zooming out of Yamazaki and into Japanese homes 5 years after their opening.

Arriving late to the whisky game, Japan had a lot of catching up to do. Thankfully the recently renamed Kotobukiya company was up to the challenge. They quickly filled the market with anything from Kakubin for blending in 1937, to Torys Whisky as a cheap drink in 1946, and then for their premium range, Suntory Old in 1950.

Whilst making a killing and tapping other markets from beer to sandwiches in the last half a century the company has shown their commitment to keep whisky close to their heart by releasing the Royal brand to celebrate their long (short by whisky standards) history in 1960 and by massively increasing their operations in 1973 by opening the Hakushu Distillery to focus on the production of single malts.

But that distillery is another story for another time. This bad boy is a blend launched in 1989 and apparently is held in the highest of regards in the country of it’s birth. Though originally loved only in Japan it has been noticed in recent years by whisky lovers worldwide and is in the process of gaining the international acclaim it deserves.

Noteworthy awards

  • 2011 Silver Medal by IWSC
  • 2010 Gold Medal by IWSC
  • 2009 Silver Medal by IWSC (Best in Class)

Taste notes (In Haiku form)

Nose:- weak, floral, oak.
Tastes light, vanilla, salted.
A finish of fruits!

When I suggest drinking it

Though there was something rather mystical with this whisky and the balance was (in a word) perfect, I found myself finding it hard to place it’s character. I am further along in my journey since the day I sat down to try this (totally prepared to give it a retry), but I have to say I found it a bit of a let down. It was easy to drink, it had levels of complexity but try as I might I was unable to find any one underlining taste to take home from the glass.

A must try to be sure, but be warned I fear it will take more than a glass to really get a feel for it.

Catdaddy Spiced Moonshine

GrandMasterJohn pouring a Catdaddy

GrandMasterJohn pouring a Catdaddy

Intro

Though not really a whiskey, it would be very unfair of me to include Manx Spirit on this site and not this little number distilled in Grimmy’s home state, it is a damn good moonshine. This was brought back last time we were in the US and was passed around club quite a few months ago now with generally positive feedback from all who tried.

A small bit of history

The history of the Catdaddy brand itself is relatively short, having only existed since 2005, so I will use this post as an opportunity to give a brief history of US moonshine in general before getting into exactly where this spirit sits within that. :)

The first alcohol tax in the United States was introduced almost immediately after the revolutionary war ended. The newly formed government had been given a lot of favours during the fighting and had ended up with a lot of debt to pay off. The people of this new country had suffered for many years fighting in a war that began with over-taxation, so were a little reluctant to start giving their hard earned money to a new regime, even if this one was being run in the same continent. The country’s first moonshiners were born.

Though the larger distillers were able to shrug off an optional flat fee, the farmers who had previously made money from their spirit grew angry. Many simply ignored the new taxes hoping they would be unenforceable, others went through elaborate measures to try and hide their operations from the tax man, and some were quite willing to take up arms to fight what they saw as an over-reach of an oppressive government once more. The latter would be involved in the whiskey rebellions of the early 1790s (whiskey is serious business).

The rebellion started in 1791 on the same day the new government declared their legislation, and continued until 1794 where a meeting turned protest turned riot in Pennsylvania resulted in 7000+ people taking up arms and openly declaring their wish to be independent. President Washington would ultimately lead a 13000 strong force to crush the dissenters personally. Becoming the only time a sitting president has lead troops into battle. (Wikipedia article on the whole event)

Though the moonshiners had lost, they were too many in number to simply disappear. Indeed, the rebellion had done little more than to consolidate public support for their cause. This support would allow them to (sometimes openly) ignore the tax men for well over half a century further until the tide of change started coming in. The civil war had been won, the majority of moonshiners had been supporters of the wrong side and many were turning to the Ku Klux Klan to help them keep their personal American dream alive.

By the beginning of the 1900s many in the US were growing tired of their rhetoric, moonshiners were not being invited to parties any more and many citizens were questioning if alcohol itself was to blame for their brethren’s past behaviour. A very dark time for whiskey was around the corner, and state by state more legislation restricting the sale of alcohol was being created. Probation nationwide came into effect in 1920.

It was by far the greatest thing any remaining moonshiners could have asked for. Business was better than it had ever been and once again they had become the peoples’ heroes. Speakeasies were born and organised crime exploded as many fought over the money and power that were for grabs. Though many made a killing out of the situation, moonshining as a nationwide industry really died out soon after prohibition ended.

Today, apart from a few rare cases, it is relatively unheard of for someone to make a business out of moonshine. It is simply not a worthwhile venture. Technology and supply have allowed big whiskey companies to undercut even the cheapest of moonshine. It is here were Catdaddy joins us.

This ‘moonshine’ is a homage to those farmers back before America was America, and those few who still make moonshine for their close friends and family. It is made to be as similar to a ‘traditional’ North Carolinian spirit as founder Joe Michalek can make it, after talking to any who would give him time about local history, recipes and technique. The distillery is a small one in the Piedmont region and each bottle comes from a small batch.

Noteworthy awards

I could not find any from my usual sources, but I will do what I usually do and update this section if I ever come across one.

Taste notes

The smell you will get when you first bring this to your lips will be of licorice and cinnamon. If you are quite learned in the world of alcohol you might be put off at this point as it smells a lot more powerful than it is. Don’t worry about it and crack on :) would I lie?

What might surprise you most about the taste (considering the smell) is the sweetness. Hints of vanilla will push through the licorice at this point as well as more spices I would not dare name and oddly a get peppery notes also.

Between glasses you will find it leaves a nice warm, cinnamony finish. Good stuff.

When I suggest drinking it

As my first moonshine, I was very impressed. It was well balanced, not too strong (as I had worried) and left quite a nice impression at club. I think the drinks that are hard to get are the ones that should be shared so if you are lucky enough to get a bottle of this, I would recommend passing it around. If it is not hard to get where you are (or everyone you know has tried it already) and you are the cocktail type, their site has a large selection of recipes you might want to try.