Canadian Club aged 20 years (40% alc./vol.)
A weighty, highly integrated, and fruity synthesis of wood, toffee, vanilla, dusty rye, and baking spices, with developing hot pepper, dark fruits, prune juice, and citric zest. Rich & Oaky.★★★★★There are many versions of Canadian Club, among them a 6-year-old mixer, called Canadian Club Premium; the cedary 8-year-old Black Label; a scrumptious 10-year-old hard rye, the Reserve; and the sweet, toffeed 12 year old Canadian Club Classic. Each of these is made using a different mash bill, an assortment of barrels, and of course, different ageing regimens.To some degree, Canadian Club differentiates itself from other Canadian whiskies with its ‘barrel blending’ process. The individual spirits are vatted together shortly after they are distilled then put to age for 6, 8, 10, or 12 years in the Canadian Club warehouses in Pike Creek, just north of Windsor, Ontario. But every now and then, when the time comes to dump the barrels, a few are set aside in the warehouse where they continue to mature.So it is with Canadian Club 20 year old. This is exactly the same whisky as the 6-year-old mixer, but it has simply been left in the barrel for an additional 14 years. And oh what a difference 14 years can make! Although much has been said about Canadian Club’s limited edition 30-year-old version—and the 30 year old is without doubt a particularly tasty CC—to my palate, this 20 year old easily surpasses the 30 to lead the pack as the best of a pretty good bunch that wears the Canadian Club label.A profusion of flavours melded into one, amply demonstrate that barrel blending is more than marketing hype, for this 20-year-old rendition is one complex and highly integrated whisky.Nose: The nose opens on cloves, nutmeg and sweet rye spices before a truckload of fresh-cut lumber, cedar, and bond paper rolls in bringing with it some rich oaky notes. Smatterings of toffee, sweet fruits and grape drink balance off dry rye grain and almost meaty autumn smells: dry leaves and a hint of wood smoke. The nose is full and complex and so well-integrated that it smells like nothing so much as its distinctive self.Palate: What starts out woody with some soft oak tannins, but without their harshness, quickly displays a range of tightly integrated flavours. These spread slowly across the tongue, but you have to pay attention to pick out fleeting individual notes. Sweet rye spices including nutmeg, hints of cloves, and cinnamon soon establish their presence, followed by a muted hot pepper. Patience is rewarded as the spiciness intensifies, with lots of complex interactions over constant rye notes until the whole becomes very hot and peppery with hot ginger in the background.About this time you begin to notice sweet black fruits and prune juice, with a balancing and refreshing bitter citrus zest. The fruity sweetness is underscored by toffee and vanilla notes with hints of burnt sugar. This is a weighty and mouth-filling whisky with a slightly creamy body.Finish: Medium-long and fading, the finish is warm, sweet and slightly peppery as it disappears into traces of spices, vanilla, fruit, and wood. The flavours remain complex and well-integrated even as they diminish, with no dominant individual notes, but a concluding zing that is sweet and zesty and citric.Empty Glass: Nicely integrated smells with lots of fresh-cut wood mingle with suggestions of sweet-and-sour sauce, toffee, and the vaguest smokiness. The glass is mildly fruity, with lingering reminders of vanilla and toffee.With something like nine different bottlings currently available in one or another of over 150 countries, Canadian Club is by far the best known Canadian whisky beyond Canada’s borders. And with a history going back more than 150 years, this whisky is older than Canada itself and not surprisingly has been the source of all kinds of stories and legends. Certainly “CC” was Hiram Walker’s proudest success and though ownerships have changed, it is still produced today in the same distillery—albeit updated—that Walker began building in 1858.Until recently, Canadian Club 20 was available at LCBO for $55.00, and was worth every penny. If you find it elsewhere, please let me know.Very highly recommended★★★★★Canadian Club 8 year old Sherry Cask reviewed here.Canadian Club 10 year old Reserve reviewed here.Canadian Club 12 year old Classic reviewed here.Canadian Club 15 year old reviewed here.Canadian Club 30 year old reviewed here.