Canadian Club 20 year old Canadian whisky

Canadian Club aged 20 years (40% alc./vol.)

October 20, 2011

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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.


Comments

43 Responses to “Canadian Club aged 20 years (40% alc./vol.)”

  1. Robert:

    It’s available in Quebec city and Montreal for 69$…

    • Davin:

      Thanks for the tip. I hope it comes back to LCBO as well.

  2. Better than the new 10yo version? Not sure, but it surely worth the try.

    • Davin:

      Yeah, I like the 10yo a lot too. Among the 6, 10 and 12 it is my favourite.

  3. If you have a chance to try the 8 years old sherry cask, this one is a good pick too. Maybe too sherried (well at least for me). It is still available in SAQ’s for about 68$ (was sold 29$ in NB Liquors stores…)

  4. tim:

    This one is still on the shelf at my neighbourhood liqour store in Edmonton – $51. Am trying to decide between this and AB Prem 25…

    • Davin:

      Tough choice.

  5. BIll:

    I prefer the Alberta Premium 25 year over the CC 20. The Canadian Club is excellent, but to me the Premium has more character, due to it being 100% Rye making it a tad or two better; at least to my palate.

  6. Davin:

    Hi Bill,
    Yeah, they are both excellent whiskies, but very different from each other in character.

  7. blzbub:

    I see the SAQ in quebec has some still listed at $69

    • Davin:

      Hmmm. . . maybe time to tuck another bottle away. Thanks.

  8. John:

    I bought this bottle when it finally came to Ontario last year. Me and my neighbore were having a glass outside while we were giving candy to kids on halloween. :) I liked it of course, but I think for the price ($60), Wisers 18 YO, Danfield’s 21 yo are better.

  9. [...] Canadian Whisky Profile: Canadian Club Viewers of AMC’s Emmy and Golden Globe-winning television series, Mad Men will not be surprised by the winner in this category. As Don Draper’s whisky of choice, Canadian Club was featured prominently throughout the series, attracting the attention of a new generation of Canadian whisky consumers. Canadian Club reached yet another new audience in 2010 with its featured role in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. [...]

  10. Nick:

    What is your opinion of Canadian Club 15 year 80 proof? I bought one bottle here in a supermarket in Arizona a few years ago for about $12. They were selling off about a hundred bottles in collectible tins featuring famous Canadian wildlife… mine with a Moose on the cover, and I have yet to open it. In retrospect, I probably should have bought many more at that price!

    • Davin:

      Hi Nick,
      I have a review of CC 15 in the works. It’s still available some places in Europe. This was a premium blend from Canadian Club and many consider it one of their finest. The metal tins were a bit of fun. If I remember there were three different ones. At $12, yes I would have bought a couple of cases. Watch here for tasting notes.
      Davin

  11. Yello to Mello:

    `If you find it elsewhere, please let me know.`

    It may be listed again at LCBO, no inventory yet…

    CANADIAN CLUB 20 YEARS OLD
    LCBO 602722 | 750 mL bottle

    Price: $ 53.25
    Spirits, Whisky/Whiskey, Canadian
    40.0% Alcohol/Vol

    I dont think a recent return activated that listing because before it would have the red product discontinued on it.

    • Davin:

      Thanks for letting us know. My all-time favourite CC.

      • portwood:

        It’s now in stock in Windsor.

        Davin, do you know if this is a new batch?

        • Davin:

          Yes, I believe it’s a new batch and is being rolled out aross Ontarion and probably the rest of Canada as well.

          • portwood:

            If you try it, do let us know how it compares to the one you reviewed.

  12. Marc:

    Hi Davin,
    Bought my first bottle yesterday in Toronto, can’t wait to try it this weekend. Had a friend bring me a bottle of the 30 year old from BC last summer. All I’m missing to finish my collection of CC is the 100 proof and if Im lucky an old bottle of the 15 yr old. Where would I find the 100 proof? My wife is from the US and I bought a bottle of the 6 year old last year in OHIO but I have never come across the 100 proof.

    • Davin:

      Hi Marc,
      If I remember, I got my bottle of 100 proof in Manitoba. Incidentally, there are two new CCs on the way – spiced (in Canada only) and blackberry (U.S. only).

  13. Marc:

    Thanks Davin,
    I look forward to trying them.

  14. Andy:

    Great review Davin. Picked this up at lcbo for $50…well worth it. I don’t view the CC premium (6 year old) as a mixer. This is a very underated canadian whiskey imo and stands up well to others whiskeys priced much higher.

    • Davin:

      OK, if we are putting our cards on the table I’ve been known to sip CC Premium too, and enjoy it.
      Thanks for your kind comments.
      Davin

  15. Yello to Mello:

    I got a bottle of this on the recent release. It is another cracker at $50 price ‘trend’ and deserves its 5 star rating here. Worth bunkering away another bottle or 2…nothing silly like many of us did with the AP30

  16. Steve:

    Hey Davin,

    Just bought a bottle of this stuff at the LCBO (They were offering 30 bonus Air Miles) for $50. Have to say I’m really enjoying it. I’m only a glass or two in right now but I’m thinking this is one that I am going to have to keep in my stock…thanks for the good review!

    Steve

  17. Stephen:

    Hey Davin.

    I just picked up a bottle in Vaughan. On sale… wait for it… $35!!! :O

    Payday today, heading back for a second bottle. ;)

    Thanks for the review.
    Stephen

  18. Dennis Hinklin:

    I have sealed 375ml bottle purchesedi 1976. It is still sealed. What is it worth? Hinklind at. Comcast dot net

  19. Davin:

    Not a lot. Canadian whisky does not appreciate much in the bottle. Maybe $20 or $30 if you can find a buyer. Sorry.

  20. Sue:

    So, when returning from Taiwan in 2011 and in need of a gift for my husband, I bought a bottle of the 20 year old CC at the duty free for… $70!

    I’m so disappointed that it is actually cheaper at home.
    Oh, well!

    • Davin:

      Just Your husband will thank you for the whisky – it’s good stuff – and the price can be our little secret.

  21. Wayne:

    $45.99 here in NB, but only 12 bottles left in the province. Fortunately, the store closest to me has 3 so I think I’ll pick one up tomorrow.

    Sipping the CC Sherry Cask now so anxious to compare. Also have a bottle of CC 10 yo to add to the taste test.

  22. Mark:

    Blowing out remaining stock in Manitoba for $45, got my friend to grab me a bottle this weekend.

  23. jim:

    just found it in bc liquor stores but it is labelled as a product of kentucky.. there is something wrong with that when a canadian club is labelled as a product of kentucky.

  24. jason:

    how do brands work at distilleries? I’ve always wondered – since CC and Wiser’s are both produced at Hiram Walker distillery, and they are owned by different companies (I believe – ?). Do they each “rent” the master distiller and space? Or do they all have their own master distillers and real estate and share the space? I’ve always assumed that they were all produced by the same crew, but I don’t know how different companies owning different brands fits in.

    • jason:

      and with the above, how does a brand like whistlepig or mastersons work out? do they contract the distillery to make a particular style or do they just buy certain stock? or come and distill themselves?

      • Davin:

        They buy stock and do their own blending. Minimum orders, by the way, are huge.

    • Davin:

      The idea of a “master distiller” is over-simplistic. It takes a team to make whisky. Distilling is a science while blending is an art. All whisky except single cask is blended – even single malts. It is the blender who establishes the flavours. Different brands use different recipes and different processing methods. CC for instance re-chars its barrels and blends the spirit before barreling.

      • jason:

        Yes, very true. Thanks for your response. So, then, are the blenders and teams the same for different brands at the same distillery? Are the brands all owned together by one company at a distillery (e.g. Wiser’s and Canadian Club)

  25. Davin:

    No, they share physical equipment but are owned independently. The floor staff may be the same but the whisky makers operate independently.

  26. i wish for a 25yo CC or 30yo … our bottle is empty after 2 days during Christmas 2013. SO, we bought a case. 5/5 rating is deserving, indeed.


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