Canadian Club: A Spirits Icon Turns 150

Spring's Perfect Spirit

You have to travel south of the Canada/U.S border to get to one of Canada’s premier distilleries—the place where Canadian Club whisky is made. Located in Windsor, Ontario, which lies directly south of Detroit, the storied Canadian Club distillery is the brainchild of Hiram Walker, a Boson native who made his initial fortune in Detroit. Today Canadian Club comes in many expressions. The flagship 6 Year Old, Reserve 10 Year Old and Classic 12 (aged 12 years) are the main brands and there is also a limited amount of Sherry Cask, which is aged in white oak barrels and then sherry casks made from Spanish wood. Last fall, the distillery also introduced Canadian Club 30 Year Old, a limited edition whisky honoring the 150th anniversary of the brand.

Walker’s backstory is part of the brand’s appeal. In 1856, fearful (and prophetic) of future anti-alcohol legislation in the U.S., he took $40,000, bought 468 acres across the Detroit river in Canada and opened his distillery two years later. Of note, all his whiskies were aged in white oak barrels at a time when this was not common practice.  Many late 19th-century gentlemen’s clubs served C.C. (hence the origin of the “club” part of the name) and in the Era of Prohibition, the distillery, largely due to its unique location, was hugely popular with bootleggers and gangsters, among them Al Capone.

Currently the oldest Canadian whisky on the market, the anniversary edition has, according to brand manager Brian Stockard, a “luscious oak character enhanced by delicate hints of dried fruit and subtle spice.” The company released only 3,000 750 ml bottles, each of which sells for about $200 (depending on the retailer), and numbered the first 150. C.C. fans should act fast: this spirit, which Stockard calls a “true testament to 150 years of whisky making”, will go off shelves after December.

Published on December 1, 2008
Topics: Whiskey