Disclaimer: I was one of nine judges on the panel for the Canadian Whisky Awards. All tasting was done blind.
The winner of the 2021 Canadian Whisky Awards happens to be the oldest Canadian whisky (likely) ever sold. Aged for 43 years, Canadian Club is a twist on age statements and themes.
The name Speakeasy is a tribute to the illicit past of Hiram-Walker distillery during US prohibition. As the well-known story goes, Al Capone smuggled Canadian whisky across the border so it might be served in underground illegal clubs, known as speakeasies, to avoid authorities.
This story, though, isn’t really about Canada vs the United States. Hiram-Walker was an American that built the distillery across the US border before the formation of Canada. Today that area is known as Windsor, a city across the Detroit river. The distillery produced The Club.
Even before prohibition, though, The Club was popular among bars in the United States. So-much-so that American distilleries forced regulators to print the country of origin on Canadian whisky that was imported in. The Club turned to Canadian Club, and continued to be a best-selling whisky in the US.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an old whisky come out under the Canadian Club branding. However, this is definitely the most Canadian Club like variation of the releases. Like the previous releases in The Chronicles series (41 and 42), this is a celebration of the blending in Canadian whisky.
Note for potential buyers: As far as I know, this whisky is largely distributed through the LCBO (Ontario liquor stores) and available online here at the time of this writing.
What’s a 43 year old Canadian whisky taste like?
Canadian Club 43 Year Old Chronicles “The Speakeasy”
Category: Canadian Whisky, Blend
Nose: Plenty of candied orange notes, rich, warm, and welcoming. That candied orange is sweetened with honeycomb. There’s a spicy peppery ring to the nosing, one that has that “old barrel” smell. Gentle, but present, and brings in herbal notes like black tea, licorice, and old well-worn leather. There’s age on the nose, but just a hint. Whereas previous CC were all lemon moraine note, this is all orange. There’s a beautiful intensity to the nose. It’s unmistakably unique.
Palate: Youth rye spice, orange peel pithiness right up there in the palate for you to bite into, black pepper spice, touches of white sugar, and a real deep spicy, buttery, licorice finish. The honey sweetness is rich and nicely balanced with peppery rye and rich herbal notes. By comparison to other whiskies in this age group, this is far gentler, but with that gentleness you get a wider breath of flavour. It’s ridiculously satisfying.
Conclusion: As with the others of the Canadian Club releases, this is a delicious and delicate whisky that draws on a ton of flavour. It’s reminiscent of old scotches, but there’s a youth to it this pour. There’s a familiar note to it, that zesty rye Canadian Club goodness, but it’s so much more than that. Where the other Chronicles are sometimes different; delicious but unfamiliar. This is quietly familiar, a relative to Canadian Club not just in maker, label, and history… but also in taste.
Disclaimer: Canadian Club provided me a sample of this whisky. It had no baring on my review.