A Chronicle of Canadian Whisky

A sneak advance sip of Canadian Club Chronicles 41, the second in a series of ultra-aged Canadian whiskies that redefine our country’s style

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Canadian Club Chronicles 41 will be released in B.C. in November. Charlene Rooke photo

The smell alone is intoxicating: that heady fusion of sawdust and toffee scents that signals a whisky-aging warehouse. It wafts out of a raised white garage door just outside Windsor, where a bottle of teal-labelled Canadian Club Chronicles 41 glows the colour of teak.

From the bottle, the whisky smells of browned butter and tastes lip-smacking like salted caramel, shot with hot ginger and white pepper, with a suede finish on the back of the throat. We use a patinaed copper “whisky thief” to siphon drams directly from weathered, 41-year-old former rye barrels that have been stored upright. At cask strength this Canadian whisky—which is almost as old as me, and almost as dark in colour as the steeped barrel wood—is as smooth as butterscotch and as toasty as a marshmallow, remarked without harshness for a spirit at more than 60 per cent alcohol.

Canadian Club Ambassador Trish Harcus. Charlene Rooke photo

Canadian Club Chronicles 41, which will be released in B.C. In November, was sneak-sipped in advance by a batch of spirits chroniclers in late September. Considering that the brand currently has no visitor centre or experience, and in fact shares distilling and warehousing facilities with its Windsor distilling neighbours, it’s a rare look inside one of Canada’s favourite bottles of spirits.

In late 2017, the brand caused a Canada-wide frenzy with its Canadian Club 40-year-old whisky. In a luxe decanter-style bottle in a matte-black pouch and box, 7,000 bottles of the whisky sold in just 10 weeks, creating lineups and maximum-purchase caps.

After carefully evaluating some of the 1.6 million barrels stored in these four massive warehouses, the brand determined it will be able to follow that successful release with a Chronicles series until year 45, then culminating in what should be a blockbuster Canadian Club Chronicles 50-year-old whisky in 2027, says brand ambassador Trish Harcus. “It’s 160 years of the same mashbill,” Harcus says proudly of the brand that was founded in 1858 by Hiram Walker, the namesake of the Walkerville enclave of Windsor where the distillery business was originally located.

I signed my name on a recently filled barrel bar-coded 00072409—maybe, in 50 years, it’s something the next generation will sip and share. I’m hoping they’ll track me down and send me a dram.

—by Charlene Rooke

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